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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!

 

 

Observations from Opening Day, Part I

So this will be my first attempt at a “live” blog…well, it won’t be live, since it will be posted after the game is actually played…or during, depending on how long this gets.  Not to mention that I’ve recorded the game and am starting a few hours later.  But…the idea is pretty much the same.  And I get to skip the commercials.  You’ll have to bear with me on the semantics…

Anyway, without further ado (or adieu, depending on how you like your grammar):

*Pregame thoughts?  Welp, I was ready to do this yesterday, so the postponement was a disappointment.  That’s what you get when you schedule games in questionable weather locations in early April I guess.  But I learned the reason why Major League Baseball does this, from the immortal Nick Cafardo on the pregame show.  Warm weather cities do not want to sacrifice a bulk of their home games in April, when the kids are in school and all that.  They want to maximize revenue by having most of their home games in the summer.  So scheduling is about money too?  What a colossally HUGE surprise!!

*I think we covered lineup and roster decisions already.  So no need to go into any more pregame thoughts there.  God knows no one wants to hear any more about Fat Panda today.  Unless, you know, he actually DOES something.

*Nice touch by the Indians in the introductions, doing a little video thing of John Farrell as a player and “officially” welcoming him back to the field after his cancer from last year.  But can we still fire him after the game?

*Juan Uribe, Marlon Byrd, Colin Cowgill, Mike Napoli…all in the Indians lineup?  Ouch!  I know Michael Brantley is hurt.  But who else is to field all these guys?

*Glad to hear Dave O’Brien give an introduction of himself.  26 years in the game, 9 years “next door” in the radio booth, “growing up a Quincy boy, born into Red Sox Nation”, “greatest honor in his career is to be able to sit in this booth…”, “hope that you will invite me into your home…”, then rattling off previous Sox announcers, etc.  Guess the Red Sox ownership wanted to make sure the animosity from them firing Don Orsillo is all gone, and right out of the gate at that.  Oh, O’Brien also said, “I am going to call them like I see them”.  Haha…that’s hilarious!  I’ll believe that when I see it.  Being candid will be hard to do when Sox ownership regularly passes down the speaking notes.

*It’s still cold today in Cleveland.  David Price and Corey Kluber on the hill.  Looks like it should be a pitchers duel.  If top of 1st is any indication, could be a quick game.  Sox bats whimpering at the start.  If it was the Yankees instead of the Indians, the game would still be close to 5 hours regardless.

*Uh oh…on a 1-1 pitch to Jason Kipnis, O’Brien says “here comes the 1-0…”  Guess he is still in the exhibition season.  Don’t take it wrong, I actually like O’Brien.  But I hate mistakes, what can you say?

*Short bottom of the first for the Tribe as well.  At least we got the first throw to Hanley Ramirez out of the way.  Thank God it was pretty much on line from Xander Bogaerts.  Or else it may have been interesting.  No comment from announcers, by the way.

*Yup, Hanley gets up in top of the 2nd and it looks like some more of the ownership speaking notes are coming through:  “21 games in spring, no errors at first”.  “More you saw him at first, the more comfortable everyone gets”.  “He worked very, very hard with Brian Butterfield, you gotta give him credit for that”.  “Hanley put his work in”.  Ugh…

*SHAWSIE!!!  One at-bat, one hit.  Good way to start.  Waiting for the camera shot of Fat Panda in the dugout.  Not coming.  Maybe he was Instagramming in the clubhouse.  Or eating a sub on the bench.  I would have panned over to him though.  Missed opportunity.

*BROCKSTAR!!  Hit for Holt too.  John Farrell is a genius with these lineup decisions!!

*NESN apparently added the “Left On Base” total next to the typical “runs, hits and errors” display.  Not sure that adds anything to my experience.  But to each their own.

*Napoli has 42 at-bats against Price.  22 K’s.  Solid.  So Price of course walks him.

*First sideline report from Guerin Austin.  It’s cold out.  Hey, thanks a lot for the update.  Is there anything more useless than sideline reporters?  In any sport?  Oh well, at least it isn’t Gary Striewski out there today.  Side note:  Keep her away from John Farrell.  Would that be too much to ask?

*Mookie Betts has bowled 7 perfect games.  Bet you didn’t know that.  Neither did I.  But did we care?  I suppose there is a lot of dead air to fill during your average baseball game…

*Speaking of Betts, someone from ESPN predicted he would win the AL MVP this year.  Everyone else on that site picked Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera or Carlos Correa.  Not really going out on a limb on Trout or Cabrera, but ok.  And Betts just went deep. On pace now for about 500 home runs this year, so I suppose he has a chance!  Rem-dawg said it must have been all that bowling to get those strong wrists and hands.  Maybe it was O’B that said it, I don’t know.  Nice way to work in the bowling trivia though.

*Chili Davis is still hitting coach?  Didn’t we all want to fire him last year?

*More speaking notes from ownership:  Remy, “I think Hanley lost his way last year…”  Blah, blah, blah.  There was more, but I can’t listen anymore.

*Ah, here’s the third man in the booth, Alex Speier!  Third man in any booth?  Again, useless.

*Wow, looking back, it appears I am pretty hard on the broadcasters.  Sorry for that.  But sometimes it is just too easy.  And again, the dead time sometimes makes them say foolish things…or at least things no one really cares about.

*So much for the Shaw bandwagon…until his next at-bat of course.  K looking.

*The Indians have not had many people on base to this point in the bottom of the 4th.  But has anyone noticed that there have been no pickoff throws to Hanley at first?  Or have I missed one?  Or does Price not throw to first, similar to how Jon Lester didn’t?  Find it interesting nonetheless…

*Aaaaah, someone just heard me!  Price just lobbed one over to first.  Nothing more to report on that.  Or the second one that happened a pitch or two later.

*4 hits against Price, two runs.  78 pitches through 4.  That means we likely see someone from the group of Robbie Ross Jr., Noe Ramirez, Matt Barnes or Tommy Layne.  Was hoping to avoid all of those guys today.

*2-2 after four and a half.  Seems like we will have to split this in half…

 

I can’t believe it…

…the Red Sox really gave Travis Shaw the 3B job today?!  Guess I was wrong in my rant last week.  Oh well, wasn’t the first time and sure as hell won’t be the last.  But I am in shock.  Regardless of what was being said publicly on the third base “competition”, I didn’t believe a word of it.  Why would I?  How often have the Red Sox under John Henry & Co. actually been honest?  Is ownership now turning over a new leaf?  I would find that hard to believe as well…even if Larry Lucchino isn’t supposedly involved much anymore.

But I guess that is the way it is now.  Fat Panda and his 17.6 mil is on the bench this year.  So is Rusney Castillo and his 11.271 mil.  Rick “20.125 mil” Porcello is your FOURTH starter.  So far, Hanley Ramirez and his 22.750 mil is in the lineup, but I suppose he will get hurt soon enough anyway and that will take care of that.

This is definitely not how the Red Sox historically do things.  Well, for that matter, most teams don’t do this either.  You play the guys who are getting paid, right or wrong.  On one hand, I applaud the Sox for kind of “taking a stand” and changing the way they do things…for the start of the season anyway.  On the other hand…I think the Fat Panda move is a mistake…and the Castillo decision is also one…although to a lesser degree.

Why is the Panda move a mistake?  Well, I outlined that pretty much last week.  Shaw is not likely an impact player, certainly not an All-Star.  Any trade value Panda has currently changes to zero while he’s on the bench.  Does anyone expect the benching to motivate Panda to get in shape in order to fight for his job back?  What happens if Shaw comes out of the gate hitting .175 and you have to go back with your tail between your legs to a (possibly) pissed off Pablo?  Yada, yada, yada…it’s nice to see “on paper” that the Sox went with the younger, hotter (at least based on Spring Training), more motivated player.  But I think this has a very good chance to backfire.

Though in case you missed Panda’s response:  “It is best for the team for Shaw to get the job…he had a good spring…”.  Paraphrasing it here, but that was the gist.  WHAT?!!  How about being angry that you lost the job?  A little disconcerting, if you ask me.  Maybe he really doesn’t care?  This is ugly either way.  I have to tell you, if we are at this point, I wonder if the best move is just releasing him outright?  If you can’t trade him for pennies on the dollar (which presumably they have tried to do), what’s the difference?  It’ll never happen.  But this has the potential to get worse.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

As for the Castillo benching, as if anyone cares, maybe it is not technically a “mistake”.  By all indications, he played poorly in the spring.  He has done nothing to distinguish himself in his brief major league career.  Certainly not to the tune of 11 million plus.  But the end result of the move is what I refer to as the mistake.

Brock Holt and Chris Young will platoon in left field.  Young, fine.  I think everyone figured he would play against lefties anyway.  Assumed for Jackie Bradley Jr., but it’s all good with Young.  But Holt against righties?  That means he will essentially play every day.  That may work for a few months.  But if the last two seasons are any indication, the more you play him, the more he wears down and contributes little as the season moves into its latter months.  Holt’s true value is playing multiple positions a few times a week.  Now he is essentially the every day left fielder.  Great for him, I do like the player a great deal.  I just don’t think it serves the team well sticking him in left most of the time.

I’m not saying I would play Castillo every day there either.  That’s not the issue.  The issue is the fact that they are keeping him as a seldom-used FIFTH outfielder.  Why bother?  The story goes that he basically didn’t play for a couple of years in Cuba.  He has not played a whole ton since he came to the States.  What purpose does it serve by keeping him on the bench here?  Barring injury, how much does a fifth OF play?  He should be playing every day in Pawtucket.  To see if anything at all can be salvaged with this signing.  And your last OF/last position player spot should go to a guy like…David Murphy.  Which is why I guessed he would be here.  I don’t love Murphs.  But pick anyone of that ilk.  Good enough.  Just no sense in having Rusney here at all…and that’s the real point.

I’m even less confident in the Sox this year than I was last week.  Maybe cuz this rotation looks scarier by the day.  Unfortunately, until Eduardo Rodriguez comes back, or some sort of trade is made, we are stuck with what is there.  Not many options.  Roenis Elias?  Henry Owens?  Brian Johnson?  Ugh.  Truth be told, I’m not counting on Eddy coming back any time soon.  Interesting how the team has been kind of vague on his status…and timetables keep moving as well.  Not encouraging to me.  Bucky went a solid 4 today…shouldn’t starters be going like 6-7 by now?  Maybe not.

Cross your fingers we have meaningful baseball in Boston this summer.  The schedule out of the gate appears tough.  John Farrell is still the manager.  The rotation is putrid.  Drama could evolve from the above.  All of that.

If not, at least we have Big Papi’s farewell tour.  Actually, don’t get me started on that…

 

 

 

 

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