|Wondering about evolution of Red Sox clubhouse? Jackie Bradley Jr. gives striking example||01.18.17 at 10:16 am ET|
But there was also a very real difference in the Red Sox’ clubhouse, as well.
While so many focused on the presence of David Ortiz in the designated hitter’s last season, the team’s aura was being defined by the group of young players who finally became secure enough in their major league existence to not just silently worry about their own lot in life.
Bradley Jr. Betts. Brock Holt. Travis Shaw. Xander Bogaerts. Andrew Benintendi. Christian Vazquez. Blake Swihart. And the additional veteran presence of Chris Young. While Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia were supplying their usual brand of leadership, the increased comfort level of the aforementioned group of position players became a very powerful dynamic.
Perhaps the most noticeable example of the evolution was Bradley Jr. He explained when appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast:
“Believe it or not, I’ve never really told anybody, this year was the first year I actually felt I was part of a team. In previous year, I stayed up the majority of year. But I didn’t really feel like I fit in. I was still trying to work through some things. I wasn’t sure when I was going to be up there at a particular time. The only reason why I started in 2014 there was because Shane [Victorino] got injured the last game of spring training so I didn’t necessarily make the team in 2014, even though a lot of people think I did. Just kind of finding myself and knowing what I need to do. I think this year was where I actually developed very strong bonds and close-knit relationships with people, not saying I didn’t have that before, but as a whole I was able to put everything together.”
While so many wonder about how the Red Sox are going to survive without Ortiz’s guidance, this reality should be understood.
Who knows how it will translate on the field. But whatever happens, it most likely won’t be pinned on the kind of uneasiness that Bradley Jr. explained.
|Which current Red Sox will make it into Cooperstown? Dustin Pedroia is building his case||01.17.17 at 10:58 pm ET|
That’s why we should spend today having a different conversation.
We have plenty of time for the David Ortiz talk. Until the year 2021, to be exact. So with the designated hitter starting his Hall of Fame clock, now we can turn to which player still wearing a Red Sox uniform should be considered Cooperstown-worthy.
It’s a debate that might take a bit more effort — which, as we found out through the latest round of balloting, isn’t often times a favorite of voters. But a worthy exercise, nonetheless.
Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts have Hall of Fame talent. That much we do know. But their cautionary tale is teammate Hanley Ramirez, who through is first five years as a major leaguer had .313 batting average and .906 OPS to along with the sixth-most total bases from 2006-10.
Now we can’t, with all good conscious, introduce Ramirez into any Hall of Fame conversation.
The pitchers? David Price could make a run at it. Through his first eight seasons he has the third-most wins over that span, equaling Clayton Kershaw. The lefty has also turned in more innings than all but four starters, while managing a 3.23 ERA, all while pitching exclusively in the American League.
Hall of Famer Randy Johnson had 20 fewer wins and a 3.55 during his first eight full seasons in the bigs, hitting his ninth legit year two years older than Price. So there is a chance.
But with the volatility of pitchers’ shoulders and elbows, projecting into their 30’s, is a dangerous proposition.
That brings us to Dustin Pedroia.
The Red Sox’ second baseman has put himself in a pretty good position.
His health is obviously the wild card. But for the sake of this discussion, we will work under the assumption that Pedroia is going to be using the momentum of last season’s health (154 games) to stay on the field.
The foundation of his case should be with the most recent second baseman to enter the Hall, Craig Biggio. Through the same number of plate appearances Pedroia currently own (6,280), the former Astro owned a .290 batting average and .809 OPS with 126 homers. They’re all numbers the Sox’ star eclipse, with both players hitting the plate appearance jumping off point at relatively the same age.
As we sit here right now, Pedroia has a career batting average of .301, an .811 OPS and 133 homers.
Biggio did go on to play nine more seasons, but hit just .269 during that stretch with a modest .776 OPS.
Perhaps comparing Pedroia to a sure-fire first ballot middle infielder might offer more of a convincing case. Let’s use Derek Jeter.
Through that 6,280 plate-appearance jumping off point, Jeter is ahead of Pedroia. But not by as much as you might think. During that start of the former Yankee’s career, he hit .315 with an .850 OPS and 151 homers. The rest of the way? Jeter totaled 6,271 plate appearances over just more than nine seasons and hit .304 with a .785 OPS.
Catching Jeter might not be realistic, but presenting a better case than Biggio? That isn’t out of the realm of possibility. And if that’s the case, then you should have another Red Sox Hall of Famer.
Such a long way to go, and plenty of time to talk. Seems like a good a time as any to kick things off.
|Video proves Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi has been working out||01.17.17 at 5:25 pm ET|
Andrew Benintendi didn’t play like a rookie when he was promoted to the big leagues. Now he doesn’t look like one, either.
— Steffen Simmons (@SSimmons_34) January 17, 2017
Benintendi finished his first foray into major league baseball hitting .295 with an .835 OPS and two home runs. He also went 3-for-9 with a homer in the postseason.
He’s evidently put the physique tailored for playing high school basketball in the rear-view mirror, as this Cincinnati Enquirer photo suggests …
|After Jae Crowder controversy, David Price comments, Jackie Bradley Jr. offers his thoughts on racial climate for Boston athletes||01.16.17 at 10:04 am ET|
He has discussed in length about his admiration for Jackie Robinson, while also making a point to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum last season. And when it comes to honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday, Bradley Jr. noted while appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast, “[King Jr.] just wanted everybody to be treated equal and that was the message that he preached. And to this day everybody would want that, or at least I know I do.”
So when the topic of living life as an African-American major league baseball player in Boston came up on the podcast, Bradley Jr. was predictably insightful
It is a topic of particular interest, not only because of the man the nation celebrates on Jan. 16, but also because of recent news items involving the Celtics’ Jae Crowder and Bradley Jr.’s Red Sox teammate, David Price, who told the Boston Globe he has heard racial taunts at Fenway Park.
“Overall experience, I have had nothing too terribly negative said about me,” he said. “I can only speak about my experience. As a whole, you will have people here and there, but that’s just some people. That’s not a majority. You can link everybody as a majority. It was definitely an adjustment period for me because I’m from the South so the weather, for one, was an adjustment. Just people’s personalities. LIke opening doors for people and not hearing ‘Thank you,’ I would always say, ‘You’re welcome’ to get them to have a response. But that’s not everyone. I’ve enjoyed my time in Boston. I have nothing negative to say about it. I know my wife enjoys it. I’ve been very welcome and I haven’t heard anything personally directly to me said negatively.
“Social media is social media. Anybody can write something. But those same people are probably the same people who are first in line to speak to you, or get an autograph. You kind of just take it how it is and go about your business.”
Growing up in Virginia, and going to college at the University of South Carolina, Bradley Jr.’s had also heard about, and researched, the sometimes uncomfortable history of race relations in Boston, and involving the Red Sox.
“I’ve heard a lot of different things, knowing Boston was the last American League team to have an African-American player in MLB. I kind of researched a little bit about [former Red Sox owner Tom] Yawkey … ,” he said.
“I’m definitely able to speak on certain things and speak my mind, because I feel comfortable talking about certain situations. Those are things you know coming in, but I don’t let that kind of stuff distract me from the goal at hand. I’m here to compete, help my team win, provide for my family and kind of everything else is everything else. I’m focused and I want to win, and that’s what it all boils down to.”
While Bradley Jr. downplays the effect any perceived racial issues have had on him during his time in the Red Sox organization, he also hasn’t totally immune to the kind of vitriol Price spoke of.
“I definitely had a lot of struggle in 2014. I think that was most racist type things that were directed toward me during that time,” Bradley Jr. said. “But it’s all growing pains. If you don’t know what somebody has been through, the adversity they’ve been through, it’s kind of hard to make that judgment. They’re judging solely off of performance in my career, which, by the way, was just getting started. There is definitely a lot of room to grow and improve. I’m willing to put the work in and I feel like last year was a stepping stone in showing that.”
— Tim Neverett (@TimNeverett) May 17, 2016
|Bo Jackson saying he wishes he would have never started playing football offers ultimate what could have been||01.12.17 at 2:37 pm ET|
He was so good.
If you weren’t alive, or too young, to watch Bo Jackson do what he did on the football gridirons and baseball diamonds, you missed out. The best example I can give in terms of comparing Jackson to today’s baseball player? Think Mike Trout.
Before you start screaming that this guy who finished his 694-game major league career with a career .250 batting average and .784 OPS shouldn’t be uttered in the same breath as Major League Baseball’s best all-around player, understand that we have to deal in the “what might have been’s” when it comes to Bo. And while that doesn’t do anything for the argument supporting his skills, it should be a very real conversation after what he told USA Today:
“If I knew back then what I know now,” Jackson tells USA TODAY Sports, “I would have never played football. Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.”>Jackson told the publication, “I would have never played football. Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.
“The game has gotten so violent, so rough. We’re so much more educated on this CTE stuff (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), there’s no way I would ever allow my kids to play football today.
“Even though I love the sport, I’d smack them in the mouth if they said they wanted to play football.
“I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.'”
So what would have happened if Jackson never played football? For one, we know that he would have played baseball a lot longer since it was a football injury that ended his playing days. And secondly, the holes in his game (he had a big league high 172 strikeouts in his All-Star season of 1989) would most certainly have been tightened up.
Here’s something to chew on: Jackson had 141 home runs in his 2,626 plate appearances. In the same number of trips to the plate (getting him to Aug. 2, 2015), Trout totaled 130.
His baseball numbers are so far off from Cooperstown-worthy it’s hard to even bring up the argument that he might already be in the Hall of Fame if football never entered into the equation. But, considering the transcendent type of talent Jackson was, it’s worth at least a passing thought.
Bo always knew how to get us the edge of our seat, and, with one comment, today is no different.
|Here’s reminder Yoan Moncada no longer plays for Red Sox||01.12.17 at 12:10 pm ET|
We don’t have video of Chris Sale pitching in a Red Sox uniform quite yet, so the reality of seeing Yoan Moncada in a White Sox uniform might be tough to take. But, it’s time to face reality: the guy who was going to start his superstar status with the Red Sox in 2017 is now taking batting practice wearing White Sox garb.
The video you've all been waiting for. pic.twitter.com/2EiZMgCRyo
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) January 12, 2017
The video was taken at the White Sox’ mini-camp in Arizona. It is uncertain if Moncada is going to break spring training with the big league club, with Chicago initially wanting to keep the Red Sox’ former top prospect at second base.
Talking with reporters (including MLB.com), Moncada revealed the change of organizations was a bit of shock.
“That was unexpected. I thought I would stay with [Boston] for a long time,” said Moncada, who has been joined by his parents, Manuel Moncada and Maria Caridad in the United States. “But that’s when you realize this is a business and I have the opportunity to play with this team now, and to be great for this team.”
|After performing well in Puerto Rico, Rusney Castillo might be re-entering conversation with Red Sox||01.11.17 at 1:46 pm ET|
Considering what the outfielder has done since signing his seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox, expectations have diminished to next to nothing. Over parts of three seasons, Castillo’s contributions to the big league club have amounted to a .262 batting average and .679 OPS with seven home runs over 99 games.
So, with that in mind, even one of Castillo’s biggest supporters, Houston bench coach Alex Cora, is tempering expectations even after the righty hitter’s performance with Cora’s team (Caguas) in the Puerto Rico Winter League.
“I’ve been on this train before and I got burned the first time,” Cora said when appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast. “A lot of people on Twitter remind me.” (To listen to the entire podcast, click here.)
But, according to Cora, there has been a change in Castillo.
The first thing he has noticed has been a different demeanor off the field, thanks in large part to the presence of the 29-year-old’s mother and child, who have arrived from Cuba.
“One thing about him, and I’m not going to get caught in all the hype and the numbers and all of that, his Mom is here, his kid is here, and there’s something different as far as off the field stuff,” Cora said.
There is also a slightly slimmed down body, which has, according to Cora, led to better baserunning and improved fielding. (He has primarily played left field with Caguas.)
But the biggest change has been Castillo’s approach at the plate. The league’s playoffs are currently unfolding (he scored a pair of runs in Caguas’ Tuesday night win). But prior to the postseason, Castillo managed a .392 batting average and .892 OPS in 14 games.
“There are a lot of balls he drives to right-center, especially against lefties, but against righties you see the red ‘C’ in between shortstop and third base, the roll over,” Cora said. “He has problems catching up to that pitch, but he doesn’t have problems with pitches outside that he can drive to right field.”
He added, “For me, he’s too passive. He understands the strike zone. It’s more like he sees the ball and he’s going to attack instead of thinking, ‘I’m hitting, hitting, hitting and then I’m going to take.’ I said, ‘You feel discipline enough?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m discipline.’ ‘So get off the plate and this is winter ball and you see guys throw 87 and guys who throw 95, 96, so don’t go by the results. So, get off the plate and be disciplined enough on the inside part of the plate to take that pitch. You might be 2-0, 3-1, then they have to go outside and that’s your strength.’ So far, so good.”
The challenge for Castillo once spring training rolls around is to get back in the good graces of the Red Sox brass, having to enter camp not on the 40-man roster. But considering how thin the Sox may be in the outfield at the Triple-A level, with Junior Lake and Brian Bogusevic around on minor-league deals, and Bryce Brentz still in the mix, there might be some semblance of an opportunity.
|Red Sox sign player picked immediately after Jacoby Ellsbury in first-round of 2005 MLB draft||01.08.17 at 3:20 pm ET|
Back in 2005, Bogusevic was a left-handed pitcher out of Tulane University who was good enough to be taken with the 24th overall pick by the Houston Astros. (He ultimately switched to outfielder in 2008).
The pick before him? The Red Sox’ selection of Jacoby Ellsbury. The two picks after? Matt Garza went to the Twins before the Red Sox made their second selection of the draft, taking pitcher Craig Hansen. The Sox would go on to take Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden to round out their four-pick first-round.
Bogusevic would ultimately get his best chance in the major leagues in 2012 when he appeared in 146 games, primarily playing in right field for the Astros. Unfortunately for the outfielder, he wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunity, hitting just .203 with a .596 OPS.
The lefty hitter went on to sign with Cubs for 2013, playing in 47 games. Chicago would deal him to the Marlins prior to the 2014 season in exchange for Justin Ruggiano.
His last major league experience came in 2015 with the Phillies, getting in 22 games. Last season Bogusevic played for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, hitting just .183 in 193 plate appearances.
The 32-year-old figures to offer the Red Sox some much-needed outfield depth at the Triple-A level, with Bryce Brentz, Rusney Castillo and non-roster invitee Junior Lake joining Bogusevic in currently making up the likely PawSox’ outfield.
Bogusevic will participate in major league camp. The Red Sox are expected to announce a few more minor-league agreements in the coming week, with Lake, catchers Jake DePew and Dan Butler and former first-rounder, infielder Matt Dominguez, serving as the position payers already locked up.
|Sorry Red Sox fans, introduction of Edwin Encarnacion reminds us Indians still team to beat||01.05.17 at 1:45 pm ET|
Edwin Encarnacion’s agent Paul Kinzer confirmed once again Thursday that the Red Sox were never really engaged in the pursuit of the free agent slugger. It was a reality that Kinzer discovered in early November after talking with Dave Dombrowski at the Arizona Fall League All-Star Game.
The Red Sox lack of interest (which was likely primarily due to concerns over luxury tax implications. ended up being the Indians’ gain. And thanks to Encarnacion’s introductory press conference in Cleveland Thursday, that reality has officially been punctuated.
Welcome to the Cleveland Edwindians. pic.twitter.com/eTbhlfeV40
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) January 5, 2017
With Encarnacion wearing the Indians’ No. 10 thanks to his three-year, $60 million deal, it’s hard to argue that Cleveland isn’t the on-paper team to beat in the American League.
For those Red Sox fans just sobering up from their Chris Sale-induced intoxication, understand that their team would have to be classified as the on-paper No. 2. But even the foundation of any argument propping up the Red Sox as the A.L. favorite — their pitching — takes a hit when looking at what the current American League champs have to offer.
Corey Kluber. Danny Salazar. Carlos Carrasco. Josh Tomlin. Trevor Bauer. Andrew Miller. Bryan Shaw. Cody Allen.
Chris Sale. Rick Porcello. David Price. Eduardo Rodriguez. Drew Pomeranz. Steven Wright. Tyler Thornburg. Joe Kelly. Craig Kimbrel.
It’s certainly not cut and dried. But tipping point in the Indians’ favor, right now, would be the proven work of Miller and the return of a healthy Carrasco and Salazar. The 29-year-old Carrasco has been one of the best young starters in the league over the past two seasons, and Salazar was the Cy Young favorite heading into the All-Star break with a 2.75 ERA. Neither were factors in the Indians’ World Series run due to injuries.
Offensively, the Red Sox are basing a big chunk of their post-Ortiz approach on projecting turnarounds from Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland, with the hope the young core at least don’t take a turn for the worse. And there will be a heavier reliance on the health and production of Hanley Ramirez.
The Indians? Encarnacion is upgrading their rotating DH/first base spot (replacing Mike Napoli), and arguably Cleveland’s best all-around position player, Michael Brantley, figures to return after playing in just 11 games in 2016. This was a guy who combined to hit .319 with an .876 OPS, 35 homers and 38 stolen bases in 2014 and ’15.
It’s not a lay-up, and playing on paper is what it is, but thanks in large part to Encarnacion, this is where we stand. It could be worse. You could live in Minnesota.
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|Why Red Sox said no thanks when Diamondbacks asked about Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart||12.30.16 at 7:42 am ET|
The answer back from the Red Sox, per the report, was that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was “unlikely to deal” either player.
That leads to this question: Why the Red Sox would be wanting to keep what might seem like a surplus of catchers if they could get legitimate value back?
The reasoning is not hard to decipher. Although there is some promise with Sandy Leon, Vazquez and Swihart, there are no certainties with any of the backstops.
Dombrowski has reiterated throughout the offseason that Leon is heading into spring training as the catcher slated to get the majority of the playing time. The Red Sox believe that what he did during his memorable run in 2016 (.310 batting average, .845 OPS) earned the right to see if that lightning remains in the bottle.
But there nobody can ignore the downturn Leon experienced at the tail-end of the regular season, notching four hits in his last 44 at-bats (.091).
Vazquez and Swihart should be able to position themselves in February to resurface as legitimate major league catchers, particularly with Leon off at the World Baseball Classic. Vazquez did enough to gain residence on the postseason roster, exhibiting his old throwing arm, and Swihart has been told there will be no more experimenting with other positions after recovering from ankle surgery.
Remember, Vazquez was the Red Sox’ legitimate defense weapon who all the pitchers desperately wanted to throw to before his Tommy John surgery. And Swihart had shown enough that most felt comfortable with him as the Opening Day catcher heading into 2016.
And, thanks to Swihart still possessing options, the Red Sox don’t have to panic regarding trying to get all three on the big league roster. That’s another reason why the team has little motivation to break up what could be a strength of their club.
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