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Gabe Kapler on MFB: A.J. Pierzynski ‘a harmless individual’ who ‘just didn’t perform’ in Boston 07.10.14 at 12:07 pm ET
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Fox Sports 1 analyst and former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler checked in with Middays with MFB on Thursday to discuss the Red Sox’ struggles and the controversy surrounding A.J. Pierzynski. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Red Sox released Pierzynski on Wednesday, and reports indicate the veteran catcher — who came to Boston with a reputation of being abrasive — had issues with teammates in the clubhouse. Kapler knows Pierzynski, having played winter league ball with him in Hawaii in the late 1990s.

“I got to know him well, and he’s a harmless individual,” Kapler said. “Big heart, sweetheart of a guy. Has the propensity to rub some folks the wrong way if things aren’t going well for him. And I think that’s the most important thing to look at here. He’s having his worst season ever offensively.”

Added Kapler: “We all have to be careful not to kick a guy on his way out, right? I think that that is the common thread, it’s the easiest thing to do. While I think there was certainly an element of clubhouse chemistry and his ability to connect with his teammates, I think the bottom line here is that he just didn’t perform. And that’s what Boston Red Sox front office members want to see — does a guy come in and perform? At some point you have to say, look, we don’t see this getting better.”

Christian Vazquez was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Pierzynski on the roster, and the young catcher showed promise in his debut Wednesday night.

“The other part of this equation — and it’s irresponsible not to illuminate it — is that the Red Sox want to see Vazquez: plus defender, a guy who can shut down a running game,” Kapler said. “[John] Farrell‘s a big fan — actually, all of baseball is a big fan. And they want to see what this guy can do behind the plate, stopping the running game.”

With Wednesday’s win, the Red Sox improved to 40-51. The defending World Series champions are 9 1/2 game behind the first-place Orioles in the American League East. Kapler said he does not hold Farrell entirely responsible for this year’s struggles.

“I think John Farrell‘s doing a fine job,” Kapler said. “Look, a lot of things have gone wrong for the Boston Red Sox. Last year they were sort of playing like superhero versions of themselves. A lot of them have sort of regressed back to the mean. You have a group of guys that — particularly in the lineup — that aren’t doing a very good job of scoring runs. And sans [Jon] Lester and [John] Lackey, there hasn’t been a whole lot of dependability in the starting rotation. The bullpen has been a pleasant surprise in a lot of different ways.

“But look, Farrell can’t walk into the batter’s box and hold the bat for these guys. And until they are scoring runs like we saw last year, it’s going to be a pretty tough road for them.”

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Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, Gabe Kapler,
Gabe Kapler on M&M: ‘Red Sox are going to win this series in seven’ 10.30.13 at 1:50 pm ET
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Fox Sports baseball analyst Gabe Kapler joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday afternoon to talk about the World Series as the Red Sox prepare to host the Cardinals in Game 6.

Kapler, a former Red Sox outfielder, predicted the Tigers would top the Sox in the American League Championship Series. He’s going with Boston in the World Series, but he predicts it will take one more day.

“The Red Sox are going to win this series in seven,” Kapler said. “But tonight, [Michael] Wacha‘s going to be too much for the Red Sox to handle. I was breaking down his mechanics yesterday, and this is the reason that this kid is so strong and that he’s not going to falter: His shoulders have zero percent tilt. That allows him to pound the strike zone accurately and not utilize his shoulder tilt for power.

“So, on top of this crazy deceptive delivery, straight over the top, he’s also got really good lower-half and upper-half mechanics. And that’s why — even if the pressure gets to him a little bit — he still is able to maintain that focus and pound the strike zone. And I just think that he’s going to be too much for the Red Sox tonight. But I will take the Red Sox in seven.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell turned some heads by electing to start Jonny Gomes in left over Daniel Nava in Game 6. Kapler said Wacha’s changeup might have played a role in that decision.

“The reason that I think, perhaps, that John Farrell may go with Jonny Gomes over Nava is because of that equalizer changeup,” Kapler said. “Because otherwise, the weighted on-base average for Nava is so significantly better than Jonny Gomes that there’s no other reason or answer why Jonny Gomes would be in the lineup. So I think maybe that changeup equalizing the left-handed bat might be the reason that John is deciding to go with Jonny Gomes.”

David Ortiz has been an offensive force through the first five games, leading to speculation that the Cardinals will try a new approach with him.

“You have to move his feet. If you don’t throw the ball up and in tonight and get him a little bit uncomfortable, you are doing yourself a huge disservice,” Kapler said. “And I understand [Mike] Matheny‘s take, and also [Adam] Wainwright‘s take. He’s like, ‘We want to just go after these guys, we don’t want to show anybody any fear.’ But at the same time, this guy’s been so incredibly dominant. He’s reached base 15 of 20 times in the World Series. That’s unheard of. It’s not like he’s reaching base against the fourth and the fifth starters; he’s reaching base against the aces.

“This guy is as good as he was in 2004. And as we all know, he was pretty good back then.”

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Read More: daniel nava, David Ortiz, felix doubront, Gabe Kapler
Gabe Kapler on M&M: ‘I think the Tigers are going to take this series’ 10.17.13 at 3:46 pm ET
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Former Red Sox outfielder and Fox Sports 1 analyst Gabe Kapler joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday morning to discuss Boston’s offensive struggles during the American League Championship Series, as well as whether Kapler would start Xander Bogaerts in Game 5 of the series.

The Sox offense, which led baseball during the regular season with 853 runs scored, has been downright anemic during the best-of-seven series against Detroit with a .186 batting average. Detroit’s starting pitching has feasted on Boston’s hitters through the first four games, as Anibal Sanchez, Max ScherzerJustin Verlander and Doug Fister are a combined 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA  and 42 strikeouts in 27 innings.

When looking at the reasoning for Boston’s offensive shortcomings, Kapler said that it’s more of Detroit’s excellent pitching than it is Boston’s lack of execution at the plate.

“I think that’s the big misconception in the playoffs,” Kapler said. “You’ve seen this over and over and over every single year, the big boys, the starting pitching, they come out and they dominate. … It’s great starting pitching just beats good hitting in the postseason. The Red Sox are a run-scoring machine, they were all through the season. They’ve just run into a buzz saw. … Really what this is about is the Tigers pitchers doing exactly what they’ve done all season long. I don’t think there’s any magical formula about it.

“These guys are now out-stuffing the Red Sox, particularly a guy like Justin Verlander, whose stuff has picked up in the postseason. … I think they are just bringing their ‘A’ game. Not that they’ve attacked the Red Sox in any different way, it’s the Red Sox are in a little bit of a postseason slump. Offenses is an absolute ebb and flow and it’s about just timing and the starting pitching of the Detroit Tigers.”

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Read More: ALCS, Gabe Kapler, Game 5, Red Sox
Gabe Kapler on M&M: ‘I’m more surprised by the Red Sox’ than the A’s 09.26.13 at 2:09 pm ET
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Former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday afternoon to discuss the MLB postseason, Wednesday’s brawl between the Brewers and Braves, and other news from around the league.

Kapler said he was more surprised with the Red Sox’ success this year than the A’s, who are second in the American League with 94 wins.

“I’m going to be frank, upfront and honest with you here. I’m more surprised by the Red Sox. If you were to ask me at the beginning of the year, ‘Would the Red Sox have the best record in baseball?,’ I would say, ‘No chance,’ ” Kapler said. “Ben Cherington has hit a home run with every move that he’s made and it’s surprising. He hasn’t swung and missed once, even with Ryan Dempster, a guy who really was productive in April and has been productive in stretches throughout the season. … Every guy has been an absolute home run. I thought it was going to be very difficult for this Red Sox team to make the playoffs at the beginning of the year, and I’m totally surprised that everything has fallen into place.”

Kapler also talked about the brawl between the Braves and Brewers on Wednesday night and said that while he thought Carlos Gomez‘s actions leading to the fight were unacceptable, he also said that he enjoys the showy play from other athletes, such as the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig

“I’ve never seen anything like it, particularly [BrianMcCann standing at home plate and blocking a guy from finishing his home run trot, but I’ll tell you this, I didn’t mind Gomez ‘pimping’ his home run, I didn’t mind him admiring it and maybe saying a few words as he got out of the batter’s box, but listen, man, once you get halfway down the first-base line, it’s time to get around the bases. … It was totally egregious, it was totally unacceptable, and McCann sort of did the right thing by standing there and waiting for him and getting in his face.

“I don’t want to take away from the fact that there are celebrations that are starting to be, for my perception, good for the sport, like we want to see the entertaining guys shine, we want to see the flamboyant guys shine. I like how Yasiel Puig to a degree sort of celebrates as he goes in baseball, I think it’s good for the game. But the minute you start showing other people up on purpose, and demeaning the value of them being on the baseball field, which is what I saw last night with Gomez, that’s where I think it goes a step too far.”

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Read More: Gabe Kapler, M&M, Mut & Merloni, Red Sox
Our turn to learn: A baseball tradition reconsidered 08.07.13 at 6:42 am ET
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As I strolled up to the plate at the Tokyo Dome, on a random date early in my only Japanese (partial) season of 2005, a thought bubble appeared above my head: ‘€œHow in the world did I get here?’€

I had begun to feel like a character in a comic strip as I surveyed the stands and heard the drums banging in unison. A chant had begun to fill the stadium, ‘€œKA-PU-AH, KA-PU-AH.’€ The fans seemed to find it immaterial that I was off to the worst start of my career and they couldn’€™t sense the level of embarrassment that permeated my body in the moment; they simple wanted to see me ‘€˜Ganbatte’€™ (do your best!). The Japanese fans never booed their own players.

The experience got better and . . . stranger.

I stepped in the batter’€™s box and stared down my Japanese counterpart. I allowed the moment to sink in. I represented the only Western face in sight. In a flash — and before I was ready — the pitch was on its way. A sinker at about 90 mph stayed up in the zone and in the middle of the plate just enough. It was likely the only pitch, speed and location that I had any chance to put a good swing on instinctively at the time and I smoked a high line drive into the left-center field seats. The cheering sections in the stadium halted their calculated, rhythmic approach and went bananas in unison.

As I rounded third base, the experience climaxed in comedy. Jumping up and down behind home plate were two young women in pigtails and Yomiuri Giants colors holding giant stuffed animals. I crossed the plate and the women thrust the furry toys into my arms. My second thought bubble arrived. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: batting practice, Bobby Valentine, Casey McGehee, Gabe Kapler
Understanding Lars Anderson: A study in baseball makeup 07.27.13 at 3:10 pm ET
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My phone buzzed a few days ago. Ryan Kalish was calling.

‘€œLars just got released.’€

That’€™s the way it works in baseball. When a family member goes down, we all hear about it.

Ryan and I share Lars Anderson in common, Ryan as a longtime organization mate with the Red Sox and me as his 2007 manager at class A Greenville. Ryan and I also both count Lars as a dear friend. Ryan and I discussed how to approach Lars, to be supportive and to let him know how much we care.

Lars, now 25, was ranked the No. 17 prospect in all of minor league baseball by Baseball America in 2009. As a pure hitter, he may have been No. 1. He was ahead of Dominic Brown, Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Ben Revere and Desmond Jennings, just to name a few on BA’€™s list.

As his manager, I identified him as a man who could take walks, repeat his swing, impact the baseball and drive it all over the ballpark and play average (for a major leaguer) defense at first base. He was a physical specimen who resembled a young Chris Davis in size and fluidity if not power. When I met Lars for the first time and extended for a shake, his right hand (Lars hits left-handed) dwarfed mine in the same way Alex Rodriguez‘€™s did when I met him initially in Texas in 2001.

Lars was inquisitive, often asking questions related to art, history and music. We talked about philosophy and our family history and how it shaped us emotionally and intellectually. Both of our fathers and my mother were active politically and had different values than traditional baseball families. Both Lars and I were taught to embrace life outside of baseball and to seek out answers rather than accepting reality as it was dictated to us.

Our fathers both suggested a ‘€œquestion authority’€ approach to sports and life in general. Lars’€™ father in particular used to tell him, ‘€œPart of figuring out the boundary is stepping over it.’€ Though his manager (and 31 at the time), I actually related to Lars better than I did the staff members who shared the coaches’€™ room with me.

Despite his evident gifts as a player, Lars was also astonishingly hard on himself. He had difficulty stepping outside of himself to recognize that he was performing beautifully. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Gabe Kapler, josh reddick, lars anderson, pudge rodriguez
The Real One-Five: How Kevin Millar became a star 06.24.13 at 9:39 am ET
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Gabe Kapler spent parts of 12 years in the major leagues from 1998-2010, playing for the Tigers (1998-99), Rangers (2000-02), Rockies (2002-03), Red Sox (2003-06 ‘€“ with a brief interlude in Japan), Brewers (2008) and Rays (2009-10). He also spent a year managing the Red Sox’€™ Single-A affiliate in Greenville. Follow him on twitter @gabekapler.

In 2004, at a tiny breakfast spot at the base of the Westin Times Square in New York City, Kevin Millar and I sipped coffee and explored a number of familiar themes. As usual, Kevin was trying to persuade me to join him in the exercise of ‘€œshow-driving’€ in a town car with tinted windows, bottled waters and crisp copies of the Wall Street Journal. As usual, despite his endless efforts and persuasive gifts, I remained steadfast in my desire to take the subway to the park.

But the substance that day involved more than the usual banter. That morning was a meeting that secured our bond as friends forever. It created a connection stronger than our love as teammates, which was already very much intact. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saving Bryce Harper from himself: A position change reconsidered 06.22.13 at 1:10 am ET
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Gabe Kapler spent parts of 12 years in the major leagues from 1998-2010, playing for the Tigers (1998-99), Rangers (2000-02), Rockies (2002-03), Red Sox (2003-06 ‘€“ with a brief interlude in Japan), Brewers (2008) and Rays (2009-10). He also spent a year managing the Red Sox’€™ Single-A affiliate in Greenville. Follow him on twitter @gabekapler.

Late in spring training of 2001 in Port Charlotte, Florida, I hit a routine ground ball to the shortstop and sprinted down the first base line knowing with near 100 percent certainty that I would be out at first base. Nonetheless, I gave that 90-foot race to the bag my full effort.

It’€™s the way I was taught to play the game and the only style that would allow me to lay my head on the pillow that night, confident that I’€™d given the day everything. Alan Trammell once told me when we were together in Detroit to ‘€œplay the game to not be embarrassed.’€ That advice always stuck with me.

As I approached the bag, I heard a distinct pop in my right quad, up near my hip flexor. It was the same quad that had landed me on the DL the previous year. I knew immediately that I wouldn’€™t break camp with the Rangers nor be in playing shape for a month or so.

After the game, Doug Melvin, then the GM of the Rangers, approached me. In his fatherly deep voice, with a distinct Canadian drawl and through his thick mustache, he said, ‘€œGabe, you’€™re going to need to understand better when to turn it down just a notch.’€

He was likely nearly as frustrated as I was, given the fact that he was counting on me to be his everyday right fielder. Turn it down a notch? This was totally counter-intuitive to my makeup. I knew what he meant and yet he was the first person to give me this type of professional advice. All other baseball men had celebrated the ‘€œsacrifice your body to win’€ approach.

Although I knew in my heart that Doug was right, I threw the counsel immediately out the window. I rationalized that I wasn’€™t good enough to not bust my ass. I knew damn well I was accurate on that front.  If I wasn’€™t willing to run face first into a wall, somebody at the Triple-A level would, and I wouldn’€™t survive in this league.

On May 13 of this season, A.J. Ellis of the Dodgers crushed a ball to right field. Bryce Harper took an ill-advised route and accelerated toward the wall, attempting to use his plus speed to make up for running in a ‘€œU’€ pattern. As if the wall was closing in on him rather than the other way around, the two violently collided. Harper’€™s hips, shoulders and head came to a quick halt, his face taking the majority of the impact. A testament to his toughness and grit, he hobbled off the field utilizing his body’€™s own power. Read the rest of this entry »

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In praise of draft’s afterthoughts: A celebration of determination in late-round picks 06.09.13 at 1:26 pm ET
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I have visions of Babe Ruth in spandex shorts painfully bending into a sprinter’€™s stance, taking a few deep breaths and taking off full speed down a track, flashbulbs popping. He chugs and grunts, his oh-so-human body jiggling for 40 yards as coaches impatiently wait at the finish line, rolling their eyes, stopwatches in hand. Yasiel Puig, he is not.

The Babe was no physical specimen and yet he dominated his era like nobody before or since. That’€™s what makes baseball especially beautiful. In football, you must have size or speed to play at the highest level. In basketball, you better be 6-foot-4 or lightning quick. The NBA has no room for average athletes.

But David Wells can throw a perfect game. If Pedro Martinez didn’€™t have three Cy Young Awards and you saw him walking down the street, you wouldn’€™t look twice. And if my favorite player of all-time, Dustin Pedroia, looked any more like your drywall-hanging cousin in Southie, Tom McLaughlin wouldn’€™t let him through the clubhouse door at Fenway Park.

Sure, we have guys that look the part. They are men like Mark Appel from Stanford, 6-foot-5, 215-pound hurler, drafted first overall by the Astros, and Jonathan Gray, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound right-handed pitcher out of Oklahoma drafted third overall by the Rockies. These are the men who we expect to not only make it to the big leagues, but to turn into the front-of-the-rotation starters on championship-caliber clubs. Lay eyes on Giancarlo Stanton and try to convince yourself that he can’€™t hit 40 home runs.

In 1995, the Detroit Tigers drafted me in the 57th round. I was so naïve at 19 years old that when I was told I was going to the New York-Penn League to play for the Jamestown Jammers, I thought my home ballpark would be somewhere in Manhattan. Furthermore, I figured that besides the difference in signing bonus (it was a BIG difference), I’€™d be competing on a level playing field with the first-round pick. If I was better than him, I assumed I’€™d move up and he wouldn’€™t.

The race to get to the big leagues turned out to be ultra-competitive, but I like to think guts, determination and fight have plenty to do with the journey to the highest level. I liken it to a man (the first-rounder) having a head start in a race up a chain-link fence and the guy behind him must and reach to grab his foot and drag him down or knock him off. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Babe Ruth, evan gattis, Gabe Kapler, yasiel puig
The Red Sox draft day podcast with Ben Cherington, Amiel Sawdaye, Keith Law and Gabe Kapler 06.06.13 at 11:04 am ET
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Trying to make sense of the forthcoming 2013 Major League Baseball amateur draft? Look no further.

Alex Speier’s Minor Details podcast previews the 2013 Red Sox draft, with an emphasis on the team’s first-round pick (at No. 7 overall, the highest the club has selected since 1993). Featured on the show: Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye discuss the Sox’ approach and process at No. 7, ESPN draft guru Keith Law evaluates the candidates whom the Sox are focused on at that pick and former major league outfielder Gabe Kapler — who was taken in the 57th round of the 1995 draft — discusses the inexact science of the draft and considers whether an NFL-style combine would yield improvements to the process.

To listen to the complete podcast, click here.

Read More: 2013 MLB Draft, draft combine, Gabe Kapler,
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