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Opening Day Is When? Conclusion…

As promised, let’s moved on to the bats.  Apparently, the 25 man roster was finalized Tuesday, though it won’t be announced until Opening Day to make sure no one stabs themselves with a pen or trips over a crack in the pavement or something.  And…the offensive side of the ball could probably have been predicted correctly days ago by anyone who doesn’t even follow baseball.  But that won’t stop the Blowhard from making his comments below!

Overall, it COULD be a strong group and SHOULD be a strong group.  But there are some question marks on this side as well.  But we will dive into that when we go through the positions.

Once again, we will be using the 40-man roster as a base, while adding in non-roster invitees (NRI) where (if) appropriate:

Catcher (2):

In:  Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon

DL:  None

Minors:  None

Comments:  Well, that was easy.  There are only three catchers on the 40-man roster.  And one of them isn’t really a catcher anymore, I don’t think.  We will talk about that in more detail later though.  As for these two, you could do much worse.  Both are serviceable offensively and defensively.  Looks like Vasky will be around for a while for sure, as he just signed a fat extension…well, a fat one for him anyway.  Leon is never going to hit like he did a couple of years back, but he won’t kill you at the dish.  In this lineup, batting ninth, I don’t think we really care about their offense anyway, right?

Infield (5):

In:  Hanley Ramirez (1B), Eduardo Nunez (2B), Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Mitch Moreland

DL:  Dustin Pedroia, Marco Hernandez

Minors:  Tzu-Wei Lin, Sam Travis, Ivan DeJesus Jr. (NRI)

Comments:  No-brainers here as well, especially after trading Deven Marrero to Arizona a few days back.  Believe it or not, we will talk more about Marrero later.  DeJesus had zero shot at making the team in reality.  But I thought I’d give him some props in this piece since he hit almost .400 this spring.  I still have no idea why the team re-signed Moreland, not to mention giving him 2 years.  I know, Hanley is always a question mark and the Sox did not have J.D. Martinez in the fold yet.  But I think the whole world knew that JD was eventually going to sign here.  And that he was likely to spend more time DHing than in the outfield.  Thus pushing Hanley to first base…I mean, if he felt like playing the field that is.  Because you know he didn’t feel like playing first last year.  The shoulder hurt of course.  Yup.

Anyway, lots of questions here still.  Which Hanley will show up?  Nunez should be a more than capable substitute for Pedroia, then a more than capable reserve after Dustin comes back.  But he signed late.  Is there still concern about his knees?  Devers splashed onto the scene last year.  Can he take the next step?  And perhaps most importantly, will Xander finally reach the supposed unlimited potential that he was earmarked long ago for?  Or will he continue to disappoint?

My take?  Hanley will be extraordinarily average.  But that’s ok since we don’t want him to get the 497 plate appearances he needs to trigger his 2019 option.  Goodbye already, as far as I’m concerned.  Nunez will be just fine.  Devers will have some ups and downs but will be spelled enough by a few guys on the roster so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed.  Though I will say, it would not shock me that if he starts somewhat slow, he could find his way back to Pawtucket for more seasoning.  As for Bogaerts?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Plenty of people think manager Alex Cora will fix him.  I am not convinced.  Earlier in the spring, X seemed to balk at changing his approach.  You know the one where he took so many pitches right down the middle of the plate.  Maybe that has changed since it looks like he has had a decent spring.  But we will see when the lights shine for real.

Outfield (3):

In:  Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF)

DL:  None

Minors:  Rusney Castillo (NRI)

Comments:  Defensively?  Hard to top.  Offensively?  We will see.  Benny should take another step up, in my opinion.  I’m hoping Betts rebounds himself.  “Rebounds”, I know.  Betts finished 6th in the MVP vote last year.  But, in all seriousness, did he deserve that?  The Blowhard says absolutely not.  But we know he has all the tools.  Let’s hope he uses them to their full capacity again.  Bradley flat-out stinks.  He should have been traded the winter after the 2016 season after what most assuredly will be his career year.  But I suppose I’m biased.  I’ve never liked him.  Sure, his D is awesome.  But can’t Betts and/or Benintendi play center at least at 85-90% of JBJ’s ability?  I think so.  I’m also not saying that the Sox should have kept Bryce Brentz to play left…or even play JD full-time in the outfield.  I’m just venting I guess.  The 7 for 46 (.152) this spring doesn’t help either.  Rusney had a good spring and he also seems like he’s a better player than when he first got here.  But it looks like he will make his 12 mil again this year in Pawtucket.  Just another 12 mil in 2019 and a little over 14 mil in 202o to go on his deal.  Solid.  Wait…maybe he won’t exercise that 202o player option…ummmmm, nevermind.

Designated Hitter (1):

In:  J.D. Martinez

DL:  None

Minors:  None

Comments:  I honestly did not love the Martinez deal…though if it turns out to be a two-year deal, then it makes it more palatable.  That being said, this dude better hit some bombs.  He also better not chirp about not playing the outfield much.  And Cora better not feel pressure to put him in the outfield much.  Let the record show that he hit zero dingers in camp this year.  I’ll give him the late start.  As well as the fact that he hit over .300.  But I’ll be skeptical of this signing…unless it works out of course.

Utility (2):

In:  Brock Holt, Blake Swihart

DL:  None

Minors:  None

Comments:  I can’t really call these guys infielders, outfielders or even catchers in Swihart’s case.  These guys will play multiple positions.  Well, Swihart allegedly will.  We really don’t know if he actually can.  We know he won’t catch much.  The pitchers don’t like to throw to him.  Hard to believe he will catch at all under those circumstances.  I wonder if he will get much in the form of at-bats overall.  Cora talks about using Blake similar to the way the Astros use Marwin Gonzalez.  But 500 plate appearances?  I don’t see it.  Welp, the Sox have already done what they could to ruin his career, so I suppose they can tack on some more of that this year.  In all fairness, I suppose the team’s hand was forced with Swihart being out of options.  But still…

You were waiting for the part where we would talk more about Deven Marrero?  Here it is!  We think the Sox should have kept him over Holt.  Marrero can’t hit worth a damn.  But his glove alone was worth keeping him in tow.  Especially considering the infield defense (minus Pedroia) is questionable at best.  And Devers may be the first third basemen to have 100 errors in a season.  Ok, a little hyperbole there.  But you get the point.  Holt can play several positions half-decently, but none exceptionally.  Marrero could occupy the 25th spot on the roster and be a defensive replacement every game if necessary.  Only let him hit when you have to.  There is some value in that, believe it or not.  Holt may have been useful in 2014 & 2015.  But not so much in 2016 & 2017.  And has some concussion/vertigo issues.  We know what he is.  I would’ve moved on.

So there are the initial thoughts on the 2018 Red Sox.  Lots of talent, but also lots of injuries and lots of questions.  There’s only one more thing to say…LET’S PLAY BALL!!

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Opening Day Is When?

March 29th, to be exact.  Thursday.  In March.  Boy, that sure crept up fast.  I suppose that’s what happens when it is basically still winter up here in the Northeast and baseball is not top of mind when it’s 30 degrees out and plenty of snow remains on the ground.  Not to mention the fact that the Bruins and Celtics are having great seasons, thereby keeping the focus on them for a while…possibly until both are out of the playoffs.

Perhaps also the expectations for the Red Sox aren’t as high this year either?  I don’t know.  I’m not that high on them anyway.  I’m not sold on the rookie manager.  Too many question marks on the pitching staff, especially relating to injuries…or injury risks.  Didn’t necessarily love the J.D. Martinez deal.  Hanley…everything about him.  The Yankees lineup looks prodigious…and have young potential stars on the way to boot.  Some of this stuff we’ve been through before.  Rest assured, we will get into more detail on my hesitations in the paragraphs that follow.

Listen, the Sox should be plenty good this year.  They should be in the mix for the playoffs…of course.  And for the money that the players are getting, they’d better be.  Alex Cora HAS to be better than John Farrell, right?  If he rejuvenates the younger players in the lineup, that alone is a huge win.  You know, those young players who were supposed to be the future stars and the core of this team for years to come?

So anyway, let’s start with a quick look at the roster.  No, it is not officially set yet, but it’s close enough.  In all likelihood, the roster was pretty much set before the spring even started, for all intents and purposes.  Basically just had to be adjusted a little for any spring injuries and for those who need a little more time to recover from previous offseason surgeries and whatnot.

Now let’s be honest, I did not watch a whole ton of spring training baseball.  But I read all the box scores!  And more importantly, I stayed away from all those “feel-good” stories that come out every March.  Didn’t need those influencing my feelings.  Because you all know how I feel for the 72nd guy on the roster.  Root like hell for whoever that may be!  In any event, because Spring Training results are fairly useless, we probably didn’t miss much.

Let’s get to it, in usual Blowhard fashion, we break down the roster by position, using the 40-man roster as a base, but adding in non-roster invitees (NRI) where appropriate:

Rotation (5):

In:  Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Brian Johnson

DL:  Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez

DL/Suspension:  Steven Wright

In limbo:  Hector Velasquez, Marcus Walden (NRI)

Minors:  Jalen Beeks, Roenis Elias

Comments:  If Pomeranz and E-Rod aren’t out long, then the starting five should be more than acceptable.  But that’s the big part of the problem.  Those two aren’t the healthiest hurlers around.  They could be out only a week or two, or we could see them in June.  No one ever knows with them…E-Rod specifically.  Price has apparently had a nice spring.  But are we out of the woods on his elbow yet?  Not so sure.  Johnson is in the Opening Week rotation because of all these injuries.  But how about HIS injury history?  Marcus Walden is only noted here because he may actually be the #5 guy at the start since Hector has been less than stellar this spring.

Bottom line?  Lot’s of holes here.  If the starters remain in good health, it could be a top rotation.  But what are the chances of that happening?

Bullpen (7):

In:  Craig Kimbrel (closer), Carson Smith, Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree

DL:  Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox

In limbo:  Bobby Poyner (NRI), Tommy Layne (NRI)

Minors:  Brandon Workman, Robby Scott, Chandler Shepherd, Ty Buttrey, Williams Jerez

Comments:  There seem to be some other guys hanging around camp, like William Cuevas, but we don’t need to talk about guys like him.  They won’t be going up to Boston for Opening Day.  Anyway…lots of questions here as well.  Kimbrel was dominant last year, let’s hope he can do it again.  But the rest?  Smith resurfaced at the end of last year, but let’s see how he handles a full season now.  I am no fan of Kelly and Barnes so I don’t even want to talk about them.  If Thornburg can regain his health, that SHOULD help.  Then again, he has pitched in Milwaukee his whole career.  Who knows how he adjusts to the AL East?  Workman has been a huge disappointment this spring and I have no idea what the hell is wrong with late-season darling Maddox.  He hasn’t pitched all spring it looks like and I haven’t even heard his name mentioned.  I have heard Poyner’s name mentioned, as he has apparently turned some heads.  But the Sox had to go sign Layne in the middle of the spring.  That can’t be good.

There will be a lot of bodies on and off the pitching staff all year-long.  But I don’t love all the questions right out of the gate.  If I had to guess, Sale, Price, Porcello, Johnson, Velasquez, Walden, Poyner, Hembree, Kelly, Barnes, Smith and Kimbrel head to Boston at the start.  In case you were worried, there is one open 40-man spot for one of Walden or Poyner and another spot can be opened when someone like Dustin Pedroia goes on the 60-day DL.  Or someone like Chandler Shepherd gets designated for assignment.  But, as you know, I’m the only one that cares about the last 40-man roster spot…

Next:  The bats

Cooperstown 2018…

In honor of The Baseball Hall of Fame announcing their latest inductees in a little bit, the Blowhard will lay his “vote” out here.

I’ll rehash real quickly that I am not discriminating against the “steroid guys”, per usual.  The era was the era, everyone was probably doing something, Major League Baseball ignored the issue, blah, blah, blah.

I’ll also reiterate that if I feel the same as I did about a player from last year (or previous years), I will probably just reference (ie: copy) what I wrote in that appropriate previous year.  No need to reinvent the wheel here.  Guessing this may apply to a number of players.

Oh, and somehow Jack Morris and Alan Trammell got in through the veteran’s vote recently.  I can’t even talk about these atrocities.  Ok, it’s not that bad.  But neither belong in the Hall.

In any event, 33 names on the official ballot.  I added one write-in of my own.

Elected:

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens-I’m not sure why we even need to keep talking about these guys.  They may be two of the biggest dirtbags not only in the history of baseball, but also in the history of humankind, but they are also indisputably Hall of Famers.  Their vote totals continue to rise and they will undoubtedly get in someday.  But enough already.  Put them in this year and we can be done with them.  Thank you.

Manny Ramirez-You may have to include Manny with the two bozos above.  Not exactly the best dude or best teammate or any of that.  He is clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed.  But he clearly could at least do one thing and do that one thing unbelievably well.  Hit.  Manny is also indisputably a Hall of Famer.  He will also likely get in someday, but the 23.8% vote from last year is laughable.  Since Manny actually failed a couple of drug tests, this is no question being held against him.  And maybe it should be…but just temporarily I would hope.

Vladimir Guerrero-Changed my mind on this one from last year.  I wrestled hard with this one in both years, since I think he is right on the edge.  Hit for average, power and even stole some bases in his prime.  Cannon for an arm, however inaccurate it could be sometimes.  The end came quick though.  I wouldn’t be bothered either way on Vladdy.  Hopefully he just gets in this year in real life and I won’t have to hem and haw on him again next year.

Chipper Jones-Hit for power and average.  Showed some speed early in his career.  Switch-hitter.  More career walks than strikeouts.  Played on winning teams for the majority of his career.  Postseason numbers are pretty good, and he had a lot of opportunity in the postseason of course.  No Gold Gloves in his trophy case, but he managed to stay at third base the majority of his career.  Former Most Valuable Player.  I’m not sure I need to say more.

Pete Rose-Here’s my write-in again.  King of all dirtbags.  But a Hall of Fame baseball player.  Simple as that.

Fantastic careers, but falling a smidge short:

Jim Thome-The numbers are gaudy, led by the 612 career homers.  I expect that alone will punch his ticket to the Hall, if not today, then maybe next year.  But he never finished higher than 4th in the MVP voting.  Only a 5 time All-Star (although I will allow that he was at a tough 1B/DH position, where good candidates get left out yearly).  Despite the 1,700 plus walks he earned, he did strike out over 2,500 times.  And on those Cleveland Indian teams where he made his bones, I am not sure he was even close to being the most feared hitter in the lineup at any time.  You could throw in the fact he DH’d a ton, but at least he had the numbers for that.  Just doesn’t feel like a Hall of Famer to me.

Johan Santana-Admittedly, this one is a stretch.  I don’t believe he will ever get in, as the career was just too short.  In that short time he was pretty dominant, but also admittedly, not “Sandy Koufax dominant”.  Shoulder and Achilles injuries eventually torpedoed his career, amid several comeback attempts.  These are of course a factor in evaluating his candidacy.  But I just don’t think his career should be overlooked, that’s all.  In the five year stretch between 2004 and 2008, Johan won 2 Cy Young’s, finished third two other years and fifth the other.  Threw a no-hitter.  Won a pitching Triple Crown.  Produced significant results during his career, but again, not enough.  If he remains on the ballot next year, he may drop down a category on my list.  But for now let’s keep him here.

Pretty damn good careers, but we can’t induct everyone:

Trevor Hoffman-5 votes short last year, so I’d be surprised if he didn’t get in today.  What I wrote last year still applies today:  Because of the 600 plus saves, people like to kind of add him in with Mariano Rivera a little bit.  Rivera (career 82-60, 2.21, 1.000 WHIP, dominant postseasons) vs. Hoffman (career 61-75, 2.87, 1.058 WHIP, not much to see in the postseason, however, not dominant).  I don’t see it.  But the 600+ gets him in today anyway.

Curt Schilling-No change from last year’s comment:  Not because of his mouth or politics or tweets or any of that stuff.  But because there were too many career ups and downs for my liking.  Despite any postseason heroics.

Edgar Martinez-No change from last year’s comment:  Edgar gets a ton of support.  But as a DH only for the bulk of his career, the numbers have to be extravagant for me to put him in.  Like say…David Ortiz-like.  And they aren’t quite that.

Mike Mussina-No change from last year’s comment:  Good pitcher for a long time.  He won 20 games in his final year.  Funny thing is, if he stuck around for maybe 3 more years and won 30 more games, the 300 wins and 3,000 K’s (ended 187 shy) would have put him in automatically.

Fred McGriff-No change from last year’s comment:  The Crime Dog was a solid player pretty much from beginning to end.  But that does not make you a Hall of Famer.

Jeff Kent-No change from last year’s comment:  His position of 2B helps him here.  But he can probably thank the SF years of batting cleanup behind Bonds for keeping him on the ballot every year.

Larry Walker-No change from last year’s comment:  Colorado effect.  I don’t know why he keeps getting the support.  Why no love for Vinny Castilla, Dante Bichette or Andres Galarraga?

Gary Sheffield-No change from last year’s comment:  I really didn’t think too hard on this one.  There’s usually a reason a great talent bounces around and plays on 8 teams.  Didn’t we all see it coming when he came up with Milwaukee as a youngster, they asked him to play third base, he didn’t like it, and as a result fired balls into the stands on purpose?

Billy Wagner-No change from last year’s comment:  I like Wagner better than Hoffman actually.  But Hoffs pitched in almost 200 more games.  If Wags stuck around for a couple more years, would he have gotten Hoffman-type support?

Sammy Sosa-No change from last year’s comment:  I said I wasn’t going to discriminate against steroid users…or alleged steroid users.  And I’m not.  609 homers is nice.  But almost half of them (292) came in a 5 year stretch…of an 18 year career.  His .878 career OPS doesn’t even compare to Thome or Vladdy.  Nor do many of his other career totals.

Scott Rolen-Numbers were worse than I remembered and didn’t do a whole ton after age-31.  Rookie of the Year award, 7 All-Star Games and 8 Gold Gloves I suppose gets one some love.  The .158 average in 16 games (over 5 series) in the NLDS can’t possibly help though.  The rest of the postseason numbers don’t stick out either.  Nice player, no Hall though.

Andruw Jones-If Andruw retired after his age-29 season in 2006, he may have had a decent shot at the Hall.  Based on both his offensive and defensive prowess.  He didn’t, however, and sunk his chances with a pretty disastrous final 6 seasons.  “Disastrous” may actually be being kind.  Jones hit 92 homers in those 6 years, but did little else, but apparently stop doing ‘roids and get fat.  And I think stop caring, but I don’t know if I can prove that.  Anyway, no.

Johnny Damon-If Johnny stayed in New York after his age-35 season in 2009 and played 5 more years or so, we may be talking about him getting his 3,000 hit and thus pretty much automatically sending him to Cooperstown (see:  Biggio, Craig).  Instead, he quibbled about dough, played two mediocre seasons in Detroit and Tampa, then finished with a terrible half-season in Cleveland and fell short by 231 hits.  Solid player for a long time, loved him as part of the “Idiots” that helped win the Sox the World Series in 2004.  This really should be his only year on the ballot.

Omar Vizquel-Omar is going to get some serious love because “well, Ozzie Smith is in and Luis Aparicio is in and Vizquel’s numbers are comparable/better…”  And sure, he deserves consideration.  Absolutely a defensive whiz at shortstop, who got better offensively as his career progressed.  He may even get in someday, perhaps by the same group who let in Morris and Trammell this year.  But I’m not buying in.  Here is another one though, that if he got to 3,000 hits, he may be in automatically.  He fell 123 short.  That he got even that close is due in part to the fact that he played until he was 75 years old.  Ok, slight exaggeration there, but Omar is just another decent player that is not a Hall of Famer.

Are these guys seriously on a Hall of Fame ballot?:

Carlos Zambrano, Jamie Moyer, Chris Carpenter, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hudson, Kevin Millwood, Kerry Wood, Carlos Lee, Aubrey Huff, Hideki Matsui, Jason Isringhausen, Brad Lidge-Zambrano may have been on track early in his career, but then fell apart mentally and physically and was done at 31 years old.  Moyer only sniffed the neighborhood of 300 wins because he pitched for 60 years.  Carpenter blossomed later in his career with the Cardinals, but couldn’t stay healthy.  Lee’s numbers were better than I remembered, but for the era he played in, they fall woefully short still.

The rest?  Livan had a 4.44 career ERA.  Wood showed promise early and had a couple of great years over the course of his career, but Hall of Fame?  We aren’t counting Matsui’s Japanese stats.  Hudson, Millwood, Huff, Izzy and Lidge were largely mediocre players with occasional highs.

Well, I suppose it is an honor to be at least included on a Hall of Fame ballot…

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