Tagged: Boston Red Sox

World Series Thoughts Destined to be Wrong

This is the World Series we wanted.  For the first time in over a decade, the teams with the two best records in baseball will fight it out in the Fall Classic.  The St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox are so evenly matched that it can’t be a repeat of 2004, can it?  That’s when the Sox swept the Cards to become champions for the first time in 86 years.  This has the makings of a long series……or does it?  By writing my thoughts about this World Series, will my thoughts turn an epic matchup into a stink bomb?

Adam Wainwright gets the ball in Game 1 against Jon Lester.  Credit:  si.com

Adam Wainwright gets the ball in Game 1 against Jon Lester. Credit: si.com

Why I like the Red Sox:  Let’s face it, no matter what fan you are, this is a fun team to watch, beards and all.  They look as though they are having a blast but they also know how to play, play the game correctly and most of all, know how to win.  Minor issues like David Ortiz having to play first base in St. Louis doesn’t bother them.  Perhaps not having Mike Napoli‘s bat when the series shifts to St. Louis could be a problem.  Then again, Napoli didn’t hit much early in the ALCS and the Sox did ended up winning in six games.  The lineup will beat you at any game you want to play.  The signings of Napoli, Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew while not adding a tremendous amount of power, made it a much more difficult group to navigate for opposing pitchers.  The starting pitching with previous champions Jon Lester and John Lackey is battle-tested and will fight with every pitch.  Nearly unhittable, ALCS MVP Koji Uehara leads a bullpen that will register outs in the blink of an eye.  When I think of the 2013 Red Sox, the first word that comes to mind is juggernaut.

Why I like the Cardinals:  They are the best organization in baseball, one of the tops in all of sports.  Albert Pujols leaves?  Plug in Allen CraigTony LaRussa retires?  Mike Matheny is ready to lead.   There are pitchers with more glamorous names but if I want someone to win me a big game, my choice is Adam Wainwright.  NLCS MVP Michael Wacha did not allow a single run against the Dodgers.  After three previous attempts, Carlos Beltran gets to take his playoff magic act to the grandest stage of them all.  Craig, who has not played since September 4th, led the team with 97 RBI’s and is set to be the designated hitter in Boston.  Catcher Yadier Molina and second baseman Matt Carpenter are legitimate MVP candidates.  Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist remind me of another dominant bullpen trio:  “The Nasty Boys” from the 1990 World Series Champion Cincinnati Reds.  With such young talent and a deep farm system, win or lose, the Cardinals have the makings of a dynasty.

The Prediction:  There has been a multitude of analysis leading up to Game 1.  You can make an argument for both teams, look at both rosters and still not make a decision until the next government shutdown.  These guys are that close.  I prefer to keep it simple.  I go with the team that has the best starting pitcher.  That would be Wainwright.  Cards in 7.

The Gutsy Boston Red Sox

Originally, the headline on this was going to be “A-Rod and the Yankees Deserve Each Other”.  I decided to go in another direction because I am really tired of all the negative stories associated with the two of them.  I will let that one line speak for itself.  Feel free to comment on it any way you see fit.  So I move on to one of the best stories of the 2013 Major League season and I can’t believe I am about to write these words:

The Boston Red Sox are really impressive.

Dustin Pedroia has a new $100 million dollar contract and his team is in first place.  What could be better?  Image:  masslive.com

Dustin Pedroia has a new $100 million dollar contract and his team is in first place. What could be better? Image: masslive.com

Let’s face it, one of baseball’s most storied franchises was absolutely terrible from September 2011 through all of last season.  I figured the epic collapse and the Bobby Valentine experiment would keep the Sox out of contention in 2013.  However, I suppose you can say the one positive about the Bobby V season was the unloading of the bloated contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.  We didn’t know it then but it set in motion the chain of events that have landed the Sox in first place today.  Former pitching coach John Farrell, who was forever the manager-in-waiting finally got his shot at managing the team and it is obvious he has done a tremendous job leading the club in the most competitive division in the game.  Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli have proven to be nice additions.  Napoli is second on the club in home runs and RBI’s and Victorino is hitting .287 with 14 stolen bases.  David Ortiz continues to put up excellent numbers with 19 home runs, 65 RBI’s with a .323 batting average.  Dustin Pedroia is back among the best second basemen in baseball and has a nice new contract to go along with it.

It has not all been smooth sailing for Boston.  Clay Buchholz, he of the 9-0, 1.71 ERA mark has been out with a neck injury since June 8th.  Jon Lester has 9 wins but a high 4.50 ERA.  Closer Joel Hanrahan, acquired this offseason is out for the year with an arm injury.  Jon Lackey has provided a much-needed boost to the rotation with a 2.95 ERA but only a 7-7 record to show for it.  While the starters have been shaky, it is the bullpen, despite the loss of Hanrahan that has flourished.  Koji Uehara and Andrew Bailey have combined for 25 saves with Uehara posted a sparkling a 1.59 ERA.

Even with all of the injuries, the Red Sox have been in first place for 86 days.  It is a testament to their resiliency that they have met and conquered every challenge so far this year.  They are by far my biggest surprise team of the year and are in excellent shape to make the playoffs. ***************************************************************************************************************************************************** If you haven’t played mlb.com’s “Beat the Streak“, I suggest you do so today.  You have a chance to win $5.6 million dollars.  All you have to do is pick one player per day to get one hit….and you only have to do it for 57 consecutive games, a nod to beating the 56 game hitting streak by Joe DiMaggio.  You can use the same player more than once.  I have been playing it for about four weeks now and so far, none of my streaks have gone on past two games.  You may not win as much as the top prize in the lottery but you may have a better chance winning big money and more fun playing this game. **************************************************************************************************************************************************** Everyone knows that yesterday, July 24th, was the 30th anniversary of the infamous George Brett Pine Tar Game.  Since that got a lot of attention, I decided to see what significant events happened today, July 25th.  I found three items courtesy of baseballdeworld.com.  Here they are:

1930-The Philadelphia A’s pulled off a triple steal twice in one game as they defeated the Cleveland Indians 14-1.  It was the only time in baseball history this feat occurred.

1941-Lefty Grove won the 300th and final game of his Hall of Fame career as his Red Sox beat the Indians 4-1.

1977-While playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Pete Rose sets the all-time record for hits by a switch hitter with number 2,881 during a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.  Rose broke the record that was held by Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Boston Red Sox Moves Mean Nothing Without Pitching

When I heard the news that the Boston Red Sox had signed outfielder Shane Victorino to a three-year deal a day after signing catcher/DH/1B Mike Napoli to a similar three-year deal, I thought back to a line uttered by former NBA sage Derrick Coleman.  In December 1994, the former #1 pick was asked about Nets’ teammate Kenny Anderson skipping a practice and whether or not he should be setting a better example for his squad.  Coleman’s response is a line that I will never forget for as long as I live.

“Whoopty Damm Do”.

Whoopty Damm Do.  thanks Derrick Coleman.  Image:  www.yahoo.com

Whoopty Damm Do. Thanks Derrick Coleman. Image: http://www.yahoo.com

That’s how I feel about the Boston signing Napoli and Victorino.

Don’t get me wrong, these are not bad deals even if they overpaid for both players.  That’s not my issue.  The issue is that these signings won’t do the team any good if they don’t follow them up by getting some decent pitching.  Starters, relievers, batting practice guys, you name it.  They need them all.  Get a load of these gruesome numbers.  They had seven pitchers who started ten or more games.  The lowest ERA of the bunch belonged to Clay Buchholz at 4.56.  Not coincidentally, he also tied for the team lead in victories with 11 along with Felix Doubront who had an outstanding (sarcasm alert) ERA of 4.86.  I will grudgingly give a pass to Jon Lester and his 9-14, 4.82 ERA season.  He is better than that but will he win more than 15 in 2013?  I am sure Sox fans are itching for the return of John Lackey coming off Tommy John surgery.

As far as the bullpen goes, who’s pumped about Alfredo Aceves as the closer?  There is nothing wrong with 25 saves but everything wrong with a 2-10 record and a 5.36 ERA.  Perhaps Andrew Bailey can overcome a nightmare of a season in which he was hurt early and never recovered, pitching in only 19 games.  If you have a strong stomach, you can view all stats from the 2012 Boston staff by clicking here.

The team will not have Bobby Valentine to blame anymore if the season turns out to be another lemon.  Signing Napoli and Victorino is nice and the aura of Bobby V is no longer hanging over the collective heads of the organization.  However, without any significant pitching upgrades the Sox will be hard-pressed to finish .500 in 2013.  The goodwill earned by World Series Championships in 2004 and 2007 is quickly being squandered.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

MLB Highlights (In Case You Missed Them)

It has been a while since this blog has featured some of the best defensive plays Major League Baseball has to offer.  I say defense because most offensive highlights these days are home runs, guys staring at their home runs or end of game moments that range from a walk to a grand slam and all finish with a sea of home team players streaming onto the field.  Then again, maybe we can get a 450 foot blast in here once in a while, can’t we?

On to the clips.

Josh ReddickReddick was plucked by Oakland in a trade that sent the now injured Andrew Bailey to Boston.   He has been the A’s best offensive player so far which resulted in his being selected to this season’s All Star Game.  However, the one play that stood out for me was this laser he fired during a game in April that reminded me of Ichiro’s throw in 2001 that is still shown today.  Click here and watch this cannon. 

Mike Baxter-MLB Network recently ran the Top 75  Plays in the First Half as voted on by Facebook users.  I watched the last 35 minutes of this program and it is incomprehensible that this catch to preserve Johan Santana’s  no-hitter did not make the top 44.  Baxter literally sacrificed his body on this play as he was taken off the field and hasn’t been seen since then.  If you haven’t seen it, please watch it now. 

Brandon PhillipsDouble plays are fun to watch.  Watching Brandon Phillips play defense is fun.  So why not combine the two?  Phillips is a magician in the field and a pretty fine offensive player as well and is a major reason why the Reds are in first place at the moment.  Here is one of the many plays that make the 2nd baseman a nightly highlight reel.

Cameron Maybin-Like Phillips, Maybin is a bet to make the highlight reel every night.  He is the perfect guy to play in the vast outfield of Petco Park.  His glove and now his bat are showing people why the Marlins wanted him when they traded Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers.  What follows is one of the best catches that will be made in 2012.  Click here and enjoy the play calling of the great Dick Enberg

I hope you enjoyed the videos.  There are countless others out there but these are the ones that stick out for now.  I’ll get some more to you soon.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Interleague Play is Done for 2012. Will Anyone Miss It?

Image: New York Post

We are now officially in late June as Major League Baseball’s annual Clash of the Americans and Nationals  AKA Interleague play is now complete. Outside of the Yankees, who once again tortured the Mets and their fans, will anyone really miss this yearly excercise of mixing up the leagues?  Oh wait, next season there will be an Interleague game every day with the Astros moving to the American League West.   Yay!

Yes, I understand the buzz the game receives when it’s Yankees-Mets, White SoxCubs and DodgersAngels.   But doesn’t it seem all of the other contests are just normal games?  And why do we keep stats for Interleague play as if they are their own categories like regular season and postseason statistics?  Is it something special to be the career leader in home runs for Interleague games?  What I am trying to say is, after 15 years or so of this, the novelty has worn off.  Unless the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs are coming to town, attendance does not spike when say, the Rays come to Miami as opposed to when the Phillies visit the Fish.  Most fans (like me) would just as soon see more games against division foes, games that mean a lot more at the standings than the alleged payoff at the gate.

If MLB wants Interleague games mean something, put a series like Mets-Yankees at the end of September.  Can you imagine a scenario such as David Wright homering off David Robertson  to send the Mets to the playoffs and the Yankees home?  That would put some real meaning into something that has become almost an afterthought.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

The Midnight Massacre and Other June 15th Trading Deadline Stuff

My buddy Doug reminded me not too long ago that the Major League Baseball trading deadline used to be June 15th.  He figured that would make for an interesting post.  Guess what?  He is absolutely correct.   With the date only two days away, now would be a perfect time to reflect on some major happenings that took place at the old deadline. 

The biggest June 15th deal took place in 1977 and it became known as the Midnight Massacre, considered by many Met fans to be the darkest day in the history of the franchise.  Tom Seaver  had been in a feud with Met management over the issue of (what else?) money.  Seaver had been critical in the press of ownership not spending the dollars necessary to keep the Mets from sliding toward mediocrity.  Dick Young was a writer with the New York Daily News who continually took the side of the organization even calling Seaver “greedy”.   It is worth pointing out that Young’s son-in-law worked in the organization.  Things came to a head in the June 15th edition of the Daily News  in which Young stated that Seaver was jealous of the contract of  Nolan Ryan  received from the California Angels, even dragging Seaver’s wife and Ryan’s wife into fray.  That night, Tom Terrific demanded to be traded and the Mets obliged sending him to the Reds  for Steve Henderson, Pat Zachary, Doug Flynn and Dan Norman.  Not only that but slugger Dave Kingman was dealt to the Padres, also over a contract dispute. The Mets lost their two best players on the same day, June 15th, 1977.  Check out Bill Madden’s column  for even more background on this historic deal.

June 15th is also a date Cubs’ fans would like to forget as a trade was made that has gone down as one of the most lopsided deals of all time.  In 1964 the Cubbies dealt Lou Brock  to the Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio.  At the time, it didn’t look so bad as Broglio was 18-8 the prior year and in 1960 led the National League in wins with 21.  Other than his .315 batting average in 1963, the speedster Brock was basically a .255 hitter.  Who knew that Brock would go on to the Hall of Fame while Broglio would post seven wins in his two and a half seasons in Chicago, retiring after the 1966 season? 

In 1976, Charlie Finley, having already lost Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, decided to sell off more players who were instrumental in the A’s three consecutive World Championships.  On June 15th, Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers were sent to the Red Sox while Vida Blue was sent to the Yankees all for cash.  Commissioner Bowie Kuhn rejected the deals, citing “the best interest of baseball clause”.  Finley tried suing Major League Baseball as well as Kuhn but ultimately lost.  Fingers and Rudi left after the season and Blue was traded before the 1978 season.

Since we started with a depressing story about the Mets, how about a good one for the Amazins?  It was June 15th, 1983 when the Cards traded Keith Hernandez to the Mets for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.  The two pitchers combined for a 21-22 record for St. Louis while  Hernadez trade helped restore some badly needed credibility.  His arrival set in motion a chain of events that resulted in the team’s second title three years later.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Post Number 50 Honoring Sid Fernandez And Others Who Wore That Number

Image: mentalfloss.com

Congratulations.  You have been selected to take part in the 5oth post of this blog.  You receive no monetary prize, just entertainment or information (or perhaps both) as we look at some Major Leaguers who have worn the uniform number 50.  Of course a big thank you goes out to all of you have started at my very first post and have continued to follow me up to this point.   I hope you have just as much fun reading as I have had in writing.  May there be many more to come.

Back to the business at hand:

Sid Fernandez  El Sid wore #50 as a tribute to his home state of Hawaii which if you couldn’t figure out was the 50th state to enter the Union.   He spent 14 years in the Majors, mostly with the Mets and was death on left-handed hitters.   He was an earlier version of Randy Johnson minus the extra ten inches of height, eight MPH on the fastball and stick frame.  It was a deliberate, side-arm motion that made the lefty difficult to solve even for right-handed batters.  He pitched the most important 2.1 innings in Met history in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series.  After Boston jumped out to a 3-0 lead, Fernandez entered in relief of Ron Darling and allowed just a single walk while striking out four as the Mets finally tied the game in the sixth inning before winning the Championship 8-5.   Sid finished with 114 wins and a 3.36 ERA to go along with 1,743 strikeouts in 1,866.2 innings pitched. 

Image: bleacherreport.com

J.R. Richard  There will come a time where I will devote an entire post to James Rodney.  Right when I started watching baseball, he seemed to me like the most dominant pitcher of all time.   Unfortunately, his career was cut short when he suffered a stroke during the 1980 season.  I vaguely remember the picture of him being carted off the field in the Astrodome.  I seem to think he attempted a comeback in 1981 that was cut short because of the effects of the stroke.  Just think, for half a season, he was on the same staff as Nolan Ryan for the Astros.  Can you imagine facing those two on back to back nights?  Watch this clip of Richard dominating hitters.

Image: bleacherreport.com

Jay Howell  OK, he didn’t wear #50 for his entire career.  He did sport the big 5-0 with the A’s and Dodgers, the teams with whom he had his greatest success.  He came to Oakland from the Yankees in the big Rickey Henderson trade, totaling 61 saves in three seasons with the team.  Howell then landed with the Dodgers in 1988, saving 21 games to go with a 2.08 ERA as Los Angeles shocked the A’s to win the World Series.   For his career, Howell saved 155 games and recorded the victory in 58 other contests.  He made the All-Star team three times and finished with an ERA under 2.00 twice. 

Other famous number 50’s include Jamie Moyer, Matt Lawton  and Mike Timlin.  Let me know if you can think of any others.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com