February 27, 2019

MLB Will Use Robot Umpires This Season ... In The Independent Atlantic League

Major League Baseball has taken the first steps toward the use of a computerized strike zone!

MLB and the independent Atlantic League have announced a three-year agreement allowing MLB to use the league as a testing ground "to observe the effects of potential future rule changes and equipment".

Baseball America reports that one of the changes for the 2019 season will be using Trackman to call balls and strikes.
MLB will install Trackman radar devices at all eight Atlantic League stadiums so that all 30 MLB teams can receive in-depth data on each and every pitch and ball put in play at any Atlantic League game. ...

"A numbers of scouts had suggested over the past few years that if we could ever get Trackman it would make a difference in the exposure players receive," [Atlantic League President Rick] White said. "Because of the nature of our players, virtually every one of our games is scouted. But the challenge those scouts had was they were having difficulty interpreting their personal view versus the advanced analytics that every affiliated player has at the Double-A/Triple-A level. This gets past that." ...

By testing in the Atlantic League, MLB will get significantly more data than it could in any spring training or Arizona Fall League trial. The league will have eight teams playing a 140-game schedule. ...
In May 2018, Commissioner Rob Manfred said:
I think we are much closer than we were a year ago to having the technological capability to actually call the strike zone. ... The accuracy [of PITCHf/x] is way up - way better than what it was a year ago. The technology continues to move ... and it actually moved a little faster than I might have thought. ... When you take away the home plate umpire's control over the strike zone, you take away a principal piece of his authority ... You really need to think carefully about whether you want to make that change. ... Fifteen years ago, the umpires were violently opposed to instant replay. They came around and actually wanted it. Who knows?
The Atlantic League may also move back the pitcher's mound, but the article does not elaborate. (This article, also in Baseball America, suggests that increasing the distance from the mound to the plate may help pitchers, which is the opposite of what MLB wants.)

Back in 2013, the league first rolled out new rules to speed up their games, limiting the time between innings to no more than 125 seconds and instructing umpires to call the high strike. In 2014, the league cut the number of warm-up pitches from eight to six, eliminated the need to throw pitches for intentional walks, and allowed each team only three timeouts for defensive meetings per game. It also emphasized that umpires should apply the rule stating that batters remain in the box.

The 2019 Atlantic League:
Liberty Division
High Point Rockers - High Point, NC
Long Island Ducks - Central Islip, NY
New Britain Bees - New Britain, CT
Somerset Patriots - Bridgewater, NJ

Freedom Division
Lancaster Barnstormers - Lancaster, PA
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs - Waldorf, MD
Sugar Land Skeeters - Sugar Land, TX
York Revolution - York, PA

February 26, 2019

Street & Smith's 2019 Preview: Red Sox Are "The Best Team in The Land"

Street & Smith's 2019 Baseball Preview

AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays

Red Sox: "After winning 108 games and cruising through the postseason, the Red Sox are the best team in the land. They should be a playoff force again."

Yankees: "Making consecutive playoff appearances is good for most teams, but not the Yankees. Not after seeing the Red Sox win another World Series. It's another title-or-bust year for the Bronx Bombers."

I want to note that one of the magazine's articles is about the diminishing workload of starting pitchers. It's titled "Progress or Pansies?" I'm surprised that no one at Street & Smith's objected to that offensive title – or if someone did, that concern was ignored. The article itself contains no homophobic slurs.

ALWC: Yankees over Twins
NLWC: Nationals over Brewers
ALDS: Red Sox over Cleveland; Astros over Yankees
NLDS: Atlanta over Nationals; Cardinals over Dodgers
ALCS: Astros over Red Sox
NLCS: Atlanta over Cardinals
World Series: Astros over Atlanta

AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole
NL Cy Young: Aaron Nola
AL Rookie: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
NL Rookie: Victor Robles, Nationals
AL Manager: Rocco Baldelli, Twins
NL Manager: Craig Counsell, Brewers

Red Sox:
Using hindsight, it's a fairly simple conclusion that the Boston Red Sox should have been the 2018 World Series champions.

They won a franchise-best 108 games and clinched the brutal American League East crown for the third straight season. They stormed through the playoffs, losing one games in each of their three series to capture their fourth World Series title in 14 years. ...

The good news for the Red Sox is most of their key players return, including one of the best outfields in baseball: a trio of 20-something talent ... [Mookie] Betts is the superstar; he's only 26 and is 1-A behind only L.A. Angles outfielder Mike Trout in the conversation for baseball's best all-around player. ...

[J.D.] Martinez was almost like another hitting coach for Boston, and his work ethic and knowledge of the game was instrumental in the club's graduation from a really good team to a great one. ...

The rotation, which posted a 3.77 mark, fourth in the A.L., remains together and is potentially dominating if Boston gets a full season from ace Chris Sale, who was limited to 27 starts due to injury. ...

The only question mark for the Red Sox, from a talent perspective, is how the bullpen takes form as closer Craig Kimbrel tested free agency and setup man Joe Kelly, who thrived in the playoffs, left for a three-year deal with the Dodgers.

But with plenty of cash and cachet, the Red Sox should be in position to make another long run in the 2019 postseason.

Bottom Line: The Red Sox did what they were supposed to do in 2018 and there's no reason they can't again in 2019. Their veterans, especially in the rotation, must stay healthy, but the offense and defense are stocked, and ownership has been willing to acquire any missing pieces in July.

Scout's View: "I'm extremely impressed with Alex Cora. He's a lot smarter than I thought he was. He's genuine and he built a relationship with players from Day One and he carried it through. This team's not a fluke. ... David Price went back to the basics and figured out things. He knew he had to get a better angle to his fastball and to use his changeup more. He reinvented himself, but he always had the right pieces. ... I'm so happy for Steve Pearce. Wasn't a high pick, continually grinds it out. .. I like Rafael Devers. He's got a chance to be an impactful bat."
The reality that blanketed the 2018 New York Yankees is that they simply weren't good enough. ...

The Yankees didn't get to the World Series. And the Boston Red Sox won it. Those are the only facts that matter in the Bronx. ...

[T]he Yankees immediately fired a salvo at the rest of the American League early in the offseason by trading for Seattle Mariners lefty James Paxton in mid-November. ... The price [three prospects, including lefthanded starter Justus Sheffield] will be worth it if Paxton can avoid injury and tap his immense potential. Staying healthy has been his primary hurdle. ...

The Yankees' rotation was the club's weakest link – and now it is again a strength with the acquisition of Paxton and the re-signing of [J.A.] Happ and CC Sabathia to join righthanders Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. With one of the most formidable bullpens in baseball ... the starters only have to get through five or six innings to have a chance to win.

Especially if New York's offense recreates what it did in 2018. Led by stars such as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees topped the majors with 267 homers and scored more runs (851) than any other cub besides the Red Sox. ...

Didi Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow [in October] and is lost until roughly midseason. .. But the club's offense shouldn't suffer much, especially if middle infielder Gleyber Torres and third baseman Miguel Andujar ... take the next step, and catcher Gary Sanchez rebounds from what was basically a lost season [.186 average] ...

There is some concern about Andujar's defense at third and whether Torres can handle shortstop every day if needed ... but Boone's most difficult task may be finding playing time for so much talent. ...

Although they have dealt away some key prospects recently, the organizational cupboard is far from bare, and [GM Brian] Cashman isn't afraid to use youngsters as trade chips.

Bottom line: The Yankees are among the most balanced and talented teams in baseball. Unfortunately, they are in the same division with the defending champion. So, theoretically, they'll have to be even better in 2019 if they want to win the division and have an easier road to the World Series, where Yankee fans believe their team should be every year.

Scout's View: "The upside in pitching makes this team so dangerous. Paxton, Severino and Tanaka give you three different looks, all with potentially dominating stuff, and then you turn it over to that bullpen. ... The Didi injury hurts in that he's such a positive influence on that club – great energy, great teammate. They need another good makeup guy to fill that void. ... Andujar and Torres had great years and are really talented kids. But Andujar has to do a lot of work with is throwing and footwork, and I think they are better off leaving Gleyber at second base."
So the MFY starters need to go only five or six innings? Umm, the starters for 28 of the 30 teams went 5.x innings per start last year, so that's normal even for teams with shitty bullpens. ... And what's up with the anti-Didi comments? One of the team's best hitters is out for at least half the season, but the offense "shouldn't suffer much"; what they'll really miss are his "energy" and "makeup".

Athlon's 2019 Preview: Red Sox Will Win AL East, Lose ALCS

Athlon Sports 2019 Baseball Preview

AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays

Other Division Winners: Cleveland, Astros, Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers
AL Wild Cards: Yankees, Rays
NL Wild Cards: Cubs, Brewers
ALCS: Astros over Red Sox
NLCS: Dodgers over Cardinals
World Series: Dodgers over Astros

AL MVP (Top 5): Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton (with Chris Sale #9, J.D. Martinez #10)
NL MVP (Top 5): Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Christian Yelich, Anthony Rendon, Corey Seager (with pitchers Max Scherzer #7 and Jacob deGrom #8)
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Blake Snell
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Clayton Kerhsaw, Noah Syndergaard, Walker Buehler
AL Rookie: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
NL Rookie: Victor Robles

Red Sox:
They return basically the entire roster, but change is coming. In the next two years alone, free agency looms for standouts such as Chris Sale, J.D. Martinez [opt-out clause], Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rick Porcello and Jackie Bradley Jr. They'll be motivated to go for broke, because this isn't the start of a budding dynasty. It's already the last waltz.

Rotation: Sale's shoulder was such a mess that the Red Sox didn't even feel comfortable pitching him in the [World Series] clincher until they had built a four-run lead. This continues a troubling trend of Sale wearing down in second halves of seasons ... The rest of the rotation appears pretty set. ...

Bullpen: With or without [Craig] Kimbrel – whose stuff and performance deteriorated precipitously in 2018 – the Red Sox return some experienced arms. Setup man Matt Barnes could step into the closing role with his hammer curveball and 96 mph fastball. Or the job could go to Ryan Brasier ... A boost could come in the form of righthander Tyler Thornburg, who was shut down over the final weeks to rest his shoulder and prepare for 2019.

Middle Infield: [T]he Red Sox took calls on [Bogaerts] at the Winter Meetings. Nothing materialized, but perhaps they're not as committed to the well-rounded shortstop ... as we thought. His double-play partner would ideally be Dustin Pedroia, but good luck counting on the 35-year-old after a season lost to cartilage restoration surgery in his left knee. ... Neither [Brock Holt nor Eduardo Nunez] is a full-time option at second, however, so perhaps another signing is in order.

Corners: Rafael Devers regressed as a sophomore, his contact rate and on base percentage dropping, and his 24 errors far and away leading the team. But he posted an OPS of .807 after Sept. 1 and delivered his second straight clutch postseason, suggesting that better days loom at age 22. Across the diamond, [Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are] a solidly selfless duo, though if either struggles, this would be an obvious area to upgrade at the trade deadline.

Outfield: No unit in baseball played with more dynamism than the trio of Andrew Benintendi, Bradley and Betts. ... All three remain under team control through at least 2020, so the nightmare they represent for opposing offenses and defenses won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

Catching: Can we get a "Meh?" The Red Sox catching situation represents one of the club's few weaknesses, with Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon combining to rank dead last among MLB backstops in every meaningful slash-line, including a woeful .525 OPS. ...

Management: [M]anager Alex Cora deserves to see his name adorn a bridge, tunnel, or maybe even an airport. He's here because of the way he relates to young players, and man, oh man, do they love playing for him. Cora still carries himself with the quiet cockiness of a jock, and his team followed his confident, unflappable lead. ...

Final Analysis: Outside of Sale's health and whatever splashes the Yankees make, the Red Sox appear as well positioned as any recent champion to repeat. Their core remains in its prime, their pitching is battle-tested, and their leadership has proved it can pull the right levers. Under normal circumstances, a hangover would be understandable and maybe even acceptable – after all, those starters threw a lot of postseason innings. But the dark clouds gathering ominously on the horizon make it clear that there can be no letup, because this is it. The group that arrived last year in a blaze of glory hopes to go out with similar pyrotechnics before 2020 arrives like a sucker punch.

Opposing Scouts Size Up The Red Sox: "You can't say the best team didn't win. ... [Alex Cora] understands how to utilize data while still respecting the players as people. It's going to start to break up after this season, because Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts and maybe J.D. Martinez (opt-out clause) can be free agents and the farm system has thinned out, but for now they're the team to beat again. ... I worry a little about Sale's durability, but I trust this group to know how to get the most out of him. ... They're well-armed for another run even with some questions in the pen."

Beyond The Box Score: "Manager Alex Cora announced in early December that leadoff hitter and AL MVP Mookie Betts would flip-flop with No. 2 hitter Andrew Benintendi ... Want hope that Jackie Bradley Jr.'s strong second half and clutch postseason are sustainable? He's now under the tutelage of the same guy who turned J.D. Martinez into an All-Star. ... Bradley believes he [Craig Wallenbrock] holds the keys to avoiding the roller coaster that has defined his career. ... The nastiest, funniest guy in the 2018 Red Sox bullpen [was] Brandon Workman, who plays the strong, silent Texan in public, but is a relentless bleep-talker and ball buster behind closed doors. "You guys would be shocked," [Joe] Kelly says. 'It's like seeing your high school librarian in a death-metal band.'"
Last year's 100-win campaign, which ended when the Yanks gave the eventual champion Red Sox their toughest October series, is generally considered a flop in New York. Too harsh? Maybe. But the loaded Yankees are a World-Series-or-bust team again ...

[Seattle lefty James] Paxton could be the October ace the Yankees crave, and he and Luis Severino should lead a rotation that just might be the key to toppling Boston in the brawny American League East.

The Yankees, with all their young talent, are set up to contend for years, but they might have to go through Boston to get back to the World Series ...

Rotation: Paxton brings high-end stuff, but there are durability questions. Assuming he's healthy, though, he's dangerous, the kind of pitcher who could blow through even the toughest lineups. He struck out 11.7 per nine innings last year while walking just 2.4. ... The Yanks won 24 of Severino's 32 starts ... [but] there was talk during the year that he was tipping his pitches. ... [J.A. Happ's] lone postseason start was a dud, however, which means he's got to prove a few things this October.

Bullpen: Few clubs can match the Yanks' imposing relief troika of closer Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Chad Green ... [I]t's easy to predict another strikeout bonanza in the Bronx. The Yankees set an MLB record for bullpens with 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings last year, which broke the mark of 10.92 set by the Yanks the previous season. ... [Chapman] missed nearly a month with a left knee issue. ... Green wasn't quite as unhittable as he was in '17 ... Tommy Kahnle struggled with ineffectiveness (6.56 ERA) and injury, but he still might provide a power relief arm.

Middle Infield: Depending on where he plays, the Yanks have one infield spot set for years because [Gleyber] Torres arrived in a big way in 2018. The 22-year-old already looks like he's been in the majors a long time and notched an .820 OPS ... He's a natural shortstop who played second base and could handle any position. ... [B]ecause of Didi Gregorius' October Tommy John surgery ... the Yanks took a flyer on former superstar Troy Tulowitzki, who has a glossy resume but did not play at all in 2018 and appeared in only 66 games the year before.

Corners: Miguel Andujar ... beat Joe DiMaggio's club rookie record for doubles by two, hitting 47 two-baggers ... but his defense at the hot corner needs to improve ... [T]he Yanks were so unsure of his glove that he did not play in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against Boston. At first, the Yanks are still waiting on Greg Bird and wondering what they have in second-half star Luke Voit. Bird has looked spectacular at times ... But he's been abysmal, too – he batted .199 in 272 at-bats in 2018.

Outfield: [Giancarlo] Stanton led the Yanks in homers (38), RBIs (100) and runs (102) ... yet there's a narrative of disappointment. He's a metaphor of sorts for the 2018 Yankees – very good overall but not good enough. Stanton, 29, struck out 211 times, showing a penchant for chasing pitches. ... [Aaron Judge] missed 50 games in 2018 with a chip fracture in his right wrist but sparkled while in the lineup (.919 OPS, 27 homers) and should be just as lethal, now that his wrist is fully healed. Switch-hitter Aaron Hicks ... could be a monster in 2019, if he stays healthy.

Catching: The Yankees need a bounce-back from the squatting enigma that is Gary Sanchez. The thunder in his bat makes him a potential game-wrecker every night, but he was a liability behind the plate in 2018, leading MLB with 18 passed balls despite catching only 76 games.

Management: A year of experience should smooth the strategy bumps Aaron Boone experienced in his rookie season. Boone, trumpeted for his ability to communicate, already knows the roster ... Now it's time to win it all with them.

Final Analysis: There's too much talent here for anything less than a deep playoff run and perhaps more than that. Winning the AL East might be key, because advancing past a one-and-done Wild Card game – although the Yanks have won the previous two – remains risky.

Opposing Scouts Size Up The Yankees: "This team is set up even better than Boston for the long term ... Yes, [Paxton has] always been somewhat fragile, but this team is so good, they won't need to run him out there for 200 innings. ... The offense lived and died by the homer, but when you set the all-time record for homers – and you've got Aaron Judge – you're living pretty good. ... [I]f only they could get Gary Sanchez to concentrate more behind the plate."

Beyond The Box Score: "No team hit the ball harder than the Yankees in 2018. Yankee batters had 124 hits with an exit velocity of 110 miles per hour or more. ... They also had the 12 hardest-hit balls in the game – 10 by Giancarlo Stanton ..."

February 24, 2019

Tracking A Claim: Will The 2019 Yankees Have "The Best Bullpen Ever"?

In his AL East preview, after citing the Red Sox's shaky bullpen, Will Leitch of MLB.com wonders if the 2019 Yankees will have "the best bullpen ever".

Leitch states that the Yankees possess seven relievers "who would instantly become the best reliever on almost any other team" - though he names only six pitchers (Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle).

Leitch states that the Yankees are "shortening the game to an absurd level". Of course, a team "can't entirely eliminate bullpen volatility", but the Yankees "sure have come close". The entire situation is "downright unfair" to all of their opponents. And ... here comes the kicker: "If you're behind by more than two runs in the fifth inning, you may already be toast."

You may need to sit quietly for a minute before we continue. I understand.


In the meantime, a short statistical sidebar: Kahnle's ERA last year was 6.56. On which MLB team would a guy with a 6.56 ERA (which would have been 8.49 if all his runs allowed had been earned), 1.63 WHIP, and 5.8 BB/9 "instantly" be the best reliever in that team's pen? Can anyone find a frigging minor league team anywhere where that would be true? ... I'm left thinking Leitch looked only at Kahnle's W-L record, which was 2-0.)


We okay? It's true that a trailing team might be toast at that point. You cannot argue that going on to lose that game is one of two possibilities. However, Leitch is not making that literal point. No, he's offering the unadulterated nonsense you expect to hear only from an ignorant (or drunk (or both)) MFY fan.

I will state with a high degree of certainty that the Yankees' record in 2019 with a lead of more than two runs in the fifth inning (or whenever the bullpen takes over) will not be some shocking historical outlier when compared to the other top teams in MLB.

In fact, this is something I want to track this season, like last spring's silly claim, made by several writers, that there would be many, many Yankee games in which Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez would all hit home runs.

So which bullpens should we watch this year?

There were six teams with bullpen ERAs under 4.00 last year:
Astros        3.30
Dodgers       3.74
Cubs          3.96
Diamondbacks  3.98
Rays          3.99
Red Sox       3.99
A seventh team - Cleveland - had a bullpen right at 4.00. ... The Yankees were a distant 10th, at 4.13.

I think we should stay within the AL (because those teams are facing DHs most nights). How about the four contending teams - Boston, New York, Cleveland, Houston - and the Rays? The big question is whether we count games in which these teams are ahead by at least two runs in the fifth inning (even if the starter is still pitching) or if we consider the score when the first bullpen arm enters the game. Any thoughts?

Also, apropos of something:

The 2018 Red Sox bullpen had more wins than the Yankees' bullpen (40 to 35).

The 2018 Red Sox bullpen had fewer losses than the Yankees' bullpen (16 to 20).

The 2018 Red Sox bullpen had two more blown saves than the Yankees' bullpen (20 to 18), but both teams allowed 32% of inherited runners to score.

2018 Record At Start of 5th Inning
             Ahead         Tied         Behind
Yankees   71-10 .877    14- 8 .636    15-44 .254
Red Sox   60- 7 .896    25- 6 .806    23-41 .359
2018 Record At Start of 6th Inning
             Ahead         Tied         Behind
Yankees   76-10 .884    14-10 .583    10-42 .192
Red Sox   78- 7 .918    17- 7 .708    13-40 .245

Will Leitch (MLB.com): Red Sox Will Finish 9 GB Yankees

Will Leitch of MLB.com predicts a 17-game swing in the AL East, with the Yankees improving by four wins (100 to 104) and the Red Sox sliding back by 13 wins (108 to 95).

In other words, Boston will go from finishing eight games ahead of the Yankees last year to ending up nine games behind them in 2019. Needless to say, I do not share Leitch's outlook.
It's easy to forget this now, but heading into last season, it was the Yankees, not the Red Sox, who were widely considered the heavy favorite in the American League East. In fact, picking Boston to win the division became a sort-of indicator of hipster contrarianism; sure, the Yankees just brought in Giancarlo Stanton, but Boston might be pretty good too ...

It turned out that Boston was indeed quite good: 108 wins, the most in franchise history, and a blitz through the playoffs, losing just three postseason games en route to its fourth World Series title in the last 14 years. The 2018 Boston Red Sox were one of the best teams of your lifetime. All that's left for them to assure their immortality is to go out and win another one, becoming the first team this century to repeat.

Yet you still see the Yankees as a popular offseason pick to win the division, thanks largely to their additions and, mostly, the lack thereof from the Red Sox. That's how good the AL East is: A team wins 108 games, coasts to a title and brings everybody back ... and it still isn't the popular pick to win the division. ...

Boston Red Sox

Can they keep the party going? ...

While the Yankees went out and secured what could be one of the deepest bullpens in recent baseball history, the Red Sox waved goodbye to Joe Kelly and (apparently) Craig Kimbrel and have replaced them with ... no one. Seriously, the bullpen was the Sox's major worry last season, and they've brought back the same 'pen minus its two best October pieces. There's some debate as to whom the closer will be ... But frankly, just getting to the closer looks like a challenge here. ... [I]f the Red Sox struggle this year, this will be why.

The Red Sox offense was ludicrous in 2018, and most of their stars are either entering or are smack in the middle of their primes. The top four of Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts is a gauntlet no pitcher wants to see to start a game ...

But things go sideways during a season sometimes, particularly because of injury. What do the Red Sox do if any of their stars go down, either in the lineup or the rotation? They're insanely good, but they're not deep enough to withstand multiple injuries. ... Everything went right for the Red Sox last year. But it doesn't usually go that smoothly.

New York Yankees

The much-hyped combination of Judge and Giancarlo Stanton (and Gary Sanchez) didn't get to fully play out last year, largely because injuries limited Judge to 112 games. ... -[I]f he can get back to 150 games, the Yankees can be the Yankees they were supposed to be all along. ... Considering the Yankees still won 100 games last year, they could be leaping into quite rareified air indeed.

The Yankees have gone an unusually long time without a true shutdown ace ... [I]t'd sure be nice if [James Paxton] were the 2017, 2.98 ERA Paxton rather than the 2018, 3.76 ERA version. The good news is that his strikeout rate went up last year while his walk rate stayed steady; it's his home run rate going up that hurt him. ...

The Yankees have, oh, seven bullpen arms who would instantly become the best reliever on almost any other team in the sport. ... If you're behind by more than two runs in the fifth inning, you may already be toast. ... You can't entirely eliminate bullpen volatility. But the Yankees sure have come close.

Predicted standings
New York Yankees   104- 58
Boston Red Sox      95- 67
Tampa Bay Rays      90- 72
Toronto Blue Jays   72- 90
Baltimore Orioles   50-112
Two other bits: The Blue Jays had five sacrifice bunts last year - the fewest since 1894, when sacrifice bunts were first counted. (They had only two in their first 105 games.) Three other teams had fewer than 10 sac bunts in 2018: Athletics 6, Angels 7, Red Sox 7. "Can they get it down to four? Three? Absolute zero?" ... Rays manager Kevin Cash says his rotation will consist of three starters and two openers.

Okay, actually three bits ... but that's my next post.

February 23, 2019

Red Sox 8, Yankees 5 (Standing Like Greyhounds In The Slip)

Yankees - 120 000 020 - 5 13  2
Red Sox - 015 000 02x - 8 13  0
Baseball's reigning champions began 2019's Grapefruit League schedule by dispatching their long-time rivals in an off-hand manner likely to be replicated many times over the summer.

The Red Sox's day unfolded thusly: Come out, bask in the sun, realize the Yankees have a quick 3-0 lead, decide to start paying attention, score five runs in the third inning, replace New York's three-run lead with one of their own, know the MFY won't be doing shit for the rest of the afternoon, relax and enjoy the next two hours, barely notice when the Yankees get a couple of additional runs, promptly do the same, and whatever...

Michael Chavis, Rafael Devers, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Bryce Brentz each had two hits. Chavis hit a three-run homer.

The game is afoot.

February 22, 2019

Pedro And Sale Impressed With Rodriguez's Early Pitches; Red Sox Play Their First Game Today

Eduardo Rodriguez is already throwing filth in spring training, judging from the reactions of Chris Sale and Pedro Martinez.

Sale has been helping EdRo develop his slider and Pedro liked what he saw: "That's ridiculous. Just ridiculous. ... That was one of the most impressive BPs that you could see. No hesitation, no stopping. It was beautiful to watch."

It's exciting to hear Pedro's words because maybe this is the year that Rodriguez - who turns 26 on April 7 - will consistently display the brilliance we have seen from time to time over his four seasons in Boston:
I see for the first time he is demanding more out of every pitch. He's asking for more and more. He's making good quality pitches, but he wants to improve them. ... Eddie, I think, physically is more mature now. He understands his body better. He's understanding where he needs to improve. ... [T]his is his first time in spring training the last few years that he comes over and there's no worries [about his knee]. He can just pitch.
Manager Alex Cora (who has already offered the well-worn cliche that Rodriguez is in the proverbial "best shape of his life"!):
The work he put in the offseason is paying off. He's repeating his delivery. You ask any of those guys, everybody was watching. He's kind of like the favorite pitcher of the whole camp. When he throws live BPs, everybody is out there watching. [Why?] Besides giving him a hard time all the time, they want him to be great. They see it. At one point in their careers, Sale and Price were that guy. They're hard on him because they know how talented he is. Sometimes he gets caught up on who he wants to be. He wants to be Chris one day and Rick the next day and David the next outing. We want him to be Eduardo. ... When he has that combination of fastball up, changeup down, he's lethal. ... [It's] just a matter of him putting a whole season [together], and we do feel it's going to happen this year.
You've got Cy Youngs from these guys here. I love the way they treat me. Like a little brother. But I want to get to that point. I want to get to the point where I can be available to win a Cy Young ...
Steven Wright will work out of the bullpen in 2019:
Everyone is used to seeing, especially the way the game is now, 95-plus, so to have someone throwing a knuckleball, I'm already throwing 20 mph slower from everyone else. That can be a different look and a different viewpoint to the hitters.
We talked about it going into October. Everybody thought he was going to be the guy in October. Too bad he got hurt. But he can come in and give us three [innings], give us one. He does an outstanding job holding runners. It's tough on the catchers, but all of ours can catch the knuckleball, so I'm not worried about bringing him in with traffic.
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner says it is "extremely unlikely" that the team will sign Craig Kimbrel.

The Red Sox will play their first game of the spring today, against the Northeastern Huskies. Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal relayed some information from Cora:
Blake Swihart will catch, Christian Vazquez will DH, Tzu-Wei Lin will play short, Bobby Dalbec at third, Chad de la Guerra will play second, Sam Travis will be at first. Tate Matheny will be in the outfield, along with Cole Sturgeon.

Mike Shawaryn will start, followed by Darwinzon Hernandez, Domingo Tapia and Josh Taylor.

On Saturday, against the Yankees, the Sox will use Josh Smith, Marcus Walden, Travis Lakins, Erasmo Ramirez and, according to Cora "some hard thrower we'll have from the minor leagues that will shock everybody."

Cora added that Sandy Leon and Rafael Devers could be in the lineup Saturday against New York. Andrew Benintendi, Eduardo Nunez, Mitch Moreland and Brock Holt could play Sunday.

February 21, 2019

Nick Cafardo Of The Globe Dies Suddenly At Spring Training Camp, Age 62

Shocking news from spring training camp:

Boston Globe sportswriter Nick Cafardo suffered an embolism early this afternoon, collapsing outside the Red Sox's clubhouse. After being attended to by Red Sox medical personnel, Cafardo was taken by ambulance to Gulf Coast Medical Center, but doctors could not revive him.

Cafardo was only 62 years old. He had worked for Globe since 1989.

Dan Shaughnessy, Globe:
Nick Cafardo worked in a profession peppered with competitive souls, jealousy, and millionaire athletes accustomed to being praised unconditionally. One of the best baseball writers of his generation, Nick managed to cover the sport without generating any hard feelings. Everybody liked Nick. The man had no enemies. For a baseball writer in 2019, that's impossible. ...

Nick was the ultimate beat guy, the ultimate baseball guy. Major League Baseball is all about showing up every day for the full 162 games. And that's what Nick did. ...

"Nick wasn't even supposed to be at the ballpark Thursday," Globe deputy sports editor Scott Thurston said. "But he loved being over there. He must have been getting some material for the Sunday notes." ...

"I never saw the man in a panic," remembered [Globe photographer Stan] Grossfeld. "Not on deadline. He was smooth and steady and had a million contacts, all of whom probably smiled when he called them. He was a gentle soul. I never saw him yell or raise his voice. He was a newspaperman to the core." ...

What else can we tell you about the man? We teased him because he never had cash. He was forever borrowing your phone charger. He didn't wear shorts in Florida because he thought he had chicken legs. Nick thought the NHL was going to hell and blamed it on players wearing helmets (we thought he simply missed the Esposito brothers).

He was a routinely rumpled sportswriter, but when we saw him wearing a sharp blazer, we knew he was scheduled for a television appearance. Nick wrote several books and has a new one coming out this summer with Jerry Remy.
John Tomase, WEEI:
One of the first lessons you learn in the press box is that you'll encounter two types of writers: those who accept and encourage you from Day 1, and those who look right through you until you've paid your dues.

The latter camp outnumbered the former when I joined the Red Sox beat for real in 1999. There were a lot of crusty old-timers in those days, and it's not that they weren't friendly, necessarily, but they weren't going to go out of their way to point you in the right direction, either. They had a job to do, and it wasn't babysitting.

Then there was Nick Cafardo. I began covering pro sports at the Eagle-Tribune in Lawrence as a nobody with a freaking ponytail. He had no reason to pay any attention to me, but was immediately friendly, warm, and kind. ...

He also exhibited the ultimate sign of confidence -- magnanimity. We technically competed on the Red Sox beat, but those rare times I beat him on a story, he was generous with praise. I remember his indignation over a small story in the grand scheme of things, Red Sox right-hander Brad Penny calling in 2009 to tell me he had requested his release.

"How'd you get that!" Nick exclaimed. "I was working on that all day and then that (expletive) called you!?!"


"Nice job."
Various tweets, posted at SoSH:
Peter Gammons‏, @pgammo: "I don't know what to say when a longtime friend, colleague and sidekick, Nick Cafardo, passes away so tragically. It is a horrific, sickening day. For anyone who knew and respected him."

Steve Buckley‏, @BuckinBoston: "Nick Cafardo's passing has stunned all of us here in Fort Myers. One of the giants of our business, Nick was a kind, decent man who brightened the press box. As someone who sat next to him for more than 25 years, I can attest to his good nature."

Amalie Benjamin, @AmalieBenjamin: "I've been stunned since I heard. Nick could not have been nicer to me when I was just starting out at the Globe. He was a wonderful beat partner for years and, of course, will be missed. My thoughts are with his family."

Andrew Marchand, @AndrewMarchand: "Tragic news about a great man, Nick Cafardo. Nick was not only a top reporter, but always a friendly face at Fenway or Yankee Stadium."

Bob Nightengale‏, @BNightengale: "I absolutely loved this man. Nick Cafardo was one of the greatest people I've ever met in this business, and such a dear friend. Absolutely heartbreaking. The sports world lost a great one, and I can't tell you how much we will miss him."

Keith Olbermann, @KeithOlbermann: "Nightmare news from spring training. He was one of the true good guys - with everybody. #RipNick"

Mike Lupica, @MikeLupica: "There are simply no proper words to describe the sudden loss of Nick Cafardo today. There was no one in our business more respected. There was no one who was ever better company at the ballpark. He was a wonderful writer, and even more of a gent. Too young, far too soon."

Tim Kurkjian, @Kurkjian_ESPN: "We are crushed. They don’t get better personally and professionally than Nick Cafardo. Rest In Peace, my friend."

Seth Mnookin, @sethmnookin: "This is so, so sad. I met Nick 15 yrs ago when I first wrote about @RedSox; he was always kind, patient, & his passion for baseball shone through everything he wrote. The outpouring of grief from colleagues & baseball players alike says everything. Condolences to family/friends."

February 15, 2019

Pedroia Arrives Cautiously Optimistic, Mookie Believes He Can Improve, Price Plans To Repeat Himself, Radio Booth Installs Revolving Door

Dustin Pedroia played only three games last season, going 1-for-11 in late May. Now 35 years old, FY is preparing for his 14th major league season with a cautious optimism. (Video of his first BP session.)
I don't have any restrictions right now. I just have to be smart, that's the thing. I don't need to take 100 ground balls. I need to take the amount that it takes for me to get ready for the game and stop, to just limit my time on my feet and make sure that I'm always staying on top of things to stay healthy. ... I appreciate him [Alex Cora] doing that [batting Pedroia leadoff on Opening Day]. He better not give me too many days hitting leadoff, I might stay there. ... I have to be smart because if I play out of control or do something, I could wake up the next day and it could be bad. I don't want to work for as long as I have to mess that up. I know everyone thinks I'm crazy and I won't listen to anybody, but that's not the case.
Pedroia said the unorthodox cartilage restoration surgery on his left knee may not have been the best option.
I don't regret doing it, but looking back and knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have done it. ... [Instead, I might] change rehab styles, treatment styles, things like that. It's a complicated surgery. The cartilage in my knee is great now, but the graft is the thing. You're putting somebody else's bone in your body. To get that to incorporate fully ... going into it I didn't know all that stuff. I thought they were like, "You tore this, we can fix it." I'm like, "Oh, that sounds great." But I didn't know.
Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, acknowledges that even though the medical reports on Pedroia are good, "we're hopeful he's a 125-game player at this point".

Mookie Betts won the AL MVP last year and says there is room for improvement.
Just being consistent. Obviously, you're going to have your ups and your downs, but the more ups I can have and the quicker the downs are, the better I'll be. I did a pretty good job with that last year. So I have to do it again. It's tough to do again.
Jackie Bradley also hopes to improve - in the outfield. Really. JBJ won his first Gold Glove last year, but thinks 2018 was likely his worst in the field.
[I]t goes to show that sometimes what you think might not be accurate. But I think I can get better and learn some things and still continue to grow. ... You never want to talk about individual awards, but it's something [the Gold Glove] that I always wanted ... It's something that I've dreamed of getting one day ... I love trying to keep guys from advancing an extra base. I think that's very vital in today's game, when 90 feet is at a premium.
Chris Sale will be a free agent after this season and he like to stay in Boston.
This is a special group of people. A very special city and an unbelievable fan base. Not to mention the fact that we've got a hell of a team and we're going to have that team for a few years to come. It's a good place for me, it's a good spot. I love playing here. I'd love to keep playing here.
Xander Bogaerts will also be eligible for free agency next winter.
The Red Sox have treated me well throughout my career. It's a place that anyone and everyone would want to play or stay. Boston is an amazing city. All the teams, all they do is win. It would be weird (to leave) because this is the only uniform I've known.
During the offseason, the Red Sox talked with Bogaerts about a contract extension, but as Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal reports, "the talks went nowhere [and] the two sides have not spoken since then". Also from McAdam:
When Alex Cora was reminded that the Sox don't have a shortstop capable of replacing Bogaerts in 2020, the manager rolled his eyes.

"It's day three, bro," he said. "I'm not even thinking about that."
David Price:
When Cora hugged me on the field right after we won, the first thing I said to him was, "I want to do it again next year." I think the first time you ever go through something like that, you don't really grasp what's going on and get to enjoy it the way you should enjoy that moment. ... [T]he season ended the way we all wanted it to, and then it's kind of over. You get to spend the next two or three days with the guys but after that, you're back to normal life ... So to get back with everybody, it brings back all the memories. Everybody is talking about it and it's enjoyable. ... I didn't come here to win one World Series. I came here to win multiple World Series.
If you are wondering why Price is now wearing #10, click here.

Steven Wright also had left knee surgery and is not yet fully recovered.
I had a pretty big cleanup (to remove scar tissue). I started throwing last week and I'm trying not to do too much, too soon. It's a long year, so I just want to make sure than when I do come back, I don't have to worry about on-and-off the DL ... I've still got some strength to build up. I'm not babying it, but I want to make sure we do it right. ... I don't think I'm ever going to feel 100 percent again ... but we're trying to get as close to that as we can and staying consistent with it.
Ian Browne, MLB.com:
The last 18 teams who tried to repeat went 0-for-18. Only two of them (2001 Yankees, 2009 Phillies) made it back to the World Series. Five of them (including the 2008 Red Sox) lost in the League Championship Series. Two (including the 2005 Red Sox) bowed out in the Division Series. And you might be surprised to know that nine of the 18 (including the 2014 Red Sox) didn't even make the playoffs.
Joe Castiglione will spend his 37th season in the Red Sox radio booth with a rotating group of at least eight different announcers. Entercom announced that Sean McDonough, Josh Lewin, Mario Impemba, Chris Berman, Lou Merloni, Dale Arnold, Tom Caron, and Dave O’Brien will all team up with Castiglione on WEEI in 2019.

Why won't Berman go back back back back back to wherever he came from? ... He's the one guy who can make me beg and plead for the opportunity to listen to Dave O'Brien.

Castiglione does not agree with me (not publicly, at least): "They're all good baseball people. It should flow well."

McDonough, who called Red Sox games on TV from 1988-2004, will be in the booth for about 30 games, including one of the first games against the Yankees (either April 16 or 17).
It's nice to be back in the Red Sox fold ... I didn't want to leave 15 years ago, but in many ways, it was a good thing that I did, because it enabled me to do a lot of things that I otherwise wouldn't have done – the U.S. Open, British Open. ... My path has been winding and interesting, and I'm glad it's brought me back to this place – particularly at this time.
Lewin has called MLB, NFL and NHL games since the mid-90s. He says when someone gives you an opportunity like this, "you fly to it like a moth to a light".
No offense to the Milwaukee Brewers, but if I was telling (my wife), "Hey, honey, I'm going to be spending 50 or 60 days away from you this year to call Brewers games", she would probably raise her eyebrows. But she's enough of a baseball fan to go, "The Red Sox? Go."
Someone Named Alex Bregman said: "After watching the Patriots win and with the Red Sox beating us last year, there's no other city that I would like to beat more this year than Boston." ... Bregman? Who is he, again?

Lars Anderson, writing for The Athletic:
On​ a cool February morning​ in 2007, I finished packing​ my​ signing bonus-funded​ Toyota FJ​ Cruiser (which​ I still​ drive),​ hugged my​​ father goodbye, and drove away from my childhood home in Fair Oaks, Calif.

The destination: Fort Myers, Fla.

The purpose: My first spring training as a member of the Boston Red Sox. I was 19. ...

Memory is a funny thing: I couldn't tell you what I did last Tuesday, but I can still recall the most innocuous minutiae from that trip: The smell of the frozen morning air outside of Flagstaff, Ariz.; the taste of a midday coffee in Amarillo, Texas; the terror when my SUV got stuck in a foot of snow on an abandoned dirt road off the interstate in New Mexico where I had stopped to pee; the sound of Will Patton's voice narrating the audiobook of Charles Frazier's "13 Moons," as I drove through the Deep South for the first time. But most of all, I remember being excited. ...

At the time, I was totally oblivious to the fact that while my own beginning approached, other players were marching toward their ends. As I would soon discover, spring training was a place where careers and dreams expired at an alarming rate.
Anderson's major league career never got off the ground, lasting only 56 plate appearances in 30 games over three seasons with the Red Sox (2010-12). I became intrigued by Anderson way back in 2008 because he was so animated and effusive about literature.

Lindy's 2019 Baseball Annual: Yankees Predicted To Finish Atop AL East

Lindy's Sports - 2019 Baseball Annual
AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays
General Comments:
Yankees - As GM Brian Cashman put it, the Yankees were a "fully operational Death Star" during the Hot Stove season, adding James Paxton and courting some of the top free agents, including Manny Machado, to close the gap on the Red Sox. New York was 10-13 against Boston in 2018, with a minus-28 run differential.

Red Sox - The Red Sox re-signed playoff hero Nathan Eovaldi but otherwise had a quiet off-season after toying with the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers in their World Series run. Including their 11-3 playoff record, the Sox were a staggering 119-57, and the entire batting order returns intact. A 100-win season should be a breeze.
[Note: "Courting" free agents will not "close the gap" on anyone. Talk is cheap. Boston's summary sounds much more positive (as do the sections below), yet the MFY are picked to finish first.]

AL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees
AL Cy Young: Trevor Bauer, Cleveland
AL Rookie: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
AL Rookie Pitcher: Jesus Luzardo, Athletics

NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
NL Cy Young: Aaron Nola, Phillies
NL Rookie: Victor Robles, Nationals
NL Rookie Pitcher: Alex Reyes, Cardinals

AL Division Winners: Yankees, Cleveland, Astros
NL Division Winners: Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox, Rays
NL Wild Cards: Cubs, Mets
AL Pennant: Astros
NL Pennant: Cardinals

Red Sox
Is there such a thing as celebration fatigue? With a five-game dismissal of the Dodgers in the World Series last year, Boston notched its fourth title in 15 years.

Scout's Take: The great thing about Dave Dombrowski is that he doesn't worry about what could happen four years down the road and doesn't over-value their prospects. He's all about winning now. A lot of these young general managers, who never want to take a risk, could learn a lot from Dave. ... I'd be worried about Sale. His stuff was not the same in the second half. ... These guys do not give away at-bats when they get to two strikes. They find a way to put the ball in play. Betts is really, really good at that, and he's the MVP. What's that tell you? ... Not sure about their plan to go without a set closer. I understand there is pressure in other innings, but it takes a certain guy to get the last out. The safety net that is there in the seventh and eighth is gone in the ninth.

[Note: There has been absolutely no indication that the Red Sox will be "without a set closer" in 2019.]

Rotation: Chris Sale's fastball/slider combination is so lethal, hitters are challenged to square him up even if they know what's coming. ... [David Price's] fastball usage has declined from 74 percent in 2010 to 46 percent in 2018. ... Rick Porcello, a sinkerballer earlier in his career, threw his slider a career-high 24 percent of the time last season. He needs to do a better job of keeping the ball in the yard after allowing 88 homers over the past three seasons. That's the third-highest long-ball rate in the majors since 2016, behind James Shields and Mike Fiers.

Catcher: [Sandy] Leon's 3.52 catcher's ERA since 2016 leads the AL and ranks second in the majors, behind Yasmani Grandal, in that span. ... [Christian] Vazquez's career 39.4-percent caught-stealing rate (52-for-132) is the best among active catchers (minimum 100 games).

Infield: Of [Mitch Moreland's] 99 hits last season, 67 were up the middle or the other way. ... Xander Bogaerts, the first Red Sox shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra to drive in 100 runs in a season, is a disciplined hitter with a solid two-strike approach, but his defensive metrics are below average. Third baseman Rafael Devers ... is one of seven MLB players since 2000 to have hit 30-plus homers in 175 or fewer games before age 22.

Outfield: [Mookie Betts] ranked sixth in the AL with 4.2 pitches per plate appearance last season, and his 64.4-percent rate of pitches taken was second only to Joe Mauer. ... [Andrew Benintendi] has an impressive ability to control his heart rate and stick to a plan in big spots. His .329 batting average in "close and late" situations and .338 mark with runners in scoring position ranked among the top 10 in the AL last season. Boston's starting outfielders ... stole 68 bases in 78 attempts last year, an 87-percent success rate.

[Note: No heart-rate control stats were provided.]

Dombrowski's emphasis on the here-and-now has put a crimp in a farm system that once ranked among the game's elite. But the Red Sox have enough money - and enough key players under control for the foreseeable future - to buy time as they restock the talent pipeline for the long haul.
A 100-win season, a major league-record 267 home runs and 3.4 million in attendance would typically be cause for euphoria ... but the abrupt ending to the 2018 season left [the Yankees] with an empty feeling inside.

The Yankees were feeling awfully good about themselves after Game 2 of the American League Division Series. ... Aaron Judge [walked] past the [Red Sox] clubhouse ... with "New York, New York" blaring on his boombox. In the world of competitive gamesmanship, this is typically known as "poking the bear." The Red Sox responded with a 16-1 blowout in New York ... and the Yankees were ultimately resigned to watching their historical rivals storm past Houston and Los Angeles for a title.

Scout's Take: Yes, they hit a ton of homers and beat up a lot of No. 4 and 5 starters. But look at what happened to them against Boston in the playoffs. They had no idea how to do anything but take big swings. They were not a good situational hitting team, certainly not as good as Boston. ... If they can keep Paxton on the mound, they've got a No. 1 starter. His cutter is almost unhittable. The problem is his health. He's never had a major problem like an elbow or a shoulder, but it's always something with him. ... Sanchez is a brutal receiver, but I guess they're going to stay with him. It seems like he's always running to the backstop to get the ball. ... They made a good move keeping J.A. Happ. He's smart and knows how to work around not having a good breaking pitch.

[Note: Yep, that all sounds amazing!]

Rotation: Luis Severino was making a strong case for Cy Young consideration last year when ... his 2.31 pre-All-Star game ERA ballooned to 5.57 after the break. The Yankees hope it was just fatigue ... Paxton has averaged 24 starts and 139 innings over the past three seasons, so the Yankees might have to come up with a creative conservation plan to get him through October.

Catcher: Is Gary Sanchez approaching a crossroads at age 26? ... [H]is laissez faire defense became harder to abide when he missed an extended period last season because of a groin injury and slashed .186/.291/.406. The Yankees don't have enough free DH at-bats to go around, so Sanchez is going to have to apply himself and figure it out defensively.

Infield: Didi Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery last October and probably won't be back until the All-Star break, at the earliest. The Yankees took a one-year flyer on the perennially injured Troy Tulowitzki to fill the void. Tulo didn't play at all in 2018 ... Third baseman Miguel Andujar [is] considered a liability with the glove, but scouts think the raw materials are there for him to become a passable defender.

[Note: Reminds me of the quote attributed to Casey Stengel: "See that fella over there? He's 20 years old. ... In 10 years he's got a chance to be 30."]

Outfield: Judge's ground-ball rate spiked from 35 to 42 percent last year, and he needs to get the ball airborne more consistently ... Injury magnet Jacoby Ellsbury has two years left on his $153 million contract, and the Yankees and their fans are counting the days.

Designated Hitter: [Giancarlo] Stanton [who struck out a whopping 211 times last year] is prone to ungodly hot stretches followed by extended periods of flying open, chasing fastballs up in the zone and looking completely lost. The Yankees have to hope he'll put less pressure on himself ... otherwise they might get a little antsy about the guaranteed $270 million still due him.

[Aaron Boone's first season] ended on a sour note when he was pilloried for sticking with starting pitchers CC Sabathia and Luis Severino too long and failing to show the requisite sense of urgency in the Yankees' ALDS loss to Boston. Through no fault of his own, Boone is being compared with Alex Cora, who steered the Red Sox through his rookie season with barely a misstep. No one said it was going to be easy."

February 14, 2019

Go Fish

If you want to see some pictures of me ice fishing almost a half-century ago, click here.

If you couldn't possibly care less about that, click here.

February 12, 2019

White House Visit Update: If Trump Orders Fast Food, Brock Holt Has A Request

Nik DeCosta-Klipa of the Globe has collected everything various Red Sox players have said about visiting President Donald Trump at the White House on May 9 as World Series champions.

Team President Sam Kennedy called the visit "a great opportunity for the players", but has said attendance is not mandatory. So far, nine players have indicated they will attend, and three have declined.

Manager Alex Cora is tentatively going ("Sometimes you've got to show your face"), but admitted that his decision could "change tomorrow".

Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, and Rafael Devers are not going. Betts backed out last month with the Bartlebian statement: "I decided not to." ... Bradley: "I don't get into politics." He later tweeted he "still wouldn't go if Hillary was in office". ... Devers said he "wasn't compelled to go".

Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Eduardo Nunez are all undecided. EdRo is considering spending that off-day with his family. Rick Porcello said he would go along with whatever the team decides, but it was not clear if "the team" referred to management or his fellow players.

Chris Sale, Matt Barnes, Brock Holt, Sandy Leon, Mitch Moreland, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Blake Swihart, and Brian Johnson will attend.

Holt and Brasier are both "excited" to go. ... Hembree, who likes "everything" about Trump, said "Hell yeah". ... Holt cracked that he hopes Trump serves food from Chick-fil-A. ... Leon says going to the White House "would be an honor" since he supports Trump's position regarding his home country of Venezuela.
Re Chick-fil-A: Despite its laughable and easily-disproved claim of having "no agenda against anyone", the company has donated close to ten million dollars in the last decade to various anti-gay organizations and groups opposing same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ policies. Holt stands a decent chance of getting his wish.

Re Venezuela: Trump's band of sociopaths are the most recent US officials working to overthrow Venezuela's elected government and install a friendly puppet. Questions: "Why Does the United States of America Want to Overthrow the Government of Venezuela?" and "Why Venezuela Reporting Is So Bad" (aka Why Does the US Media Consistently Portray Falsehoods as Facts?) ... After receiving a phone call last month from Vice President Mike Pence, Juan Guaidó (a man groomed and cultivated by the US to undermine Venezuela's socialist government) proclaimed himself president of the country. The US media played its part, parroting the proper propaganda. The Canadian government played a large part in organizing this coup against Venezuela, a country that possesses - could this be relevant? - the world's largest oil reserves.

February 6, 2019

In Camp

At 11:15 PM (ET) on October 28, Chris Sale struck out Manny Machado and we began wrapping our collective minds around the undeniably surreal concept that we have witnessed the Boston Red Sox win FOUR World Series championships in the last 15 years.


What has the probable "Team of The Decade" been up to in the last 14 weeks?

Resigned: Nathan "Iron Man" Eovaldi (4/68) and Steve "World Series MVP" Pearce (1/6.25).

Acquired: Reliever Colten Brewer from the Padres for minor league infielder Esteban Quiroz. Brewer, 26 and a right-hander, debuted last year, allowing 15 hits, seven walks, and 10 runs in 9.2 innings. Six earned runs gave him a 5.59 ERA.

Departed Free Agents: Drew Pomeranz (signed with the Giants for one year), Joe Kelly (Dodgers, three years), and Ian Kinsler (Padres, two years). Craig Kimbrel and Brandon Phillips remain unsigned.

Claimed Off Waivers: Robby Scott (Reds).

Released: William Cuevas.

Signed to a Minor League Contract with Spring Training Invitation: pitchers Carson Smith, Erasmo Ramirez, Ryan Weber, Domingo Tapia, and Zach Putnam; catcher Juan Centeno; infielder Tony Renda; and outfielders Bryce Brentz and Gorkys Hernandez.

Signed to a Minor League Contract: pitchers Jenrry Mejia, Brian Ellington, Adrian Hernandez, Railin Perez, and Reidis Sena; outfielder Moises Barajas; and catcher Yorberto Mejicano.

Spring Training Invitation (non-roster): pitchers Josh A. Smith and Mike Shawaryn; infielders Bobby Dalbec, Josh Ockimey, Chad De La Guerra, and C.J. Chatham; catchers Oscar Hernandez and Austin Rei; and outfielders Cole Sturgeon, Tate Matheny, and Rusney Castillo.

Added to the 40-Man Roster: pitchers Denyi Reyes, Darwinzon Hernandez, Travis Lakins, and Josh Taylor; and infielder Michael Chavis.

Outrighted to Pawtucket: pitchers Austin Maddox and Justin Haley; and infielder Tony Renda.

Wednesday, February 13: Pitchers and catchers report & workout
Monday, February 18: Full squad report & workout
Friday, February 22: First game: vs. Northeastern Huskies
Saturday, February 23: First Grapefruit League game: vs. MFY
Thursday, March 28: Opening Day at Mariners

Two days ago, Peter Abraham of the Globe reported that every member of the Red Sox's starting rotation - Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez - was already in Fort Myers, more than a week before the official reporting date. After the Patriots won Sunday's Super Bowl, Sale remarked: "It's our turn now." ... (I think he means "It's our turn again"!)

The Red Sox have only one player among MLB's Top 100 Prospects: #69, Michael Chavis, third baseman. With Rafael Devers - one year younger than Chavis and clearly a better player - at third, Chavis's future is uncertain.

ESPN's Keith Law ranked Boston's farm system 24th (of 30) and Matt Collins of Over The Monster was not surprised. Law had zero Red Sox prospects in his Top 100, though pitcher Darwinzon Hernandez was on the "just missed" list. Collins notes that Law "always has very interesting lists that tend to part ways with the consensus" and he offers his thoughts on Law's 22 Red Sox prospects here.

Jackie Bradley will not be going to the White House on May 9. He is the third player to decline, joining Mookie Betts and Devers.

David Price has changed his number from 24 to 10.

February 4, 2019

Happy Truck Day!

Truck Day ... The First Sign of Spring!













Long ago, Jere posted pre-spring training newspaper clips from 1952, 1954, 1957, 1976, and 1984.


A Hike in the Ozarks, 1912:

February 1, 2019

Nick Cafardo: "I Enjoyed The Days When Umpires Actually Made Mistakes"

Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe, January 26, 2019:
All of the time-saving ideas for improving pace of play are negated by time spent on instant replay. Get rid of it. I enjoyed the days when umpires actually made mistakes, and when managers would come out of the dugout to perform a colorful and entertainin argument, as Billy Martin and Earl Weaver once did. The technological advancements have made the game more boring.
1. Cafardo, who is ensconced in one of the most prestigious baseball writing gigs in the world, admits his longing for those halcyon days when umpires made blatantly wrong calls.

2. Besides expressing his joy in watching teams lose games because of incorrect calls, Cafardo believes that umpires no longer make mistakes.

3. Cafardo does not realize that a hot-headed manager "performing" a "colorful argument" delays the game, often for a much longer period of time than a replay review.

4. While modern technological advancements have only increased and improved our knowledge of baseball and helped us appreciate and marvel at the myriad amazing things that players can do, Cafardo yells at them to get off his lawn.

(He also misspelled "entertaining" (or his editor failed to correct the mistake).)

Cafardo's moronic statement reminds me of something equally idiotic that Steve Lyons said on NESN back in May 2016. Lyons admitted that replay "really shows some of the flaws in umpiring, because they miss some calls and they have to be overturned. But ... I still think they get most of it right. And when they don't, well, sometimes you're supposed to lose."

Cafardo's Sunday column began thusly:
A few issues to think about as we move closer to spring training:

The rift between team owners and players is growing wider by the day as big-name free agents remain unsigned in late January. Both sides are on a collision course toward a major blowup and threat to future labor peace.

Will the Players Association take major action to protest what it feels is unfair labor practices by the owners? There already are some discussions on the player side on things they could do to get the owners' attention. One suggestion was a spring training boycott.
That's it. End of discussion. Cafardo does not write another word on this subject. He casually mentions the possibility of every major league player refusing to report to spring training - which is scheduled to begin in roughly two weeks - and believes, apparently, that typing the words is enough "thinking" about that issue. (Also, a boycott of spring training will do more than get the "owners' attention".)

And since this is a Cafardo Sunday Baseball Notes Column, he must include (as mandated by law):

Complaints about "analytics":
Older players bring clubhouse chemistry. They act as leaders and de facto coaches. They bring all of the intangible things that younger players can't offer until they've gained a little wisdom and experience. They offer things that analytic models can't always calculate.

[He also says hard-working, blue-collar, family-supporting, quotes-to-Cafardo-giving scouts can't find work because teams are being run by boring nerds.]
Unquestioning huzzahs for the Yankees:
When you ask the game's general hierarchy which team has won the offseason, a common answer is the Yankees. And with good reason.
Funny and inconsistent things:
The Yankees hate finishing behind the Red Sox in the standings and getting beaten by them in the ALDS. ...

The Red Sox seem to be in no hurry to sign a reliever. [then, in the next paragraph] There are still plenty of bullpen arms left ...
A ton of questions (instead of doing the actual research, interviewing, and brain-work involved in finding possible answers, Cafardo the Baseball Insider asks the reader, as if she is writing the column with him):
Imagine if the Red Sox didn't have 35-year-old Steve Pearce. Would they have won the World Series? ...

If baseball is a $10 billion business, why are so many teams on an austerity program? ...

Do we really think [the Red Sox will] be able to re-sign all of the players whose contracts are up for renewal over the next two years? ...

Could the Phillies wind up with both Machado and Harper? Or would they hold back on signing both so they can put themselves in position to sign Mike Trout when he becomes a free agent after 2020? ...

[A]re Gio Gonzalez or Ervin Santana possibilities for [the Yankees'] fifth [starter] spot? ...

Is the reason the Indians have shopped Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer more because in his new deal Carrasco will earn $3 million if he's traded before the end of 2019, and just $1 million after it? ...

What will the Orioles do with the first pick in the June draft?
Finally, there is this:
It appears the Red Sox have one more year to go for it.
After 2019, the Red Sox will no longer be allowed to try to reach the postseason. ... Damn it!