Tuesday, October 11, 2016
At 9:51 PM last night, Travis Shaw flied out to Lonnie Chisenhall in right field, and the Red Sox 2016 campaign came to an abrupt conclusion, as they were swept by the Indians three straight in the ALDS.
But it also marked the end of the stunning career of one David Ortiz.
Papi closed his career with 38 HRs and 127 RBI in his age 40 season. It was simply the greatest season any player has had to close a career. None of us wanted it to end the way it did, with the Red Sox losing at home and leaving the playoffs after just three games. But it did. I found myself getting emotional as the ninth inning was beginning last night. The Large Father is leaving all of us a million great memories, and most of them seem to flash back to me in the ninth.
Big Papi came out a few minutes after the game ended to salute the crowd that had not left, and had tears in his eyes as he took in their cheers one last time. He said nothing, as it was clear he was too choked up to speak.
The Cleveland Indians were just better in this series. They hit more, pitched better, and played better defense. This is a very good team, a team capable of going all the way to the end, and they have one of MLB's best managers in Terry Francona. They deserved to win this series.
Was this 2016 season a success or a failure? I would call it a success, no question about it. While David Ortiz is leaving, Mookie Betts is an MVP candidate and Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley have emerged as solid, dependable players. Hanley Ramirez had an amazing bounceback year, and Dustin Pedroia is still a force at age 32. (He should be made captain now that Papi is retired.)
The pitching, both in the rotation and in the pen, needs some fine tuning over the winter, but I would say the future looks bright for the Boston Red Sox. Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada will be stars down the road. There's a lot to love about this team right now. They are young, and like the Chicago Cubs this season, they may have an even better team next year after this early round loss.
After all, how could you not think this year was a success after two straight last-place finishes? The Sox went back to first place after two seasons of looking up at everyone else. The pieces are in places for a nice run for this team. I'm betting John Farrell returns as manager in 2017. I had my issues with him this year, but the late-season surge almost guarantees he will be back for another year at the helm.
The 2017 season begins in 174 days, as the Sox open at Fenway on April 3rd against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
I close with this personal note to David Ortiz:
Thank you for 2004. Thank you for 2007. Thank you for 2013. Thank you for giving me more thrills than I could ever have imagined getting as a Red Sox fan. Thank you for making my life in New York City so much more bearable. Thank you for everything, David Ortiz. Thank you.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:55 AM
Monday, October 03, 2016
A memorable 2016 regular season came to a close yesterday.
The Red Sox ended their regular campaign with a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, but most importantly, they finished with a 93-69 record and on top of the AL East. The 11-game winning streak gave the Sox the title, and they coasted in the rest of the way to win it, and will face the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS beginning Thursday at Progressive Field.
Where to start with this team? The Sox had the best offense in baseball, and scored 878 runs this year, and the next closest team, the Indians, were 101 runs behind them. The Sox led the AL in just about every meaningful team hitting statistic: total bases, hits, doubles, batting average, OPS, OBP and slugging percentage.
Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia finished second and third for the batting title, both at .318 (Jose Altuve won it easily at .338). And David Ortiz finished sixth at .315.
What can you say about Big Papi? It was a tearful, memorable day at Fenway, as we said goodbye to the Cooperstown-bound legend, as a bridge and a street were both named in his honor, and Red Sox legends from far and wide came to bid him adieu. His number 34 will be retired at Fenway next season. He gave all us fans a season that we will never forget, blasting 38 home runs, driving in 127 runs (tied for the AL lead), and making a strong case for AL MVP in final season.
He'll have competition for the award from one Mookie Betts, who hit 31 HRs, drove in 110 runs, and had an amazing WAR of 9.6. He also established himself as one of the AL's best outfielders, a man with an arm to be feared.
And the Comeback Red Sox player of the year? How about Hanley Ramirez? The fans were full of trepidation that Hanley was being moved to first base this year, but he calmed all those fears with some outstanding plays at first this year. (How about those two over-the-shoulder catches he made this past Friday night?) He looked like a natural at the bag, and made just four errors all year. And his bat was back, hitting 30 home runs, 111 RBI and batting .286.
The Sox also got solid years from Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. And isn't everyone excited to see what Andrew Benintendi will do going forward from here. More than a few comparisons to Fred Lynn were made with his late-season callup.
On the pitching side, Rick Porcello and David Price were a terrific 1-2 top-of-the rotation. Porcello made a great case for the Cy Young Award, winning 22, finishing fifth in ERA at 3.15, and excellent WAR at 5.0 and an outstanding WHIP at 1.01. The trade that Ben Cherington made with Detroit for Yoenis Cespedes was highly criticized last year with Porcello's struggles last year, but it doesn't look so bad now. Price struggled early on, and many a fan was wondering why the Red Sox got stuck with this guy. But Price got hot after the All-Star break, winning seven straight at one point and winning 17 for the year.
Steven Wright was a nice surprise, coming out of nowhere to win 13 games before that shoulder injury he suffered as a pinch-runner ended his regular season. Clay Buchholz was a Jekyll and Hyde pitcher for sure, and many fans wanted him gone after he was demoted to the bullpen. But to his credit, he hung in there, made some adjustments, and was simply outstanding in September.
The pen was a horror show early on, but was a big reason the Sox got hot in September. Craig Kimbrel had some struggles early on, but straightened himself out before suffering a knee injury in July, and was terrific after his August 1 return (although the final week might have you thinking differently). The return of Koji Uehara was exactly what the pen needed in August. It was a rough year for Koji to start with, and it looked like he'd hit the end of the line. But he was terrific in the 8th after returning. It allowed John Farrell to use Matt Barnes and Brad Ziegler in various roles, like the 7th or 8th and even the 9th where necessary.
I had predicted the Sox could win 90 this year, and they even exceeded that. The slump in the last six games cost them the 1st and 2nd seeds in the AL playoffs, and the offense slumped a bit, even during the 11-game hot streak. They can use these three days off to rest up for the ALDS and rejuvenate them.
11 wins to go, and it all gets started in Cleveland on Thursday. It should be exciting, and could be very memorable and special, as the boys attempt to send off David Ortiz with his fourth ring.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:10 PM
Thursday, September 29, 2016
As the top of the ninth ended at Yankee Stadium last night, the Blue Jays had lost to the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto, 3-2, so that made the Red Sox the AL East champions for the second time in four years.
Hyun Soo Kim hit a pinch-hit two-run homer in the top of the ninth at Toronto to give the Birds a much-needed win for them. And what happened in the next few minutes in New York, the Sox owe Kim a debt of thanks.
Craig Kimbrel came on for the save with a 3-0 lead and had nothing. Gave up a hit, three walks and was gone. Kimbrel has been very good since returning from knee surgery on August 1st and it was his first bad outing since.
Joe Kelly came on and got two quick outs, but gave up a grand slam to Mark Teixeira and it was over. New York was celebrating like they had just won the division, but they'll be playing golf shortly.
The Sox players entered the locker room depressed after losing a game like this, but manager John Farrell set the troops straight with a short talk how they had just won the division after such a long grind and how one inning should take nothing away from that. He was absolutely right, and from the there the party started.
Farrell became the first Red Sox manager to win two division titles since Walpole Joe Morgan won in 1988 and 1990.
Winning a playoff spot on a night you've lost is nothing new in baseball. I can't ever recall a team celebrating after a team beat them in the ninth on a grand slam. But Farrell is absolutely correct. The Sox went through a lot in 2016, and pulled away this month with the amazing 11-game winning streak. They deserved to celebrate last night.
I went on social media after the game and could not believe how many Red Sox fans were depressed over the loss, some even writing about how Kimbrel should be run out of town over this loss. Hey people, last night's loss will be quickly forgotten. Can you tell me who the Sox beat and what were the scores of the playoff clinchers of 2004, 2007 or 2013? Me neither.
The important thing is that the Sox have had a fabulous September, going 18-7, one of the best September's in their history. There is so much to love about this team, and to a man they want to win it all for the retiring David Ortiz.
Forget last night's loss. It's ancient history. Now it's time to fully look forward to next week's playoffs, which begin on Tuesday with the Wild Card games. Who the Sox will play in the ALDS is still to be determined. And there's still plenty to play for this week, as the AL seedings are still up in the air (Sox trail AL leader Texas by two games).
Enjoy the AL East title, folks. But still much work to be done.
And thanks, Hyun Soo Kim.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:56 AM
Monday, September 26, 2016
Back on September 15th, Hanley Ramirez blasted a three-run shot that gave the Red Sox a stunning 7-5 win over the Yankees, and ended a small two-game slide, and it sent New York reeling. But it started something really special for the Red Sox, and Hanley's blast may go down in Red Sox lore if it leads to bigger and better things.
As I write this, the Sox have not lost since, winning 11 straight. They have not blugeoning teams during this run, as they have scored as many as seven runs twice (in their first two wins). They became the first team in MLB history to score exactly five runs in five consecutive victories.
Four of the eleven wins have been won by one run, something that was a big problem for the Red Sox earlier in the 2016 season. The starting pitching has been very good, but the bullpen has been close to lights-out. The return of Koji Uehara and Joe Kelly has boosted the pen tremendously, and Craig Kimbrel has been nearly unhittable since he returned from knee surgery in early August. The Sox have held the opposition to two runs or less in five of the games during the streak.
The pitching has made the difference, and it was on display yesterday in St. Pete against the Rays. Eduardo Rodriguez had one of the finest outings of his young career, striking out 13 in just 5 1/3 innings. (That means just three of the Tampa Bay outs were NOT Ks.) But he threw 113 pitches, and John Farrell went to his pen for Heath Hembree, and he was spectacular, striking out all five hitters he faced.
When Hembree fanned his last hitter, the Sox had combined to strike out 11 straight hitters, a new MLB record, breaking Tom Seaver's record of 10 straight he set against the Padres in 1970. But the pitchers were far from through. Joe Kelly struck out two batters in the ninth, and the Sox had fanned 21 Tampa Bay Rays though nine innings, the first time in history that had happened. But since the game was tied at 2, the record won't count, as the game went to the 10th inning.
Dustin Pedroia scored in the top of the 10th on David Ortiz' double (in one of the craziest home plate slides you will ever see), and Kelly came back out for the 10th. He allowed two hits, but struck out two batters as well, and after Brad Miller lined to left, the Sox had their 11th straight win, and set an MLB record for most strikeouts in a 10-inning game, with 23.
The Sox are peaking at the right time, and now have a Magic Number of 2 to win the division (they have already wrapped up a postseason berth). It is also interesting to note that the Yankees, who have been eliminated from the AL East race, have an elimination number from the Wild Card race of 2. It is possible that the Sox could win the AL East and eliminate the Yankees from the postseason on the same night, possibly as early as Tuesday.
Boy, how sweet would that be?
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:33 PM
Monday, September 19, 2016
Last Thursday, the New York Yankees came into Fenway Park four games behind the Red Sox in the AL East race. And naturally, more than one pundit had to bring up that four game disaster of 1978, when New York came into Fenway and took four straight from the Sox and left tied in the division.
That, of course, is ancient history. Hanley Ramirez made sure there would be no repeat of that.
Hanley was a one-man Yankee Wrecking Machine, as he hit four home runs and drove in nine runs, as the Sox all but ended New York's chances of winning the division.
His first blast was the soul crusher, as the Yankees were one out away from winning the first game on Thursday, and had a four-run lead as late as the 8th inning. A win would have put them three games back, but Hanley's three-run blast in the center field bleachers gave the Sox an amazing 7-5 win.
Home run number two was on Friday, another bleacher shot to center field that put the Sox up 3-0 on Friday, and they coasted to a 7-4 win.
Ramirez hit the last two on Sunday night. The first brought the Sox back from 4-0, another three-run blast off the light tower in left. At that moment, I knew the Sox were on their way to a series sweep. After the game was tied, Hanley became the difference in the game in the bottom of the seventh, a bomb onto Lansdowne Street to make it the eventual final at 5-4.
The Sox had lost two of three to Baltimore coming into the series, and I was hoping they could take three. They won the four games despite having two of their starters not get past the fourth inning (Eduardo Rodriguez on Thursday and Drew Pomeranz on Sunday). The bullpen picked them up on both nights (who would have thought it now appears to be a strength), and the offense bailed both pitchers out as well.
The Red Sox are showing that no quit attitude in September with three come-from-behind wins against their archrivals. They wre down in three of the four games by three or more runs and came back to win. They now have a three game lead over second place Baltimore, and a four game lead over Toronto. The Magic Number to win the AL East is now 11.
For New York, it was a devastating weekend. It was series they could have won all four games, but blew three late leads to allow the Red Sox to take charge and win. They are four games behind Toronto for the final Wild Card spot, with three teams (Detroit, Seattle and Houston) in front of them. Dosn't look good for the Yankees. Their elimination number is 10.
It was a sensational weekend for the Red Sox, and now they head to Baltimore for four games. This four-game series win over New York may not be an historic one (I still like the sound of "Boston Massacre 2016" nevertheless), but quite satisfying nonetheless.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 5:12 PM
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Of course, I had a great reason for going there, as the Red Sox were playing a three-game series against the Padres. I have two dear friends who live in the city, Peggy and Ken Gartin. As soon as the 2016 schedule was set in stone, Peggy contacted me and said that the Sox would be playing in her hometown, so come on out!
I have been in San Diego twice before, in 2004 (when Peggy and Ken got married) and in 2007, the last time the Red Sox were in town. I think we know how both of those seasons concluded, don't we?
Anyway, Peggy and Ken were wonderful hosts, and they showed me around San Diego, which included a tour of beautiful Balboa Park. We also drove up to Los Angeles to catch the Padres play the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. It was my first time in LA, and I have to admit the park is very nice. (And the stereotype of the typical Dodger is true: they arrive late and leave early. I saw it for myself.)
Back in San Diego, we saw the Tony Gwynn Museum, which contains all sorts of Tony's accolades from his brilliant career, such as his bats, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, and many other incredible trophies and memorabilia he accumulated. (Unfortunately, there was no photography permitted, as asked for by the Gwynn family.) He is truly a revered figure in San Diego, at almost godlike status. (The above picture is the statue of him at Petco Park, which is stunning to see up close.)
Petco Park is truly a jewel of a ballpark. Everyone is very nice who works there, and the park is almost immaculate. Ken and I arrived for batting practice all three days, and I met many of his friends who came out for the series. It's been another tough year for the Padres, now on their sixth straight losing season. I felt badly for the good folks I met, as they support their team passionately. The Friars are still looking for that elusive first championship, and it brings back memories of those years supporting the Red Sox during their mediocre-to-lousy years, just hoping to see one in my lifetime. (I have also adopted the Padres as "my favorite team west of the Mississippi.")
The Padres won the first game of the series, 2-1, as Edwin Jackson outpitched Drew Pomeranz. Ken and I walked back to his house after the game, and we saw some homeless guys on the street. One guy looked at me and saw I was a bit down and said, "Don't worry, they (The Red Sox) will will the next two games." I had to smile at that, and as it turned out, maybe that fella knew something I didn't at the time.
The Sox did indeed win the next two, both handily by scores of 5-1 and 7-2. The Sox supporters came to San Diego like it was an invasion, and the park had at least 60% Sox fans all three days. There was a sense of good sportsmanship through the crowd, and certainly no fights of any kind.
If I were to ever live in California, I would pick San Diego in a heartbeat. Great climate and wonderful people. And I do hope the good fans there will one day experience a World Series championship.
I know Tony Gwynn would be smiling, wherever he is right now.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 4:43 PM
Sunday, September 11, 2016
It's that time of year again.
Sunday will mark 15 years since the World Trade Center was attacked by radical Islamic terrorists, and we lost nearly 3000 beautiful souls here, at the Pentagon and in western Pennsylvania. I will be at the World Trade Center remembrance for the 15th straight year on Sunday to remember all the victims.
And those of you who know me, I honor my dear friend Joyce Carpeneto every year on this blog. We worked together at Tower Records in Greenwich Village for over four years, and we also worked together at the company's distribution arm called TRIP (Tower Records Import Product).
Joyce worked for General Telecom as a sales rep after leaving Tower in 1998, and her company transferred her into a new office in the North Tower, on the 83rd floor. She had the terrible misfortune to be at the work that awful morning, and she and her 12 colleagues all perished. Nothing was ever found of any of the thirteen.
Shortly after I found out that Joyce was missing, I had a memory of her that came flooding into my mind. And it was one of the happier memories I have of her.
Right after I started working with her at TRIP, we were together in the Greenwich Village office we had. I was doing some checking of the inventory work I had done when she walked over to me and said, "Do you want to see some pictures of me with Alice Cooper?" He had recently done in an in-store appearsnce at the Tower Village store to support his latest album. "Absolutely," I said.
She handed me a couple of pictures of her with a few other Tower employees posing with the legendary rock icon. He had his arm around her and it was a great picture. But I will remember forever when I looked up at Joyce after I saw the pictures. (I really wish I had the pictures to share with you, but I don't have them.)
She had a smile from ear-to-ear, like this was one of the most special moments of her life. Even now, I can close my eyes and still see that beautiful smile she had. It always brings me a feeling of great comfort.
In 2005, I did a special recording for StoryCorps, which records remembrances of all kinds. And this was one for the 9/11 victims. I am very proud to say that my remembrance of Joyce is in the Library of Congress, and I also dedicated it to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. When the museum opened in 2014, they used three snippets I recorded for her interactive profile, which also includes many lovely pictures. The Museum picked my telling "The Alice Cooper Story" for its main snippet for Joyce's profile.
I have done many, many things in my life I am very proud of, but nothing tops this.
And I hope one day I can meet the great Alice Cooper and tell him this story.
This is the 11th year I have remembered my dear friend here on my blog. If you'd like to check out any of the previous years remembrances, please click any of the links below.
2006: Forever Missed. And Forever Loved.
2007: Never Forget. Ever.
2008: We Can Be The Ones Who Remember
2009: The Most Sacred Of All Days
2011: Ten Years After
2012: 11 Years
2013: No Other Place In The World I Could Be Today
2014: Always And Forever Family
2015: I'm The Lucky One
Please say a prayer for all the 9/11 victims today, all the first responders (especially the ill ones) and all those left behind with broken hearts.
I will love you forever, Joyce.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:10 AM
Thursday, September 01, 2016
They split the last six games at home against Kansas City and Tampa Bay, and got really lucky yesterday, as the offense bailed out yet another loopy bullpen decision by John Farrell. (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not use Junichi Tazawa in any high-leverage situation again. I'd rather see the ball boy coming in to pitch.)
The Sox are two games in behind AL East leaders Toronto, and lead the first Wild Card position by two games over Baltimore.
There's so much to like with this team, and we will now get to see young stud infielder Yoan Moncada, as he was recalled from AA Portland today, to play third base, which has turned into a black hole. Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill are struggling, so Moncada will get a chance to see if he can light a spark at the position. He'll join the club in Oakland on Friday night.
The starting pitchers had an overall solid month of August. Rick Porcello now has 18 wins, and is 13-0 at Fenway this season. The last Sox hurler to do that was Boo Ferriss in 1946. Porcello has turned into a reliable stopper of losing streaks. David Price continues to pitch strong, as he's won his last four decisions and he now stands at 13-8 with an ERA finally under 4.00 (3.97). Drew Pomeranz continues to impress. His last two starts against Tampa Bay were excellent, except for throwing a hanging curve to their backup catcher Luke Maile last Tuesday. He has a no-decision and a loss to show for it unfortunately, but he's become more reliable as he's gone on. Steven Wright has been a concern since returning from the DL. Yesterday he allowed four runs and four innings, and his knuckler was too flat too often. You have to wonder if he's hit a wall after his early season success (think Tim Wakefield in 1995).
The bullpen may still be this team's downfall. The only truly consistent pitcher in August was Craig Kimbrel, who has been terrific since coming off the DL early in August. (And manager Farrell, please let get a four-out save in important games.) Matt Barnes is wildly erratic, getting lit up last Sunday without getting an out. Brad Ziegler should be the eighth inning guy, no matter what. He's the Sox' most reliable bridge to Kimbrel.
The offense has its share of strugglers, with Jackie Bradley and Travis Shaw at the top of the list. Bradley went deep yesterday, but Shaw struck out four times on Wednesday, and found himself on the bench yesterday. Here's where the call up of Moncada is important. When the Sox brought up Andrew Benintendi in August, he immediately brought a spark to the bottom of the lineup. All eyes will be on Moncada, but the 21-year-old from Cuba has a rep for handling tough situations he's been in. It's the perfect time to bring him up.
I'll get a chance to see him play live, as I'll be in San Diego next week for the three-game series the Sox are playing with the Padres starting on Labor Day. I'll have a post about it after I return to New York on September 8th.
The Sox now embark on another long trip, three cities in nine days: Oakland, San Diego, and really big series in Toronto. The Sox return to Fenway on September 12th against Baltimore. Five wins away from the Fens should be a must right now.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:58 AM
Saturday, August 27, 2016
The Red Sox came off a road trip that saw them go 7-4 in 11 games from Cleveland to Baltimore to Detroit to St. Petersburg. I was hoping they could go 6-5 on the road. So why did it seem when it concluded it was like a real downer?
They raced off to three wins in the games against the Indians and Orioles, and extended a winning streak to six games. They looked like they might be catching fire (finally). But John Farrell singly cost the Sox the streak when he thought bringing in a washed-up Junichi Tazawa was a good idea in the eighth inning of a 3-1 game against the Tigers.
But still it appeared the Sox righted the ship, taking two of the last three games in Detroit, and winning the first two games against Tampa Bay. They were 7-2 on the road trip and it felt like an overwhelming success.
Then they lost the last two games against the Rays, and that problem that has plagued this team most of the year reared its ugly head yet again: failure with the bases loaded.
The Sox left runners everywhere on Wednesday's 4-3 11-inning loss. But Thursday's was even more infuriating. Drew Pomeranz pitched a solid game, going six innings, striking out 11. He allowed two runs and took the loss. In the sixth inning, the Sox loaded the bases with no outs, but came away with just one run, on Mookie Betts' sac fly. Hanley Ramirez walked, but Jackie Bradley, who has been in a prolonged slump, hit the first pitch into a DP to kill the inning.
As I write this, the Red Sox are an absolutely anemic 4-for-their-last 32 with the bases loaded. And they are hitting an astoundingly bad .212 on the season when the bases are full. (The league average is .262.) How can a team that is at the top of nearly all the major offensive team hitting categories be so bad in those situations? Only Tampa Bay is worse at .207. Can you imagine where the Sox would be if they were just at the league average with the bases loaded? Three or four games leading the AL East, in my opinion.
I was watching last night's game on NESN, and when the Red Sox had the bases loaded in the first (and they naturally scored just once, while two hitters struck out), Dave O'Brien may have said it best: "The Red Sox have the bases loaded, something Red Sox Nation doesn't want to hear right now." And by the way, can you remember the last time ANYONE on the Sox got a bases-clearing double? Hard for me to recall right now.
Andrew Benintendi's knee injury on Wednesday night also cast a pall on the end of the road trip. He made a base running goof that led to him being tagged and he awkwardly injured his left knee in the process. It landed him on the DL, but it appears he suffered no structural damage to the knee, and the Sox hope he will return some time in September.
One of the positives of the recent trip is that the starting pitching was excellent, and with one exception (Henry Owens getting hit hard in Detroit), it has become a strength for the Sox. But ominously, the offense slumped late in the trip against last-place Tampa Bay (just six runs scored in the last three games). You can chalk that up to the weariness of the long trip. But another nine-game trip that begins on the west coast next Friday is looming large. It's against two of the lesser lights in baseball (Oakland and San Diego).
The standings this morning show the Sox in second place, one game out of first place from Toronto. They lead the first Wild Card position by one game, so they are still in good shape right now. But a September that finds them on the road more than at home, and mostly against AL East clubs, will tell the final story of 2016. And they better find a way to drive in runs when they count.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:23 AM
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Many of you may or may not know that there was a time that the Chicago Cubs were a baseball dynasty, winning back-to-back World Series and four NL pennants in five years.
I can promise you that none of you reading this witnessed it live.
The years the Cubs did this was from 1906-1910. Now with the current Cubs on a rampage through the National League in 2016, award-winning journalist Hal Bock has released a book chronicling the early of one of MLB's most beloved teams in "The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty: Before The Curse" (Rowman & Littlefield).
The book is centered on those great Cubs teams that ruled baseball just after the turn of the 20th century. It features such Cubs legends as Moredcai "Three Finger" Brown, Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers (the last three being the infield immortalized in poetry as "Tinker-to-Evers-to Chance"), Ed Reulbach, Orval Overall (one of my favorite all-time baseball names) and Johnny Kling. (Mets fans of the early 1980s may remember that name well, as Mets catcher John Stearns broke his record for most steals by a catcher one year, and Kling's name has always stuck in my head because of it.)
Bock gives a comprehensive account of Chicago baseball of the 19th century, and how the Cubs reached the pinnacle of the club's success in the first decade of the 20th century. He also talks about the Cubs' two biggest rivals back then, the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates, which featued such baseball immortals as John McGraw, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner.
The book also accounts for the Cubs slide into mediocrity after those dominant years, and picks up with their NL title teams of 1918, 1929, 1935, 1938 and 1945. Five pennants but no championships for the Cubs since that last World Series title of 1908.
"The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty" also touches upon some of the Cubs legendary misfortunes that have befallen them over the years, such as the alleged "Billy Goat Curse" of 1945, the "Black Cat" incident at Shea Stadium in 1969, and of course, the Steve Bartman affair of 2003. (As a Red Sox fan, I can understand how painful a book like this is for Cubs fans to read.)
Bock also describes all the places the Cubs have called home (there were many before they moved into Wrigley Field in 1914), and a chapter on all those legendary players of Cubs history, like Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins and Ron Santo. Actor Joe Mantegna, a lifelong Cubs fan, does an interesting foreword to the book.
"The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty" is definitely a terrific read for that Cubs fan in your life. It will be mostly painful, but it brightly illuminates the time when the Cubs were a feared force in MLB. The Cubs may finally be shedding that "lovable losers" image they've had all these years with a dominating team they have in 2016. So, it maybe worth taking one more look back to see how the Cubs got to this point.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 4:00 PM
Monday, August 15, 2016
Thursday night's brutal loss to New York left me with a feeling that this home stand was not going to end well for the Red Sox. They had dropped a series at home to an inferior team, and a much more inferior club, the Arizona Diamondbacks, were about to hit town.
The Sox needed to roll Arizona, and they did just that. They scored 15 runs in the first two wins on Friday and Saturday nights, and did that and some more on Sunday, putting up 16 in game that Zack Greinke started for Arizona.
They got another splendid performance from Rick Porcello, as he went seven innings, allowed just three hits on 80 pitches, and is now tied with J.A. Happ for the MLB lead in wins with 16.
Mookie Betts sat out the last game against New York with a tight quad, and took the collar in his first two games back. But he exploded on Sunday, hitting three home runs (two three-run shots), 8 RBI and 4 runs scored in the rout. It was his second thre-home run game of 2016, and he joined Ted Williams as the only Red Sox players to accomplish that feat, which Ted did in 1957. Dustin Pedroia had his career fifth five-hit game, the first Red Sox player ever to have five five-hit games. (Shocked that Ted never did that.)
After losing two of three to New York, the Sox did what they absolutely had to do against Arizona. I was hoping for 4 of 6 in the home stand before the next road trip started, and got it. The Sox wake up this morning 64-52, 2 games behind Toronto in the AL East. They currently have the lead in the second AL Wild Card position, 1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit.
The Sox hit the road today with a makeup game in Cleveland against the Indians, then head to Baltimore for two, and then on to Detroit for a four-game weekend series with the Tigers, before concluding the trip in St. Pete with four games against the Rays.
This will be the second of the three long summer road trips the Red Sox embark on. They made a number of moves just today, first putting Steven Wright on the DL with that shoulder inflammation he suffered on the bases in LA last weekend. (Why the hell was he used as a pinch-runner to begin with?) He may just miss one start before possibly being back next week against Tampa Bay. Hanley Ramirez will miss three games as he went on the bereavement list. The Sox have recalled infielders Deven Marrero and Marco Hernandez and reliever Heath Hembree from AAA and sent Roenis Elias back to Pawtucket.
Like the last trip, I'm hoping to see the Sox go at least 6-5 on the road swing. The bats came alive this past week, and they need to stay alive on this trip if the Sox want to hang with the Blue Jays and Orioles.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:13 PM
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Last night was an absolute shitshow at Fenway Park.
The Yankees lost their starter, Nathan Eovaldi, after one inning, due to elbow soreness (uh-oh). So they had to patch together the rest of the game with their bullpen. Meanwhile, Drew Pomeranz would go 5 1/3 innings, allow just one run. He left with the lead, and you would think the Sox won this game easily, right?
The Red Sox had the New York bullpen on the ropes in the middle innings, loading the bases in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and came away with only two runs, both on ground outs. And worse, they had them loaded in the fifth and got nothing. The same old act in the clutch again. They left 11 men on last night, while going 2-for-11 with RISP.
Matt Barnes came on in the 7th and game went right to hell from there. New York scored five in the 7th and tacked on three more in the eighth to salt away a 9-4 win. Four relievers allowed eight runs. Putrid to say the least.
The Sox continue their slide to mediocrity. Going back to the All-Star break, they came out with 5 wins out of 6, with the high water mark being the 13-2 wipeout of Minnesota on July 22. They are 7-12 since. After the losing road trip that just concluded, I figure they need to go at least 4-2 on this homestand. Toronto currently has the best record in MLB since July 1, and continue to play good ball.
There is just no way the Red Sox can drop this series to New York and consider themselves players for October. The Yankees have long since raised the white flag on the 2016 season and are just playing out the schedule. You can't let a team like this come into your building and push you around. A message has to be sent tonight.
The pressure is squarely on the shoulders of Eduardo Rodriguez tonight. With Steven Wright missing a start because of shoulder tightness, Rodriguez gets the start a day earlier than expected. He's got to give the club a quality start, 6 of 7 innings at minimum. What we don't need to see is another start of him nibbling and getting the pitch count sky-high by the 4th or 5th inning. He's got to prove he's a major league pitcher who is here to stay.
And the offense has to back him up. Stop screwing around in clutch situations letting scoring opportunities go to waste. It's been happening way too often lately. The Red Sox will be without Mookie Betts and David Ortiz, who both left last night's game with minor injuries, and both are day-to-day.
This is a far more important game than it appears. Granted, the season isn't on the line tonight. But it is time for the team to man up and beat a far lesser opponent in their own home building. Another 11-game road trip is looming starting on Monday. The Sox have to dominate at home and split the game away from Fenway.
Time to start dominating. Tonight.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:06 AM
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
The Red Sox left Fenway over a week and a half ago having been swept by the Detroit Tigers, ending a losing home stand. They went out on the road and needed a winning road trip with 11 games on the West Coast.
They didn't get it.
The Sox lost no ground since the Detroit sweep, as they are still 2 1/2 games back in third place in the AL East. That's because neither the Orioles or Blue Jays were great over their past eleven games either. They went 5-6 on the trip, and had their "ace" David Price pitch three times, and came away with no wins.
He was sparkling in first start in Anaheim, going eight shutout innings. But the pen and defense melted down in the ninth, and it was a brutal loss. In Seattle, Price was excellent for seven innings, but he was clearly done in the eighth, as John Farrell left him in way too long, and the Mariners rallied for five runs and won. Another awful loss.
But the road trip finale was telling. The Sox were 5-5 and a win would have made it a winning trip and the team feeling better about things. The Dodgers sent a very erratic Brandon McCarthy to mound, and he was literally all over the place, hitting two batters and throwing pitches to the backstop. But once again, the Red Sox offense couldn't capitalize, scoring just two runs off him. Meanwhile, Price cruised through the first three innings. But he became unglued in the fourth and fifth innings, and the Dodgers scored six runs. Granted, the Sox made two critical errors that made three of the runs unearned. LA went on to an 8-5 win.
Price continues to disappoint. He sure isn't pitching like an ace. He sure isn't a stopper either. Price is 1-5 in games when he takes the hill after a loss. (Consider that Rick Porcello is 7-1 and Steven Wright is 6-1 after a Red Sox loss.)
But also the offense disappeared on this western trip. Jackie Bradley, David Ortiz and Xander Bogaerts especially struggled throughout the 11 games. In six of the eleven they scored just three runs or less.
As we stand this morning, the Sox are 60-50, 2 1/2 games back in third place. Hardly out of it, but they gained no ground out west. This week they play New York and Arizona at home, two teams that are pretty much playing out the schedule right now. This is where the Sox have to put it together and win at least 4 or 5 of these games. Starting next week, The Sox have an even more difficult road trip than the one they just completed. They open with a makeup game in Cleveland, and then head to Baltimore, Detroit and Tampa Bay. And they have no off days on this swing.
Another 11-game trip. We'll see where they stand on August 25th when it concludes.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:29 AM
Monday, August 08, 2016
The Alex Rodriguez Era in the Bronx officially comes to an end on Friday when Slappy plays his last game for New York and will be unconditionally released following the game.
His days as a player are clearly behind Rodriguez, and the Yankees are in complete rebuild mode. As of right now, they are on the hook for $27 million in salary through next season. It was clear the team had to dump him, and try to find the best to it for all concerned.
It was pretty much a farce of a press conference yesterday, with GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi praising Slappy to the skies. (Where was principal owner Hal Steinbrenner while all of this was going on? He was the one who ultimately pulled the plug.) A-Rod has sat on the bench since July 22nd, and the fact that he sat last week against the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he has enormous numbers against lifetime, was all you needed to know about what the Yankees were thinking about him.
He "retires" on Friday, and gets to go home and return as a special instructor next season, while collecting every cent of the $27 million still owed him. And that is clearly the most important thing to him, make no mistake about it. (Forget him coming up four home runs short of 700. I'm sure that won't keep him up nights after he leaves.)
It's interesting his last game is on Friday. I'm sure they came to that date because it allows a build up this week for additional ticket sales and TV ratings. How many empty seats would have been in the Bronx for two teams (NY vs.Tampa Bay) going nowhere this Friday night?
And those three games before his last one will be played by the Yankees at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. It will be mighty interesting to see if Red Sox management will even acknowledge Slappy's retirement. You know the fans will let him know how they feel.
I checked in with some my friends on Facebook and Twitter and tried to gauge how they felt about Rodriguez' Yankee departure. I think you can some it up in one sentence: "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out." Of course, there was an exception.
In many ways, the Alex Rodriguez story is a tragic tale. A guy with a ton of talent, who made some really awful decisions and went down some bad roads. "A million dollar swing with a ten cent head" comes to mind. He simply ruined his career and reputation by dabbling in PEDs, and earned a year's suspension for the Biogenesis mess he got involved in. I can't EVER see him being enshrined at Cooperstown. Even while both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens continue to increase their support year-by-year in the Hall of Fame balloting, I can't see A-Rod getting much support at all. You have to wonder if he'll even get 5% of the vote when he first becomes eligible in 2022.
As Red Sox fans, we all remember how Rodriguez was nearly traded to the Sox in late 2003, and he badly wanted to play at Fenway. But the players union wouldn't allow him to restructure his deal to allow the trade to happen (and remember, Jon Lester would have gone to Texas in that deal!), so he was eventually dealt to New York the following February.
I remember the media crowing the day the deal was done, about how the Yankees had one-upped the Sox yet again. I reminded all my friends that New York had just acquired a very good bat, while trading another very good bat away (Alfonso Soriano) and to keep in mind "A-Rod can't pitch."
Some times, the best deals are the ones you don't make.
And here's A-Rod, reminding everyone how many more World Series the Red Sox have won over his team since his time in the Bronx began in 2004:
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:08 AM
Sunday, July 31, 2016
The Red Sox had a terrible June, and they needed to get their act together in the month of July if they were serious about making a playoff run.
June concluded with a lethargic 4-0 loss at Tampa Bay, and the Sox were 42-36, 5 1/2 games behind the front-running Orioles in the AL East. The Sox went a miserable 10-16 in that month, but as soon as the calendar flipped over to July, it looked like things were coming together.
They got back home to Fenway and won 7 of 9 against the LA Angels, Texas and Tampa Bay, and then they hit the All-Star break. The Sox remained hot, winning 2 of 3 in New York, and won the first three games back home on another nine-game stand. They walloped the lowly Minnesota Twins, 13-2, and found themselves one-half game in first place, on July 21st.
Then all of a sudden, things took another turn. The Sox left a thousand guys on base in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota the next night, and then blew a lead and lost again, 11-9. The next day the Sox barely held on to an 8-7 decision, once again to one of MLB's worst teams.
And then the Detroit Tigers came in and swept the Sox, losing one game on a walk with the bases loaded. The Tigers are fighting for a playoff spot so they are a better quality club. But once again, the Sox were having trouble winning close games. In this series, they lost by two runs (4-2) and one run (9-8 and 4-3). I was hoping for a 6-3 homestand, but losing five of the last six made it 4-5. It also dropped the Sox into third, 2 1/2 games back.
The Sox then hit the road, and would conclude July in Anaheim. I figured they'd need to at least split the series. The Angels are long out of the playoffs, but were having a very good July. David Price opened the trip with eight stellar innings, but the offense could score just one run. Brad Ziegler came on for the save, and had been very good since coming over from Arizona earlier in the month. But the Angels rallied to load the bases with one out. Ziegler got a groundball to first, but Hanley Ramirez through one to the backstop to bring in two runs and give the Angels a 2-1 win.
The Sox rebounded the next night to win 6-2, and lost the following night, 5-2. So Sunday's game was an important one, as dropping three in Anaheim to start an 11-game road trip just wouldn't be acceptable. The Sox did absolutely nothing against the Angels for eight innings, and looked pretty lethargic in the process. But they rallied in the ninth, as Mookie Betts singled in a run, and with two outs and two on, Dustin Pedroia hit a ball off Huston Street over the center field wall and Xander Bogaerts hit a solo shot to give the Red Sox their biggest win of 2016, 5-3. (As a matter of full disclosure, I was writing a very different ending to this blog post, as the top of the ninth had just begun when I started writing.)
It was the biggest win of the season to conclude the month of July.
As July finishes up for the Sox, they are 57-46, 1 1/2 games behind in third place in the AL East. Overall, July was a successful month for the boys, having gone 15-10. They still have seven games on the West Coast, four in Seattle and three in LA with the Dodgers. I would consider a 6-5 road trip a very successful one if they can manage it.
And now we wait for the trade deadline to come, as it will be at 4 PM ET tomorrow. Will the Sox make a big splash, or just add a few more solid pieces like Brad Ziegler or Aaron Hill?
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 7:54 PM
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Today, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Both are highly deserving of the honor.
Griffey made it on the first ballot, getting over 99% of the vote, the highest in history. (Three voters left him off. Lord knows why.)
Griffey has a glowing resume, one that I will not rehash here. But Junior will be wearing something special as he gives his speech.
Griffey has a special relationship with the family of a firefighter who gave his life on September 11, 2001. Kenny Marino was one of 343 of New York's Bravest who perished that day, and Griffey was his idol. Shortly after 9/11, the Cincinnati Reds received an email from Katrina Marino, Kenny's widow, explaining who much Griffey was her husband's idol, and how much it would mean to her family if Griffey could hit home run that night against the Phillies.
He did just that, and it led to a bond between Junior and the Marino family. Here's more about it from 2004. The Marino family also has a website, where you can read more about Kenny, his legacy, and about the family's relationship with Ken Griffey: www.kennymarino.com.
As Griffey takes the podium today, he will be wearing a bracelet with Kenny's name on it. It will have been supplied by my good friend Vicki Chapman Peaslee of Bracelets For America. I got to know Vicki shortly after the 9/11 attacks, when she started the company. She makes bracelets in memory of the 9/11 victims (which she has since expanded for many other types of remembrances, such as for those who gave their lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). Every day I wear a bracelet she gave me in memory of my dear friend Joyce Carpeneto. It has become a part of me, and I can't imagine not wearing it.
Ken Griffey is without question one of the classier players ever to wear an MLB uniform. It's his special day today, and I'm sure his biggest fan, a hero named Kenny Marino, will be looking down and smiling with Junior today.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:33 AM
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Jackson, who was born in Arkansas in 1926, had a pretty good MLB career. He was brought up by the Cubs in 1950, and played in the All-Star Game twice, in 1954 and 1955. He hit .260 lifetime with 103 home runs, and was present on the club when Ernie Banks became the first black player in club history in 1953, and speaks glowingly about the late Hall of Fame icon.
Jackson eventually was traded to the World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers after the 1955 season. He discusses at length the fact that he competed for the third base job with aging Dodger legend Jackie Robinson. Like with Banks, he talks in reverence about Robinson, and the 1956 club, which made it to the World Series, the only one Jackson participated in in his career.
The book contains many fascinating stories, as well as the fact the Jackson is the answer to many trivia questions. He was the last Brooklyn Dodger ever to hit a home run (on the next-to-last day of the 1957 season), the first man to draw an intentional walk (when the statistic became official in 1955), and was nearly the last man to bat during Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956 (Walter Alston eventually chose Dale Mitchell). He's also a college football trivia answer, as he is the only man to appear in consecutive Cotton Bowl games with two different schools (TCU and Texas).
So, Mr. Jackson has a lot he can hang his hat on.
The book is filled with many great stories and old photos, one of my favorites is Jackson sitting on the bench at Ebbets Field with the Cubs in the early 1950s while manager Frankie Frisch is also sitting there reading a book. Jackson also poses with many of baseball's all-time greats in other photos, like Stan Musial, Ralph Kiner and Roy Campanella.
Jackson tells it like it is about the current game, and the one he played in as well. He isn't overly sentimental about the past, but it is clear how proud he was to have played for the Cubs and Dodgers.
"Handsome Ransom Jackson" is a very good read about one of those players who had a solid, if not spectacular career during one of MLB's golden eras.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:55 AM
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
The Red Sox ended the first half this past weekend with an important 9-game homestand that I figured would tell a lot about this ballclub.
I feared they would have a mediocre or lousy one, and especially with two of three teams among the bottom feeders of the American League.
But the month of June was put in the rearview mirror, and the Sox went 7-2 in those games to begin July. And it has no doubt taken a lot of the pressure off manager John Farrell. For now.
The two losses were brutal: the 21-2 debacle against the LA Angels, and the 7-2 loss to Texas when Craig Kimbrel gave up 4 runs while facing 4 hitters and the Sox left 14 men on base.
But the seven wins put the Sox back on course. The starting pitching has still been shaky (and will be addressed further as we get closer to the deadline), as the Sox staff allowed four or more runs in the first seven games of the homestand. But Rick Porcello and David Price both pitched gems in the final two games before the break, and the Sox concluded the first half at 49-38.
The offense flashed back to May, as they scored 10 or more runs in three of the nine games. Dave Dombrowski made a terrific move after the Texas series by acquiring veteran infielder Aaron Hill from Milwaukee for two minor leaguers. He immediately proved dividends by getting two hits and two RBI in Friday night's win over Tampa Bay. Hill is a terrific upgrade to the bench, which was very weak due to all the injuries.
And Dombrowski upgraded the pen by trading for veteran reliever Brad Ziegler from Arizona. He acted swiftly after Craig Kimbrel's knee injury landed him on the DL, and he will be back by early-to-mid August. Ziegler had 17 saves for the D-Backs this season, and can fill either a closer or set up role.
It has been an up and down season for the Sox so far. They ended the first half with four straight wins, and are 2 games behind Baltimore in the AL East. 2016 has been a marked improvement over the last two years, as in 2014 they were 9 games under .500 and 9 1/2 games back at the break, and last year were five games under .500 and 6 1/2 games out of first.
The Red Sox will play at home for most of the rest of July, but have a tough schedule for August and September. 40 of the last 62 games will be on the road, and that will include two trips to the West Coast, one in August and another in September.
18 days to go until the trade deadline. The trades of Hill and Ziegler were both surprises. And I bet Dombrowski has more in store.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:01 PM
Thursday, June 30, 2016
The month of June was simply horrific for the Red Sox.
It ended with a flat 4-0 loss to the terrible Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox completed a six-game road trip where they went 2-4 in Texas and St. Pete. Losing two of three to the Texas Rangers is certainly no disgrace, as they currently have the best record in the AL. They started off the trip with a stirring 8-7 comeback in Arlington on Friday night, but it went downhill from there.
And Tampa Bay was on an 11-game losing streak as the series in St. Pete started. This looked like a series the Sox could get well in, with the remaining games before the All-Star break at home. They dropped two of three there, and really looked bad in the two losses.
Yesterday's loss ended the Red Sox' month of June at 10-16. On May 31st, they were at the high water mark of the year: 32-20, three games in first place ahead of Baltimore.
This morning, they are 42-36, just percentage points ahead of Toronto in second place, 5 1/2 games behind Baltimore.
To me, this looks like a death spiral. It happened the last two years, where a mid-season slump cost the team dearly and effectively turned the Sox into also-rans and a last-place team. I don't think it's as bad as those two, but they have to effectively stop this. And right now. There's no waiting until the trade deadline to bring in reinforcements.
The Red Sox now have nine games until the All-Star break, all at home. Three against the LA Angels, Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay. They realistically need to take six of these games, as two of these opponents are AL also-rans. Another home stand of them going 3-6 or 4-5 and it might be time to make a change at the top.
I have long been a John Farrell supporter, but no longer. This team needs a jolt, and they won't get it from Farrell. He's made way too many head-scratching moves (too many to list here). Yesterday on Facebook, I saw a fan post that the 2013 World Series win was a "fluke," and that the Sox were lucky that year because Farrell is a terrible manager. No matter how you feel about Farrell, the Sox won 108 games that year and deserved their title. You simply don't win championships like that as a "fluke." Every year is a different animal, and the last two have been simply awful. Everything came together that season. A whole lot of things went wrong in 2014 and 2015, and many are going south this year as well.
It is, of course, not all Farrell's fault. But since you can't fire all the players, someone has to be held accountable.
Farrell will always have the 2013 title on his resume, and I will always respect him for that, especially after the abject embarrassment of the Bobby Valentine Era club. But he will also have the last two years of finishing fifth on it as well.
It's time to move on, and turn the keys of the kingdom over to Torey Lovullo. The Sox know they have a good thing with him, as they signed him to a new deal after his very successful reign as interim manager last season. They didn't want him going to another club, especially if things didn't work out with Farrell or not. It's clear they aren't now.
I'm not suggesting that everything will right itself if Lovullo takes over. It's a club with many faults and he'd have his work cut out for him if he gets the job. But he showed last season he can do the job, if it was only for a short time. It's time to find out for sure now and put him permanently in charge.
The 2016 season maybe on the brink.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:03 AM
Friday, June 24, 2016
After the Red Sox took two of three in Minnesota on June 12th, I looked at the upcoming ten game homestand against three AL foes and thought it was one they needed to go at least 7-3 on.
It was against two quality teams, Baltimore and Seattle, and one that got off to a great start but had fallen off a cliff in the previous three weeks, the Chicago White Sox.
I thought the Sox could take two of three from both the Orioles and Mariners, and three of four from the struggling White Sox, who had lost 18 of their last 24 games, and were swept in Cleveland the previous weekend.
It was a miserable homestand.
Baltimore took two of three, but the Sox bounced back to take two of the three from Seattle. Chicago came into Fenway and took the first three games, two of which made Sox fans crumbly mightily.
The Sox had the bases loaded in the ninth inning with none out, and couldn't push a run across. You knew the White Sox would win, and scored two in the tenth to put it away. On Wednesday, they blew a 6-4 lead in the 8th as the once-great Koji Uehara gave up two long home runs, and Chicago pulled away, 8-6. Koji wasn't totally to blame, as the Red Sox left 12 men on base.
Thursday was like pulling teeth, as the Red Sox fell behind 4-1, and then 7-5, before tying it up in the 8th on a Dustin Pedroia single. Xander Bogaerts, who is making a good case for AL MVP, won it in the botto of the 10th with an RBI single.
Instead of beating up on a struggling team, the Red Sox managed to salvage a win on Thursday.
The offense is struggling. We all knew they weren't going to score eight runs a game and there would be a cooling off period. And I really don't want to see Hanley Ramirez mugging for the cameras in the dugout after hitting a home run. (Hit a few more Hanley, before telling the media what you really think of them.) Chris Young went down with a hamstring injury, and the bench is really weak. (Brock Holt and Ryan Hanigan are on rehab now and will be back very soon.)
The only two starters you can count on right now are David Price and Steven Wright. Rick Porcello is mediocre, and the fourth and fifth spots are a black hole right now. Eduardo Rodriguez was clearly rushed back to the rotation and belongs back at Pawtucket. And don't get me started on Clay Buchholz.
The pen is a mess. The only ones you can count on out there are Craig Kimbrel and Robbie Ross. Junichi Tazawa gave up another bomb on Thursday, but the offense bailed him out. Neither Matt Barnes nor Heath Hembree inspire much confidence right now, but then again, who else are you going to use right now?
The Sox are fortunate they aren't in a strong division. Baltimore has not run and hid, but Toronto is right along side them. As I write this, they are 1 1/2 games behind the Orioles in second place.
As usual, fans are screaming for changes NOW, but as I have written before, there's still a month to go until the trade deadline, and no team with any quality players to trade aren't in any rush to deal.
The Red Sox face the AL team with the best record this weekend, the Texas Rangers. They have a very favorable schedule in July, facing many teams under .500, like the LA Angels, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. They need to play decent ball between now and the deadline in five weeks and then bring in reinforcements. They have 25 games in July, 18 of them are at Fenway Park. And wasn't their home ballpark supposed to be a fortress?
It was a tough week to watch this past week. The team is 8-12 in June and need to step it up to stay in the race. Let's hope we aren't in the middle of seeing a death spiral that kills the season like we saw in 2014 and 2015. We'll see.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:15 PM
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
No matter what anyone says, Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader.
Recently, the great Ichiro Suzuki "passed" Rose on the all-time "world" hit list (if something like that actually exists). Ichiro got 1,278 hits in his nine seasons playing in Japan, and drove a single in San Diego last week that gave him a total of 4,257 hits, which would be one more than Rose got in his 24 seasons playing in MLB.
Rose was clearly not happy with the attention Ichiro was getting for it. But Pete should just calm down. I haven't been a Rose fan for a while now, as I find him a loathesome character who will do anything for money or attention.
But Rose is right here. As I write this, Ichiro has 2,980 hits in his MLB career, and that is all that really counts HERE. The leagues in Japan in terms of quality are really between AAA and MLB. They have sent many good players to the US, and Ichiro has been the best of the best by far.
So adding on Ichiro's hits in Japan makes no sense here. What fans should be talking about are his numbers he's piled up since his US arrival in 2001. He was 27 when he first came over, and is about to get his 3,000th hit. He will become the first Japanese player to reach that plateau, and he will undoubtedly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer six years after he retires (which I would bet will be after this season). The fact he got his first hit at the age of 27 and will get 3,000 is an incredible accomplishment, and he deserves all the accolades that come his way for it.
So Pete Rose should take it easy. Ichiro's all-time hit total doesn't make him "the Hit Queen" as he quizzically asked a while back. He is still MLB's all-time leader in hits, and will be for the foreseeable future.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:42 AM
Saturday, June 04, 2016
It was an historic night at Fenway Park on Friday night, as the Red Sox played their 18,000th game in team history, and it resulted in a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The record stands at 9,256 wins, 8,661 losses and 83 ties. That comes out to a winning percentage of .51655. That would be a record of 84-78 over an average season of 162 games.
The loss now means the Sox have dropped three straight, and are tied with the Baltimore Orioles for first place, as they won on Friday night.
Xander Bogaerts' 26-game hitting streak ended last night, as he struck out as the tying run in the ninth to end the game.
David Price went seven innings, allowed three runs and left with a 3-1 lead. Koji Uehara, who has been getting hit harder lately, gave up a two-run home run to Devon Travis in the eighth.
The offense could be an historic one this season, as the club has scored 326 runs (and no one is near them in MLB). But the pitching is shaky to say the least. The demotion of Joe Kelly means they currently have four starting pitchers. (Not counting Clay Buchholz, who has been banished to the pen.) They won't need to add one for two weeks, as there are upcoming off days which allow the team to go with just four.
The experts on social media are screaming for Dave Dombrowski to add another starter and help in the bullpen right now. The Sox have the prospects to trade, and have said they will add salary if they have to. But they have one thing against them right now, and something they can do nothing about: the calendar. Today is June 4th, and no team that is hopelessly out of it, and who maybe looking to move a quality arm, is in any rush to do it now. The prices are exhorbitantly high right now, as they would ask for only the A-list prospects. They will wait until the deadline of July 31st and see which team blinks and trades a prospect they wouldn't deal now. So don't expect any trades now.
The Red Sox will make some pitching moves, but it won't happen now. They will have to go the next two months with what they have in Boston and down on the farm.
The offense can cover some games that the pitching staff doesn't pitch well in, but they won't go all the way with what they have now on the mound. Keep the faith, help will arrive down the road.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:21 AM
Thursday, June 02, 2016
Mookie Betts had the games of his life in Baltimore over the last two nights.
He exploded for three home runs in the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Orioles on Tuesday night, driving in five of the six Sox runs. He hit home runs in the first and second innings, and became the first Red Sox leadoff hitter ever to do that. And for good measure, in the seventh inning, he made a headlong sliding catch in right field, very reminiscent of Ron Swoboda's catch in the 1969 World Series.
Now, how could you possibly top that?
Mookie did his very best on Wednesday night. He hit two home runs, and once again in the first and second innings! He became the first player ever to accomplish that feat in back-to-back games. He also tied the MLB record, held by many players, of hitting five home runs in two consecutive games. (Two other Red Sox players have done it: Carl Yastrzemski in 1976 and Nomar Garciaparra in 2002.) Mookie also hit the five home runs in just seven at-bats. And the fifth home run was hit after a pitch from Orioles' starter Mike Wright went directly to the backstop. For reasons unknown, home plate ump Doug Eddings, who had a truly rotten game calling balls and strikes, warned both benches. It really wasn't that close to Betts.
Last night's Mookie heroics didn't lead to a victory, as Joe Kelly had nothing over 2 1/3 innings, and was sent to Pawtucket after the game. Baltimore won, 13-9, in a game that will never be remembered for its pitching on either side. Nobody in the Sox bullpen was sharp either, including Clay Buchholz. He went 3 innings, allowed four runs (three earned) and walked four. He was definitely squeezed by the home plate ump, and a double play grounder that the reliable Dustin Pedroia booted. Buchholz may have "saved" the bullpen last night going multiple innings, but he took the loss.
Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a bloop single. David Ortiz continued his torrent hitting with another blast. But the night belonged to Mookie Betts, who now has 14 home runs on the season, and 42 RBI. He is now on pace to drive in an astounding 130 runs, and would be a new record for RBI by a leadoff man in a season. Darin Erstad for the Anaheim Angels in 2000 was the first to drive in exactly 100, and Jacoby Ellsbury holds the record for a leadoff man with 105 for the Sox in 2011.
Despite the loss, this continues to be an exciting Red Sox team to watch. The offense is on an historic pace. But the pitching is a little worrisome. I suspect Dave Dombrowski will be hard at work upgrading that by July 31.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:07 AM
Friday, May 27, 2016
Some thoughts about the conclusion of the Red Sox' latest homestand.
Jackie Bradley's 29-game hitting streak came to end last night at Fenway, as he went 0-for-4, hitting out of the leadoff spot for the first time in 2016, as Mookie Betts got a night off.
It was a great run for the centerfielder, who has now shown he is developing into quite a good all-around MLB player. His defense continues to be spectacular, and now he is second in the AL in batting at .341.
John Farrell put Bradley in the leadoff spot, and I thought it was a smart move. He was trying to get him some additional at-bats, and Bradley has hit in five different spots in the order during the streak. But still I saw yahoos complaining on social media that it was Farrell's fault the streak ended for taking JBJ "out of his comfort zone." Oh please. Bradley has shown he can hit from anywhere, and batted leadoff during his minor league career, too. Two of Bradley's at-bats nearly resulted in long hits, as he put both the rightfielder and centerfielder in front of the fence for long putouts. The streak was going to stop sometime. It just happened to be last night.
Congratulations to JBJ on a great month-long run. He's a star on the rise.
And now we turn to Xander Bogaerts, who got a single last night to extend his hitting streak to 19 games. He's one of MLB's premier shortstops, and like Bradley, his star is rising fast as well.
Now on to the negatives of last night.
Clay Buchholz is a headcase. And should be removed from the rotation right now.
He looked good the first three innings, retiring the first nine batters. But then the home run ball came back to bite him, big time. He allowed three two-run home runs, and it was 6-2 Colorado. Buchholz has now allowed 10 homers with men on base this season, the most in the majors. He was booed lustily after the third home run, and being removed after the first batter reached in the sixth. If I were at Fenway, I'd be joining in the chorus.
Buchholz now has a record of 2-5, with a 6.35 ERA. Eduardo Rodriguez had a solid rehab start at Pawtucket this past Tuesday, and the Sox will decide shortly whether to activate him next week. Now, I don't see where they have much choice. The Sox have three options as I see it with Buchholz: make him a one-inning reliever out of the pen (I really wouldn't bet on that), yet another DL stint (which he knows all too well) or DFA him. His contract is virtually untradeable. They are still on the hook for $8 million for the rest of 2016, and it's doubtful any team would take that on in a deal. (He's a free agent after this season, and the Sox hold an option for $13.5 million for 2017.)
Buchholz has had his chances, and continues to blow them. I'm wondering if we have indeed seen his last start in a Red Sox uniform. The White Sox DFA's John Danks earlier this month (and wound up releasing him) with a similar deal that Buchholz has. With Rodriguez' return about to happen, no one else but Buchholz should be moved out. We'll see what Dave Dombrowski does. Dumping Buchholz outright wouldn't surprise me.
I saw a great line about him on Twitter last night: "It was do or die for Buchholz tonight. He selected the "die" option." Ain't that the truth.
The Red Sox offense this season could be historic, as they are on pace to score more than 900 runs (which they last did in 2004). Allan at The Joy of Sox pointed out the Sox players are dominating the Top 10 in the AL in just about every major offensive category. And this is really impressive:
Batting Average: Bradley #1, Bogaerts #2, Ortiz #5
On-base Percentage: Ortiz #1, Bradley #2, Bogaerts #4
Slugging Percentage: Ortiz #1, Bradley #2
OPS: Ortiz #1, Bradley #2
Runs Scored: Betts #1, Bogaerts #5, Pedroia #7
Hits: Bogaerts #1, Betts #4, Bradley #6
Total Bases: Ortiz #3, Betts #5, Bradley #6, Bogaerts #9
Doubles: Ortiz #1, Bogaerts/Shaw #4, Bradley #10
Triples: Bradley #1, Betts #4, Shaw #8
Home Runs: Ortiz #6
Extra-Base Hits: Ortiz #1, Shaw/Bradley #5, Betts #7
Times On Base: Bogaerts #2, Ortiz #6
Runs Batted In: Ortiz #1, Betts #3, Bradley #4, Shaw #8
Runs Created: Ortiz #1, Bradley #3, Bogaerts #6
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 10:51 AM
Friday, May 20, 2016
It was 30 years ago today that Yours Truly went to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game for the first time. It was the first of the 25 times I have been to the historic park on Yawkey Way.
It was May 20, 1986 and I was going to the Sox play the Minnesota Twins at the legendary ballyard. I was going for two days, going to the next night's game as well, and staying at the Howard Johnson's right near the park. I got the tickets in a way you can't get them today: from Ticketron (now TicketMaster) that I bought from the machine that was located inside the Tower Records store in Greenwich Village I worked in. And I think I bought them just a few days in advance.
The park was amazing to see live and in person for the first time. I remember walking down one of the ramps on the first base side, and seeing the Green Monster for the first time. It took my breath away. I had a seat on that side of the field. There wasn't a huge crowd at the Fens that night, with just over 20,000 on hand.
The Red Sox had just gone into first place in the AL East a few days earlier (and they would stay there the rest of the year). It was also a marquee matchup of pitchers: Roger Clemens vs. Frank Viola.
Clemens had just set the strikeout record three weeks earlier, and had a 6-0 record coming into the game. The first batter I ever saw in a game at Fenway Park is now in the Hall of Fame: Kirby Puckett (he was a leadoff hitter back then). He flied out to right field. The Red Sox exploded for 6 runs in the first, as the first six hitters all reached base and came in, and Viola was pulled before getting an out.
The Sox rolled up 9 runs in the first three innings, and it looked like the game was safely out of reach. But it was a tough night for Clemens, as he allowed Minnesota five runs in seven innings, including two home runs. He struck out only four. But the Sox offense had their hitting shoes on, and added four runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
Wade Boggs came up with the Sox ahead 15-5 in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs, and was 5-for-5 on the night. The crowd was hoping he'd get his sixth hit, and he hit a line drive that went right through first baseman Mickey Hatcher's legs, with two more runs scoring. The scorer but "error" up on the board, and the crowd booed lustily.
Speaking of booing lustily, the Fenway Faithful did just that when Bob Stanley relieved Clemens to start the 8th. He promptly gave up a two-run shot to Gary Gaetti, and they wanted his blood. (I can only imagine how those denizens reacted to the grounder he gave up the following October at Shea.)
The Sox won it, 17-7. I remember after the game was over going back to my motel room and calling my dad in Brooklyn, telling him about the night. I summed it up like this: "Now I have an idea what it was like to see a game at Ebbets Field."
The next night was full of rain delays, but the Red Sox came from behind late and won, 3-2. Stanley pitched the ninth and got the save in that one, and through the final pitch shortly after 1 AM. There were about 200 people left in the park at the finish, including me. And I was standing right behind the Red Sox dugout when it concluded.
Through the glory that is Baseball Reference, I was able to check the game's boxscore. I came across a few other notable things.
Three future Hall of Famers played in this game: Kirby Puckett, Wade Boggs and Jim Rice.
Three future Red Sox were playing on the Twins that night: Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti and Frank Viola.
One future general manager came in for Puckett after the game became a blowout: Billy Beane.
There were two future managers on the rosters of both teams: Don Baylor on the Sox, and Ron Washington on the Twins (who did not play).
It was an amazing night I'll never forget. They say "you never forget your first time." Certainly not at Fenway Park.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:00 AM
Sunday, May 15, 2016
David Ortiz saved the Red Sox' bacon for the upteenth time yesterday, as he tripled in the tying run in the ninth inning, and doubled in the game winner in the 11th as the Sox came from behind to beat the Houston Astros, 6-5 at Fenway.
It was an historic day for Big Papi. It was his 20th game-winning RBI from the 9th inning on (the so-called "walkoff" win), and he joined the elite club of being just the third player in history to get 600 doubles and 500 home runs in a career. (The others being Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds).
Papi also hit a double, a triple and a home run (which he did earlier in the game) in a game for the first time in his career. (He's never hit for the cycle.) He now has 10 home runs on the year, and is ending his storied career on an incredibly high note.
Once again, David Ortiz added to his Hall of Fame resume with a dramatic hit to win a game. He should be a mortal lock to enter Cooperstown in 2022. But still, I'll bet you he will NOT be elected on the first ballot, as there are idiots who will hold the fact he is "only" a designated hitter, so that should preclude him from election. (And don't get me started about that alleged PED crap.)
The overwhelming majority of position players in the Hall are there for their offensive production. There are a few who aren't, like great defensive players like Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith. They definitely belong, because they are the very best at their positions all-time. There are also great offensive players who were awful defensive players, like Reggie Jackson and Ralph Kiner. Nobody ever said they should be kept out because they were terrible in the field.
It's time for these muttonheads to come into the 21st century and acknowledge that great offensive players like Papi and Edgar Martinez belong in the Hall, even if they spent little time on the field.
OK, enough of that rant. (And I know I'll be ranting more and more about this in coming years.)
Jackie Bradley extended his hitting streak to 20 games in the win. And have we finally had enough of Clay Buchholz? Another poor start, as he put the Sox into a 5-2 hole in the second, giving up his second grand slam of 2016 to George Springer. With Joe Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez both on rehab and due back shortly, the Sox have a serious question to answer about Buchholz. Do they do what the White Sox did with John Danks a couple of weeks ago and DFA him? He's leaving the team with little choice.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:26 PM
Thursday, May 12, 2016
The Red Sox hitters took the Oakland A's pitching staff out to the woodshed the last three nights.
The Sox scored 40 runs in 24 innings of offense. They scored 14, 13 and 13 runs in the three games, and it is the first time in franchise history the Sox scored 13 or more runs in three straight games. (And somehow, the Red Sox were trailing in two of the games, all before the third inning, that is.) And they put up crooked numbers throughout the series: 3 on Monday and 4 each on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Jackie Bradley was the hitting star of the series, and currently the hottest hitter on the planet. He hit three home runs, drove in 13 (six in the first and third games). And he currently has the longest hitting streak in MLB right now, at 17 games. He went 10-for-18 in the series, from a guy batting in the nine hole. It maybe time to move JBJ up in the order.
Seemed like EVERYONE in the Red Sox lineup had their hitting shoes for this series, against an Oakland A's staff that has been bloodied and battered on the road trip they are currently on. (They gave up 11 runs in Baltimore on Sunday, for a mind-blowing 51 runs surrendered in four games.) The series may best be remembered for the 468-foot blast by Hanley Ramirez in the second game, which was the second longest home run of the year so far. (BTW, are you still worried about him playing first base? Haven't much from that crowd lately.)
You can say all you want about the Sox beating up on teams like the A's with such inferior pitching, but in the end, these are the games you need to stick in your pocket if you want to contend for a title. The struggling Houston Astros come in for four games this wekend, with Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel facing former Cy Young winner David Price.
I expect the scores to be a bit lower tonight, but the way these boys are hitting right now, who knows?
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:35 AM
Monday, May 02, 2016
Last night, ESPN broadcast the terrific 30 For 30 documentary special "Four Days In October," about the historic comeback the Sox pulled off in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. ESPN broadcasts it on their family of networks every once in a while, and for me it's always special because Yours Truly and my friends are in it.
But many fans noticed that the part when Curt Schilling and Game 6 comes around, was edited out. Who was just recently fired by ESPN for some controversial comments and Facebook postings he recently made? Yep, Schilling. Oh, what a coincidence.
ESPN explained after the fact that the girls softball game that preceded the show ran into its allotted time, and had to cut something. I understand showing a shorter version for time, but completely cutting out Game 6 is beyond stupid, and makes the network look real petty with the Schilling firing.
What they should have done was either joined it in progress (probably cutting out most or all of Game 4), cut out some of the "talking heads" or just not show the documentary at all.
Listen, ESPN produced the documentary, and can do what they like with it. But to cut out Game 6, arguably the most important game of the series that features the iconic "bloody sock," is really inane. (Plus that cuts most of the scenes with my friends and I as well!)
A friend of mine last night compared this editing to a "Soviet-style scrubbing" of the facts or person who they will no long acknowledge. Good comparison.
I saw this quote about it online this morning, and it sums it all up perfectly (Sorry I don't know exactly who said it): "You can say he is bad, mean, wrong, stupid, whatever, but you can't edit him out of an honest account of what happened in that series. Revisionism almost always goes too far, and if we excluded all the people who said stupid stuff at some point our history books would be two covers with no pages in between."
I can only imagine this will ramp up the war between Schilling and ESPN even more.
Don't ask me how you can leave the following scene out of "Four Days In October". ESPN doesn't want you to enjoy it, but here you can:
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:54 AM
How I do love a weekend sweep by the Red Sox at Fenway. Especially when they do it to the rivals from the south.
And seeing that sign in center field at the end of each game all weekend.
A lot to love about this past weekend's domination of the Yankees. The Red Sox came from behind of Friday night, which concluded with David Ortiz' two run blast off Dellin Betances in the eighth inning. Henry Owens gutted out six innings, allowing two runs.
Saturday night was all Sox. Jackie Bradley hit two triples and a double, and the home team was off to the races. Rick Porcello extended his record to 5-0 with 7 shutout innings. If he is a legit number two starter now, it makes the Sox even more dangerous. He struck out six and walked just one. He was never in any real trouble against a slumping New York offense.
Sunday night was a very different story. It was another difficult game for David Price, as he allowed six runs to New York, but he went seven innings and spared the bullpen, as the Yankees had a 6-4 lead by the fifth. But another hallmark of this Red Sox team is their comeback prowess, and they tied the game in the fifth on Travis Shaw's two-run shot.
In the seventh, Christian Vazquez took Betances' first pitch (I thought this guy was supposed to be unhittable?) which was down the heart of the plate and hit it across Lansdowne Street to make it 8-6. And yes, New York Daily News, your beloved team WAS beaten by "someone named Christian Vazquez." (Remember that name while you're at it.)
New York got a run in the eighth on a wild pitch, but Craig Kimbrel had another 1-2-3 ninth to make it a sweep. David Price is now 4-0, but with an ERA just above 6.00.
The win last night puts the Sox one-half game in first place, as the Orioles lost to the White Sox in Baltimore yesterday. They are 15-10, five over .500 for the first time in 2016, and have won 6 of 7. Anyone else notice the Yankees are 8-15, last in the AL East and third -worst record in the AL? Yep, I know I'm not the only one.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:25 AM