‘Twas the Night Before Opening Day

‘Twas the night before Opening Day, when all through Sox Nation,

All the players were stirring, ready to take their stations.

The cleats were hung in the clubhouse with care, with hopes that the fans soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of home runs danced in their heads.

And Mamma in her jersey, and I in my cap, had just awakened from a long winter’s nap.

When out on the field there arose such a clatter, and I ran to my seat to see what was the matter.

Off to the Grand Stands I ran in a dash, to see Pedey’s ball hit the Monster with a crash.

He rounded first to beat the fielder’s throw, and slid into second, missing the tag just below.

When what to my wondering eyes did appear, but thirty-eight thousand on their feet with cheer.

Then Mookie stepped up so lively and quick, and I knew in a moment that this would be it.

With a crack of his bat, to me the ball came,

And Pedey slid home to win us the game.

He sprang to his feet to give his team a shout, and ran his way over to the ecstatic dugout.

But just before he disappeared out of sight, he shouted to us:

Happy Opening Day to all, and to all a good night!

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PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest.com

 

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What a World!

With Spring Training underway, you will find most professional baseball players practicing in the sunny south in preparation for the 2017 MLB season. But there are some Red Sox faces that you won’t be seeing a lot of this spring, including Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez. These two Sox, along with some other MLB players, have flown back to their home countries to compete in the World Baseball Classic.

The 2017 World Baseball Classic is only the 4th in history. The country-based tournament was first played in 2006, then again in 2009, and most recently in 2013. Japan took home the first two titles and the Dominican Republic is the reigning champion. The establishment of the World Baseball Classic came after the 2005 International Olympic Committee decision to drop baseball and softball from the 2012 games.

While many professional baseball players suited up to represent their home countries, a lot of players decided to practice with their MLB teams in spring training, so as to not mess with their pre-season mojo or risk injury. The World Baseball Classic consists of a first round, a second round, a semi-final round, and a championship round that concludes on March 22.

So who will the Red Sox be missing? As previously mentioned, Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez have left Red Sox training camp to join the Netherlands and Dominican Republic teams respectively. Also, Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez will play for Venezuela, and Sox reliever Fernando Abad will join Hanley to represent the Dominican Republic.

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Xander Bogaerts triples in his first at-bat in the World Baseball Classic to help bring the Netherlands to win #1! (PHOTO CREDIT: The Boston Globe)

When asked about his time off from Spring Training to play in the World Baseball Classic, Xander commented:

I’m going to play baseball. I’m not going on vacation. I’ll be in baseball mode and I’ll be playing in some competitive games, playing for some real important things for the country and playing with teammates you grew up playing with or against so it should be fun.

Team USA plays their first game today against Colombia. Some notable names on the team USA roster include Andrew Miller (LHP), Buster Posey (C), Eric Hosmer (infield), and Andrew McCutchen (outfield). Team USA doesn’t have a single CY Young award-winning pitcher lined up. Why? Pitchers are afraid a tournament-style competition right before the opening of the 2017 season will throw them off and open the potential for injury. Under the careful eye of former Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, team USA will do the best they can with who they have.

Does Team USA have a chance at the world title? Maybe. But it will be pretty hard to do without stand-out players that have chosen to skip the tournament (*Cough* Mookie Betts *Cough*). All I know for sure is that I can’t get enough of all this baseball after a long, cold winter!

 

Out with the old, and in with the new!

Ahhh Spring Training, a time for players to rise and stretch after a season of rest. It is a time for veterans to begin the season with a clean slate, and gives rookies an opportunity to make a name for themselves.

But perhaps the best part of Spring Training is watching a generation rise up to take its rightful place. After all, like Closing Time suggests, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

And who else has had a better beginning, middle, and end than David Ortiz? Big Papi has been the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox for the past 14 years. #34 has an enormous smile and even bigger heart, and brought a spark to the team that will undoubtedly be incredibly missed.

But the 40-year old hung up his jersey after an emotional departure last season, leaving the designated hitter spot wide open. Who could possibly fill that gaping hole?

The Red Sox are hoping it will be Hanley Ramirez.

I don’t think that any player will ever be able to match the skill, determination, heart, or spirit that Papi showed for every game, but players can try. And the Red Sox are hoping that Hanley is up to that challenge.

In November 2014, Hanley Ramirez signed a 4-year, $88 million dollar contract with the Boston Red Sox. That means Hanley has/will make $22 million dollars a season. Just for some perspective, that is more than 4 times what Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts make combined.

So it is needless to say that when Hanley came to Boston in 2015 he was expected to perform at a very high level. Unfortunately, his results were underwhelming to say the least. With only 53 RBIs and a .249 batting average, it is easy to see that the Red Sox thought they would get a little more from the left-fielder for his pricy $22 million salary.

But then something changed.

Hanley Ramirez moved to first base in 2016. He whacked 30 home runs and reached a career-high of 111 runs batted in. It is needless to say that Hanley found his moxie last season.

So what happened?

Maybe Hanley finally got used to playing in Boston weather. But if you ask me, I think he learned from the best. Hanley spent last season in Papi’s shadow. Hitting right behind him in the lineup and learning from the wealth of knowledge that is David Ortiz. Hanley had undoubtedly the best mentor a designated hitter could ever have.

When describing Papi, Hanley explained:

He’s my mentor. He’s my everything.

So it should come as no surprise that the Red Sox will promote Hanley Ramirez to fill David’s shoes (or should I say cleats). And I think Hanley is more than up to the challenge. It is the end of the David Ortiz era but hopefully it will be the beginning of a new one for Hanley Ramirez.

And though Hanley will be taking over the DH spot, he will always have a special place in his heart for David, as evidenced by his choice of apparel for his arrival at Spring Training (pictured below).

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Hanley Ramirez arrives at Spring Training in Fort Meyers, Florida in a David Ortiz shirt. PHOTO CREDIT: CBS Boston

Yeah, we see you in that shirt, Hanley. We know whose shoes you are trying to fill. And though there will always be rumors and dreams that Papi will emerge from retirement to rejoin the team, the current Red Sox know it is their turn to step up to the plate without Papi.

But we have not seen the last of David Ortiz. I’m sure he will be at many Red Sox games cheering on his former teammates from a luxury box instead of the dugout.

 

So will Hanley become the next David Ortiz in all capacities? Skilled player, dedicated teammate, and charming friend? Will Hanley rise up to be a veteran leader on the team? Only time will tell for sure. But with a mentor and friend like David Ortiz, it would be hard to expect otherwise.

They’re Baaaaaaack!

What a night for New England sports! After the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, the New England Patriots emerged victorious over the Atlanta falcons 34-28. The overtime win earned Tom Brady his 5th Super Bowl ring, making his hand the most decorated Quarterback hand in all of football.

And to top that off, roughly 13 hours after the Pats clinched the title, the Fenway crew packed up America’s most beloved ballpark to prepare Fenway South for Spring Training. The Red Sox begin Spring Training on Tuesday, February 14th (what better way to celebrate the day of love?!). While some fans were busy sleeping off the Super Bowl win, many lined Van Ness Street to see the truck off and even sign the side!

Even though Punxsutawney Phil called for 6 more weeks of winter, I would argue that today was the first day of Spring! Wally, his sister (Tessie), and some ballpark staff greeted the Fenway faithful that braved the cold winter morning to wish the truck well on its 1,480 mile journey down the east coast. What is in the truck, you ask? Well lots of things, but some highlights: over 20,000 baseballs, over 1,000 bats, 20 cases of bubble gum, and 60 cases of sunflower seeds.

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Red Sox truck headed for Fenway South! PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press/Steven Senne

But more important than the truck’s journey down the coast, is the Red Sox’s journey through the Spring. The Sox saw some major additions and subtractions during the offseason, and this Spring will be our first glance at how the changes will pan out.

It is without a doubt that all eyes will be on the Sox’s newest ace, Chris Sale. After changing the color of his socks in December, Red Sox nation has had their attention fixed on him. He joins a powerful Red Sox rotation with two Cy Young award winners (including the reigning champ). The added depth in the rotation will undoubtedly set a lot of fans’ (and players’) hearts at ease.

And as sweet as it is to have a solid rotation, the Sox can rest easy knowing that their bullpen is just as talented. For the Sox, as the innings go on, the pitching will remain strong and consistent. With set up guys like Joe Kelly, Koji Uehara, and Robbie Ross Jr. to set the stage for Craig Kimbrel, the starting pitchers can rest easy and feel confident leaving their game in very capable hands.

So what about position players? Well the outfield is pretty set with the Win-Dance-Repeat squad, and Xander and Dustin have the middle infield locked up. So that leaves the corners. And of course that also leaves the gaping void of designated hitter after Papi’s retirement. (Side Note: Get your tickets now! The Red Sox will retire Papi’s #34 on June 23rd!) That begs the question, can Hanley keep up his hitting and leave first base to follow in Papi’s footsteps? I think so. So then what to do about first? Travis Shaw has been able to prove himself in the past, however a new and improved Pablo Sandoval seems to be waiting in the wings.

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Carlos Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval (showing significant weight loss), Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera practicing with Team Venezuela (World Baseball Classic) in the offseason. PHOTO CREDIT: Jose Altuve Instagram @josealtuve27

Sandoval has worked feverishly in the offseason to shed some pounds and practice technique. If that holds up, I could definitely see him at a corner and leave the other to either Travis Shaw, Chris Young, or the vastly underrated Brock Holt. That will be something to be decided in the weeks to come. Can Sandoval live up to his $17 million salary? I hope so.

Another face to look for in sunny Fort Meyers is that of Andrew Benintendi. Though he quickly became a fan favorite last season, he did not reach 130 at-bats and is thus still considered a rookie. Benintendi topped MLB’s top prospects list and has high hopes for 2017! His carefree spirit and determined attitude makes him a perfect fit for the Sox outfield.

Who am I most excited to see this season? Xander Bogaerts. Without a question. Xander’s consistency, hard work, likability, and young talent is unmatched. The Red Sox struck gold with Xander and I hope with my whole heart that they never let him go!

There is most definitely a lot to look forward to this season. Between the Fenway faithful, the warm summer nights, and the hardworking team, April 3rd can’t come fast enough! Thank you to all the fans that have followed my blog for the past year. I hope 2017 is even better!

Let’s get excited, Red Sox Nation!

A Letter to Excited Red Sox Fans

January 11, 2017

Dear Excited and Impatient Red Sox Fans,

They say that good things come to those who wait (just take it from the Chicago Cubs)! But sometimes that waiting is hard, especially when the baseball vacancy in our lives is filled with a cold, snowy winter.

I’m here to ask you to pull through! In just a few short weeks we will be waking up to morning reports from sunny Fort Meyers Spring Training. In fact, the Red Sox start their Spring Training workouts on Valentine’s Day (that may be too much love for one day for us Sox fans)!

Truck Day is in 26 days! That’s right! On February 6th Wally and the gang will pack up Fenway for its migration south. We only need to make it through 26 short winter days before we can celebrate the sights and sounds of Spring!

And hey, tweets and Instagram posts from our favorite players can help aid the wounds of Spring fever. Many players have already moved past the holidays and are gearing up for this season.

And although HotStove updates and trades keep us on the edge of our seats, secured contracts can keep us from worrying. The offseason is a special time of year when new teams are constructed and teammate friendships are formed.

So, you excited and impatient baseball fans, I am here to ask you to please persevere and hold out hope. The 2017 baseball season will be here before you know it. I urge you to use this month to polish your bobble heads and buff up your foam fingers because come February 14th, baseball is in full swing!

Stay strong Fenway Faithful!

The Sox Sweetheart

Season of Changes

A lot is changing in Major League Baseball, including us! You may have noticed The Sox Sweetheart has gotten a bit of an upgrade this week. MLB is ending their partnership with WordPress.com, but we will prevail!

The Sox Sweetheart can still be found at http://www.thesoxsweetheart.mlblogs.com for some time, but will eventually be moved to http://www.thesoxsweetheartmlb.wordpress.com. All of our articles can also be found at www.medium.com/@TheSoxSweetie. But not to fret, all of our content will remain the same Sox-loving articles!

The Red Sox have already made some blockbuster moves this offseason. Earlier this month, the Red Sox traded one of their top, up-and-coming infielders, Yoan Moncada, (along with pitcher Michael Kopech and 2 other prospects) to the Chicago White Sox. In exchange, the Red Sox acquired ace pitcher, Chris Sale. What a sale indeed!

Sale was a 2016 All-Star and Cy Young award candidate. His move to Boston will add some much needed depth to the Red Sox starting rotation. The lefty is coming off of arguably the best season of his career, and here’s hoping changing the color of his socks won’t change his performance!

The 2017 Red Sox rotation also said goodbye to Clay Buchholz earlier this week. Red Sox nation was sad to see the righty go (Buchholz was the pitcher that had been with the Sox the longest – 10 years). Buchholz will play for the Phillies next season under his old pitching coach, Bob McClure. With the addition of Chris Sale, the Sox needed to release a pitcher and Buchholz’s ending contract and wavering consistency made him the pitcher on the chopping block.

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Clay Buchholz, PHOTO CREDIT: Scout.com

Dave Dombrowski, president of Red Sox baseball operations, discussed the decision-making involved in Buchholz’s trade:

When it came down to it, as we looked under all scenarios, the deal that made the most sense was dealing Clay.

It will be interesting to see what the Sox rotation looks like come Spring training in February. Though Red Sox nation is sad to see Clay and Yoan go, we are very excited to see what Sale will be able to accomplish in Boston! But let’s hope it’s Clay’s spot in the rotation on June 12 or 13, 2017 when the Phillies play at Fenway!

Winning After the Final Out

Even though the Red Sox did not take home baseball’s coveted World Series trophy in 2016, they still ended the season with a hefty amount of hardware. The Sox are a team that continues to win even though the season has come to a close. 2016 will most definitely go down in history as one of the most memorable seasons for the Boston Red Sox.

From Papi’s farewell tour, to the “triple B” threat, to win-dance-repeat, this team knew how to win, and win well. Though it is obvious that the Sox had several stand-out players, the entire team is worthy of praise for the fight, determination, and sportsmanship they showed to their teammates and opponents.

Let’s start with Xander Bogaerts. The Red Sox short stop won the 2016 Shortstop Silver Slugger award. Xander proved himself time and time again with clutch hits and was one of the most consistent offensive players this season. His positive attitude and unmatched success made him a stand out on the team this season.

Xander Bogaerts, PHOTO CREDIT: Boston.com

 

Dustin Pedroia was another stand out player in 2016. Pedroia brought home the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year for second base. The award is given to the top defensive player at each position and is based on several aspects of fielding (i.e. defensive runs saved and fielding percentage). Dustin’s swift turnovers and fearlessness on the field won him a spot on the list of success stories for the Sox this season.

Victory was inevitable for the Red Sox this season, and that was evidenced by the solid pitching from Rick Porcello. Though the Sox struggled with pitching consistency, Porcello came out strong, becoming the first pitcher to hit 20 wins this season and leading MLB in total wins on the season (22). It is no surprise that Porcello brought home the Players Choice Award for most outstanding AL Pitcher and won the American League CY Young Award (MLB award for best pitcher in each league). The last Red Sox pitcher to win the CY Young award was Pedro Martinez in 2000. Porcello narrowly beat out Detroit’s Justin Verlander for the top honor. At the beginning of the season, Porcello was criticized for his high salary and mediocre performance, but he sure proved his critics wrong with his comeback season.

Procello was not the only surprise this season. Many thought David Ortiz’s last season would be a rather relaxed one, with few celebratory moments. But Papi broke the mold for a 40-year-old designated hitter. In his farewell season, Ortiz had one of the best records of his career. Since the final out of the season, Papi has officially retired, turned 41, brought home the 2016 Designated Hitter Silver Slugger award, won Red Sox MVP at the annual Globies awards, and won the Esurance MLB award for best hitter. This season, Papi showed us all that age and expectations are irrelevant, when you do what you love you can be successful. Papi’s hard work paid off and he will definitely be offered a spot in Cooperstown.

And lastly, arguably the best player in MLB this season, Mookie Betts, deserves and earned a lot of recognition. Mookie brought home an outfield Silver Slugger award, the right field Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award, and came in second for AL MVP to Mike Trout. I just want to mention that I went to quite a few Red Sox games this season and at almost every game I attended, whenever Mookie stepped up to bat, the “MVP!” chant would break out among the fans. Mookie has so much talent and ability that he makes a swing of the bat or a diving catch look easy. Mookie is 24 years old. He is a ’90s baby! His career is young, big, and bright (and hopefully includes Boston sewn on the front of his jersey).

Mookie Betts, PHOTO CREDIT: MLB.com

The Red Sox came close to winning it all this season, but fell short in October baseball. But just because they lost a few games to Cleveland does not mean they should disregard the record-breaking, soulful season they experienced. Their success as a team can be measured by the success and humility of their individual players. This is a team that appreciated winning but appreciated their teammates and the love of the game even more.