…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!
…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:
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
In honor of the Major League Baseball All-Star game selections being announced Tuesday, I present my American League All-Star picks. 21 position players, 13 pitchers, with each team represented (I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule). (S) for starter. Comments below each position.
C: Salvador Perez, KC (S)
There will be three catchers selected for the actual game. How they are going to pick the other two is beyond me. Have you seen the list of all the AL catchers? There is no one else even remotely qualified. So I am not picking more than one here. There are two other guys that I pick later for my team that have catching experience. They can be my backups if necessary. You know, if this game was played on more than this “paper” I “write” on. Perez likes to catch every inning of every game anyway. Done.
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Det (S), Chris Davis, Bal, Eric Hosmer, KC
Cabrera’s year seems to be flying a little under the radar. Maybe because it’s not as insane as usual. But he’s putting up some numbers again, in case you didn’t know. Davis isn’t hitting below .200 this year. .242 isn’t that exciting, but it’s enough with the power numbers he puts up. Hosmer can close out the game with his elite glove. But his offense is improved over the past season and a half and he has some good production in the first half of this year. Plus, well, KC did win the World Series last year, no?
2B: Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Robinson Cano, Sea, Ian Kinsler, Det
Altuve is having a monster year. So even though it’s a nice comeback year for Cano, Jose has to be the choice here. 1 shy of his career high already with his 14 bombs. Leads the league in average and hits. 1 shy of the league lead in steals. Nice work. Glad to see Cano is back, as noted. Kinsler seems to be the 2nd best Ian in the league this year, but it works out for him that he is the best one at his position.
3B: Josh Donaldson, Tor (S)
Looks like I am taking only one third basemen here too. But plenty of other guys on my team can (and do) play third. They are just listed elsewhere since they’ve played more at other positions. You’ll see. Oh wait, Cabrera can also play 3b of course. As can Davis! Anyway, two guys I left off here are Evan Longoria and Kyle Seager though. Close, but decided someone else would represent Tampa in Longoria’s case. And Seager was a little behind Evan. Oh, and Donaldson is one of the backup catchers on this roster too. Good thing like 8 other guys have 3b experience!
SS: Manny Machado, Bal (S), Xander Bogaerts, Bos, Eduardo Nunez, Min
This year’s shortstop crop is a lot stronger than the past couple of years. Machado and Nunez are listed here because they have both played a handful more games at short than at third. So, you see they can back up 3b on my team also. Hell, even X can, with his experience there as the immortal Stephen Drew slid into that position in Boston in 2014…for whatever reason that was. I would’ve loved to find room here also for Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. Maybe I should have anyway. But they will have plenty more chances. Nunez had to be here unfortunately because who else could you possibly take from the Twins this season? But at least his numbers are pretty good, so he was a strong consideration at some position either way. Nice utility guy…follows up very nicely on Brock Holt’s selection to the game last year.
OF: Mike Trout, LAA (S), Ian Desmond, Tex (S), Jackie Bradley Jr., Bos (S), Mark Trumbo, Bal, Mookie Betts, Bos, Carlos Beltran, NYY
Just copy and paste Trout here for at least the next decade…unless he switches leagues at some point. Desmond had a rough start, but has come on huge. His transition to the outfield from being an error machine at short has been smooth. So smooth that he is playing mostly center field now. I actually tried to find a way to NOT add JBJ to the team at all. When I was putting this together, my initial sense was that yeah, he had that 29 game hitting streak and put up sick numbers in the midst of that. But what else has he done? Well, since the streak, he has been pretty good too. He remains sixth in the league in OPS. And when you factor in the glove, that gave him the last starting spot over Trumbo…since Trumbo has served as DH for almost half his games. Mookie is actually only 20th in the league in OPS, but you can’t argue with the overall numbers. At first glance I was like, Carlos Beltran? Really? But he belongs. And not because he will be the Yankee rep either. What, you wanted Michael Saunders here?? 7th in the league in OPS, Saunders is. Surprising. But I can’t see it.
DH: David Ortiz, Bos (S), Edwin Encarnacion, Tor, Victor Martinez, Det, Nelson Cruz, Sea
4 DH’s? Yup!! But in name only…kind of. Big Papi starts because it is allegedly his final year and I said so. Not to mention he leads the AL in OPS by .118. That’s kind of a pretty good lead. Edwin has played about a third of his games this year at first. He’s another guy that can play 3rd in a pinch. Cruz has played over 40% of his games in the outfield. So he can trot out there if needed. And Victor serves as my teams’ primary backup catcher too. We will take the bats any way we can get them!
P: Chris Sale, CWS (S), Danny Salazar, Cle, Cole Hamels, Tex, Rich Hill, Oak, Michael Fulmer, Det, Steven Wright, Bos, Aaron Sanchez, Tor, Marco Estrada, Tor, Andrew Miller, NYY, Zach Britton, Bal, Wade Davis, KC, Alex Colome, TB, Will Harris, Hou
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.
Unfortunately, this year it seemed I HAD to take 3 full-time closers (Britton, Davis, Colome) and 2 others that have closed for at least part of the year (Miller, Harris). For the 8 starters chosen, it’s basically Sale and everyone else. Ok, Salazar and Hamels have been pretty good too. But although Hill has been pretty dominant when on the mound, he has missed some time due to injury. Really had to be Oakland’s rep though. I couldn’t possibly feel good about taking Khris Davis or Danny Valencia. But with Hill, we are talking about a guy pitching in the independent leagues less than a year ago. Fulmer has also been pretty dominant, but came up from the minors after 6 weeks in the season had passed or so. Wright has been a revelation in Boston, since the rest of the rotation has been putrid, to be kind. But he’s a knuckleballer on a nice run. And also has a ton of unearned runs, which, well…he still did give up the runs, didn’t he? Estrada is somewhat uninspiring, though Sanchez has been way more than I think even Toronto expected. Maybe Jose Quintana has an argument, but it’s like 6 of one, half-dozen of the other I would say.
But because guys like King Felix, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Corey Kluber, Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, etc. have been mediocre, injured, downright atrocious or some combination of the three…these are your 8 starters in the All-Star Game folks!!
As for the ‘pen, Miller has been lights out since joining the Yanks last year. Almost 2 K’s per inning. Can’t argue his spot. Britton and Davis are elite closers. Colome is Tampa’s rep, for better or for worse. But he was real good before getting hurt. Harris has been an elite setup man for a couple of years in Houston now. He recently has grabbed the closer role and let’s wait and see if he has what it takes for that. But an 0.76 ERA currently would be hard to leave off the team. Sadly, I also actually gave strong consideration to another couple of middle relievers. Brad Brach of the O’s (1.01 ERA in 44 2/3 innings) and Kelvin Herrera of the Royals (1.40 ERA in 38 2/3 innings). Just couldn’t pull those triggers though.
So there you go…NL to follow soon. As I still try to process the Kevin Durant news into some coherent thoughts…