Champs Playing Themselves Into Unfamiliar Territory

Off to their worst 25-game start since 1996, seeing the champs playing themselves into unfamiliar territory is a little more than concerning. As we know, the Red Sox have won 4 World Series championships in the last 15 years. From 1967-’82, the Sox put together 16 consecutive winning seasons, and 14 more from 1998-2011, Since the inauguration of the AL East in 1969, Boston has won the division in three consecutive seasons just once. That accomplishment came to fruition last year in 2018, as the team won AL East titles from 2016-’18. Plain and simple, the Red Sox don’t like losing.

Since 1967, which is regarded as the “Impossible Dream Team” season of the franchise,champs playing Boston’s longest stretch of consecutive losing seasons is just 3, from 1992-’94. In ’92, they went 73-89. A year later, 80-82, and 54-61 in ’94 (the lockout shortened the 1994 season to 115 games). In 2012, after the team changed managers from Terry Francona to Bobby Valentine, the team finished in last place with a 69-93 record. Through Boston’s first 25 games that season, they had 11 wins, which is one more than this year’s 10.

In 2014, a year removed from winning their 8th World Series, the Sox finished last again with a 71-91 record. The following season resulted in consecutive last place finishes in the AL East (78-84). It was the first time the Sox finished in last place in consecutive seasons in the history of the AL East.

So, can they still turn it around?

I believe they can salvage a 90-win season, but it’ll be tough. In 2010 and ’11, they started 11-14 each year. They missed the playoffs, but not by much. They reached 89 wins in ’10 and 90 wins in ’11. The Sox had a chance to make the postseason on the last day of the season in 2011, but a loss to the then last place Orioles had them ousted.

The Sox swept the Rays on the road last weekend and came home to play the Tigers on Monday, which began a 10-game home stand. Monday’s game was washed out by rain. Boston responded, discouragingly, with back-to-back losses in Tuesday’s double header. They won last night in impressive fashion, 11-4. The series finale is tonight. I believe if they win tonight, and split the series, it would be a huge win.

Champs Playing A Tough Schedule In May

They begin a tough 3-game set with Tampa Bay on Friday, where they will have to face Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow on the mound, again. April has clearly been a lost month for the Sox. They begin May with one game at home against the A’s. They will have to face Seattle, Colorado, Houston twice, the Indians, and the Yankees all in May. Things do not get any easier.

Alex Cora’s Sophomore Season in Boston

As Alex Cora enters his sophomore season in a Red Sox uniform, it’s hard not to point out how he is the fifth manager in Major League Baseball to win a World Series in his first year. Many have tried, and many have failed. The last time such a feat occurred was in 2001, when Bob Brenly was manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The best part of that World Series? Watching the Yankees lose.

With the Red Sox winning their ninth World Series Championship on October 28th, 2018,sophomore season it’s hard not to wonder what this season will bring. Will Cora help this team win back to back championships? Only time can tell. The last time such a feat occurred was from 1998 – 2000, when the New York Yankees won 3 years in a row. Since then, some teams have been close, but none have accomplished it.

From Player to Manager…

When the Red Sox handed out those beautiful World Series rings on Opening Day, Cora’s had two mini trophies on it. One from 2007, and one from 2018. In case people have forgotten, Cora was the utility infielder that Dustin Pedroia looked up to in 2007 while Cora was a member of the Red Sox. Also, he wore number 13 for the Red Sox.

Like many managers in baseball, such as Brad Ausmus and Rocco Baldelli, Alex Cora also spent time on the field, playing for the Dodgers, Indians, Red Sox, Mets, Rangers and Nationals. He also was the bench coach when Houston won the World Series in 2017.

So, who was the first Red Sox manager to also be a former player? Hall of Famer Jimmy Collins, who led the Red Sox (known back then as the Boston Americans) to their first World Series back in 1903.

From 1 to 47…

When Alex Cora officially became the Red Sox manager on November 2, 2017, he became the 47th manager in the organization’s history. When you go from top to bottom, Cora is one of a handful of managers who made it to his second year at the helm.

The only manager to make it past 10 years at the helm is Hall of Famer, Joe Cronin. Cronin spent 13 years as a manager for the Red Sox. Cronin also played for the Red Sox from 1935 until 1945. Back then, it was popular for players to also be managers. Cronin, who was a seven time All Star, has his number 4 retired by the Boston Red Sox.

In total, eleven former Red Sox managers are in the Baseball Hall of Fame – Cronin, Collins, Ed Barrow, Lou Boudreaux, Billy Herman, Joe McCarthy, Dick Williams, Hugh Duffy Frank Chance, Bucky Harris and Cy Young. Out of these eleven Hall of Famers, only one has their number retired. In total, two former managers have their number retired by the Red Sox. The first being Cronin, the second is Johnny Pesky, whose number 6 was retired in 2008.

Cora’s former Red Sox manager, Terry Francona comes in second in the Red Sox organization in wins. During his eight seasons as a Red Sox manager, “Tito” went 744-552, while winning two titles in Boston.

Can Cora Make It All The Way?

Since the beginning of the season, the Red Sox have been on a bumpy road. As they continue with their homestead against Toronto and Baltimore, one can only wonder what will happen next.

Many fans in Red Sox Nation hope that Cora has some magic up his sleeve when it comes to going back to the postseason. Only time can tell how this season will go.

West Coast Problems: Sox Stuck With Struggling

The Red Sox could not hold their lead after scoring the first 3 runs in yesterday’s game. Making his second start of the season was Eduardo Rodriguez, and for the second consecutive start, Rodriguez looked awful. In his first outing in Seattle last Saturday, E-Rod could not make it out of the 4th inning, as he allowed 8 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), a home run, and 3 walks on 105 pitches. Yesterday, the left-hander could not make it out of the 3rd. He again allowed 8 hits, 6 runs (all earned), a home run, and 3 walks. He threw just 84 pitches and, with the loss, his record now stands at 0-2. The Sox west coast problems have been a combination of mental mistakes, poor pitching, and poor teamplay.

West Coast Problems: Cora at the forefront

“I pay attention to details,” manager Alex Cora told nbcsportsboston.com. “I love payingWest Coast Problems attention to details and that’s something I took pride [in] last year. And right now, we’re not paying attention to details. So that’s on me. That’s on the staff.”

There were several examples of unacceptable decision making from the entire series, but especially from yesterday’s loss. In the 4th inning, Rodriguez allowed a RBI double to Robbie Grossman that gave Oakland a 4-3 lead. Marcus Semien then flied out to center for the inning’s second out. Stephen Piscotty then came to the plate. After hitting a 3-run bomb in his previous at-bat, Piscotty sent a flyball towards the right-center warning track. A miscommunication occurred between two Gold Glove outfielders, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. The ball landed between them and hopped over the wall for a two-run, ground rule double. 6-3, Oakland.

West Coast Problems: Laureano for sure

Later in the game, in the 9th inning, the Sox found themselves down 7-3. Betts had reached first base on a walk. Andrew Benintendi subsequently sent a blooper to short-center field that dropped between Ramon Laureano and Semien. Betts aggressively rounded second and headed towards third, only to be thrown out by Laureano for his third outfield assist of the series. The Red Sox could of had runners on first and second with no outs. Instead, Benintendi was stuck at first with one out. The game ended two batters later.

Red Sox starting pitching this season looks like this: 0-5, 8.44 ERA, 13 home runs allowed, and a .301 BAA. Opponents have compiled a 1.052 OPS. Just to compare apples to apples, here is what the current division leader, Tampa Bay Rays, starting pitching looks like: 4-1, 2.19 ERA, 5 home runs allowed, a .190 BAA and a .570 OPS.

The Sox will attempt to ease the pain of their west coast problems as they play Arizona next starting tonight. Things do not get easier for Boston’s starters, as the team heads into the final series before returning to Fenway for the home opener on Tuesday. The Diamondbacks rank second in runs, home runs, and RBI in the National League through 7 games. They rank first in hits, doubles, and total bases.

Something that is not seen in the box score is how a team cooperates together from a visual perspective. One note I wanted to hit on is what Red Sox Nation knows as the ‘jump hug’ between Brock Holt and J.D. Martinez. Every time Martinez homers, Holt greets him in the dugout with a childlike, inseparable hug and the two jump together to celebrate. The tradition has lasted for about a full year now. I understand that baseball is full of quirky rituals and superstitions, but my question is, why are two grown men celebrating over one sequence when, overall, the team is in flux and in last place? It’s something that has been bugging me.

Boston’s record stands at 2-6 through their first two series. It is their worst start to a begin a season since 2011 when the team started 1-7 under former manager Terry Francona.

Is Keeping John Farrell The Right Move?

In the wake of the Red Sox season being swept away, questions arose surrounding much of the ‘behind-the-scenes” personnel. The main focus was on manager John Farrell. After a disappointing end to the season, many fans thought their tenure with Farrell was bound to end. On Tuesday, however, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski told John FarrellFarrell, in a Fenway Park hallway, that he’d be back as manager in 2017.

John Farrell went through a roller-coaster 2016 season, much like his team, with plenty of criticism. Farrell, the pupil, was completely outmatched by Terry Francona, the teacher, in the ALDS. It all seemed like a fitting end for Farrell’s time in Boston. To the disappointment of many, that was not to be.

The main criticism of John Farrell has been his ability to manage during the game. Bullpen moves, pinch-hitters, and pinch-runners have buried Farrell’s reputation in the Boston market seemingly every game. When asked about the issue Tuesday, Dombrowski told the media that in-game managing was not vital to the job. Once you get past that absolutely unbelievable assumption, the decision to keep Farrell just keeps getting worse.

So, if in-game management doesn’t matter, what did John Farrell do well? Over the course of the year, he has received praise for how he’s worked with the younger players. Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley had All-Star seasons, and Mookie Betts is still the front-runner for MVP; their regular season can not be considered a disappointment. The playoffs, however, were a different story. Those three players went a combined 4-32 in the ALDS with 12 strikeouts. Any way you cut it, those guys were not ready for the post-season.

John Farrell’s So-Called “Pitching Prowess”

Farrell was also seen as something of a pitching guru when he was brought back to the Red Sox in 2013. For about four out of the six months of this 2016 season, the starting pitching was catastrophic. In the post-season, they returned to form. His big ticket, David Price, threw up in the post-season and then choked on his own vomit. For all intents and purposes, he was like the prophet Jonah if Jonah was swallowed by the whale. His starters only went just over 11 innings in the series and none were really effective. Now, he’s not the pitching coach and I get that. That being said, it all falls under him and he is a pitching guy…

So yes, John Farrell will probably lose the blame on Red Sox pitching when Bill Belichick stops receiving blame for the Patriots defense.

When you really look at it, what does Farrell do exceptionally well? How many playoff wins does he have in the last three years? What other playoff manager hurt his team more than John Farrell? To save yourself some time here it is: no, it is not the right move. Farrell’s biggest decision as manager has been to play Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval this season. So, yes, John Farrell’s greatest move as manager was playing a better hitter over a third baseman the size of a tow truck. Red Sox Nation best get ready: the manager of your dreams is still in the visitors dugout.

Indians Closely Studied Red Sox Pitching

Like many Boston fans, I thought the Red Sox would steam roll over the Indians in Cleveland before coming back Boston to clinch the ALDS. Rick Porcello and David Price gave us little reason to think otherwise. Unfortunately, that plan fell through. Porcello gave up three home runs in the third inning of Game One for a 5-4 Tribe win. After allowing the Indians to blank the Sox 6-0, Price reinforced the “Can’t pitch in the postseason” stereotype in Game 2. Its clear the Indians studied Red Sox pitching very closely before the ALDS began.

Some people are surprised the Red Sox lost the first two games. I am too, but not for theStudied Red Sox Pitching same reasons. David Price doesn’t have a great post season record. He has a 2-8 record with a 5.54 ERA in the post season. Rick Porcello is 0-3 with a 5.66 ERA in post season play. So it’s no wonder they struggled, especially with a combined 2-11 post season record. That leaves few other options in the rotation though. Steven Wright isn’t available for the ALDS, but he is for the ALCS. Clay Buchholz has a 0-0 record with a 4.21 ERA in post season play. So how did the Indians learn so much about the Red Sox pitching staff? That’s easy. Terry Francona.

Francona managed the Red Sox from 2004 to 201, leading them to two World Series Championships. He managed David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Clay Buchholz. He knows their strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, it’s that knowledge that might very well guide the Cleveland Indians to victory. This situation is just one more reason why the Red Sox shouldn’t have let him go in 2011.

Indians Studied Red Sox Pitching, But That’s Not All They Studied

In addition to the pitching, many thought the entire team wasn’t ready for post season play. The team is enthusiastic but young. The stress and excitement is straining them. Some of they players couldn’t even legally drink a year ago. So of course they’re going to have a hard time in the playoffs. That’s not an excuse, it’s just reality.

Like the Chicago Cubs of last year, Red Sox are seeing a glimpse of that potential that makes them a fun team to watch. Also like the Cubs of last year, the Red Sox are struggling in the post season. If the Red Sox manage to beat back the Tribe this year and advance to the ALCS, then all the more power to them. I’ll be in the stands cheering my head off with everyone else. Regardless of this season, I honestly think that next year’s Red Sox team will play much better next year given all they’ve learned this year. They’ll have more experience, their pitchers will pitch better, and their hitters will know how to hit opposing pitchers better.

So even though the Indians studied Red Sox pitching well enough to gain an advantage over them this season, they’ll end this season with new knowledge that will make them a better team next year.

Red Sox Versus Indians: 2016 ALDS Preview

The Red Sox are about to embark on their first postseason run since 2013. More importantly, it will be just the second time in seven years that October baseball will visit Boston. So, what can fans expect in the American League Division Series, and will the Red Sox advance?

Red Sox

Well, it’s perhaps easier to answer the first question. Boston has a first round matchup with the Cleveland Indians, needing three wins to advance. The first two games will be played at Progressive Field, with the next two at Fenway Park. If a deciding fifth contest is needed, the teams will travel back to Cleveland, which has experienced something of a baseball revival in recent months.

Cleveland Will Test the Red Sox

The Indians have a fascinating history. From the days of Cy Young and Nap Lajoie through to Bob Feller and Larry Doby, and on to Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, Cleveland has built some very good teams. However, that effort has yielded just two world championships, and none since 1948. Still, the Cavaliers won an NBA title this year, ending Cleveland’s notorious drought, so perhaps there’s a little magic in the air by Lake Erie.

A familiar friend captains the Cleveland ship. Terry Francona, the mastermind of two World Series championships for the Red Sox, has been the Indians’ manager since 2013. The first few years were rough, but a core of young players has since emerged, with shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jason Kipnis leading Cleveland to its first full postseason series since 2007. Attendance has increased for Indians home games, and this is definitely a team looking to progress swiftly.

The Indians Are Struggling With Injuries

Francona won’t be able to rely much on his vaunted starting rotation in this series, though. The Indians pitched to a 3.86 ERA during the regular season, much better than the Red Sox’ 4.00 mark. However, the Indians have lost Carlos Carrasco to injury. Ace Corey Kluber will return from a scare to pitch in Game 2, but Danny Salazar, the third head of this tremendous trident, has not made the ALDS roster thanks to a strained forearm.

Essentially, the Indians’ biggest strength has been decimated by injuries. Trevor Bauer and his 4.42 career ERA will start Game 1 against the Red Sox, while Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger aren’t exactly petrifying. Nevertheless, Boston cannot take anything for granted, especially given the erratic nature of its own pitching staff.

The Red Sox do have a considerable advantage in terms of offense. Boston scored 101 more runs than Cleveland during the regular season, and also had a far superior run differential. Those statistics may not play especially well in a short series, but no team in baseball can fully match the Red Sox with regard to a dynamic lineup that can score in multiple ways. If the bats keep producing at their normal clip, and the pitching holds up, it will be really difficult for the Indians to stick with the Red Sox.

Of course, nothing is ever easy in October. All of these teams emerged from the enormous grind of a season to earn this opportunity. But the Indians seem to be falling apart physically at the worst possible time, affording the Red Sox a brilliant chance of advancing.

So strap yourself in. It’s time to get excited. Let’s see if Big Papi and the Red Sox have one more run in them, when it really matters most.