Looking Into September For The Red Sox

New England: brace yourselves. The last few years have brought the ringing of the song “Wake Me Up When September Ends” for Red Sox fans. However, 2016 has proven to have been a much different year than Red Sox fans are (recently) used to. This is what the fan base has yearned for.

After a see-saw month of July and a bit of a sour end to August, Boston is ready for Septembermeaningful September baseball. Luckily for the Red Sox, they will have a serious confidence builder going into the month, ending August with a three-game set against the Rays at Fenway. From this point on, the push for a playoff spot is most certainly on.

The September Schedule

It is one thing to play meaningful baseball, it is quite another to play no meaningless baseball in September. From September 9th to the regular season finale on October 2nd, the Red Sox will only play within the division. Yes, that means the last 23 games of the regular season will be against the AL East. Every game this month is going to be a high-leverage one, leaving virtually no room for error. That is the scenario the Red Sox will surely be in if they get back on track.

The Red Sox and Blue Jays will square off for a three-game series in Boston from September 30th to October 2nd. The way these two teams have been playing, it seems as if the final series of the year will decide a division champion. After last place finishes three of the last four years, this is what Red Sox fans have dreamed of.

To get there, the starting pitching will need to continue to be formidable. Rick Porcello and David Price have been anchors in the rotation this  August. They will need the Eddie Rodriguez we’ve seen most of the second half, not the one we saw Sunday night. Also, the weather should cool down soon, eliminating most of Steven Wright’s excuses. If those guys can pitch well in September, the Red Sox will certainly be a tough team to beat. Also, the bullpen needs to suck just a little bit less. There can be no more of these eight-run innings in a playoff race. If they can avoid being horrendous, the Red Sox should find themselves playing after October 2nd.

So, with that said, it is time to buckle up Red Sox fans. Your team is in for a wild ride in September.

Is Benintendi Proving To Be The Real Deal?

I was concerned when the Red Sox called up Andrew Benintendi from the minors. The kid hadn’t even played in AAA Pawtucket yet. Regardless, Dave Dombrowski and John Farrell were eager to put him in the lineup. I thought Benintendi would have a hard time hitting against major league pitchers. I also thought about his lack of strength. He’s not nearly as big as his teammates. However, after almost two dozen games, while it’s great to see Benintendi proving himself, we have yet to see if he’s a fluke or the real thing. Will Benintendi maintain his consistency?

As of August 23rd, Benintendi is carrying a .306 batting average. That’s not too bad inBenintendi Proving 62 at-bats. It’s certainly better than what Jackie Bradley Jr. had his first year in Boston. In 2013, Bradley Jr. hit only .189 in 95 at-bats. Xander Bogaerts didn’t fare much better during the same time. So to see Benintendi proving himself by posting respectable numbers in that many at-bats is a sign that he could be the real deal.

One thing that people don’t discuss about Benintendi is his fielding. Before he was called up, Benintendi made zero errors in 143 chances in Double-A Portland. Before Portland, he made only one error in Single-A Salem. The same goes for the season before. In 2015 he made only one error in 131 chances at Single-A. That mades for  a.994 fielding percentage over two seasons in the minors. Not too shabby.

 It’s Great To See Benintendi Proving Himself At Defense, Too!

On August 22nd in a game against Tampa, Benintendi robbed Tampa Bay’s Steven Souza Jr. of a two-run home run in the eighth inning. Benintendi defied both gravity and the left field wall to keep the Rays from scoring another two runs. Earlier in the game, Benintendi drove in a run in the fourth inning with a sacrifice fly. At this point, it is safe to say that Benintendi has delivered on the expectations Dombrowski and Farrell set for the rookie when he arrived in Boston. Now Benintendi has to prove that he’s the real deal by continuing to adjust his skills to maintain his success at the plate. We have yet to see if he can do so. But one thing is for sure. He’s off to a great start!

It’s Time to Worry About David Price

David Price was supposed to be the savior. When the Red Sox gave him a seven-year, $217 million contract in the winter, a major void was filled at Fenway Park. The ghost of Jon Lester was exorcised, as Boston welcomed the most expensive pitcher ever to grace planet earth. Here was the leader of a new generation.

David Price

Fast forward seven months, and that situation is yet to materialize. Steven Wright has been the Red Sox’ ace this season, while David Price has struggled in a variety of ways. Fans waited through the early April struggles, when the new superstar was settling in. Then they waited a few more weeks, a couple extra months. David Price is still yet to deliver. And with August rounding into view, it’s time to debate exactly what’s happening. It might even be time to worry.

David Price Has a Great Track Record

Quite simply, David Price has never pitched this bad for this long. He came up with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, famously closing out their ALCS triumph over the Red Sox. He then developed a brilliant reputation, with a 3.18 ERA in 170 starts. Price won twenty games and the Cy Young Award in 2012, further enhancing his legacy. The Tigers traded for him in 2014, and he was even better in Detroit, pitching to a 2.90 ERA. Finally, he was dealt to the Blue Jays last season and became a key cog in a team that reached the postseason for the first time in twenty-two years.

Nobody doubts the resume. Throughout his career, David Price has been a dominant horse capable of anchoring any rotation. The Red Sox were in dire need of that, and they pursued him hard in free agency. Price was viewed as the next great Boston ace, in the mold of Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett. He was the guy onto whom Red Sox Nation conveyed so much expectation. He was the cornerstone.

So far, it just hasn’t worked out. David Price currently has a 9-7 record, a 4.51 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP. Only two pitchers in all of baseball have allowed more hits: Mike Pelfrey and Marcus Stroman. Perhaps these numbers would be acceptable early in the season, as a new player becomes accustomed to fresh surroundings. But it’s no longer April. It’s no longer May or June. We have just sixty-four games left in the regular season, and the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history has been barely league average for the Boston Red Sox.

The Future of David Price

David Price knows he hasn’t been good enough. In every press conference, he has owned it. Perhaps more than any athlete in Boston sports history, he’s looked at the camera and criticized himself at appropriate times. That’s good. We appreciate that. But it still doesn’t change the fact that the Red Sox have extracted very little value from the part of this deal one would expect to be the most productive. David Price is only going to age from here on out. Generally, his performance is only going to trend downwards, just like any pitcher over the age of thirty. And if he’s already struggling to perform in Year One, the landscape is pretty scary moving forward.

While Price has accepted responsibility for his productivity, the wider public has been very lenient, perhaps to a fault. We’ve heard plenty of excuses. It was too cold. It was too windy. There’s something wrong with his mechanics. Enough already. David Price could be the nicest guy in the world, but he’s still not getting the job done with enough regularity. Therefore, it’s quite strange to see how little criticism he’s received. That may be a good thing, and a step in the right direction, but I can’t remember such an under-performing Boston star receiving this much support from the fans.

Hopefully that faith is rewarded. Hopefully David Price will rediscover his old delivery, his old strategy, his old magic. Hopefully the ace begins to deliver when it matters most, should October baseball return to Yawkey Way.

Red Sox Should Make Pedroia Player Manager

The Red Sox have a problem. John Farrell claimed to be embarrassed after the 21-2 shelling the Sox took from the Angels. At this point though it’s hard to trust him. He continues to insert Clay Buchholz into the rotation as if he’s going to suddenly pitch better. Personally, I have a better chance of scoring a date with a supermodel before Buchholz wins another game. Farrell’s bad judgment, along with poor playing in general, should be reason enough to fire him. But who should take over?  If the Red Sox made Pedroia player manager, they’d be gaining a veteran player who knows the team inside and out. MorePedrioa player manager importantly, they’ll get someone who can light a fire under the team.

The Red Sox have been more consistent in this season than in the last two, but there’s room for improvement. Firing Farrell is a good start. He doesn’t strike many as being on total control of the team, and his judgment calls are questionable at best. Pedrioa though has been with the Red Sox for his entire career. As a Rookie of the Year in 2007 and Most Valuable Player in 2008, Pedrioa has led the league in runs, hits, and doubles. He can hit with power, he can steal bases, and he can play solid defense. As Pedrioa begins to enter his mid-thirties, he’ll have to think about his life after playing. Given that he can run, throw, and hit, Pedrioa could effectively coach and manager upcoming players.

Argument for Making Pedrioa Player Manager

Making Pedrioa player manager would make the transition smoother, and the team would already know him well. More importantly, he would be able to light a fire under the team’s collective a$$es, which they really need. Whether the team is tired going into the All-Star break, or not communicating well enough, they need more guidance. Pedrioa has no tolerance for poor playing, and doesn’t let records or fame get in his way of playing his hardest.

In a June 27th game against Tampa Bay, Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez gave up nine runs and eleven hits in only 2 2/3 innings. Before Farrell pulled him, Pedrioa could be seen giving the young southpaw some heated and intense advice on the mound. What did Pedrioa tell him? “Do you honestly think I’m going to tell you that?” Pedrioa replied when asked. “I was talking to him about baseball. I talk to all my teammates, every day. That’s about it.”

Dustin Pedrioa is smart, works harder than any other player, and can rally the team. He’s already a team leader. So with that said, what better guy could the Red Sox gain to take over than Pedrioa? Making Pedroia player manager would allow him to continue playing while taking over the entire direction of the team. It’s fire, determination, and inspiration that the Red Sox need right now. Making Pedroia player manager would not only inspire the team, it would inspire all of Boston.

Weak Red Sox Pitching Is All Too Familair

I took my friend Justin to his very first Red Sox game last Thursday where he saw David Price take on the Tampa Bay Rays. I told him that weak Red Sox pitching was no longer a problem since we signed Price last year, but as the game progressed into the third inning, Justin looked at me and rolled his eyes as we watched the Red Sox give up run after run. Weak Red Sox PitchingI rolled my eyes too as I started having flashbacks to last season.

Like many in the Red Sox nation, I was excited when we signed David Price. The 5-time all-star and 2012 Cy Young Award Winner was exactly the pitcher the Red Sox needed after a dismal 2015 season that saw a 4.31 collective ERA from the pitching staff. But Price’s meltdown against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 21st is making many in the Red Sox Nation think twice about whether the money he’s being paid ($217 million) is worth it.

The true panic set in Thursday afternoon when the Red Sox ace gave up eight runs in 3 and 2/3rd innings, a career high for Price. Even Tampa Bay’s Curt Casali, who went into the three-game series with a .198 lifetime batting average, hit three home runs in eight at-bats with a .625 batting average against the Red Sox, including one off of Price on Thursday. No one, however, was harder on David Price than himself. Price even posted the following on Twitter after the game: “Tough day yesterday but I WILL get better!! Stick with me #soxnation I’m determined to make all of you love me!! Price will have to work hard to bring his current ERA of 7.06 down to a more respectable level.

Weak Red Sox pitching has accounted for many of its losses this season. While Clay Buchholz pitched a solid game against Toronto on Patriot’s Day, he was in pieces against Baltimore on April 12, giving up 5 runs in 5 innings. Joe Kelly went on the DL after throwing a few pitches against Tampa Bay on April 19th, and Eduardo Rodriguez, who showed amazing skill as a rookie last year, is still on the DL and isn’t expected to return until May at the earliest.

While the Red Sox bats are starting to heat up, the pitching staff has to step it up to keep the opposition at bay or risk falling back into the cellar of the American League for a third straight year.

Yes, Ramirez Can Play First Base (For Now)

The 2016 season is still young but many in the Red Sox Nation are cautiously optimistic about Hanley Ramirez. Since moving to first base, Ramirez has shown consistency at the plate and in the field. As of April 22nd, Ramirez hasn’t committed an error. In fact, Ramirez is starting to re-establish himself as a superstar, one that fans in Boston may come to respect for years to come. So far, Ramirez can play first base!

“We have a player, I think, completely different than a year ago,” Red Sox manager FarrellRamirez can play first base told MLB.com’s Aaron Leibowitz. “He’s engaged, he’s having fun playing the game, [and] I think being back on the infield has been a big boost to that. He’s doing one heck of a job.” Ramirez had played third base and shortstop with the Miami Marlins, and Los Angeles Dodgers before signing a four-year $88 million contract with the Red Sox in November of 2014.

While Ramirez had a decent start to the 2015 season, his season went downhill after a May 4th game against the Tampa Bay Rays. In the top of the first inning, Ramirez crashed into the Green Monster trying to field a catch, spraining his left shoulder. By September, Ramirez was sporting the worst defensive rating in the league, leading then-interim manager Tory Lovullo to pull him from his outfield position (just another sign that Lovullo should replace Farrell sooner than later).

The Red Sox have been struggling recently, first against the Toronto Blue Jays, who managed to overcome setbacks in two of the four games between the two to split the series, and now with Tampa Bay, who took two wins out of three games in the series on April 21st. The Sox were held to one hit during the first of a three-game series against the Rays that started on April 19th, and lost in the 10th inning. The third game on April 21st saw Boston take an early lead before David Price gave up eight runs in 3 and 2/3 innings before Farrell yanked him from the game, which the Red Sox lost 8-5. While the Red Sox are starting to slip back into a familiar pattern from last season, one of the shining glimmers of hope the Red Sox Nation can look forward to is in Hanley Ramirez’s command of defending first base. He continues to show a strong and consistent ability to play first base, giving the Red Sox Nation something to pin their hopes on as the season progresses.