Sunday, 26 July 2015

Re-Tooling the Boston Red Sox. [Another look at a disappointing campaign so far]

As I started to write this, merely hours after a slightly humiliating 11-1 loss in game one, and a slightly less embarrassing game two [DH] Loss, it has become more apparent to me [ and others of the Fenway faithful, and the Red Sox of the UK, and probably other countries too] that things have to change. I will look at the players I would look to move on to try to salvage a respectable second half to the 2015 season.

The rotation is an absolute sham at best, and it's clear that it's never going to change, despite the better performances, its still way off where we [I] would ideally like to see it.

Clay Buchholz still frustrates the hell out of many people, and is still equally able to perform heroics to shut the opposing team out, which helps us believe he's back, then next time out get rocked through 3 innings giving up 5 or more runs. He could command a lesser named quality arm though so I'd see what I could get for him and if it helps improve the team, deal.

Eduardo Rodriguez - Good addition to the rotation, but he needs to stop tipping his pitches , this could mean altering his mechanics slightly, or perhaps change his role slightly, to work through the issues. I don't think we've seen enough of him to know what he's really like, but chances are, he's young and this is just standard growing pains each pitcher has once in their career. Chances are good he's a better pitcher than he's performing right now, and he could get a good return also, despite only being traded for last year, he's still pitched well enough to over see the bad outings, unlike....

Rick Porcello - Ugh. Enough already. I don't think he's going to work out as a Sox pitcher. Offer him for cash or draft picks, I don't think he has any value left right now, but it would probably cost too much to outright release him.

Who-ever the hell isn't on the DL. This needs to be addressed. More depth is needed.

Now, offensively, why do the Sox have players down in the minors that are better defensively [JBJ] [and aren't bad offensively [Castillo, maybe soon] ] than Hanley who is fighting every out to make 'routine' plays. Hanley is essentially, a Short stop by nature and he's playing each ball as if he still was, and that's costing a few runs here or there, but then so is Panda. I can't count on my body [fingers and toes] Errors the 3BMan has produced though in all fairness, Sandoval is trying to make up for them with the bat.

I'm not trying to claim I know what's best for the team, but people States side might be able to know that little bit more,

Cindy, a Sox fan in Mass stated
"We are all pretty discouraged. The season is over, they have some bad contracts. They always get us excited over prospects [Moncada] but they never seem to pan out [Lavarnway]. Personally my biggest complaint is that they will let their own guys go (Ellsbury, Lester) but give big money to Free Agents who are never worth the money, or just can't play in Boston [Crawford]. Not sure about their scouting department either, they never seem to make it work with trades"

Given, we're currently approaching the trading deadline [non waivers] it'll be worth keeping a close eye on to see what happens this time around.

Erica, in Massachusetts had the following to say
" I think this team needs an overhaul from top to bottom. Since 2010 [when John Henry bought Liverpool FC] the team has finished 3rd,5th,1st and 5th in the AL East and could be looking at 5th again. Cherringtons' tenure is a WS victory, and three last place finishes, he needs to go and so do the clubhouse cancers, Big Papi needs to realise he can't do whatever he wants because of the past. Sandoval needs to go, where he can instagram during a game for someone else. Bring back the Dirt Dogs. Hanley also has to go. You know why they won it all in 2013? They won because of the bombings during the Boston Marathon, and the city needed them, leaned on them, and the team got their priorities straight. Players these days just want the celeb status, which is easy to get in a big market team like Boston".

It certainly does feel like there's no passion, pride or excitement to play for the Red Sox looking in, but perhaps those on the inside see things we don't for three hours a day, although those three hours [sometimes more] are the most important in a day and we aren't impressed from what we can see.

A different take is seen from International fan [where baseball is an international game] Andre in the Netherlands who had the following to say:
"It looked well in the pre season where Hanley Ramirez came back from the Dodgers, which added so more power, but when his gun stopped shooting, the runs dried up and the pitchers aren't the best in the game, [it made it difficult to win] , although Clay Buchholz and Uehara bring the level which is suited to them. It does seem that Panda [Sandoval] can only really produce in the playoffs, like he has the past two times with the Giants. Bogaerts is the teams MVP this year and is the only player with a BA above .300. For next year, they need to stay healthy, invest in the rotation and then we can all enjoy Sweet Caroline more than ever" !

As of July 25th, The Red Sox have had 3 walk off hits, 2 of them coming from the bat of potential team MVP Xander Bogaerts although it seems, Sandoval and Hanley are a running theme [amongst complaints], although these two aren't the cause of [all] trouble with this years team. Take...

Mike Napoli - This hurts to write, but the team would be best off either moving on from Napoli, or changing his role, to occasional Monday/Thursday guy. Sadly he cannot contine to be the teams primary first baseman any more, despite his solid glove work, his average is woeful, sitting just above the Mendoza line at .206 as of Saturday 25th July [aided with his .421 8/19 efforts over the past 7 games]. It could be enough to secure a trade partner, but trading Napoli might not be well received from the faithful. We'll have to wait and see on that front but his season line sits at .207 with 32 Runs scored, 11 Home Runs, 33 Runs Batted In and 3 Stolen Bases.

A player that might garner interest on the trading front is Young Out Fielder, Mookie Betts. The Sox will be unlikely to want to move him, but he has had a good season so far and his numbers look like this: A .264 Average with 51 Runs, 10 Home Runs, 45 Runs Batted In and 13 Steals. He is on pace to scrape a 20/20 season, which is quite valuable for the fantasy circles, although it's nice to see in real terms, it's not going to help win any more or less than the Sox currently manage.

The full line-ups numbers( In no particular order) [excluding Napoli and Betts]

Dustin Pedroia - Hitting at .287 with with 35 Runs Scored, Nine Home Runs 34 Runs Batted In and One Stolen Base. Placed on the DL this weekend, it's unlikely he can contribute much more to the cause as he's scheduled to be activated mid - late August, so will likely get a handful of games before rosters expand to 40 for September, where he might lose ABs to prospects, or other players.
David Ortiz - Hitting at .234 with 35 Runs Scored, 17 Home Runs, 47 Runs Batted In and 0 Stolen Bases.
Hanley Ramirez - Hitting at .263 with 50 Runs Scored, 19 Home Runs 46 Runs Batted in and four Steals
Pablo Sandoval - Hitting at .257 with 29 Runs scored, Seven Home Runs 30 Runs Batted in and 0 Stolen Bases.
Xander Bogaets - Hitting at .310 with 40 Runs scored, Three Home Runs 47 Runs Batted in and 4 Stolen Bases
Brock Holt - Hitting at .284 with 31 Runs scored, Two Home Runs, 23 Runs Batted in and five Stolen Basis .
Ryan Hanigan - Hitting at .221 with 16 Runs scored, One Home Run Nine Runs Batted in and 0 Stolen Basis

Other guys that start on occasion
Alejandro De Aza - Acquired on June 3rd, De Aza has a line of:.258, 31 Runs Scored, Six Home Runs 26 Runs Batted in, Five Stolen Basis
Shane Victorino [Injury has disrupted his season] - .247 Average, 10 Runs Scored, One Home Run, Four Runs Batted in and Five Stolen Bases
Rusney Castillo - .230 Average, Six Runs Scored, One Home Run, Six Runs Batted In and One Stolen Base.
Blake Swihart - .237 Average, 18 Runs Scored, One Home Run . 11 Runs Batted in, and One Stolen Base
Jackie Bradley Jr - .133 Average, 2 Runs Scored, One Home Run , Two Runs Batted in 0 Stolen Bases, although a great defensive player, benefits from every day ABs and hasn't been able to translate this into the big leagues [yet]. He is highly cherished in the Sox, but it might be in the teams' best interest to move him on in a deal involving pitching.

It seems like a good time to take another look at the rotation [or what's left of it]...

Clay Buchholz - Currently on the DL but has pitched 113.1 Innings, while giving up 41 Earned Runs Walking 23 while striking out 107 batters resulting in an ERA of 3.26 with a WHIP of 1.21. Perhaps I've been a little hard on Clay this year as his numbers are better than most people might realise.
Justin Masterson - Recently returned from the DL but results haven't been great overall giving up 33 Earned Runs in 50.2 Innings pitched while striking out 40 batters, walking 22 to the tune of a 5.86 ERA and a WHIP of 1.60. Appeared in relief in a loss to the Tigers on the 25th July so his role seems to be middle relief right now.
Eduardo Rodriguez - A rookie who has had mostly good outings with some horrendous showings [take Tuesday's 2.1 7 ER allowed] to an overall tune of 54.1 innings pitched, 28 Earned Runs, 46 Strike Outs resulting in a 4.64 ERA and a WHIP of 1.27 and is scheduled to take the hill for Sunday Night Baseball.
Rick Porcello - 112.2 Innings Pitched, 69 Earned Runs allowed with 90 Strikeouts, 26 Walks and an ERA of 5.51 accompanied by a 1.37 WHIP .
Wade Miley - Has started the second half hot giving up one Earned run in 13 Innings but has failed to be awarded with a Win. Overall he's posted 114.1 Innings Pitched giving up 55 Earned Runs while striking out 83 batters, walking 44 with an ERA of 4.33 and a WHIP of 1.37.
Joe Kelly - A struggle since the opening weeks, Kelly recently got demoted to the minor leagues to work on location and it remains to be seen how much it will pay off as Kelly has pitched a total of 80.0 Innings Pitched while surrendering 51 Earned Runs while striking out 66, walking 32 to an ERA of 5.74 and a WHIP of 1.49.
Steven Wright - The Knuckle-baller has been up and down from Pawtucket and has stuck around long enough to register 48.1 innings, giving up 26 earned runs while striking out 27 walking 16 and registering a 4.84 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.

I won't speculate here who I think the Sox will move for, but like most fans, I know of which players that could be available, which ones I'd like to see don a Sox jersey, and which ones currently doing so I'd be happy to see the back of. Fact is, it's more probable than not the Sox are going to be selling come the trade deadline on Friday. although if Hanley, Sandoval and perhaps Ortiz move on this week, Red Sox fans' worldwide will have something to cheer for, but complete change is probably needed in order to properly move on, a Fresh start could erase some painful recent memories, while respecting the traditional traditions of a Red Sox Team, although one are I wouldn't change is the manager, he's good for the team, and delivered a World Series his first year in charge, and he can only do so much where upper management fails him. Believe in Farrell, he will make us rise again.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Highs and Lows in Sport....

We've all been there, in various forms of sport, whether its a rags to riches tale, a home-grown success story [ie Andy Murray at Wimbledon], Record breakers [Schumacher in Formula 1, Sir Chris Hoy in successive Olympic Games, Sampras Grand Slam record from Tennis], or whether it be a pitcher throwing a perfect game in baseball, to be watching / associated with it is pretty special. It might only be bettered by being the one that is actually doing it.

Some selective Sports Highs for me

Football League Cup - Aston Villa took on Manchester United at Wembley stadium and performed  out of their skin to win by a 3 goals to 1 margin, and as a 7 year old I was extremely happy watching it on the television. Little would I know that be the last thing they'd ever win since I was born [I'm not counting 1996 here as I don't remember anything about it, but it did happen].  While it was great to see things are very different now and what could have been with a couple of different decisions, who knows ? [I'll get to that at another time though].

2007,2013 Boston Red Sox winning World Series' and being best in the world [ as far as they can be]. 2013 was more recent, and I can recall watching their entire run unfolding thinking, no matter how far down this team get, they never seemed to be out of any game [Post season Grand slams proved this to be one reason why]. [Of Course, they had pitching back then] so this wasn't difficult ! Their most recent triumph in franchise history, might never be bettered on an emotional level for me [except maybe if I was there], as when they sealed the 27th and final out against St Louis, in Game 6 - Fenway Park, Boston Massachusetts - I was sitting in a couch in New Jersey USA [in a Phillies household] and a baseball novice. We will always have that together, thanks for being part of it guys, you made it extra special !

2014/15 - New England Patriots Super Bowl campaign. With many lows in the early part of the season, The Patriots looked devoid of talent, they looked finished and many were questioning whether it was time to give up, move on and introduce Jimmy Garoppolo. There have been many Tom Brady backups over the year [most famous of all, Matt Cassell] but it's crazy how Jimmy has as many Superbowl Rings as Peyton Manning. Anyhow, but for a bit of begging to switch defensive match ups, and some rookie pluck from Malcolm Butler, this might never have happened where as time was running down, the ball on the half yard line, instead of unleashing Beast Mode, the Seahawks elected to pass, and Butler intercepted it in the goal line. What followed was an offsides penalty, moving the ball 5 yards, than a 15 yard penalty [with an ejection] and from the grimmest and most perilous of positions, the Patriots supporters' suddenly had another victory to celebrate and one which they will never forget.

FA Cup Semi Final - Aston Villa faced Liverpool in an encounter the Claret and Blue were probably expected to lose given what each club has spent over the past few years in recruitment of new players, however, Tim got them playing well, playing with freedom, and it appeared a bit of pride and they held out in a 2-1 victory to get to the FA Cup Final ! Euphoria [well for Villa fans it was]. At that moment, life couldn't get much better [as we shortly found out] but us Villains had something to talk about other than #LambertOut.

Unfortunately, here are the lows.

2004,2007 New England Patriots number is called by the Giants of New York, and in 2007, a perfect season was denied via the helmet catch [which one could argue was a trap, but that's not for me to say]. Anyway, having lost to a 'fail mary' on the dying seconds, the same situation occurred again with the Patriots down by 3 with seconds remaining. This game could also be remembered for the sitting down Touchdown. Either way the end result was the same, and the Giants knocked over the Patriots for the second straight game, and coming off the back off recent Red Sox success, this game hurt Patriots nation the globe over and in one way, reminded us in life, we shouldn't expect to win all the time, and in sports, it is occasionally OK to cry.

2014 Fifa World Cup - England crashing out at the group stage. I wasn't all that bothered that England went out of the cup,[although I cared a bit ] it was more the manner in which they went out of it. Tired, boring, one dimensional football which saw defeats to Italy [although a pretty good performance] and Uruguay meant not even a win over Costa Rica could see them advance, but they couldn't even manage to do that. 1 point, 2 goals scored, 4 conceded. Need a new direction? We'll see. I think maybe a manager that is a great motivator, and isn't afraid to drop players, perhaps we can tempt Mourinho when a change is made ? The shocking campaign, made me simulate and take charge of an England team in the world cup using proper tactics, and players being played where they were meant to be played, and not taking those played out of position in the real thing. I got them to win it, then win the following European Championships [coming up in 2016 in reality] although I couldn't replicate 3 in a row [done by Spain in the 2000s] and if you're reading, Head of the FA, I'm available should you need a new manager !

And finally:

2015 Fifa Womens' World Cup - A sensational tournament [at least by previous years] in which I was captivated by every match, and I can tell that the women's' game isn't all about the money, unlike the mens, in which players move clubs for over £40m, I'm pretty sure it would be nice to have that cash available in the women's' game, much less be able to throw it away on one player. It was all about the game and the players, which is great to see, and the Lionesses should be proud of themselves for achieving history and making their first semi final ! To lose in the way they did wasn't deserved [to anyone] much less the better team throughout much of the semi final, and to see Laura Bassett [arguably player of the tournament] put through her own goal, on a defensive instinct, 99 times out of 100 would go harmlessly out for a corner kick, she must feel so terrible, while in other sports there is a saying. Hopefully next year, with a world cup, it hurts more because next year doesn't exist being a 4 year cycle, and to all the lionesses, I thank them for playing with pride, playing with good energy, playing with commitment and fighting spirit. I'm so proud of them all, and I hope to go one step further [maybe 2 by winning] in 2019, but I will also look forward to the 2017 European Championships with a renewed sense of pride. [Should any of them ever see this] #ThankyouLionesses ! It's been an emotional ride, but one for the better !