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On to the second season…

…if the Big Papi tributes ever end, that is.  Hey, don’t get me wrong, David Ortiz has made a tremendous impact on the Boston sports scene over his career.  Big part of the Red Sox’ three World Series Championships…and hopefully soon a fourth.  Tremendous in the community.  Goodwill ambassador for the game.  And all that.  Can’t possibly say enough positive things about the man (“The Man”?).  I just hate “farewell tours”, that’s all.  My apologies.  This applies to everyone, in any sport.  It was silly to see these pregame charades going on in opposing cities during the season.  Especially in cities Papi barely played in (San Diego?  San Francisco?  Please).  Ortiz should absolutely be honored.  And it should be huge.  But do it some other time.  And then do it again when he gets in the Hall of Fame.

Let’s really just be thankful that Jeremy Giambi was, well, Jeremy Giambi and that Ortiz got a chance to be in the lineup every day.  Remember, the genius Theo Epstein loved him some Jeremy.  Most of the “Theo” apologists had forgotten this long ago though.

While we are at it, you know what’s worse than farewell tours for players?  Honoring broadcasters.  Holy Vin Scully!  Sure, Vin may have been great as what he did.  But he is an ANNOUNCER!  It’s not like he ever split the atom or cured cancer.  He didn’t even make a difference on the field in any of the games he covered.  Enough already.  I’m sure he did a lot of great things for the community as well and is generally a good man.  But he is just relaying what he sees on the field.  Maybe throwing some cute anecdotes or something in there as well.  Awesome.  Hopefully the 48-year-old Scully was better than the 88-year-old Scully I heard on ESPN doing the 4th inning of a game a week or so ago.  Wow.  Mistakes and non-stop rambling.  Kind of like all of the announcers who stay on too long…which is about every one of them actually.  Jealousy?  Maybe.  And I sure hope to be as active as Vin at 88.  But just how I feel.

I’ll definitely give the radio guys more props than the TV guys.  Radio voices have to paint a sort of picture for the listener.  Tougher job than just seeing what transpires on the field directly from the television set, where the viewer can already see the action.  But still…

I’ll also give some props to some of the classic calls, such as Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in Miracles?!”  Though nowadays when those calls are made they seem previously prepared and then when delivered therefore sound somewhat forced.  Especially Jack Edwards’ ridiculous flow of words after a Boston Bruin’s victory.  Half the time no one knows what the hell he is talking about.

Sssssssooooo…now that I have gone waaaaay off topic and likely pissed a lot of people off…let’s get to the upcoming matchup!

The Boston Red Sox will be playing the Cleveland Indians in one of the AL Division Series.  Will Terry Francona come back and haunt his former team?  One he won 2 World Series with?  He might.  And in reality a lot of people would love to see that due to how the team’s head honchos ran Tito out-of-town.  Thanks Tito for the 2 rings…but a bad month with some chicken, beer and pain killers…and possibly a rendezvous or two with Hazel Mae (& others?)…so get the hell out?  In truth, Tito had been here for 8 years and sometimes it is just time to move on.  But his departure did leave a bad taste in many people’s mouths.  They would love to see Tito stick it to John Henry and Tom Werner.  Too bad Larry Lucchino technically isn’t involved here anymore.  Because when you throw in the fact Uncle Larry essentially picked Francona’s successor doesn’t help.  Most people haven’t forgiven any of the brass for the Bobby Valentine disaster.

On to the matchups on the field:

*Starting pitching:

John Farrell can say what he wants about not knowing who is going Game 1 or Game 2.  But with Rick Porcello going yesterday and David Price tomorrow…it’s pretty obvious.  Cleveland will counter with Trevor Bauer in Game 1 and Corey Kluber in Game 2.  Conventional wisdom says Sox win Game 1 and the Tribe Game 2.  Trevor Bauer in Game 1???  Yikes!!  Kluber is a possible Cy Young winner (again) and Price is 2-7, 5.12 career in the playoffs.  BUT…Kluber hasn’t pitched since straining his quad a week or so ago and maybe Price finally finds postseason success with his 31 mil?  Your guess is as good as mine.

I’m guessing Clay Buchholz in Game 3 (another Yikes!!) and Eduardo Rodriguez in Game 4.  Looks like Josh Tomlin in Game 3 and no idea Game 4.  Mike Clevinger?  Ryan Merritt?  Bauer?  The Tribe suffers a lot here without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.  If those 2 guys were healthy, the Indians roll.  Then again, the Sox have a history of making no-names look like household names.  Wouldn’t surprise me if someone like Merritt blanks them.  Steven Wright is a no-go for the Sox and Drew Pomeranz is unlikely as well.  Despite Wright’s All-Star first half, these 2 guys don’t compare to the 2 injured Indian starters.  Any way you look at it, the pitchers available for this matchup look like a wash to me.

*Bullpen:

I would say the Sox carry 7 arms here for the first round.  One less than the regular season.  Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler, Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr., Joe Kelly (over Heath Hembree) and Robby Scott (over Fernando Abad) would seem the logical choices.  Though it would not shock me in the least if Farrell thought it was 2013 and kept Junichi Tazawa either as the 12th or at the expense of one of the above.  Scott is unproven, but lefty.  And since Abad has pitched only once since September 16th, looks like he is out.  Kelly still stinks.  But they do still like him…better than Hembree anyway.

I’m not going to pretend I know a ton about the Indian bullpen.  But what I do know is that Andrew Miller is better than anyone the Sox have.  And they aren’t even using him as closer.  2 walks and 43 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings since joining the team.  9/120 in 72 2/3 IP overall.  Wow.  From a guy that used to never be able to find the plate earlier in his career.  Compare him to Kimbrel, who this week has come in throwing gasoline on the fire and throwing the ball anywhere BUT over the plate.  Just lost the game again tonight.  Not encouraging.

Cody Allen is the closer.  Not a lot of fanfare nationally it appears.  But seems to be having a solid season.  After all, they kept him at closer after the arrival of Miller.  Koji has been getting the job done since his return from the DL.  But hasn’t necessarily been untouchable.  Farrell seems afraid to use Ziegler as much as he should.  I like the Indian late inning guys a whole hell of a lot better than ours.

The rest of the Tribe bullpen?  Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister…possibly Salazar.  Looks like a pretty decent edge to the Indians here.

Starting bats:

We know the Sox lineup has put up some runs this year.  Looks like Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi will be the primary 3B and LF, respectively.  Don’t need to say anything about Mookie Betts, Papi, Hanley and Dustin Pedroia.  JBJ had a surprisingly nice year of course.  Xander Bogaerts disappointed in the second half, but still needs to be considered a factor.  Sandy Leon rounds it out…in the middle of a .216 September.

Cleveland has some pop in Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli (34 homers and 101 RBI for Nap?  Wasn’t he DONE last year?).  Some speed and a little pop in Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.  Tremendous speed in Rajai Davis.  A couple of serviceable players in Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin.  And a catcher worse than the Sox’ (Roberto Perez).  Yan Gomes is usually their catcher.  But he just came back from injury and was atrocious this year anyway.  Looks like it will be Perez.

The Red Sox SHOULD have a decided advantage here.  What with them scoring over a hundred more runs than Cleveland.  Just listing the opposing names really kind of covers the analysis here.  But, as noted, the Indians do have a little power and can impact some games with their legs.  Even Napoli and Santana have 5 stolen bases!  If the Sox can jump out early, they should be able to keep the Tribe at bay.  But any close games could result in Cleveland “stealing” games.  Get it!  Haha…I’m here all week…

Bench:

Chris Young, Aaron Hill and Travis Shaw are the main dudes.  Young and Hill specifically will play left and third, respectively, against lefties.  But only Merritt is a (potential) lefty starter in this series.  Backup catcher?  I’d take Christian Vazquez.  But guessing Farrell takes Bryan Holaday.  As long as it’s not Ryan Hanigan.  None of them really matter actually.  25th guy?  A perfect pinch runner would be Yoan Moncada.  But since he is nowhere near ready for the major leagues and made some baserunning mistakes when he did play in the final month to boot, I’m guessing Marco Hernandez takes this spot.  Not to mention that I just found out they shipped Moncada back to minor league camp yesterday anyway.  For what?  I don’t know.  I would’ve kept him along for the ride.  Along with Bryce Brentz.  But you already knew that.

Indians bench?  Gomes or Chris Giminez at catcher.  Brandon Guyer, Coco Crisp, Michael Martinez, Abraham Almonte, whoever.  Uninspiring.

I’d give the edge to the Sox here.  But if anyone makes any kind of contribution here on either side this series, with the possible exception of Young, I’d be a little surprised.  Hill may get into games late, but hasn’t done a whole lot in the AL.  Shaw has completely fallen off the map and out of the “rotation” altogether.  It’s possible the Indian’s bench makes some impact with their legs, but not likely their bats.  But who knows with postseason heroes coming from nowhere often.

Prediction:

As we speak, Cleveland has a half game lead for home field.  They have one of the best home records in the majors so you may think this is a concern.  The Sox have the 2nd best road record in the majors though, so it may not be.  Not liking the way the Sox are choking games down the stretch, especially Kimbrel.  But Farrell has been lifting Ortiz, batting Xander 6th, pitching Kelly in a save situation, etc.  So he may not be that concerned about it.  But speaking of Farrell, it is no secret that I don’t love him.  Seems as if the Sox should have a few more wins under their belt this year.  He could cost them a game in this series.  The Tribe will really be hurt by not having a healthy Carrasco and Salazar, not to mention Michael Brantley.  Though Brantley essentially hasn’t been there all year, so maybe his injury is irrelevant for these purposes.  Indian speed could cause problems.  And the bullpens could play a huge role.  If Kluber can’t go or is far less than 100%?  Not good.

That all being said, I’ll take the Sox in 5.  Praying that Farrell keeps the bonehead moves to a minimum…

Observations from Opening Day, Part II

Continuing on…picking up at 2-2, bottom of fifth:

*Sweet play by Mookie Betts to start the bottom of the inning.  Thought he may have misplayed a solid liner to right off the bat of Rajai Davis.  Ended up making the grab with a small leap at the end.  I worry about his arm in RF, but he should cover a ton of ground.  Goes without saying I suppose.  And the more he plays out there, obviously the better and smoother he will get.  Probably goes without saying again…

*First grounder to Hanley!  Slow roller…taken to the bag himself without incident.  Phew.  But still waiting for the first hard hit ball to him.  Or a throw in the dirt.  Come to think of it, Travis Shaw has not had one hit to him yet.

*David Price’s favorite music artist is Young Jeezy.  Coincidentally, me too!!

*Jerry Remy has lost 20 lbs since November by just “eating half-portions of meals”.  Good to know.   I’m sure that’s all it was.

*SHAWSIE!!  Another single.  Nice of Hanley to take the extra base from first to third.  But it wasn’t exactly the best move, though it worked.  In analyzing the play, Remy wondered if Butterfield gave Hanley a signal to come to third.  He didn’t.  What Remy failed to point out is that Hanley wouldn’t have listened to Butter anyway.  Side note:  Still haven’t seen any shots of Fat Panda in the dugout.

*BROCKSTAR!!  RBI single to make it 3-2 Sox.  Again, Farrell is a genius!!  Incidentally, no shots of Rusney Castillo in the dugout either.

*You think Ned Yost will pick Holt for the All-Star game again this year?

*TIIIIIITTTTOOOOO!!  It was definitely time for Tito to go in Boston.  Things had run their course with him managing.  But it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth how they kind of smeared him on his way out of town.  He deserved better.  I think you can pretty much say the same about Claude Julien when he gets fired soon.  Hopefully he won’t get bad-mouthed like Tito was.

*First grounder to Shaw.  Nice pick.  Solid throw to Hanley.  Slow runner in Carlos Santana, but still, as routine as you get.

*103 pitches, 6 innings, 2 runs, 10 K’s for Price.  Was hoping to get 7 out of him, but it will do for today.  Now let’s see if Junichi Tazawa’s arm has recovered from extreme overuse in prior years.

*Dustin Pedroia is 0-4.  I wonder if he sucks to start the year and if Holt continues with his strong starts he’s had the previous 2 years, Farrell has the sack to switch them in the lineup?  Holt 2nd and Pedroia 7th?  I think Hell would have to freeze over for Farrell to make THAT switch.  But worth noting.  Listen, I don’t hate Pedroia.  But he has been injury-prone, obviously.  And is not the MVP he once was.  But he should not be exempt from any move of this sort…if the goal is to truly win games.

*Joba Chamberlain sighting!  He looks a little thinner I think.  Not tough to do, of course.  But maybe my eyes are going…

*Nice…more excuses for Hanley’s poor year last year:  “pull-happy, homer-happy, injured shoulder”, yada, yada, yada.

*SHAWS…nevermind.  Sacks juiced, K looking.  Was a smidge outside and thus borderline.  But still…

*BROCKST…nevermind.  Liner to third with sacks juiced still.  Both Shaw and Holt had a chance to break this thing open.  Maybe Farrell isn’t a genius?  Ok, kidding all around.  It’s one game either way.  Let’s see how it plays out long-term.

*12 pitch 1-2-3 inning for Tazawa.  Encouraging.  But Juan Uribe, Tyler Naquin (first major league at-bat) and Rajai Davis…not exactly Murderer’s Row.  Let’s wait it out to see how he is after Farrell either warms him up or pitches him in 25 games in April.

*Chamberlain in the game now.  I think he IS actually skinnier.  But it appears that he sucks worse than ever now.  6 games with KC last year and an ERA close to 8.00.  Many other games with Detroit and an ERA close to 5.00.  Maybe he should start eating again to put some of that weight back on?  Or at least hang out with Panda after every game this series to get started on that?

*Ok, thanks for the reminder that Clay Buchholz is starting tomorrow.  Just ruined my night.

*Here’s Koji Uehara now.  Love this guy, have since the day the Sox got him.  But similar to Tazawa, let’s see how much he has left from a couple of years of severe overuse.

*Just learned that Koji ranks #1 career in WHIP.  Craig Kimbrel is #2.  Impressive.  But admittedly not a lot of innings there for either.

*This is not a repeat.  12 pitch 1-2-3 inning for Koji.  A little tougher road to hoe though in Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli though.  So a little more impressive.  But again, let’s see what happens when Farrell leans on him too much again.

*Mike Napoli may pummel the home plate umpire at the end of the game.  3 K’s.  But they were all pretty good at-bats.  And questionable strike calls throughout all the AB’s.  He had some sort of a case, I do admit.  But I say if they were that close, swing the bat already.  Questionable ball/strike calls on the Sox side as well.  In fact, Xander just took a called third strike way outside.  Maybe John Hirschbeck is cold and wants to go home.

One thing is for sure, you couldn’t pay me enough to be an on-field official in any sport.  Not with the hundreds of camera angles and slow motion replays that are available now to make you look like an idiot after any wrong call.  I say they all do a pretty good job, based on the circumstances.  There are very few calls that are egregious mistakes in real time.  We can certainly bash officials for those particular ones though.

*Big Papi homers…nice.  Then Hanley THINKS  he homers.  And watches at the plate as it hits the top of the wall.  So he gets only a single.  At least Remy finally says something about him not running.  Kind of tame though.

*Top of the ninth…and first shot of Pablo Sandoval in the dugout!!  Just kind of sitting there.  No sub.  No crumbs on his face.  No phone.  Kind of disappointing in those regards.  But he does look cold, I’ll give him that.  All wrapped up nice and snug.

*Craig Kimbrel’s debut for the Sox.  Not a save situation.  But glad to see Farrell didn’t warm him up in the ‘pen only to leave him there.  Like I said, no Noe Ramirez for me today.  Anyway, 19 pitches, worked around a walk and got yet another questionable third strike call to end the game.  6-2 Sox.  I’ll take it!

That about does it from here.  I think my fingers are tired.  But despite my pessimism of the upcoming Boston Red Sox season, it is ALWAYS good to win on Opening Day.  And Home Opening Day, which they hopefully will do next week.

Baseball is BACK!  I just hope the Sox don’t ruin my summah too early again this year…

 

Inane banter…

…with myself while awaiting the legendary celebration the Red Sox are cooking up in preparation for Mike Napoli’s 200th major league home run…

*That’s why Napoli is still here, right?  For the marketing opportunities the Sox so love?  Since Nappy is at 199, I expected more hoopla around it.  Especially when John Farrell keeps penciling him into the lineup every night…and hitting him 4th or 5th to boot.

Does this make any sense at all?  Nap’s contract runs out at the end of the year, he has been absolutely putrid all year, the team is awful, etc.  Why is he taking up ANYONE’S playing time?

Listen, I have no idea if Travis Shaw will be even a serviceable major league ballplayer and/or if he is a real prospect or not.  But what is the harm in finding out now?  Especially when he had a weekend like he had last weekend and tore the cover off the ball.  Yes, it was 2 games.  But it felt like more than Napoli had done all season.

The organization was able to get a bag of used baseballs and a couple of beat up fungo bats (otherwise known as Josh Rutledge) for Shane Victorino…in addition to eating a lot of his remaining dough.  Are you telling me they couldn’t have gotten the same for Nappy?  So what if “he can clear waivers in August because of his salary”, as many yahoo’s have said.  Who needs him around now?

*Speaking of the trading deadline, it was refreshing to see the Sox do almost nothing.  Wait…no it wasn’t.  Admittedly, they didn’t have a whole lot of options to deal.  Not as much as last year anyway.  But there were some players that should have been shipped out.  In addition to Napoli, guys like Alejandro de Aza, Craig Breslow, Justin Masterson & Ryan Hanigan should have been given new addresses.  They weren’t going to get much for that steaming pile of dung, but these are also guys who serve no purpose on this team the rest of the year and are unlikely to be back next year.  Actually Hanigan may be, but as long as Christian Vazquez is recovered from his Tommy John surgery, he shouldn’t.  Vazquez and Blake Swihart should be the tandem, but I know they won’t be.  I’ll save my anger on that one for next spring however…

But one asset the Sox do have and have not dealt for 2 years running is Koji Uehara.  Love the dude.  But let’s be realistic.  He’s 40.  He has had a good year, but not quite as dominant as we have known.  He isn’t going to get better.  Etc.  Couldn’t get a nice piece for him?  Mystifying that they have not dealt him.

*The one move the Sox did make was to acquire Ryan Cook from Oakland.  Former All-Star…but ummmmm, think “All-Star” as in “All-Star Brock Holt” or “All-Star Scott Cooper” instead of “All-Star Mike Trout” or “All-Star Miguel Cabrera”.  In any event, had a decent run from 2012-14, though has been buried in the minors all this year for whatever reason.  Worth a look, especially since they traded zero for him essentially.

But where is he?  Pawtucket.  Because there needs to be space on the major league roster for Breslow, Masterson, Jean Machi (who?) and Machine Gun Joe Kelly.  Yup…makes total sense here too…nope…and don’t even get me going on Kelly.  Talk about useless.  I’d hold onto Kelly for now though, but wouldn’t throw him out there every 5 days to get pummeled.  Bullpen for him and see where that goes.  But…here he is toeing the rubber tonight.  Awesome.

*There is another dude in Pawtucket, Heath Hembree.  Dominates in AAA.  Never really has had an extended look in the majors.  Again, he may be no better than a AAAA player long term.  But do we need to see more Masterson?

*Sure looks like Jackie Bradley Jr. still cannot hit major league pitching.  6 for 51 for the year, 2 for 21 since his last recall.  At 25 years old, running out of time for his “prospect” status.  But you know what?  Keep him out there every day even when Mookie comes back.  Again, no need to see more of de Aza.  May as well play JBJ and see if he can hit a little in August.  September numbers may not matter, since he may be facing a ton of minor league pitchers then.  But let him play.  Maybe you can sucker someone into taking him over the offseason.

*Speaking of potential moves in the offseason, did anyone buy that garbage from Ben Cherington that he was “laying the groundwork” and “gathering information” for deals in the winter?  Me neither.  What a joke.  Heard that one before around here, by a gentleman named Peter Chiarelli.  And where is Pete now?

*Larry Lucchino stepping down as CEO and Sam Kennedy taking over.  I’ve said here before that, although Larry is a total arse, phasing him out from the baseball operation may have had a negative effect on the team this year.  Now they are officially putting a “non-baseball” guy in that chair.  Good thing?  Not sure.  Kennedy may be a helluva guy and smart as well.  But the team clearly needs to add more high level “baseball men” to the equation.  We will let it play out, but I can’t say I love what I am seeing with this move so far.

*LOVE the phantom injury the team came up with to put Rick Porcello on the DL last week.  Matter of time before that happened, but they likely had to convince Ricky to go for the idea.  Maybe next they can convince him to take the rest of the year off (like Clay Buchholz, except they won’t have to convince Clay to do so…he has probably already suggested it numerous times).  Stuck with the dude for the next four years, so they may as well see if they can get his head straight in this lost season.

*No tears shed over Daniel Nava getting claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay.  Nice story, overachiever, but he was brutal this year.  And a decent chunk of last year.  Can find a 32 year old 4th OF anywhere, like…de Aza!  Ok, Alejandro is only 31…

*I’d consider shopping Junichi Tazawa this winter.  He has had a nice run, but you know what happens with relievers.  Sometimes the shelf life is just not long.  And he isn’t even a closer.  30 years old next June, may be the time to sell somewhat high.

*I never bought the trade deadline rumors of being able to unload the Fat Panda onto the Padres or anyone else, for that matter.  But boy, if they could get someone to take that contract in the offseason, I’d drive him directly to that particular city.  If it was San Diego, I’d take Will Middlebrooks back for him.  After all, Bill James probably has Willy locked in to hit 32 bombs next year.  Good to see Will’s .212/9/29 line and .602 OPS landed him back in the minors with the Pads.  He’s hitting .333/2/10, .811 there in 51 AB’s, so maybe there is still hope for him.  Doubt it, but consider the next bullet…

*I leave with this:  Allen Craig is hitting .274/3/19 with 59 K’s and a .720 OPS in Pawtucket.  In 252 AB’s.  Ouch.  Probably works out to about 45 RBI’s projected over a full season.  Again, in AAA.  I don’t want to level any accusations or anything, but judging by the numbers alone and not seeing him in person at all…does he even care anymore?

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