March 31, 2016

Travis Shaw Wins 3B Job Over Pablo Sandoval

Travis Shaw will be the Red Sox's starting third baseman on Monday afternoon when the team begins its 2016 season in Cleveland. Pablo Sandoval - in the second year of a 5/95 deal - will be on the bench. Going into today's exhibition game, Shaw has an .886 spring OPS (.333/.377/.509) compared to .767 for Sandoval (.244/.279/.488).

If you had told me that coming in here, I probably wouldn't have believed you. I believed in myself at third for pretty much my whole career. It's just kind of taken a while for other people to kind of jump on board. I'm ready.
It's the right decision to help the team win. I'm going to be happy. I'm going to be ready on the bench, get ready for anything. ... I just look at it as what is best for the team. I don't look at it in a selfish place. I look at it what is best for the team. If it is going to help win for the team, I'm happy. ... I'm just going to focus and keep working hard.
Shaw - who turns 26 on April 16 - made his major league debut last May. In 65 games, he hit .270/.327/.487 for an .813 OPS (115 OPS+).

Also: SoSH's Rick Rowand looks at Boston's "Damn the salaries, full speed ahead" attitude:
Two days ago, Farrell named Brock Holt! the strong side of a platoon with Chris Young in left field in place of Rusney Castillo. Not every manager or GM has the chutzpah to do that, even though they all pay lip service to it.

March 30, 2016

More Cafardo Nonsense

Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe, March 26, 2016:
As the story goes: When Jeffrey Loria owned the Expos, he was obsessed with Derek Jeter. So he ordered his general manager, Jim Beattie, to try to make a deal with the Yankees and to give up whatever he had to. Beattie offered Yankees GM Brian Cashman Vladimir Guerrero and Pedro Martinez. Stunned, Cashman told Beattie, "I can't trade Derek Jeter."
Well, that is certainly an interesting tidbit. What a monumental trade that would have been.

Too bad it's 100%, easily-disproved horseshit.

As Mike Bates (MLB Daily Dish) explains:
Pedro was traded by the Expos to the Red Sox in November of 1997, three months before Cashman was elevated to GM by the Yankees. So there's no way that Cashman, as the GM of the Yankees, could have acquired Pedro Martinez from the Expos. For another, Jeffrey Loria didn't buy into the Expos until December of 1999, so he wouldn't have been around to order Jim Beattie to do anything. ...

Not only doesn't it pass the smell test, but it's fundamentally impossible. ... But otherwise, yeah, cute story, Nick. Next time, spend five minutes on Baseball
As SoSH's PedroKsBambino notes, the Globe's once-iconic Sunday sports section has devolved, with Cafardo as the paper's top baseball writer, into a collection of "lies, buffet-warmed hottakes, and blatantly spoon-fed puff items for agents".

Contest Reminder

The deadline for the 2016 W-L contest is Sunday night.

So if you have not entered, click here.

The hardcover book at left is the prize.

March 26, 2016

Get Off Mike Schmidt's Lawn. And Johnny Bench's. And Goose Gossage's.

Mike Schmidt: "Why do so many players today feel the need to embellish their success with some sort of hand signal to the dugout? What got more attention in last year's postseason than a bat toss by Jose Bautista? Pointing to the sky is child's play compared to that moment in the postseason on national TV. A flagrant disrespect of the opponent like that would have gotten somebody hurt back in the day. ... They are free to display their passion and emotion with certain boundaries ..."

Johnny Bench: "You can flip your bat. We had guys do that ... and the next time up there was chin music. And if you want to play that way, that's fine. Bring back the excitement? OK, we'll bring back the brushback pitch, the knockdown pitch. That's all part of the excitement. ... I know a lot of the old-timers and a lot of people who watched baseball forever would love to see somebody have a little chin music (as retaliation)."

Goose Gossage: "Bautista is a fucking disgrace to the game. He's embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. [Yoenis] Cespedes, same thing. ... The game is becoming a freaking joke because of the nerds who are running it. I'll tell you what has happened, these guys played Rotisserie baseball at Harvard or wherever the fuck they went and they thought they figured the fucking game out. They don't know shit."

March 25, 2016

MIC: "ESPN Tried To Shame Cuba On Poverty And It Backfired Spectacularly"

ESPN Tried To Shame Cuba On Poverty And It Backfired Spectacularly
Zak Cheney-Rice, MIC, March 23, 2016:
During President Barack Obama's historic trip to Cuba this week, the Twitter account for SportsCenter — ESPN's banner TV show — tweeted the following photo of the scene outside Havana's Estadio Latinoamericano, where POTUS was watching a baseball game with Cuban president Raúl Castro on Tuesday:

The caption read, "Meanwhile, next to the stadium in Havana..." — an apparent attempt to highlight the irony of the most powerful man in the world enjoying a game at a fancy ballpark while the ills of poverty sat right next door.

There was just one problem:

Justin Klugh, a sports blogger with SB Nation, responded by tweeting the above image of the scene outside Citi Field in Willet's Point, Queens, where the New York Mets play baseball.

If anything, the shot from the U.S. looks even starker than the one from Cuba.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Willet's Point is one of New York City's most structurally devastated neighborhoods. In 2013, it was described by the New York Times as a "blighted area" marked by a "tangle of auto shops" and potholed, oil-slicked streets that looked "as if they had been blasted by land mines." ...

A handful of other Twitter users followed Klugh's post by tweeting images of different areas where multi-million dollar coliseums seem to have been dropped in the middle of America's poorest neighborhoods: ...

See also: here.

March 24, 2016

Big Contract Is No Guarantee Of Playing Time For Sandoval

Who will be the Red Sox's starting third baseman on Opening Day, April 4?

Travis Shaw has been red-hot (.450 average and 1.188 OPS in 14 games) and incumbent Pablo Sandoval - in the second year of his 5/95 contract and coming off a dismal 2015 season - will miss the next few days due to lower back tightness. Manager John Farrell says the final weeks of spring training will be key in seeing who gets the job. And GM Dave Dombrowski said that the size of a player's contract will not be a determining factor in whether he's in the starting lineup.
I think I've traditionally taken that approach. It's funny, Jim Leyland would always say, "A player's big contract would guarantee them one thing, that they had a bigger check to bring home every two weeks. It doesn't guarantee them anything else other than that." Normally, you hope there is a correlation between the two.
Dombrowski noted that both John Henry and Tom Werner agree with this philosophy.

Eduardo Rodriguez will begin the season on the disabled list after suffering a knee injury in late February. Because Henry Owens was optioned to Pawtucket, the fifth spot in the rotation is now between Steven Wright and Roenis Elias.

Reliever Carson Smith also will not be on the Opening Day roster. Smith had an MRI on Tuesday and it was determined that he has a strain of the flexor muscle in his right elbow.

Hanley Ramirez has been impressing people with his play at first base. HR:
Honestly, every time somebody is up there, I want it to be a ground ball. It's unbelievable. Every day is getting better and better and better and better. I feel like everybody is looking at me like, he's going to make a great play right here. That's what I expect from myself. Get ready to dive right here, catch everything.
Two SoSH posts from this week:

I've been able to watch a lot of games this spring, somehow, and from my eyes Hanley has been absolutely fine. He's made some picks, had a few diving plays, a successful pick-off. Everything you could ask. On this ESPN feed right now, Olney gave a little report on how pleased everyone in the organization has been with him. Someone in the booth right now is saying how people he's talked to around the league think he looks shockingly good. ...
The few times I've seen him, including yesterday, he's looked like a regular first baseman, not like a linebacker playing left field. He looked physically out of place all of last year, and now he just looks like any other first baseman. And what I think has been most noticeable to me is that he is engaged - because he has to be. He's excitable when his fielders make a good play ... I think being back in the infield and being needed on every play is going to suit him well. Viva El Hanley!

March 21, 2016

Ortiz To Bat Flip Haters: Drop Dead

Don't worry. In his last season, Big Papi will still "pimp the [expletive] out of" his home runs:
Of course as a pitcher you're not going to like it if I take you deep, but after I do it, suck it up, man. Take it like a man. I don't mind anybody doing anything when you strike me out or get myself out. You're never going to see me criticizing anybody, because you know what? Whatever you do out there, you just motivate me. ...

This game is competition. This ain't no baby-sitting. There ain't no crying. ... If you're going to take it like a baby, I'm going to take [you] deep again. How about that? Take it like a man and make better, quality pitches the next time I face you, and then you get [me] out, and then you do whatever the hell you want. ...

When you see a pitcher do a fist pump when they strike out any one of us, or jumping on the mound, I don't see anybody talking about that. Nobody's talking about that. Act the same way when we do a bat flip. It's emotion. It is, "I got you." Just like a pitcher does, "I got you," when they strike [you] out. As a hitter, I don't mind. You got myself out? Good for you. They work hard to do that [expletive]. But when I get you, good for me. Period.
Here he is annoying Chris "Guardian of the Game" Archer of the Rays:

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March 19, 2016

A Look Back At 1986 ALCS Game 5: Red Sox 7, Angels 6 (11)

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) has just published a book about the 1986 Boston Red Sox.

There Was More Than Game Six includes extensive biographies of every player that wore a Boston uniform that season - from Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs to Mike Trujillo and Dave Sax - as well as recaps of the team's 14 postseason games. (You can read a little more about the book here.)

I rewatched (thanks to YouTube) and wrote about each of the Red Sox's seven American League Championship Series games against the California Angels.

The game recaps in the book are roughly 1,500 words each. Here is a longer version of Game Five (approximately 2,650 words):
Sunday, October 12, 1986 at Anaheim Stadium
Boston Red Sox    - 020 000 004 01 - 7 12  0
California Angels - 001 002 201 00 - 6 13  0
Before there was David Ortiz, there was Dave Henderson.

Before Big Papi thrilled Red Sox fans with his October heroics, the man they called Hendu brought Boston back from the dead in Game Five of the 1986 ALCS. Before Ortiz turned clutch, late-inning and game-winning hits into an art form for the Red Sox, Henderson made a spectacular bid to become the man who would lead Boston to the Promised Land of a World Series championship.

With the Angels one strike away from winning the pennant, Henderson – a backup outfielder obtained from the Seattle Mariners in mid-August – crushed a home run that gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. Then, after the Angels tied the game in their half of the ninth, Henderson knocked in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eleventh. Boston's 7-6 victory sent the ALCS back to Fenway Park for Game Six (and, possibly, Game Seven). (Henderson also homered in the 10th inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series, what would have been the Red Sox's World Series-winning run if not for the Mets' comeback.)

The California Angels led the series 3-1 and fully expected to clinch the pennant in front of their own fans. Before Game Five, the Red Sox players had cited the Kansas City Royals, who came from being down 1-3 in both the ALCS (against the Toronto Blue Jays) and World Series (against the St. Louis Cardinals) to capture a world championship.

With the Red Sox's backs to the wall, manager John McNamara gave the ball to Bruce Hurst, who had pitched a complete game victory in Game Two. Compared to the media fuss surrounding Roger Clemens starting Game Four on three days of rest, it was barely noted that Hurst was also working on short rest in Game Five. Perhaps one reason was that, unlike Clemens, Hurst was considered timid and not aggressive. "I felt bad when it was said that I was timid because I was Mormon," Hurst said. "I don't think it should be put in that light. I don't think I'm timid and shy. The way I am doesn't mean I don't have a real drive to do well and be competitive."

The Red Sox would be facing Mike Witt, who had gone the distance in California's Game One win. However, Boston drew first blood in the second inning, when Jim Rice led off with a single and Rich Gedman – after barely getting his bat on, and fouling off, a 1-2 pitch – lined a two-run homer into the right field seats.

Hurst ended up pitching six innings, and left the game trailing 3-2. Bob Boone led off the third inning with a solo home run down by the left-field corner. With two outs in the sixth, Doug DeCinces ripped a double into the gap in right-center. Bobby Grich, who had struck out in his two earlier at-bats, drove a 1-2 pitch to deep left-center. Dave Henderson, who had taken over for Tony Armas in center field in the previous inning, raced towards the wall. Henderson timed his leap perfectly and the ball landed squarely in his glove. But his momentum carried him into the wall and his wrist struck the top of the fence. The collision jarred the ball loose and it fell over the fence. It was a two-run homer for Grich – and the Angels led 3-2.

"I thought I had it all the way," Henderson said. "But when my wrist hit the top of the fence it shook the ball loose and it was out of there. I was really disappointed, because I thought I should have caught it."

California added two runs off reliever Bob Stanley in the seventh - nickle-and-diming him on two infield hits - and led 5-2.

Meanwhile, Witt was (again) having little trouble with the Boston hitters. After Gedman's blast in the second, Witt retired the next eight batters and 10 of the next 11. Gedman broke up Witt's string with a one-out double in the fifth, but Armas flied to left and Spike Owen grounded to second. Boston had men on base in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, but could not get anyone past first base.

Wade Boggs singled to open the sixth, but he was forced at second by Barrett. Buckner then forced Barrett at second and Rice flied to right. Gedman singled with two down in the seventh (his third hit of the day against Witt), but Henderson struck out. Mike Greenwell, pinch-hitting for Owen in the eighth, singled, but was erased when Boggs hit into a double play.

The Anaheim Stadium crowd was roaring as Witt faced the heart of the Red Sox order in the ninth inning, leading 5-2. Three more outs – and the Angels would clinch their first-ever pennant. On a 2-0 pitch, Bill Buckner looked at a strike and then asked the home plate umpire to check the ball. The baseball was thrown out of play – and Buckner grounded Witt's next offering up the middle for a single. California shortstop Dick Schofield dove to his left, but could not grab it. Dave Stapleton pinch-ran for Buckner, who hobbled off the field on his bad ankles. Jim Rice fouled off two pitches, then looked at strike three on the outside edge.

Don Baylor worked the count to 2-2 and took a very close pitch that was inside and called a ball. Witt's full-count pitch was outside, but Baylor reached out and hooked it, pulling it to deep left. The ball carried and carried, sailing over the fence for a two-run homer. The crowd was quieter, but they knew their Angels still held a 5-4 lead – and when Dwight Evans fouled to third for the second out, they began loudly cheering again.

One out away – and Gene Mauch came out of the dugout to make a pitching change. He wanted left-hander Gary Lucas to face Gedman, who had singled, doubled, and homered against Witt. Gedman had faced Lucas only twice before – July 27, 1986 and in Game Four of this ALCS – and he had struck out both times. It was still a questionable decision.

Witt, who had thrown 123 pitches, said afterwards he was not tired. "I felt like I was pitching from the seventh inning on, on adrenalin mostly. But I was getting people out. . . . I called Boone out. We were going to discuss how we were going to handle [Gedman]. But . . . we never got to discuss it."

Mauch: "I've never had much success relieving Mike Witt. But I've also never seen Rich Gedman do anything but strike out against Gary Lucas. I can handle it this way. If I had left [Witt] in, and Gedman had another hit, I couldn't have handled that."

Lucas threw only one pitch – and it sailed up and in and hit Gedman on the right hand. As the Boston catcher trotted to first base, Mauch made another change, bringing in closer Donnie Moore to face Dave Henderson. Henderson took a ball low, then a strike that was a little higher. When he swung and missed a pitch low and away, Moore and the Angels were one strike away.

Dave Stapleton: "I looked across the field and I could see everyone in the Angels dugout getting ready to celebrate. . . . They had those nice little smiles that you get before you start hugging everyone."

Moore threw ball two in the dirt, and Henderson fouled off two pitches. Moore's 2-2 pitch – the seventh pitch of the at-bat – came in a little low. Henderson swung and as soon as he hit it, he knew. The ball sailed far over the fence in left for a two-run home run – a shot that gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. Henderson took three steps out of the batter's box, watching the flight of the ball. As it cleared the fence, he jumped and spun around. And then he began a fast trot around the bases.

Henderson: "The pitch I fouled off was a fastball I should have hit. I had to step out of the batter's box and gather myself, think about what I had to do. With two strikes I had to protect the plate. I really just wanted to reach down and make sure I at least put the ball in play."

Henderson: "The pitch before was a fastball, and I was mad at myself for not doing something with that one. It was a changeup or a forkball. Just trying to get it into play, maybe in the gap . . ."

Moore: "I'd been throwing him fastballs, and he was fouling them off, fouling them off. Then I threw him an offspeed pitch and I shouldn't have thrown it. I should have stayed with the hard stuff. The kind of bat speed he has is offspeed. That pitch was right in his swing."

Henderson: "I knew when I hit it, it was gone."

Moore retired Ed Romero on a fly to right for the third out.

Stanley began the ninth – his third inning of work – by giving up a single to Boone (his third hit of the day). Ruppert Jones went in to pinch-run, and Gary Pettis dropped down a bunt, moving Jones to second. Lefty Joe Sambito came out of the bullpen to face Rob Wilfong, who promptly knocked Sambito's first pitch into right field. Dwight Evans charged the ball and made an accurate throw home, but Jones was too speedy and he slid in just ahead of the ball and tag. The game was tied: 6-6.

McNamara vowed before the game to stay away from Calvin Schiraldi, who had pitched in Games 3 and 4. The manager called on Steve Crawford, who had last worked one week earlier, in the final game of the regular season. Crawford was essentially the last man on the staff, taking the final spot on the playoff roster when starting pitcher Tom Seaver's knee kept him out of the rotation.

Schofield faced Crawford and lined a single to right, sending Wilfong (carrying the AL pennant in his back pocket) to third base. Wilfong was the only baserunner that mattered, so the Red Sox intentionally walked Brian Downing, moving Schofield to second and loading the bases. With both the infield and outfield playing in, Crawford faced DeCinces, who had doubled twice in the game. DeCinces swung at the first pitch and hit a fly ball to short right field. It was too shallow for Wilfong to tag up and attempt to score on Evans's strong arm. Bobby Grich then lined a 2-2 pitch right back to the mound, which Crawford speared easily in his follow-through. Game Five would go to extra innings.

Moore walked Wade Boggs to start the tenth. Marty Barrett forced him at second. Stapleton singled to right-center and Barrett went to third. It looked like a good opportunity for a run, but Jim Rice grounded the first pitch into a double play.

The Angels nearly won the game in the bottom of the 10th, when Gary Pettis hit a drive to deep left field. Rice, with his back to the wall, caught the ball over his head for the third out.

Moore hit Don Baylor to begin the Red Sox 11th. Evans singled to center. Gedman popped up a bunt attempt to third. DeCinces bare-handed the ball on a bounce, but his throw was off target, and the bases were loaded. Henderson swung at Moore's first pitch and flied to center – scoring Baylor and giving Boston a 7-6 lead. Henderson: "I just wanted to get the ball in the air and get a run in."

Schiraldi ended up pitching in the game after all, coming in to face the top of the California order in the bottom of the eleventh. He struck out Wilfong and Schofield, and ended the game when Downing fouled to first. "I was awake all night wondering if I'd ever get a chance to redeem myself," Schiraldi said, referring to his poor performance in Game Four. "This has to be the biggest game of my life."

Henderson had three RBI in Game Five, the same number of RBI he had for the Red Sox since the August 19 trade eight weeks earlier. "Yeah, but they came at the right time." Afterwards, in the clubhouse, Henderson asked, "Where's the brew? My throat's dry."

Henderson was an unlikely hero, making only 54 plate appearances in 36 games for Boston. He hit only .196 during the regular season with the Red Sox and was used mostly as a late-inning defensive replacement for centerfielder Tony Armas.

Earlier in the game, Tony Armas twisted his ankle trying to catch Doug DeCinces's double off the wall in center. He stayed in the game for a few innings, but left after batting in the top of the fifth. Dave Henderson took over in center. [Henderson had fouled a pitch off his leg on Saturday (Game Four). "I was hurting so badly this morning that I couldn't walk. . . . I took aspirin, lots of aspirin. This is no time to take yourself out of anything."]

John McNamara: "This was the most emotional, dramatic and unbelievable baseball game I've ever been associated with."

Calvin Schiraldi: "I got beat with what was definitely not my best pitch Saturday night [Game Four]. I tossed and turned all night thinking of that. I just wanted to get back out there and I told Mac that as soon as I got to the park."

Steve Crawford, the winning pitcher, was nearly in tears: "It was the game of my life. I've never experienced anything like it."

Marty Barrett: "I'll tell you where they lost the game. Mauch made a big mistake by taking Witt out. I don't know why Mauch took him out . . . I guess he was afraid of Richie Gedman hitting a home run. But to me, that's what cost them the game."

Mauch, on replacing Witt one out from the pennant: "That's hindsight and I don't like to look at hindsight."

Don Baylor: "I've been involved in 2,022 major league games and this was by far the best. . . . When you're down to your very last out, the very last pitch, and you turn around and win, there's an awful lot of emotion. All of a sudden, you're a kid again."

Roger Clemens: "That was the best game I've ever seen. . . . I was in the Astrodome in 1980 when the Astros had that remarkable game they had in extra innings. That's the only game I've ever seen even that's comparable to this." [Games Three, Four and Five of the 1980 NLCS (Astros/Philadelphia Phillies) were played in Houston and all three games went into extra innings. It's unclear to which game Clemens was referring (maybe Game Three since the Phillies won Games Four and Five).]

One interesting factoid from Steve Hirdt of ABC: In major league baseball's first 648 postseason games, no team had ever taken a lead of two or more runs into the ninth inning and lost. And then it happened twice within 24 hours. In Game Four, on October 11, Boston held a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning before the Angels tied it up and won in 11 innings. The following day, October 12, the Red Sox rallied against the Angels in Game Five, scoring four times in the top of the ninth, and eventually winning 7-6 in 11 innings. And then it happened a third time, on October 15, when the Astros blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game Six of the National League Championship Series, as the Mets came back to win the game (and the pennant) 7-6 in 16 innings.

March 17, 2016

Clay Buchholz (And Johnny Damon) Endorse Donald Trump

No one has ever accused former Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon of being the sharpest bulb in the drawer. And his latest comment will not likely make anyone reconsider their opinion.

Damon: "I want (Trump) for president. I'm a Trump fan ever since I met him seven or eight years ago. Everything he does, he does first-class — his hotels, his businesses, his golf courses. The issues all the other politicians failed to discuss, (Trump) is bringing us up to speed. ... If (Trump) needs me anywhere, I'll be there. He's a good friend."

[His golf courses are tidy and well-watered? Well, that's certainly a ringing endorsement to be the leader of the United States. Damon also mentioned being a supporter of The Wall - and I don't mean the Pink Floyd album.]

Sadly, Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz also wants Trump to be president. (It turns out Trump introduced Buchholz to his wife.) "He says what a lot of people think and don't say. I like that part of him. I'm not really into politics, but I'm watching a lot more now. He's been awesome to me. He says what's on his mind, which is why he's accomplished so much in his life. I always found him to be a good-hearted person. ... He speaks and everyone listens."

What is this obsession with liking people because they say "what's on their mind"? I know I'm going Godwin, but Hitler and a thousand other evil people also spoke their minds. It should be obvious to any rational adult that it's not always an admirable trait.

March 14, 2016

Everyone Loves A Contest #20: 2016 Red Sox W-L

With Opening Day (April 4) only three weeks away, it's time for this year's Red Sox W-L Contest!

Correctly guess Boston's 2016 regular season record and you could win a hardcover copy of Glenn Stout's new book, The Selling Of The Babe (Thomas Dunne Books). Stout is also the author of Fenway 1912 - which I loved, and wrote about here.

Contest entries must be emailed to me and include the following two items:

1. Predicted 2016 W-L record
2. Tiebreaker: David Price's ERA

W-L guesses must be exact. Tiebreaker winner will be the closest guess, either over or under.

Deadline: Sunday, April 3, 11:59 PM.

March 11, 2016

All Eyes On Betts In 2016

ESPN's David Schoenfield calls Mookie Betts his "most intriguing player to watch in the AL East for 2016":
Red Sox players don't usually fly under the radar, but that seemed to be the case in 2015 with Betts, who quietly finished with a .291/.341/.479 batting line, 18 home runs, 42 doubles and 21 stolen bases. He also played solid defense in center field. And he did all that after a slow start that had him hitting .221 in the middle of May. So Betts already has a nice all-around game, but I think he can become a top-five MVP guy in 2016 for three reasons: (1) He's just 23, entering his second full season in the bigs; (2) I love his contact ability, as he ranked 26th in the majors in strikeout rate in 2015, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio should get better; (3) He has a swing tailor-made for Fenway, as he pulls the ball over and off the Green Monster.

Everyone seems to assume that Betts will move to right field this year while Jackie Bradley Jr. takes over in center, but that's not guaranteed. Betts averaged 2.68 putouts per nine innings in center last year compared with 2.45 for Bradley.
David Price is #5 on the list and Boston's new first baseman Hanley Ramirez is #10.


The Sporting News 2016 Baseball Yearbook

Ranking of Farm Systems:
Red Sox, 5th (behind Atlanta, Rockies, Dodgers, and Pirates):
Only organizations as focused on player development as the Red Sox can afford to give up the talent Boston did for closer Craig Kimbrel, but the remaining inventory is still very impressive. Take top prospects such as second baseman Yoan Moncada, third baseman Rafael Devers and outfielder Andrew Benintendi, then factor in all the young standouts already in Boston - the direction is obvious.
(The Yankees are 13th.)

Superstars For 2018 And Beyond

"10 players who will have a large presence on the big-league radar near the end of this decade":
1. Yoan Moncada, Red Sox: The switch-hitting Moncada is an electric talent with plus bat speed, emerging power, and the ability to steal 30-plus bases in the majors. He's still a few years away from the bigs but he profiles as an All-Star second baseman at the highest level.

5. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston: Devers is only 19 and won't arrive in Boston for a few more seasons, but he's got all the tools to be an above-average offensive contributor. With plus bat speed, a short swing and emerging plate discipline, Devers projects to hot for power and average.
Lindy's Sports Baseball 2016 Preview

Top 50 Prospects
3. Yoan Moncada, 2B
7. Rafael Devers, 3B
Athlon Sports 2016 MLB Preview

Top 50 Prospects
2. Yoan Moncada, 2B
Moncada was considered the best young prospect to come out of Cuba in years. He is always a threat to steal, has promising power potential and the swing to be an above-average hitter. And he could play anywhere in the field other than shortstop and catcher.
11. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
12. Andrew Benintendi, OF
24. Rafael Devers, 3B
MLB Top 100 Propects
7. Yoan Moncada, 2B
17. Rafael Devers, 3B
25. Andrew Benintendi, OF
39. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
Baseball America - Red Sox Top 10 Prospects
1. Yoan Moncada, 2B
2. Rafael Devers, 3B
3. Andrew Benintendi, OF
4. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
5. Michael Kopech, RHP
6. Brian Johnson, LHP
7. Sam Travis, 1B
8. Deven Marrero, SS
9. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
10. Michael Chavis, 3B

March 9, 2016

FNC (Fire Nick Cafardo): The Hunger Games

I no longer waste my time reading the Boston Globe's sports section. The only reason to even consider clicking on the paper's website is for the work of the indefatigable Alex Speier and you can get your daily dose of his insightful writing/awesome link gathering by subscribing to 108 Stitches, his daily Red Sox newsletter.

While I was away in Oregon, Nick Cafardo published yet another worthless pile of shit masquerading as an insightful column. It's both scary and sad that this is what the once-great Globe sports section accepts from its national baseball writer.

Red Sox Need To Have That Hunger They Had In 2013
By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff
March 2, 2016

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Let's chat about hunger, and not the Pablo Sandoval kind.

Hi-yo! Nothing signals the beginning of a strong, hot-take sports column than a fat joke. The only thing better than that is a wisecrack about a pop culture event of 30 years ago in an attempt to sound hip.

It's the hunger that players feel, or should feel, after they've had a poor season — the hunger to reconnect with their fans and build goodwill, the kind of goodwill Sandoval used to have with Giants fans.

Why do I have the feeling that my stomach is going to be growling as I read this column?

For even though he had the same weight issues in San Francisco that he's having in Boston, Sandoval played exceptionally well in the World Series, and the fan base absolutely adored him for it. So in the lean years (I mean performance, not physical appearance), Sandoval had that reservoir to get him through.

Two fat jokes in the first three paragraphs? Go, Nick! ... Notice that Cafardo admits that Sandoval had the "same weight issues" when he played with the Giants and yet was a beloved World Series hero on the left coast. Could it be that his expanded size wasn't the reason for his poor play in Boston in 2015? With Nick, we'll never find out.

So here we are in 2016.

You can't slip a calendar change past Cafardo. He knows they happen about once every 10-14 months.

You have players on the Red Sox who need to build up some goodwill.

Because I and the other members of the local media have been shitting on them for the last two years. (Cafardo loves using "you" to pretend he is speaking for all fans. Personally, I have exactly zero players on the Red Sox.)

Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Rick Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, and to some degree Dustin Pedroia all have a hunger to be better. Throw in Allen Craig, once a devastating hitter in the National League. How about David Ortiz wanting to end his career on top?

Players want to do well? To improve over past performances? Hmmmmm. Interesting take, Nick. Tell us more.

These are players who should feel the hunger, and this desire — to prove themselves or reboot their careers — should serve the team well. If the Red Sox are indeed moving away from analytics, then this intangible thing called hunger could be very important to this team.

A joyful Cafardo undoubtedly had to change his undershorts after John Henry said the team had "perhaps overly relied on numbers". Nick has been urging the Red Sox to move away from in-depth information and knowledge for years. It's obvious that he pines for the days when major league teams embraced nothing but gut feelings, impulse decisions, and reading chicken entrails. In a similar vein, his columns suggesting that all defensive shifts should be illegal - as if players in the field have always been stationary until a few years ago - are high comedy.

In 2013, Ben Cherington created that hunger here. He brought in veteran players who had come off subpar seasons but had the pride and the hunger to get back to being productive.

Cafardo is quickly losing what little coherence he had mustered so far. First, the Red Sox players should feel the hunger. Then we are told that the General Manager created the hunger. Then Cafardo switches back and says the players arrived in Boston with their hunger intact.

We saw it with Shane Victorino, who had been traded from Philadelphia, where he helped win a championship, to the Dodgers. His overall 2012 season wasn't great, but Boston gave him a three-year, $39 million deal. And Victorino became a big part of the Red Sox lineup.

I can almost guarantee that Cafardo was against the money and years given to Victorino. He also engages in some Monday morning quarterbacking, regarding the contract as a good deal because Shane did well.

They did likewise with Mike Napoli, who had good years in Texas, though 2012 wasn't one of them. His three-year deal was renegotiated to a one-year deal because of a health concern, but Napoli became their righthanded middle-of-the-order hitter and was a very good defensive first baseman.

Cafardo tells us things we already know - indeed what any casual fan knows. Victorino played with the Phillies. Napoli was with Texas. They both came to Boston and did well. No special insight.

Koji Uehara, Ryan Dempster, David Ross, Jonny Gomes, and Stephen Drew all played significant roles on that 2013 team.

Yes, they did. but we have no idea if any of them were hungry, though. Why is this sentence even in this article?

In addition to Sandoval, Ramirez is the other target here, but if there's a defense for him, it's that he had to change his position from shortstop to left field and he got hurt. You can call him out for work ethic issues; he didn't apply himself to left field while trying to navigate a shoulder injury he suffered in May after a very productive April.

It's interesting that Cafardo labels Ramirez as a "target". A target for who? Incompetent sportswriters who cannot resist low-hanging fruit?

Sandoval simply made a poor impression in his first season with his new team. He went from World Series hero to a guy who wasn't in shape, played poorly at third base, and was a shadow of himself as a hitter. He even gave up switch hitting.

Hey, Nick, a few paragraphs ago you said that Sandoval succeeded in San Francisco with the same weight issues. Now you are claiming the exact opposite.

Porcello had won 15 games for Dave Dombrowski's Tigers in 2014, but the future Sox president of baseball operations traded him to Boston for Yoenis Cespedes. Porcello didn't live up to the four-year, $80 million extension he signed. The weight of the world seemed to be on his shoulders as he went from a middle-of-the-rotation starter to a No. 1, which he had never been with the Tigers.

Cafardo again recaps a news story. I'll agree that Porcello did not light the world on fire, but charging that he did not live up to an $80 million deal in one season is moronic.

With David Price on board, Porcello should have the pressure lifted from him, yet he should be hungry to show the fan base that he can be depended on.

Price may now be a fat cat, but is he hungry?

Even though he's been with the Red Sox for seven years, Buchholz has never been a pitcher that fans feel they can depend on. Buchholz is extremely talented, but he's never been able to perform for a full season at that highest level.

He did win 17 games in his one semi-healthy season, 2010, when he made 28 starts. He has one more option year on his contract, for $13.5 million in 2017. But this time he needs to perform and stay healthy.

Who should be hungrier than Buchholz?

Again, Cafardo states the obvious and gives us some numbers any fan could get from Baseball Reference. ... But he also shows us that this is why ignorant fans like us need insiders like Cafardo, guys who are plugged into the day-to-day experience of MLB life. To tell us that starting pitchers need to "perform and stay healthy". I do admit that Buchholz is someone who could stand to eat an extra plate of pasta or two.

Pedroia is a different kind of hungry. He does have the reservoir of goodwill, because he has been part of two championships and has won an AL MVP award. He has been one of the best defensive second basemen in the game for a long time.

So there are different kinds of hungry. I had assumed there were only degrees, like a slight rumbling in one's stomach to fainting or having actual hallucinations. Sadly, Nick doesn't take the time to explain the distinctions.

But in recent times, the injury bug has bitten hard. His offense slipped each of the last four seasons, and his defensive metrics were down last season. You can tell Pedroia is irked by it. He refuses to acknowledge any defensive decline based on the metrics and has vowed to have a monster season.

Boo to defensive metrics, which measure a players's actual on-field performance, but cannot measure the depth of a player's hunger.

Pedroia has always had a chip on his shoulder over his size and what he's had to overcome. Now he's hungry to get back to being an elite overall player.

The thing about Pedroia is that he's always been hungry. That has never waned, so "hunger" may not be the right word to characterize his mind-set. But that proving-people-wrong attitude still lives within him, and that's good for the team.

While I just used the word "hunger" three times in relation to Pedroia, I am now saying it might not be the best word. But instead of editing what I previously typed, I'll simply ignore it and move on to another hungry player

Kelly is a 27-year-old pitcher who wants to be great. When he said around this time a year ago that he would win the Cy Young Award, he wasn't kidding. He knows he has the stuff to make that happen.

Pay attention, class. Kelly is that rare bird - "a pitcher who wants to be great". The big leagues are apparently filled with pitchers who desperately want to be shitty and get booed and be cut from rosters and miss out on multi-million dollar paydays. Thank God that Boston has pitchers who want to be good at their jobs.

He also has developed the wisdom. He understands pitching and that he can't always blow his 97-m.p.h. fastball past hitters. He now has confidence in a nasty changeup, a slider, and a curveball. So Kelly has all the hunger to finally take his career to a level of excellence.

Cafardo may eschew advanced stats, but he loves simple arithmetic. Wisdom + understanding + confidence = hunger.

Craig is an enigma to all, and probably to himself. How could someone lose it that quickly? The hope is that Craig will wake up one day and it will all come back. Whether he gets the opportunity is another story.

I have no doubt that the Red Sox hope Craig will become a decent hitter again. But that possibility seems highly unlikely and they have made other plans. Meanwhile, Craig is pocketing some serious coin while playing for Pawtucket. (Strangely, unlike Victorino and Napoli, Craig's hunger has not increased with his paycheck or his proximity to Massauchusetts.)

All in all, the Red Sox are in a good place with so many players who have something to prove.

So: As long as the Red Sox players have something to prove, they are a solid team. The desire to do well = wins. ... But really, is there a player in baseball that doesn't have something to prove? Bad players are under pressure to be better and great players are under pressure to stay great.

Sprinkle in young players such as Blake Swihart, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Jackie Bradley Jr., all trying to get to the next level of their careers. There's incentive.

Now Cafardo is just reading down the probably Opening Day roster. Is incentive the same as hunger?

And Ortiz has said that he doesn't want to go out as an old man who can't produce.

No shit.

You can even extend it to John Farrell, who has produced two last-place finishes here. You can say Dombrowski is hungry to prove he can turn around a struggling franchise in one year.

Look out, buffet tables in Fort Myers! Even the manager and GM are a-hankerin' for ... something.

There is lots of hunger on this Red Sox team. Will it be channeled in the direction it was in 2013? It is food for thought.

Actually, we don't know if there exists a lot of hunger on the 2016 Red Sox team. All we know is that Cafardo has said there should be widespread hunger. And after all his useless blather and non-information - including 17 mentions of "hungry" - Cafardo does what he does so often: he ends his column by asking "Who can really say?", thus undercutting everything he has written.


Here's a shorter take from SoSH's John Marzano Olympic Hero:
I can guarantee that Cafardo's thought process on writing this piece went something like this, "OH MY GOD! It's 3:30 and I'm starving. Too late for lunch, too early for dinner and linner doesn't exist ... YET! What should I do? I'll bang out a quick story about something stupid and then grab a snack. But what should I write about? I'm so hungry, this isn't fair. UGH! Why do I make deals with my self? I know that I'm no JP Riccardi, I'm just hungry. Curses! Wait a minute ... I've got it! What if the 2016 Red Sox were as hungry as me? That's a great premise but I have to change 'me' to something else? Hmmmm. But what? What should I change it to? Damn this brain, it always has the start of a grand thought but never the finish. Just like that Twix bar I ate here in 2013. I mean that was good, but it had so much promise. Ugh. Hey wait I second, did I say 2013? Hey! Hey! I did! Now I got something! What if the 2016 Red Sox were as hungry as the 2013 Red Sox? Huh? That's pretty freaking good. I bet I can bang out this column in 15 minutes, not research anything, write gobbledeegook that I've written a billion times in the past and be first in line at the Red Lobster! Cafardo, you magnificent bastard! I can taste those peel-n-eat shrimp now!"

And scene!