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.

 

 

 

Go Cubs Go!

November 2, 2016 will go down in history as the best game in Major League Baseball history. The day the Cubs broke the longest losing streak of any North American major league sport will live in infamy. Chicago fans waited patiently for 108 years to see their beloved Cubbies take home the World Series trophy, and after 1am on Thursday they were finally able to celebrate.

2016 was the year of the Cubs. But not just the team. The fans. 2016 was the year of the Cubs fans. The Chicago faithful rallied around their team and flew the “W” win flag after decades of disappointment. This is a World Series that generations upon generations of Cubs fans have been waiting for.

Hazel Nilson is 108 years old. She grew up close to Wrigley Field and waited patiently her entire life to watch her Chicago Cubs take home the World Series trophy. Nilson stayed up well past her bedtime to celebrate a game 108 years in the making.

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Hazel Nilson (right) PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Morelli

Though Nilson was fortunate to see her Cubbies win the Wold Series, some fans sadly passed away before they had that chance. Wayne Williams brought his phone to his father’s grave to listen to the Cubs win the World Series, as he had promised his Dad years before that they would listen to the Cubs win the World Series together.

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Wayne Williams PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Segall

Even country singer, Brett Eldredge, enjoyed the Cubs game with his family! In doing so he skipped the 50th annual Country Music Awards to show his unwavering support for his beloved Cubbies.

These are just a few of the endless stories of support from the Cubs fans this season. This win united a city. Chicago has been waiting over a century to bring a win home. Fans can sing Go Cubs Go at the top of their lungs! Countless people had a hand in this win, however Cubs General Manager Theo Epstein deserves the MVP award.

Theo Epstein will go down in history as the baseball curse-lifter. In 2004, he led the Red Sox to their first World Series win in 86 years. And now in 2016, he led the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series win in 108 years. What is Theo’s secret weapon? How does he turn deflated teams into success stories that heal generational disappointment?

In 2002, the Red Sox hired Theo Epstein to be their general manager. That deal made him the youngest GM in MLB history. He was 28. Epstein’s youth didn’t stump his ability. He used his incredible talent and keen decision-making to shape a team capable of breaking decades of drought.

What does the future hold for Theo Epstein? Well he can certainly expect a pay raise next year. But I think other teams will be fighting for Epstein’s worst-to-first magic touch. With the win under the Cubs’ belt, the Cleveland Indians now have the longest losing streak in MLB. Will the Indians fight for Theo? Maybe. But I would be willing to bet that Epstein sticks around with the Cubs for a while. He might be able to squeeze another World Series or two out of Chicago!

Wait, Are the Red Sox in the World Series?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The World Series starts this week! If you’re anything like me, you wait all year for the Fall Classic to roll around. I will not lie, I was crushed when the Tribe squandered the Red Sox’s playoff push. But this week I realized that the Red Sox aren’t entirely out of the running.

Former owner of the Chicago Cubs, Philip K. Wrigley, whose family name carries the beloved Wrigley Field namesake, once said:

Baseball is too much of a sport to be called a business, and too much of a business to be called a sport.

Wrigley was right, baseball is a business. And in business, transactions are made, people are broken apart, and sacrifices are made. Some of the greatest Red Sox players of all time no longer wear Boston on their jersey, but I would argue that once a player is a Red Sox, they are always a Red Sox.

The Cleveland Indians will go into Tuesday night’s World Series Game 1 with Andrew Miller, Mike Napoli, and Cocoa Crisp ready on the roster. All three of whom have been on Boston Red Sox World Series championship teams. How could anyone forget the endless tugs on Napoli’s beard throughout the 2013 postseason?

On the other side, the Chicago Cubs will take the field with John Lackey, Jon Lester, and David Ross present. All three of whom also have been on Boston Red Sox World Series championship teams. Lester has been a fan favorite pitcher for the Boston Red Sox since his debut in 2006. He not only has the full support of Red Sox nation, but also of all the fans in Chicago as he was named Co-MVP of the ALCS. And though David Ross only spent a short time in Boston, his personality makes him enjoyable everywhere he goes, as evidenced by his incredible fan backing in Chicago.

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Jon Lester and David Ross celebrate a Cubs win, PHOTO CREDIT: CBS Chicago

But the players aren’t the only ones keeping the Boston spirit alive in the 2016 Fall Classic. Terry Francona spent a decade of his life playing Major League Baseball. His time on the field included stints with both the Chicago Cubs (1986) and the Cleveland Indians (1988). In 1997, Francona hung up his cleats and picked up a clipboard as he became the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. After a not-so-successful career with the Phillies, Francona took a short break from managing then joined the Red Sox in 2004, and we all know what happened from there.

Francona led the Red Sox to their first World Series win in 86 years. The curse of the Great Bambino was lifted and the Red Sox went on to win the Fall Classic. That 2004 Red Sox season and postseason has gone down in history as one of the most memorable times in MLB history.

It is only fitting that now Terry Francona has the opportunity to lead his old team (the Cleveland Indians) to face the Chicago Cubs (also his old team) in the 2016 World Series with a slew of Red Sox on each bench.

But Francona won’t be alone. Theo Epstein is perhaps the most valued front office professional in all of Major League Baseball. Epstein was Francona’s General Manager in Boston when the curse was lifted in 2004. Epstein now has the opportunity to relive that 2004 magic as he hopes to lead the Cubs to a World Series win after 108 disappointing seasons.

So, are the Red Sox in the World Series? Not officially, but you can (and I will) make the argument that the Red Sox will be in this World Series in spirit. I believe that the same intensity and magic that surrounded the 2004 World Series will be present when the teams take the field in Cleveland on Tuesday.

The Cleveland Indians have not won a World Series in 68 years (1948) and the Cubs have not won in 108 years (1908). Not only do the Cubs have the longest championship drought in all of baseball, but they also have the longest winning drought of any North American major league sport. The Cleveland Indians are right behind the Cubs with the second longest World Series drought in MLB. The photo below is what the Cubs (at West Side Park) looked like the last time they won the World Series (1908).

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West Side Park 1908, PHOTO CREDIT: Wikipedia

This week of baseball will make history. Two teams will battle it out to bring a World Series trophy to their very patient fans. It will be intense, emotional, exciting, and rewarding. What more could you ask for?

 

A Thank-You Letter to Big Papi

Dear David,

As you know, on April 20th, 2012, Fenway Park turned 100 years old. That weekend, the park opened its doors to the entire community for people to get a chance to enjoy America’s finest field. I went to the park that weekend and walked on the Fenway clay. It was a great day but the crowds and long lines pushed me out the exit of the park and down Boylston street. I eventually ended up at Copley Square, where I saw you!

You were getting into your parked car and I shouted your name. You waved and smiled then got in your car and sped away (and I do mean sped considering the speed limit is 20mph)! But for that brief moment I met you!

Well Papi, yesterday I said goodbye to you. I watched you take the field one last time from my blue wooden seat in the grandstands. I sat for three hours all bundled up in the brisk autumn night waiting to see the Red Sox beat the tribe and move a step closer to the American League Championship Series.

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Well we all know that that wasn’t the case and this wasn’t the Red Sox’s year. But I would argue that this has been your year. We spent the 2016 season celebrating all the good you have done in baseball, for Boston, and for the world. I want to thank you, David, for all of the ways you have brought people together.

I think one of the things I admire most about you is your love of the game. No matter the count and no matter the score you cheer with the rest of us. Like last night, you got all of Fenway on their feet simply by raising your hands when you were walked to first. I’d say that’s a superpower. You moved 38,000 people to their feet with one swift movement of your arms. You celebrate with the fans because you yourself are a fan of the game.

For 20 years you dedicated your life to baseball and I want to thank you for spending 14 of those seasons in Boston. You could have given up on baseball after the Twins made the stupid decision to release you after the 2002 season, but instead (with some help from Pedro) you graced Boston with your presence. So I would also like to also thank the Twins for making that horrible mistake.

I want to thank you for all of the walk-offs and clutch hits. On May 14th this season you hit your 20th career walk off in the bottom of the 11th inning. As Xander Bogaerts touched home, the entire dugout ran to meet you at second base! You even took the base from the field as your prize. But what you don’t know, Papi, is that May 14th is my birthday. I will always remember the time that you hit a walk-off double as my birthday present. So thank you for that.

Thanks for representing the Red Sox at 10 All-Star games and making Boston proud each time. I always love watching you interact with players on other teams and in other divisions, you make friends everywhere you go and you always push the team to be their best.

During your last regular season game, the Red Sox honored you with a solid gold bat, just like your heart (pure gold). What a fitting gift for someone who has saved the lives of over 500 children through the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. You have kept kids’ hearts beating in New England and in the Dominican Republic. And that is a victory that is worth more than a million World Series wins. Thank you for caring so much about the world around you and using your money and fame to help those in need.

And lastly, thank you so much for last night’s game. After the Red Sox’s playoff push was terminated, the Cleveland Indians took to the field to celebrate. But that would not silence the 38,000 Fenway Faithful that just realized they witnessed David Ortiz’s last baseball game.

The fans quickly broke out into cheers and chants of “We want Papi!” And when the fans realized you would not come out until the tribe was in their clubhouse, we continued in chanting, “Off the field! Off the field!” Once the Indians were gone, you still didn’t come out. I waited on my feet, screaming at the top of my lungs for what felt like an eternity until the “We’re not leaving!” chant broke out. Moments later, the chants turned into cheers as we saw a legend emerge from the dugout.

You walked to the mound and with tears in your eyes, you saluted the people of Boston. But what you may not realize, Papi, is that when you cry, we all cry. Thank you for last night because in that moment I realized I was experiencing history. One day, I will bring my kids to Fenway Park and they will see your “34” retired on the Right Field roof deck and they’ll ask about you. And I will tell them about everything you did for me, the city of Boston, and the world.

So thank you David. Thank you for the memories and thank you for being a great role model for athletes and people everywhere. I’ll come visit you in Cooperstown.

Sincerely,

The Sox Sweetheart

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