March 23, 2017

Grand Wizards, Demotion and Promotion?

Just finished getting pounded by a blizzard last night which was kind of a waste for me as I'm on March Break anyhow. I still had to get out and shovel to get my wife off to work and suddenly realized my spring break is on the backside. The positive part of that awareness is the fact that Opening Day is fast approaching, and a more regular lineup will be featured in the remaining Grapefruit League games.

Following the Sawx on Twitter this past week has certainly been entertaining with all the banter around Boston beat writers and racial baiting. I had mentioned the racial tension that was alluded to by David Price in my last entry, and the door has literally been kicked in due some misguided comments made by people who should know better. Before touching on the furor associated with the Boston media personnel on Twitter and the airwaves, there are two other items I'd like to touch on that actually deal with baseball.

  • Bogie Demoted
The return of Xander Bogaerts had an unexpected surprise when he got a gander at today's lineup against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Manager John Farrell decided that Bogaerts would bat 6th and even went so far to say that this could be the opening day lineup with the exception of Blake Swihart behind the plate in the 9 hole.

It must have felt like a swift kick in the arse for Xander to think Farrell could go with this lineup long term. He only hit 6th twice in 2016 while spending 105 games batting third and 50 games in the #2 spot. John seems to be outthinking himself here with the lefty/righty scenario. Why would you bat Mitch Moreland ahead of Bogaerts? Moreland is having a terrific spring and looks like he'll be a great fit, especially with his early use of the opposite field. But he shouldn't be batting ahead of Bogie. Xander more than doubled his total in homers while almost mirroring his numbers in doubles and RBI. He lost a little over 20 points off his batting average, but he's capable of retaining those numbers as a plus .300 hitter. His reward? Dropping him 3 spots in the order. Is Farrell now in the business of pissing off young players? 

The lineup would be just fine with Pedey at the top followed by Benny, Bogie, Betts  Hanley, Moreland, Pablo, JBJ and Leon. Both Sandoval and Leon are switch hitters so the lefties are broken up  at the bottom, and when Vazquez plays, he's a righty. The other argument of getting the most productive hitter in Mookie Betts up in the first inning is a reach. Christ, in 2004 we had one of the best right-handed hitters that ever played the game in Manny Ramirez batting fourth. How did that work out? You want your best hitters getting more ABs, and this moves flies in the face of that basic theory of a successful offense. Wake up, John!

  • In Marco, I Trust
I know... I know... he bats left. Yeah, I get it, but as you read above, I believe that gets overplayed. Marco Hernandez has done everything he can possibly do to prove he belongs. Farrell even went as far to say that Hernandez could start for many other teams, and I think he's right this time. Boston demonstrated that they will go with the best player when they gave the third base job to Travis Shaw last year. No need to back away from that now for a spot on the bench.

Hernandez is batting a sizzling .422 with 5 triples, 6 doubles, 6 RBI and 12 runs. Spring training games aside, you can't discount these numbers totally. I said before, spring training means different things to different types of players. The established guys can afford to have slow springs with a track record of big league success. If a young guy or a fringe player like Kyle Kendrick have a slow spring, they don't get noticed. Marco now is getting some attention along with Kendrick, and what he does with that is up to him. From where I sit, Hernandez sure looks like he's ready to help the big club. 

Steve Selsky and Josh Rutledge are also looking to be Sandoval's caddy as right-handed options, but their numbers aren't close to Marco's. Selsky has shown a decent bat, and he is just re-learning third base after having last played there in high school. Send Selsky down so he can get more reps as he is an outfielder by trade which offers more versatility. As far as Rutledge goes, he never really impressed me and hasn't turned heads this spring. If Josh moves on, I don't think that would be a huge loss.

  • Slave Owners and Grand Wizards
What a shitstorm this has turned out to be! At the end of the day, if it reminds people about the dangers of flippantly labelling others on the internet and stereotyping, then maybe it served a purpose.

Many of you Twitter followers are well-aware of the comments made by Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Abraham made a comment toward a fan who was not a supporter of Sawx pitcher David Price. The label "Grand Wizard" was uttered by Abraham towards this person as he ridiculously brought race into the conversation when it clearly wasn't warranted. Well-known Red Sox writer Jared Carrabis of Barstool Sports quickly latched on to this exchange and clearly had an axe to grind with Abraham. Carrabis unleashed his fury and vitriol as he totally unloaded on Abraham, recounting past interactions they shared and imparted many other occasions on Twitter that Pete's condescending attitude belittled others' viewpoints and opinions. 

I have noted Abraham's "keep of the gate" shtick many times and have experienced it once or twice myself. I had been following Pete for a while because beat reporters are essential on getting information from the players and the team. However, I don't know why it took me so long to unfollow this pretentious tool as there are many other writers that provide the same info and are more savvy when dealing with the public. Abraham's material is far from insightful and really is as common as... well... water.

Then you have John Tomase who is employed by WEEI.
John also decided to delve into race relations with regards to the city of Boston. He had the audacity to compare Boston sports fans to slave owners. Hmmm... good take for a guy who wants Red Sox fans to actually read or listen to what he has to say. I tried to comprehend his convoluted exchange on this Kirk and Callahan episode. Tomase's ranting had me as confused as his stunt double below.

The jist of his sermon was that white people cannot speak on racism in Boston. I get that Black people would experience racism in Boston. I don't doubt that. Undeniably, there has been a history of racism in the city that existed in the past. But is it fair to carry that over to present day? Do you paint the city now with that same brush? And if someone says Boston is a racist city, do people not have a right to refute that? 

Unfortunately, the  issue of racism felt everywhere, and I think a more sensitive approach is needed instead of callously categorizing individuals with such a damning descriptor like racist. Definitely not the finest hour for Boston sports media though, I'm afraid.

March 22, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Evans' Bleeder Drains Yankees in ALDS Sweep

Dwight  Evans' slapped a grounder just under the outstretched glove of New York second baseman Willie Randolph to bring home the winning run in the eighth as the 1975 Boston Red Sox defeated the 1978 New York Yankees 3-2 in Game 3 of their  American League Divisional Series. With this series sweep, Boston now has won 4 consecutive playoff games going back to their wildcard win against the '79 Baltimore Orioles.

Boston never led in this game until Evans' game-winning RBI single as New York twice held one run leads. 

The Yankees jumped out to their first lead in the top of the first on an unearned run. Denny Doyle botched a ground ball off the bat of Mickey Rivers, and after a stolen base and a wild pitch moved him to third, Craig Nettles RBI sacrifice fly put New York ahead 1-0.

Cecil Cooper delivered the counter-punch with a solo shot in the bottom half of the first off Yankee starter Ed Figueroa to tie the game, but Bucky Dent composed a painful 1978 flashback driving a ball over the Green Monster off Boston starter Luis Tiant in the third for a 2-1 Yankee advantage.

In the fourth, Carlton Fisk lead off with a single and came around to third as Rico Petrocelli followed him with a single of his own. Rick Burleson then grounded into a double play, but Fisk ambled home to make the score 2-2.

Neither Tiant nor Figueroa figured into the decision as both went 7 stellar innings leaving the game tied 2-2. With the exception of Game 1, New York never found their stride offensively as Boston pitching held the mighty Yankees to only 3 earned runs in the final two games of the series. Going one step further, both Boston starters of those games, Rick Wise and Luis Tiant, allowed only 2 earned runs in 14.2 innings of work.

It was the Yankee bullpen that fell victim to its second loss of the series, and just as in Game 1, the eighth inning spelled their doom. Jim Rice drilled a short hopper to the base of the Green Monster in left center for a one-out double off Yankee reliever Dave Rajsich. This was Rice's 7th hit of the series and third for extra bases. Including the wildcard game against Baltimore, Rice is 9-16 with 2 homers, 2 doubles and 6 RBI in the playoffs. After Carl Yastrzemski was issued a walk by Rajsich, Evans smacked a 0-1 Rajsich fastball past the diving Willie Randolph to score Rice for a lead they never relinquished.

Jim Willoughby had come on in the top of the eighth and was left in for the ninth by manager Darrell Johnson. Willoughby picked up his second win of the series firing two scoreless innings. The Boston bullpen was huge in this ALDS going 2-0 with 2 saves in the series. The bullpen accounted for 6.1 innings allowing only one run on three hits. 

Man, I was super pumped after casting the Yankees aside in three straight games. What was even sweeter was eliminating them with an RBI single by my favorite all-time Sawx player! I've been playing most of the other playoff games so it might take me some time to get back to starting the ALCS. I've also been playing all the games in the National League series, and I have been posting results in my Twitter feed tagged #classicbaseball. I'm attempting to perform 2 upsets using the '79 Expos and '76 Mets.

Boston now awaits the winner of the ALDS series between the 1977 Texas Rangers and the 1977 Kansas City Royals. In the National League, both NLDS series are tied at 1-1. The 1975 Cincinnati Reds and the 1979 Montreal Expos series shifts to Olympic Stadium while the 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers travel to New York to continue their series against the 1976 New York Mets.

March 14, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Boston's Wise Guys Extend ALDS Lead

Rick Wise continued his role as the unsung hero of the Boston rotation as he extended his winning ways in the playoffs scattering 5 hits in 7.2 innings to pace the  '75 Red Sox to a 4-2 over the '78 Yankees. Boston now has a chokehold on New York with a 2-0 series lead as the scene shifts to Fenway Park.

Wise pounded the zone firing 62 strikes from his 83 offerings while inducing much weak contact on many of the 13 ground ball outs. Wise went on a run retiring 16 Yankee batters in order between the second and seventh inning allowing only a single in the process. Dick Drago earned his second save in as many games.

New York starter Jim Beattie struggled through much of the game to find rhythm piling up 94 pitches in only 5 innings of work. Beattie walked 3 batters and only managed 9 first pitch strikes. 

Offensive leader Carlton Fisk drove in two runs and clubbed his second homer of the series. Fisk's opposite field solo homer broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth, and his sacrifice fly RBI in the sixth ended up to be the game-winning run. Jim Rice remained red hot with two more hits. He is now 5-8 with a homer, a double and 4 RBI in the series.

Boston will attempt to sweep the top team of my Sensational 70s season with Luis Tiant toeing the slab. New York was the winningest team in my dream season with 102 wins. In the AL East, Boston finished 4 games out with 98 wins tied for second with the '79 Orioles. Tiant led Boston into this ALDS with a wildcard game win over Baltimore. He'll be opposed by 17 game winner Ed Figueroa in Game 3. Highlights from Game 1 of this series can be seen here. Check out the final standings of my 70s season.

March 10, 2017

Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown

Soft. A crybaby. A masochist. These are all terms that have been tossed around to describe David Price after the interview with Stan Grossfeld on March 7th. At first glance, it looks like
all the makings of another meltdown under the white hot lights of expectations that are part and parcel of plying your trade at Fenway Park. Adrian Gonzalez blamed his shortcomings on God. Carl Crawford blamed his on everyone else. And who can forget John Lackey? He was seen as a miserable bastard that stomped around the mound showing up his fielders until he became a horse in the 2013 playoff title run.

Price is correct about one thing - he needs to be better, and I believe he will be. The problem is that he is drawing a contentious line in the sand between himself and the city he plays for on three counts - his social media use, the fact that he feels dehumanized and the racial tension he alluded to in an earlier interview. Here are three comments of his that I pulled out of his interview with Grossfeld.

  • "People (of Boston) don't care about what I do, or the type of person I am.
This was the comment that many attributed to Price being soft, and quite frankly on the surface, it seems reasonably accurate. He's only been in Boston one season, and how many of us get an opportunity to delve into a player's personal life. What does he want us to know? He has the platform to tell us anything he wishes. Not many fans would have access to a professional ballplayer for a "Q & A"  on what makes them tick. Does he want to hold town hall meetings to tell everyone his favorite color or how he prefers his steak cooked? We all know he hates Dunkin' Donuts coffee (tongue planted firmly in cheek).  

He blamed this on the media because they never asked about what his interests were off the field. Why wait for the question? Call a press conference to promote your generosity. Clay Buchholz's charity work was well-known off the field with the Clay Buchholz Foundation. It was also prevalent on the field when Clay pitched hence his new digs in Philly where his work continues this spring. Everyone was also well-aware of Jon Lester's work to support cancer survivors.

As far as what he went through, as he put it, he has to realize he's coming into a searing hotbed as far as baseball markets go. He was very aware of this due to the fact that he pitched for 7 years in the division with Tampa Bay. The guy shot off his mouth about Red Sox icon David Ortiz and got plenty of blowback. In fact, Price was nervous about meeting Ortiz last spring because of his criticism of Big Papi thinking he was "bigger than the game". The racial taunts aside, he said he was hurt about what fans shouted to him in the bullpen. Shocking! The guy is making 30 million a season, was suppose to be the rotation anchor, and turned in a dogshit first half with a 9-6 record to go along with a 4.34 ERA.

Getting back to the racial slurs, victimization because of the color of someone's skin is always an extremely serious matter and should never be ignored or tolerated. The fact that he said that there is still racism in the world isn't exactly an astonishing revelation. However, it can be misconstrued by Price's comments that he's branding the entire city for the actions of a few ignorant assholes. It's fuel for those who already have an issue with his performance tossing another log on the fire of discontent and further distancing himself from the fanbase.

For the most part, I feel Boston fans do care that the players they root for are good citizens, that they are gracious with their time when dealing with the public and that they are hard-working. I think those characteristics also describe David Price.

  • "I have fun on Twitter; Boston isn't going to change that."
This is the comment that threw me for a loop. How are the people of Boston preventing him from having all this fun he claims he has on Twitter? Personally, I think the guy needs a respite from social media. Price goes from making light of himself to having these little pissing matches when all the while he could be telling us more about himself. This charade that he's just a normal guy on Twitter ribbing people doesn't fly because it isn't true. He's a top-flight professional baseball pitcher making gobs of money who has precious little in common with the average Joe. 

This is exactly why I don't follow ball players on Twitter. What type of exchange am I going to have with a Red Sox player that would be meaningful with regards to our personal lives? As far as baseball goes, I am on Twitter to keep up with the team by chatting with other fans, sharing a laugh and gaining insight about the players by the stats provided by various websites and insiders. As far as learning about players themselves, it boils down to looking at the boxscores and reading the articles written by reporters that know what they are talking about.

That whole "stick with me" and "I'm gonna make you love me" schtick last season bordered on pathetic pandering for acceptance. It just seemed empty and desperate. Why expose yourself to people who bring you down? Stick to baseball or have your account professionally tailored. God knows he can afford it even though he doesn't remember how much money he made last year. The old adage "don't read the sports page" has an even deeper meaning now for players. In this day and age, opinions and stats are everywhere, so it might be an advantage to block those things out to avoid distractions. This is exactly what the Red Sox don't need - a flaky left-hander pissing and moaning on Twitter. 

  • "All I have to do is pitch good."
Really what more has to be said, David? He is absolutely spot on here. Expectations were high as the anointed ace coming into the 2016 campaign, and the emergence of Rick Porcello really bailed Price out especially in the first half of the season. With the acquisition of Chris Sale, he can even fly further under the radar while he recuperates from his elbow issues. I mentioned John Lackey earlier, and he is a perfect example of how to succeed with a bloated contract coupled with mediocre results - win in the playoffs.

It's no secret that this is Price's Achille's Heel. He jokes about it but it is also obvious from his posts on Twitter that this weighs on him heavily. His self-deprecation now comes off as a pleading for silence on the subject. If I say I stink in the playoffs, then I know I stink so you don't need to tell me that. Unfortunately, that's not how it works.

When you really look at his 2016 season, it certainly wasn't terrible. The guy made all his starts, missed some bats to the tune of 228 punchouts and logged 230 innings. He won 17 games which is nothing to scoff at, and even though the ERA was a tad on the chubby side, Boston made the playoffs with Price playing a vital role. The fact that Price sees this as below standard is encouraging to me and many fans. Even if he has the same type of season in 2017 with little to no improvement and wins a game or two in the playoffs, he will automatically be cast in a new light. 

March 05, 2017

The Sensational 70s - Petrocelli Powers Sawx in ALDS Series Opener

Rico Petrocelli's three-run homer highlighted a 5 run eighth inning uprising to pace the 1975 Boston Red Sox to an 11-7 win over the 1978 New York Yankees in the first game of their ALDS at Yankees Stadium. The Red Sox rally erased a 6-4 Yankee lead as Boston pounded the Yankee bullpen for 5 hits and 7 earned runs in the final two frames. New York had 4 pitchers take the hill in those final 2 innings, and two of these chuckers -  Ken Clay and Andy Messersmith failed to record an out in Boston's raucous eighth.

Boston jumped out to an early 2-0 lead only to see it evaporate in the second inning on a two-run error by Jim Rice. With two out and runners on the corners, Mickey Rivers hit a fly ball that sliced towards the left field line. Rice seemed to be in a position to make the catch but whiffed on it enabling both runners to score as the ball rolled to the fence. The Yankees added another run in the third for a 4-2 lead.

This was also my first game in which I scored using the iscore app. It is a terrific tool that I plan on using to score Sawx games this season, and I'm still working the bugs out. As you can see on the scorecard below, the error was registered on the card, but River was still granted 2 RBI so I must have missed a step on my device to negate the ribbies. In any case, this app is a neat addition to enjoying any ball game. The scorecard, along with the stats I have included from this ALDS game, was generated using this utility.

Fortunately for Boston, it was a game of redemption for two players in critical situations. First of all, Rice atoned for his second-inning  miscue in the fifth with a two-out two run homer tying the game at four  Then after Boston fell behind in the seventh on two unearned runs caused by a botched force attempt at second by Denny Doyle that made the score 6-4, Doyle ripped a two-run bases loaded single off New York reliever Andy Messersmith to tie the game 6-6. 

After Clay and Messersmith faced 5  batters in the eighth without getting an out, David Rajsich came on and was victimized by Rico Petrocelli's game-winning blast.

Game Two will see Boston send Rick Wise to the hill to face Jim Beattie who effectively shut down the Ree Sox bats in the second game in a series sweep at Fenway that capped the regular season schedule.