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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!

 

 

Cooperstown 2017…reaction…

The BBWAA…a bunch of frauds?

Well, I suppose we don’t need to go that far.  But did you check out Hall of Fame voting results this week?

I think my induction thoughts were abundantly clear from my previous post.  But some of the stuff I have been seeing from other writers this week has driven me bananas.  So therefore you get to hear about it, like it or not.

First, you have all the ESPN guys…Jayson Stark, Scott Lauber, Jerry Crasnick, Tim Kurkjian…probably all of them for that matter.  I’m sure they are all great guys and although I don’t read their stuff religiously, I have generally liked what they have done over the years.  I could do without them on TV, but that’s a different subject entirely…and there’s a whole laundry list of people I could do without on television.  So that’s not really any kind of bombshell.

But anyway, the big problem I have seen from those guys is that I think they want to add ALL the guys on the ballot to the Hall of Fame.  That statement may be a stretch, however, they consistently complain that they are limited to voting for only 10 players and there are more than 10 qualified candidates on the ballot.  In one recent year, Kurkjian actually said he wanted to vote for 21 players.  TWENTY ONE!!!  He’s out of his mind.

Maybe Kurk (and the others) are too close to the players and want to “reward” them.  Or something.  It has to be SOMETHING.  Because if these veteran sports writers actually think there were more than 10 players worthy of a Hall of Fame plaque, then they are delusional.

Twenty one…holy crap…I have never been able to get that one out of my mind.  Someone has to smack some sense into old Timmy Boy.

Then I ran into someone who tops these ESPN folk:  Some character by the name of Matt Snyder, a writer for CBS Sports.  Never heard of him, but looking at his bio tells me that he played college baseball and worked his way to CBS through various blogs and other websites.  Seems like he paid some dues and ended up in a great position.  Good for him.  I may even admit that I have some jealousy that he can write about baseball for a living.  But I won’t.  In any event, he should know what he is talking about, correct?

Snyder’s bio also tells me that he is a member of the BBWAA.  Uh oh.  Don’t worry quite yet though, he has about 8 more years of service to go to get an actual vote.

But he would have voted for 10 guys (Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell, Raines, Mussina, Schilling, Pudge, Edgar, Sosa and Sheffield).  If he had more than 10 votes, he would have also added Vladdy and Walker, wouldn’t be opposed to electing Hoffman, Wagner and Lee Smith and also would have given strong looks to Kent, McGriff and Posada.  18 guys right there.  Posada??  Really??  And he also must be too young to have lived through Lee Smith.  To make this a little more comical, he left Manny out and would have voted for Mark McGwire if he was on the ballot.  McGwire??  Wow.  I get that he has a personal PED rule where he leaves players out that were suspended while there has been a joint drug agreement in place.  That’s why there is no Manny.  And he has a right to his opinion.  But you honestly can’t tell me Manny is out and ALL the other kingpins of the steroid era are in.  Common sense has to take over at some point, no?

You have to read the actual piece to “appreciate” it, I think:

http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/the-10-players-id-elect-to-the-baseball-hall-of-fame-and-those-who-would-miss-the-cut/

But wait, it gets better!  Three days after that post, after the results came out, he writes another piece where he tries to dispel a couple of “myths”.  The first being how the vote totals change each year.  In theory, what he describes makes sense, for the most part anyway.  I’ll give him some more love and you can read what he wrote here:

http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/time-to-dispel-two-big-myths-about-baseball-hall-of-fame-voting-results/

What he wrote doesn’t change the fact that he still wants to put like 18 guys in the Hall.  Or that if you are changing your minds on guys over the years…more than once anyway…that probably means that he doesn’t belong.  Or the fact Tim Raines went from 24.3% in 2008, dropped to 22.6% in 2009 and then got to 86.0% in 2017.  That’s way too big a swing.  Were ALL of the voters whose votes had lapsed not voting for Raines and ALL the new voters now voting for him?  Hard to fathom.

The second myth is that the Hall is being watered down because of “lesser” players getting in nowadays.  He presents some facts, that may be true in theory.  But again, common sense needs to prevail here as well.  A smaller percentage of players are getting in the Hall nowadays based on his numbers.  But that only means plenty of mediocre players got in the Hall over the years.  That bumped those old numbers up.  He neglected to mention the Veteran’s Committee putting all kinds of unqualified guys in the Hall in the past.  To the point where the Veteran’s Committee had to be completely revamped.  If we took away some of those players, the numbers may be more in line.  And that’s just one aspect of what happened in the history of Hall of Fame voting.

I’m very sorry for what seems to be a personal attack here, Mr. Snyder.  But maybe you’ll get some more readers from me posting your links.  So perhaps you should actually thank me.  Regardless, this stuff is just a microcosm of the baseball writers of the day.  I’m sure this covers a great deal of the BBWAA.  We’ve already talked about the writer who voted for Schilling for years, but is now stopping because Schill started bashing the writers.  And the guy who sent in a ballot a few years back with only Jack Morris’ name checked off and no one else.  Because he felt “Morris’ career predated the steroid years, so he was voting for him and skipping everyone else because he couldn’t be sure who did ‘roids and who didn’t after that.”  And the writers who won’t vote for certain players on the first ballot, because they aren’t “first ballot Hall of Famers.”  And on and on.  Just not ideal.

Cripes, I have read some preliminary thoughts from some of these writers about 2018 Hall of Fame ballot projections.  Chipper Jones and Jim Thome lead the first timers and they certainly warrant consideration.  But I have also heard the names of Johnny Damon, Omar Vizquel, Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones get some early love.  What?!  Why not throw Scott Podsednik and Guillermo Mota in there as well…

So now that I have gotten completely carried away on something not many likely care about, let me leave you with this:

Everyone has their opinion on who makes the Hall.  I certainly have mine.  No one is wrong, sad to say.  But what’s the bottom line on determining a Hall of Famer?  I can tell you that one time long ago, I was watching Pedro Martinez throw one of those complete game, 3 hit, 17 strikeout gems at a watering hole in Boston with a friend.  Well, it started in the bar.  In the 4th inning, my buddy said “let’s hop on the T over to Fenway and see if we can get into the game.”  I actually agreed, even though the game was almost half over.  We got there in the 6th inning and probably still overpaid a scalper for “seats”.  And the building was rocking for the next 3 innings.  Worth it.  Now THAT is a Hall of Famer.

I can tell you for certain that not once have I said to anyone “hey, Mike Mussina is pitching tonight.  Let’s drop everything and watch!”

But maybe I am just an “Internet Tough Guy”…

 

 

More hardware…

…now for the National League.  Full disclosure:  The Blowhard watches a whole helluva more American League baseball than National League.  This may be quick…

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
  2. Daniel Murphy, Washington
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
  4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado
  5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
  6. Joey Votto, Cincinnati
  7. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
  8. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
  9. Buster Posey, San Francisco
  10. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers

10 guys is definitely steep here, as from what I can tell it’s Bryant and then 9 other guys to fill out the ballot.  Murphy 2nd?  Why not?  He led the league in OPS.  He was 13th in WAR?  Oh no!!  I can’t in good conscience put Arenado at #2.  Sure, his numbers are once again great.  But again…Colorado.  I felt like Murphs deserved to be higher than Rizzo and it feels like 2-4 is the next “tier” after Bryant.

5-7…MVP’s?  I don’t know.  These guys all had great years, but their teams were awful.  I have friends that would probably put Freeman 2nd, since he was 3rd in both OPS and WAR and well, it doesn’t matter that his team finished 26 and a half games out of first.  They also probably would put Jon Lester 3rd, since he is…Jon Lester.  You know who you are.

8-10 I was just throwing darts.  Even considered Wilson Ramos.  Ryan Braun had some decent numbers, but…

Speaking of Lester, he may well have been worthy of a top 10 nod, along with Max Scherzer.  And perhaps Madison Bumgarner.  Didn’t feel it here though.  If you do, I wouldn’t argue with it.  Like I said, the whole list was basically a crapshoot anyway.

Cy Young:

  1. Max Scherzer, Washington
  2. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
  3. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
  4. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco
  5. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs

Here’s a ballot that could use the 10 spots.  Not that all of those 10 could be considered the winner of the Cy Young.  But there were several others in the league that warranted “end of ballot” consideration.  These include, Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, Jake Arrieta and the late Jose Fernandez.  Perhaps Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon too, if you like your closers.  We know I don’t though.

I see this as between just Scherzer and Lester.  And, of course, as a Boston homer, I would’ve loved to give this to Jon.  But after going deeper into the numbers there was no way I could do it.  Lester had a better ERA by about a half a run.  But that’s where it ends.  Max had a better WHIP by a smidge, pitched about 26 more innings, had one more win, almost 90 more strikeouts…and for those who like WAR, it was 6.2 to 5.3 in favor of Max.  The competition in their divisions were similar with one playoff or near playoff team, one average team and 2 putrid ones.  Plus the Cubs won their division handily and surely faced less pressure…not a major consideration, but it was all part of the equation that added up to Max.

Bumgarner and Cueto were a pretty clear next tier to me.  Hendricks got the last spot largely because he led the league in ERA by a healthy margin and was 2nd in WHIP by a slim margin.  Pushed him ahead of Noah for me.  But I didn’t lose a ton of sleep over 5th place.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers
  2. Kenta Maeda, LA Dodgers
  3. Trea Turner, Washington

Seager was the clear-cut choice here.  No other hitter played enough to qualify, while Seager played the whole year at a high level.  I don’t love putting Maeda second, not after 8 years of pitching in the Japanese leagues.  Yes, Japan is not the majors.  But it’s probably better than Triple-A teams stateside.  Either way, the rules say he is eligible for this award.  Since he was also around for a full season and put up some pretty good numbers on a playoff team, he gets the runner-up position.

Third place could have gone a few ways, but I picked Turner.  Showed great speed (33 steals) and good power (13 dingers) in about half a season.  Throw in the high average (.342) and that sealed up third for me.  Trevor Story was on his way to throwing up some monster numbers before missing the last 2 months or so with injury, but…Colorado.  Aledmys Diaz also threw up decent numbers before he missed the better part of the last two months himself.  And he was an All-Star, for whatever that’s worth.  Seung-hwan Oh had a very nice year in relief for the Cards.  After 9 years in Korea and 2 in Japan.  Plus…reliever.  Junior Guerra, Steven Matz, etc.  There were a bunch of NL rookies who offered pretty good contributions for a half or three-quarters of a year.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Dusty Baker, Washington
  2. Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
  3. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco

Between Baker and Maddon and I hate Maddon, so gimme Baker.  Nah, that’s not the reason.  But it’s hard to vote for a guy that won the division by 17 and a half games and was on cruise control for pretty much the whole season.  That’s what I think anyway.  Sure, he had to keep the team full of All-Stars focused and all.  Sometimes that can be hard (see Francona, Terry and Torre, Joe, among others).  But I went with Baker for the top slot.  Dusty took over for Matt Williams and guided the Nationals to 12 more wins…despite a MAJOR drop off from 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper.

If you wanted to put Terry Collins of the Mets 3rd, that would be ok.  He had to deal with many injuries, specifically in his rotation, where among all his young studs 43-year-old Bartolo Colon ended up making the most starts.  The team suffered injuries in his lineup as well.  And Collins still got them to the playoffs.  Bochy didn’t necessarily have to deal with a boatload of injuries.  But he did have to deal with a subpar everything, other than Posey, Bumgarner and Cueto.  Either one works for 3rd for me.

That about sums it all up…

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