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2017 MLB American League All-Stars

Yup, the All-Star Game was this past Tuesday.  But…close enough.  And a nice topic to get back in the swing of things.  So here is my team.  Only 32 players this year, down from 34 in recent years.  21 position players, 11 pitchers, with each team represented (Again, I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule).  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Salvador Perez, KC (S), Gary Sanchez, NYY

Three catchers are usually selected for the actual game.  This year thankfully there were only two…for both leagues.  Not sure why this changed, but it’s absolutely for the better.  Two is about the max that deserve to be there.  Last year I took only one on my team (Perez).  If I took a third this year, it would’ve been either Brian McCann or Alex Avila.  No thanks.  Anyway, I’ve said pretty much enough on catchers.  Sanchez may be the future, but not giving him the starting gig over Big Sal…this year.

1B:  Justin Smoak, Tor (S), Logan Morrison, TB, Jose Abreu, CWS, Yonder Alonso, Oak

Just…yuck.  Just feels really strange with no Miguel Cabrera anywhere to be found here.  These guys are simply having better years though.  And thanks to the “every team has to be represented” rule, here are each of these 4 teams’ representatives!  Smoak started the real game and, sadly enough, he was the right choice.  Morrison had a similar OPS (.931 to Smoaks’ .936), so if you wanted him to start, you won’t get an argument from me.  Not sure how he didn’t even make the real team.  I’m all set with Corey Dickerson.  Actually, I’m all set with Morrison too, but his numbers are there this year.  Avisail Garcia was the real life ChiSox rep, but I prefer Abreu.  Probably doesn’t matter either way.  It was either Alonso, Khris Davis or Ryon Healy for the A’s.  Alonso’s .934 OPS was also right with Morrison and Smoak.  The other A’s were in the .800’s.  Plus Davis and Healy DH a fair amount.  But still…these 4 guys are All-Stars?

2B:  Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Jonathan Schoop, Bal, Robinson Cano, Sea, Starlin Castro, NYY

It’s Altuve and then everyone else once again.  Not enough superlatives out there for that guy.  Schoop is shockingly enough the Orioles rep.  If you wanted to put Manny Machado on the team because he’s Manny Machado, I’d probably be ok with it though.  I’m not putting Robby Cano here because he was the MVP of the real game.  No, seriously.  He is kind of quietly having a pretty good year.  As is Castro.

3B:  Jose Ramirez, Cle (S), Miguel Sano, Min, Mike Moustakas, KC

Jose Ramirez is 3rd in the AL in OPS, .005 behind 2nd place.  Jose Ramirez!  Let that one sink in for a while.  Sure he had a pretty good year last year.  But was abysmal two years ago.  Of course he was only 22 then, so…but still.  Pretty impressive.  Sano is another guy breaking out this year.  His 120 K’s already are pretty unsightly though.  Having second thoughts about “Moose” as I write this…but I guess 25 bombs and good defense should count for something.

SS:  Carlos Correa, Hou (S), Elvis Andrus, Tex

You may be able to pencil in Correa’s name here for years to come.  Francisco Lindor may have something to say about it eventually, but not this year.  Correa has been filthy this season.  I will also say Lindor was on the edge of my team and if you wanted to find space for him, it wouldn’t upset me.  Andrus was going to be my sole Rangers player, though that did change.  Still deserving of a place on my squad however.  And please Red Sox fans…admittedly, I am a total homer.  But the fact that Xander Bogaerts was in the Final Five voting was an absolute joke, I’m sorry.  Disappointing year for X, to put it mildly.

OF:  Mike Trout, LAA (S), Aaron Judge, NYY (S), George Springer, Hou (S), Mookie Betts, Bos

This is what I wrote last year: “Just copy and paste Trout here for at least the next decade…unless he switches leagues at some point.”  His injury this year changes nothing.  There really is not much to say about Judge and Springer.  Monster years from the both of them.  Now here is where I become a little of that Boston homer I just referred to.  In my opinion, Betts hasn’t necessarily been “All-Star-ish” this year.  Just hasn’t seemed it.  Comparatively speaking to last year anyway.  But maybe we were spoiled last year.  However, when you review the numbers as a whole, you can justify a spot for him.  And I did.

DH: Nelson Cruz, Sea (S)

1 DH is enough.  One of the jamokes selected at 1B can handle DH in my game if they need to.  I would nominate Abreu.

UT:  Marwin Gonzalez, Hou

How can a guy who doesn’t even start for his own team be an All-Star?  Well, let me introduce you to this year’s Brock Holt!!  Except…way better.  .967 OPS.  He actually has been playing every day for a while now.  I mean, Norichika Aoki?  Please.  But Marwin plays all over the place too.  If you play fantasy baseball, and I do, he is pretty much eligible at every position no matter what type of league you are in.  That’s worth something if you can create offense along with the defensive flexibility.  Oh, and the Astros are 10 games better than everyone else in the American League.  Take as many guys as you want from that team and put them here.  Although, I will draw the line at Josh Reddick.

P:  Chris Sale, CWS (S), Jason Vargas, KC, Dallas Keuchel, Hou, Corey Kluber, Cle, Carlos Carrasco, Cle, Michael Fulmer, Det, Ervin Santana, Min, Yu Darvish, Tex, Luis Severino, NYY, Andrew Miller, Cle, Craig Kimbrel, Bos

I will probably cut and paste this preamble every year, in case there are any new readers that may give a crap.  I know, fat chance.  Anyway, here it is:  As I’ve explained in the past, my inclination is to take way more starting pitchers than closers and certainly middle relievers.  Great starters are infinitely more important to their team and that is why they get the big bucks, as they say.  Closers historically get hot for a year or three, but unless they are Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, they inevitably fail and fall back into middle relief or the minors or out of baseball.  Very few of the elite ones that can do it for 10 years plus.  Middle relievers are usually failed starters AND closers.  So even though they can be dominant, it usually doesn’t last.  And if it does, they will go back to another key role.

Last year, I picked 3 closers and 2 part middle relievers, part closers and only 8 starters.  Kind of made me sick to my stomach.  This year we get back to normal…9 starters, 1 middle man, 1 closer.  Sale is the relatively easy choice to start, though if Kuechel or even Kluber didn’t miss time in the first half, they would have certainly made it closer.  Specifically Kluber, with his playoff performance last year, as well as the fact that his own Indian coaching staff were the coaches for this years’ All-Star Game.  Journeyman 34-year-old Vargas leads the league in wins and ERA, as well as WAR, if that’s a statistic that floats your boat.  Good for him for making his first All-Star team.

I’m surprised that Carrasco wasn’t on the real squad.  He got hammered in one start in late June that jacked up his ERA a bit.  But even so, 3.44 ain’t bad.  Combined with his other numbers, he seemed like an easy pick to me.  Fulmer was my Detroit pick…as he was in reality (until they added Justin Upton to the squad as well).  Can’t ignore Ervin’s contributions to the surprising Twins this year (as surprising as 2 games over .500 is…but they are only 2.5 games out…and I’m not sure anyone saw that coming).  Darvish and Severino have high-ish ERA’s, but they are still in the top 10 and have good numbers otherwise.  Maybe Lance McCullers Jr. and Marcus Stroman deserve some consideration as well.  But they get squeezed out on my team.

Kimbrel is a no-brainer…the guy has been virtually untouchable this year.  As has been Miller.  Even though Miller doesn’t close, it’s hard to ignore his dominance.  As for relievers that missed the cut, maybe a case for Roberto Osuna could have been made.  But Alex Colome, Brandon Kintzler, Kelvin Herrera, Kenny Giles?  Nah.  Justin Wilson & Dellin Betances?  Perhaps.  But I’m comfortable with just Miller and Kimbrel.

So there you go…NL to follow..at some point…first I have to celebrate the fact that the Fat Panda is finally out of Boston…good riddance…

Time To Fire Farrell?

Of course!  But I’ve been saying that for a couple of years now.

Funny thing is, the Boston Red Sox mediocre start this season may have little to do with John Farrell’s managing prowess.  Or lack thereof…

Sure, there is always some blame that the manager will have to absorb when a team underachieves.  Farrell still sucks as an in-game manager.  That hasn’t changed.  Lack of leadership on more than a few occasions hasn’t helped him either.  All that nonsense with Dustin Pedroia and Manny Machado and all the other characters involved with firing baseballs all over the place.  Hanley Ramirez making up injuries so he doesn’t have to play first base.  And no one pushing him.  Those are two notable cases of a leadership void.

Farrell also doesn’t help himself with his explanations of subluxations and arm angles and all that crap.

But that doesn’t make him primarily responsible for this mess the Red Sox have created.  This actually pains me to say.

You may say, “mess”?  They are only 4 games out, no one will run away with the division and there are 125 games left in the season!  I will say, take a look at this roster, and Pawtucket’s roster and, better yet, the injury report.  And you may have a clearer picture of where this team stands.

Where do we start?  Third base is one place.  6 players have manned the position in 37 games.  Pablo Sandoval and Marco Hernandez primarily, though Josh Rutledge is catching up.  Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and…Steve Selsky have played there as well.  Looks like 13 errors, with Marco’s 6 and Fat Panda’s 4 leading the way.  Atrocious.  It’s gotten to the point where Marrero is earning more time because of his glove, his .243 career minor league average (.198 last year and .169 this year, by the way) be damned.

Is help on the way?  Not from Pawtucket, it would appear.  Looks like there are 5 or 6 minor league veterans playing 3B down there…without a ton of success.  I doubt we will see 20 year-old Rafael Devers in the majors this year.  Though he does currently have a .984 OPS in AA.  He’s supposedly the “next big thing”, so I doubt they will rush him.  Hopefully they won’t trade him either, what with the prospect cupboard stripped down a little bit from trades during the Dave Dombrowski regime.

I think we are stuck with the above motley crew for the time being.  Wait, didn’t Allen Craig used to play 3rd early in his career?  Maybe the Sox can salvage some of that contract?  Ok, nevermind.  He’s hitting .197 in Pawtucket with a .550 OPS.  Seems content to just collect his fat paycheck these days…

First base may be the next issue on the offensive side.  Mitch Moreland is a nice player and can fill a role.  That role should not require him to be the only player on the team to play in every single game this year however.  Especially when he looks pretty lost against lefties.

But part of this problem is that Hanley Ramirez has no interest in playing first, as noted above.  And no one is forcing the issue because they are afraid they will “lose” him.  What a joke.  Raise your hand if you saw this coming (Blowhard’s hand fully extended to the sky), at least in part because of the fact there is no David Ortiz in the clubhouse anymore to help keep him in line.  Make him play first, suspend him if he refuses.  And if he makes up injuries and you can’t tell if he is faking…well, you know his history, so you know he is faking.  I know, easier said than done.  There will be grievances and the player quitting and all that.  But management needs to figure something out and they should be smart enough to do so.

Raise your hand if you also saw Jackie Bradley Jr. reverting into, well…Jackie Bradley Jr.  (Blowhard again, arm straight up).  A mid .200’s hitter at best with a great glove.  But not an All-Star as he was last year.  I would have moved him last offseason for maximum value.  Then played Andrew Benintendi in center, Mookie Betts remaining in right.  Then perhaps a platoon of Chris Young and anyone else in left.  That ship has sailed.  On a positive note, there is plenty of time for Jackie to heat up and salvage his slow start.  But I’m afraid last year was an aberration, my friends.

Elsewhere on the diamond, I suppose I can live with the bodies there…unless Xander Bogaerts keeps up his alarming lack of production.  I don’t care if he is hitting .340.  No homers and 11 RBI in his 33 games is flat-out unacceptable.  And stop blaming Ortiz leaving for being the reason the lineup has underperformed.  There’s enough talent there to not use that crutch.

The big problem is the pitching staff.  Starting with the alarming lack of starting pitching depth on a “big-market” team.  Now, this is in no way saying I advocated for Clay Buchholz to remain here as part of what would have been 7 veteran big league starters.  I said “veteran”, not necessarily meaning “good”.  Good riddance Clay.

The other six?  Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz & Steven Wright.  Sale is rock solid, but has had a tendency to fade down the stretch in recent years for whatever reason.  Before his injury, I think we all could have counted on Price taking almost every turn…and hopefully be better than last year.  And even though Porcello was unlikely to be in the Cy Young mix again, I think we expected him to still be a suitable #3 guy anyway.

But the last three?  E-Rod is presumably still developing.  Having a pretty good year too, though he usually has thrown about 215 pitches every start to even get through the 5th.  It seems that way anyway.  Pomeranz and Wright were huge question marks.  Pomeranz just hasn’t proven durability in his career and Wright is a knuckleballer, so who knows which version will show up?

Lot’s of question marks.  Even with good health.  Then Price goes down.  Apparently Wright was never healthy from the start and pitched through his injury…and poorly.  Pomeranz expects to make his next start, but whatever he was babying in the spring is back.  Ugh.  And your next in line is Kyle Kendrick, Henry Owens and Brian Johnson.  Double ugh.

There aren’t better veteran options kicking around even now?  Dougie Fister, where are you?!

And…why did we ever consider Owens and Johnson “can’t miss” prospects?  They throw about as hard as Wright.  But I digress…

If you think the rotation is suspect, then don’t even look at the bullpen.  Disaster area.  Craig Kimbrel has been lights out.  Robby Scott has done his job…one lefty batter at a time.

The rest?  I can’t even talk about them.  Makes me sick to my stomach.  Makes me pine for some Noe Ramirez.  That should tell you about all you need to know.

This bullpen includes (theoretically) 2 guys who haven’t thrown a pitch in 2017:  Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith.  Smith threw very few pitches last year for the team.  But they are supposed to be at the back-end of the bullpen.

This leads me to the upcoming conclusion.  Although the Blowhard has not been a fan of Farrell for quite some time now, the finger points more to the construction of the team this year more than the manager’s performance.  Right at Dave Dombrowski.

You can’t control injuries (or illness).  But there is enough talent on this team to win.  There have been enough red flags on some of the guys acquired by DD that were worth noting.  He seemed to not only ignore them, he seemed to also overpay to get them.

Most of the trades involved prospects.  I would usually move prospects for proven guys any day of the week.  But did he need to move 4 of them for a closer in Kimbrel last year?  Send the top pitching prospect straight up for Pomeranz?  Send 3 prospects AND Travis Shaw for a middle reliever?  I’m no huge Shaw cheerleader.  But the Sox sure could use him now…at first or third.

For the record, I’ll give up the prospects for Sale.  But that’s different from the deals above.

Now, what does Dombrowski have to trade?  Couple of top prospects are left if he wanted, for sure.  But when MLB.com lists a 27-year-old lefty specialist (Scott) as your 29th best prospect across all minor league levels, that’s not a good sign.  That’s like a small market team.  Again, I’d trade prospects for proven guys every day.  Just seems as if, other than Sale, these prospects are being used for the wrong guys…and too many of the prospects are being dealt in each of those deals.

There is definitely plenty of time this season to right the ship.  But I’m not sure how long Price lasts when he comes back.  I don’t believe Thornburg throws a pitch for the team this year.  Who knows about Smith?  Sandoval will come back at some point, but to me, he is a lost cause.  3B will be an issue all year, offensively and defensively.  Just saw that Hector Velasquez is starting Thursday night.  Who?  Exactly.

This season is on Dombrowski thus far and not Farrell.  So to answer the question posed, Farrell probably does not deserve to lose his job based on the results this season…but as they say, you can’t fire 25 players…

Red Sox Preview…

…20 games into the season.  Nice work.  Season is 1/8th over and the Blowhard is just getting around to writing about the team for the first time since the playoffs last year.

Oh well, at least it’s still April.  And you know, the Celtics are (and the Bruins were) in the playoffs.  Everything the Patriots do is seemingly newsworthy.  Ok, enough of the excuses…

So this isn’t really a Season Preview…quite obviously.  The following is a collection of thoughts about the first 20 games.  In no particular order:

*I’m not sure how many times exactly so far the Red Sox have had their ideal lineup in place, but it can’t be much.  Because of injury, illness (sorry Buck Showalter), bereavement and whatever else, the Sox have been shuttling players in and out of the lineup right from Opening Day.  But let’s say they do have their lineup all in place one day soon.  Does it scare you?  Not me.

*David Ortiz is going to be a bigger loss than you think.  Who is to say he would have put up monster numbers again if he stuck around in his age-41 season.  No guarantees there.  And he probably wouldn’t have.  But where is the power this year?

*Not to mention Ortiz’ leadership.  Does anyone really buy into Hanley Ramirez trying to fit into that role?  Laughable.  Not that he is trying to be that kind of leader.  But he has made comments that he has wanted to.

*Dustin Pedroia would seem to be the “next in line” to be that guy.  Makes sense.  But the whole Manny Machado incident from last week leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths…and not for Machado’s actual slide and subsequent Pedroia injury.  It was how Pedroia handled the situation.  Publicly slamming Matt Barnes for throwing the pitch (location and timing) and presumably management as well (specifically Manager John Farrell?), suggesting that if they were going to throw at Manny, it should’ve been done the next time he was at the dish in the series.

While Pedey may be correct in everything he said, both to Machado on the field and then after the game, it would appear that this is not the way a “leader” goes about an incident like that.  Then again, when the Sox collapsed down the stretch in 2011 and cost Tito Francona his job, Pedey just watched all the antics unfold in front of him…as did the “Captain”, Jason Varitek.  And Ortiz himself, for that matter.  So maybe this leadership crap is exactly what it is…crap.

*I admit, when they rolled Andrew Benintendi in the 2-spot from the get-go, I did not like it.  Seemed that it may put some pressure on the kid.  Every other “phenom” the Sox have brought up over the years seemed to start out at the bottom of the lineup.  Then eventually are moved up when they proved their mettle.  But the kid is unflappable.

*Sandy Leon was a nice story for about 2 months last year.  Hit everything in sight.  But it’s time to give the job back to Christian Vazquez.  And not because he is hitting .478.  But because he appears to be all the way back from his 2015 Tommy John injury.  Defensive monster.  And if Blake Swihart can ever get his mojo back…

*Pablo Sandoval still stinks.  And before he got hurt, his defense stunk too.  But at least they have Josh Rutledge to platoon with him when the still Fat Panda is healthy.  Sigh…

*Speaking of platoons, this team is going to have its problems against lefthanders it appears.  Mitch Moreland has had a nice start.  But looks helpless against lefties.  Panda can’t hit right-handed.  Rutledge?  Please.  Hanley refuses to play first…and the Sox are letting him get away with it.  That means either Moreland or Panda has to play against southpaws, along with Rutledge.  No good.  Chris Young is ok against lefties and ideally he would DH and Hanley would play first and Rutledge third.  Not exciting, but the best they can do.  Nice leadership Hanley.

*It’s early.  But Xander Bogaerts should be better than what I see.

*Who DIDN’T see the Rick Porcello regression coming?

*Steven Wright for that matter too.

*I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not counting on seeing David Price until after the All-Star break.

*Heath Hembree has been a pleasant surprise.  Joe Kelly hasn’t been horrible.  Matt Barnes has been nice.  But in reality, I don’t want any of these guys pitching in the 8th inning with a small lead.  Or really any lead.  I’ll likely be holding my breath on Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith when (if?) they come back as well.

*What’s the purpose of having Fernando Abad on the roster?

*Or Steve Selsky?

*Pawtucket Red Sox note:  Deven Marrero, the former first round pick, is 4 for 39 this year thus far.  That’s .103, for those scoring at home.  .253 OPS.  Solid.  Hit .198 all of 2016 in Pawtucket, with a .487 OPS.  Is his defense really that good?  He actually got a couple of days in Boston earlier this year, with the illnesses and all.  I’m not sure I understand…

*Pawtucket note, Part II:  Allen Craig is still alive!  .211 for the PawSox thus far.  My question though is…why?

*Pawtucket note, Part III…and Reason #2,567,321,956 why Spring Training stats mean nothing:  Kyle Kendrick is 0-3, 8.10 in his three starts on the farm.  Remember when some people were trying to make space for him in the big league rotation?

*John Farrell.  It’s no secret I am not a fan.  But honestly, I don’t remember being outraged at him at all this year.  20 games in, kind of surprising, I know.  A lot of people were up in arms when he yanked Chris Sale in his last start when he was at 102 pitches and dominating.  Then Craig Kimbrel immediately coughed up the lead and cost Sale a win.  I didn’t honestly have a strong feeling about that either way.  Then the Sox won the game anyway.  And Kimbrel actually went 2 innings himself, something he historically does not do.  Hard to really complain about that in the end.

Soon enough Farrell will piss me off.  But we will cross that bridge when we get to it…

*By the way, embarrassing note:  this is probably the first time in my life that someone made the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster and I had absolutely no idea who he was.  Ben Taylor.  Who?  Well, he’s not here anymore.  But he didn’t embarrass himself in his stint, that’s for sure.  Didn’t even realize he was in Portland for a bit last year, or right up the street in Lowell for 4 games in 2015.  Hasn’t been around for that long, but still something I’m not proud of.

*Speaking of embarrassing…and ending on this note…Taylor is ranked as the 18th best prospect for the Sox.  According to MLB.com anyway.  They list the top 30 prospects.  Ranked at #29?  Robby Scott.  Yup, a 27 year old lefty specialist is on a “Top Prospect” list.  Yikes!

 

 

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