The Season of Competition

The 2016 season has proven to be the season of competition for the Boston Red Sox. Manager John Farrell has set a new tone for his team, deciding that playing time will not be decided by paycheck, but by power. This decision is clearly evidenced by the benching of Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo.

Pablo Sandoval has sure hit the headlines this Spring Training. After the worst season of his career, Pablo sauntered into JetBlue Park with his eyes set on third base. However after a slight back injury and only 10 hits in 45 at-bats, Farrell had other plans.

Thursday, Manager John Farrell announced that Travis Shaw would be the starting third basemen for the Boston Red Sox. Shaw’s sharp defense and .333 batting average out-shined Sandoval’s $17.6 million dollar paycheck. Farrell noted:

My focus is on the guys that are in uniform, not what’s attached to them or what their contract states. We’re all about evaluating, and what’s best for our team.

So, what will Panda do next? Whatever he possibly can to fight for third base. After chatter about Panda’s inevitable disappointment, he responded by admitting his defeat and promising his rebound. Panda confessed:

It was a competition and I tip my cap to Travis. He won it. All I can do now is try as hard as I can and get better. That’s all I can do.

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Manager John Farrell and Red Sox player, Pablo Sandoval. PHOTO CREDIT: The Boston Globe

This is indeed the season of competition. But thirdbase is not the only contest. With Hanley Ramirez’s disappointing season in the outfield in 2015, and transition to first base for 2016, left field has been left wide open.

The Sox had their hopes that Rusney Castillo would step up, but after a tough transition from Cuba to the United States, John Farrell felt otherwise. Castillo’s impressive career in Cuba earned him a $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox in 2014. But a disappointing Spring Training (with an average of.204) opened the position.

Farrell decided to award left field to 2015 All-Star, Brock Holt. Holt has been a key utility player for the Sox and has earned left field. Farrell commented on Holt:

His importance on our team continues to grow with each passing month just because of the versatility. Setting that aside, he’s a good player. There’s the utmost confidence to put him at any one of seven positions on the field and that’s’ a rarity. Not to mention that his at-bats are consistent. He’s maybe one, if not one of our best, our top two or three baserunners on our club. He’s grown in his own confidence and he’s done one hell of a job.

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Red Sox Leftfielder, Brock Holt. PHOTO CREDIT: HNGN.com

John Farrell is clearly putting together a competitive team, regardless of salary. Sandoval and Castillo starting on the bench mean a combined $28.1 million riding the pine. So how does that make the players in the clubhouse feel? Will this competition for positions prove to be destructive in the clubhouse or constructive on the field? Only time will tell.

Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, is taking Farrell’s side. When asked about Farrell’s lineup decision, Dombrowski reassured:

I think it’s important for the players in the clubhouse to know that’s the manager’s job and responsibility. If he thinks that gives us the best chance to win, then he has my support.

This Red Sox 2016 season will prove to be an intersting one! Perhaps a little healthy competiton is just what these Sox need!

 

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A Personal Partnership

Some things are just meant to go together; peanut butter and jelly, baseball and cracker jacks, movies and popcorn, and of course the Boston Red Sox and The Jimmy Fund. For the past 63 years, The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund has been an iconic part of the Boston Red Sox.

This weekend marks the 15th annual Jimmy Fund Day at Fenway South. This year the Jimmy Fund sent 45 youth cancer patients to sunny Fort Meyers, FL for a weekend of baseball with the Red Sox. Yesterday, the patients, along with their nurses and doctors, got to meet the players before watching the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals at that afternoon’s game.

One patient, Eva Bod, described what it was like for her to meet her favorite Red Sox players:

You know there’s only a few times in your life where you get to experience a happiness that’s so great that you don’t really know how to put it into words. But when you do and you get to share it with other people, it’s um, it’s really special.

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Eva Bod and Boston Red Sox player, Hanley Ramirez. PHOTO CREDIT: The Boston Red Sox, Instagram

Each season, the Boston Red Sox and the Jimmy fund elect two co-captains to bridge the partnership between the two organizations. Last year’s captains, infielder Brock Holt and third baseman Pablo Sandoval, are returning as the 2016 captains. The two, along with several other players including Handley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, David Price, and others all signed autographs and met patients before Saturday’s game.

Every year, Red Sox players participate in the annual Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon and other events to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer. Ted Williams was a true pioneer for the charity. And on April 10, 1953, Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey made the Jimmy Fund the official charity of the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund partnership has been one of the strongest charitable partnerships in all of sports. The dedication, commitment, and genuine love between the two organizations is undeniable, and will continue to be a base for a strong alliance for years to come.

 

 

I’ve got Spring Fever!

Dust off the cleats and break out the bats, Spring Training games have begun in sunny Fort Meyers, FL! The Sox already have their first 6 games under their belt, and are looking towards number 7, which will begin today at 1pm. The Sox are off to a good start, but it is evident that there is still work to be done.

The Sox started out with a bang, sweeping their traditional opening doubleheader, taking on Boston College and Northeastern University. Mookie Betts had an especially good afternoon, hitting a 3-run home run over JetBlue Park’s mini Monster. Betts, the leadoff right fielder, is one to watch this season. Though he is relatively new to the big leagues, his talent and skill is unmatched. The Red Sox expect great things from him this season.

The Sox are 4 for 2 so far this Spring Training. Their two losses coming from the Twins and Yankees. But the losses are not total losses. In their first 6 games, the Sox have averaged about 10 hits per game. If the Sox can continue double-digit hits throughout Spring Training and carry it into the season, the Sox would be set.

David Ortiz is itching to be a part of the hard-hitting team. Despite a huge outcry of support from the fans in attendance at JetBlue Park on Friday, Papi went 0 for 3. David Ortiz is adamant that he’ll be fine, stating:

I ain’t changing nothing.

And Papi, we wouldn’t want you to. After decades in the industry, Papi will be a veteran asset to this team more than he will be a performer. David’s character, charisma, and chart-topping career stats will build momentum for the entire team this season.

The team is beginning to shape up. They’ve got guys who can get on base, leaders in the clubhouse, angels in the outfield, and the infield is one of the most-stacked in all of baseball. So what’s left? Oh, right. Pitching. Well the starting rotation is pretty much set, as evident in my previous article, The Core 5:

  1. Price
  2. Bucholz
  3. Porcello
  4. Rodriguez
  5. Kelly

Porcello and Kelly are the only two from the starting line-up who have had any pitching time during these first several games. Each pitched two innings and gave up a few hits. It will be interesting to see how the rotation pans out. Bucholz will lead the battle this afternoon against the Orioles.

So, yes. The team is shaping up. Is there still work to be done? Yes! But that is why Spring Training exists. I have complete confidence that the Sox will have a great season if they stay healthy, stay positive, and stay determined. #thesoxsweetheart

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PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press

Player Spotlight: Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia rolled up to JetBlue Park on Monday in his two-of-a-kind custom Jeep pickup. The star second baseman didn’t just show up with a hot ride, but also with his characteristic spark and drive for success.

Pedroia is looking to make this a somewhat comeback year after missing almost half the 2015 season due to a hamstring injury. And although the infielder feels ready to go, Manager John Farrell warns that the aging all-star may take a few days off this season to rest and rejuvenate. The Red Sox veteran has had a successful career to earn leadership status.

Number 15 is quite the role model. He is consistently the first to arrive at the park for a game to prepare and be his best. So it may have surprised some people when he was the second to last position player to report for Spring training. When asked about his time in Fort Meyers, Pedey said:

I don’t show up when we wear shorts.

Dustin Pedroia shows up to do his job, and do it well. He doesn’t show up until the game pants are ready, not the practice shorts. He sets an example for the younger players on his team. The Sox management recognizes Pedey’s talent, signified by a contract that keeps him with the club through 2021. But just because Pedroia doesn’t wear a “C” on his jersey doesn’t mean he isn’t a captain. Pedroia will be an asset to Hanley Ramirez, who is making the transition from outfield to first base. Manager John Farrell described Pedroia:

He’s basically going to be the captain of our infield.

Dustin Pedroia will forever be the spark and heart of the Boston Red Sox, and with David Ortiz beginning his farewell season, Pedey will also eventually become the veteran backbone to the team. So what does this season hold for Dustin Pedroia. Only time will tell. #thesoxsweetheart

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PHOTO CREDIT: Barry Chin, The Boston Globe

 

Too early to get the rally flags out?

The 2016 baseball season is officially underway! Red Sox pitchers and catchers reported to Fort Meyers, FL yesterday for the beginning of Spring Training. But the strong arms weren’t the only ones present in sunny Florida. 16 position players (including Hanley Ramirez) and several members of Red Sox management have already reported.

Needless to say, the Red Sox are ready to put their disappointing 2015 season behind them and set their eyes on 2016. And they aren’t the only ones. Both FanGraphics and USA Today have high hopes for the Sox this season. FanGraphics, a popular baseball stats site, projects that the team will win 92 games in 2016 and come out with the American League Championship. (And in case you’re wondering, the site picked the Cubs for the NL title.) USA Today projects the Sox will win 86 games for an AL East title. So are the Red Sox World Series bound? I’d like to think so.

The Red Sox have a couple new tricks up their sleeve to help get the job done. Dave Dombrowski is a new face to Fenway but not to baseball. Dombrowski spent 14 rather successful seasons with the Detroit Tigers, but with no more years on his contract and no world series titles, the Tigers released Dombrowski in a sudden fashion over the summer. The Sox picked up Dombrowski two weeks later in August to be the new President of Baseball Operations. John Henry is no stranger to Dombrowski, they worked together with the Florida Marlins in the late 90s. Dombrowski has his eyes set on a ring for the 2016 season.

But Dombrowski isn’t the only guy with a new job at Fenway. After the Sox parted ways with General Manager Ben Cheringotn, Dombrowski promoted Red Sox Assistant General Manager, Mike Hazen, to fill his spot. Hazen, born in Weymouth, MA, worked closely under Cherington and knows the organization well. And if you don’t remember, it was Ben Cheringotn who was assistant GM under Theo Epstein who got promoted and led the Sox to their infamous 2013 world series win. Are the Red Sox seeing a repeat of history?

The new President and GM duo are looking to do some serious rebuilding of this last-place team. And with the help of their now cancer-free manager, John Farrell, the Sox have their hopes set high. Let’s see if they can deliver! #thesoxsweetheart

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The Core 5

Robert Frost once said, “Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things.” The Boston poet got it right when he acknowledged that pitching depressions puts the team in a rut. That rut lasted for most of the 2015 season. Major trades and deals left the Red Sox without a reliable ace last season, and that cost them a playoff push.

With the signing of David Price and the healthy return of some injured pitchers, the 2016 Red Sox starting rotation is shaping up. If the Sox can pull together and maintain a healthy, performing core 5, then I say they have a good chance at success this year, assuming the starting lineup holds up their end.

So what does the starting rotation look like this season?

  1. David Price may as well have “Ace” embroidered on his jersey. After signing the largest pitching contract in Major League Baseball history (7 years, $217 million) it is quite obvious that the Sox have found their new headliner. The lefty earned that contract with an ERA under a 3, and an expansive knowledge of how to dominate in the American League East. Price is not going anywhere.
  2. Is Clay Buchholz the number 2 pitcher for the Sox? That’s the million dollar question that everyone is asking. My answer? Yes! Though the Texas native has had a couple rocky seasons due to injuries, he has proven himself in the past. Let’s not forget his impressive 1.74 ERA in 2013, the year the Sox won the World Series! With the support of John Farrell, I see Buchholz holding strong to the number 2 spot.
  3. Rick Porcello: the hidden gem of the Red Sox rotation. Porcello is a solid number 3 pitcher. He’s got an ERA that hovers around a 4, but his consistency makes him a reliable choice for 3rd. He works well in the middle of the rotation, he’s not a stand-out guy but he is an asset to this team
  4. Eduardo Rodriguez. After an impressive rookie season, Rodriguez has proven that he has a lot of potential moving forward in this organization. The 22 year-old has a lot of growing to do over the next few years, but with a new mentor in David Price, I see great things for him in this rotation.
  5. And that brings us to good old number 5, Joe Kelly. After a few rocky seasons, Kelly performed in 2015 for the Red Sox. His inconsistency may prove to catch up with him, but the guy can throw a fastball. With a new one year deal with the Sox, I think Kelly will try to prove himself. He may have to battle for his number 5 spot, but I say it’s his.

The Red Sox have great potential to win this season. Their starting rotation is shaping up! We’ll have to see what decisions are made about the bullpen, but the core 5 can put together good games.

#thesoxsweetheart

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Look Out, Fort Meyers!

 

Though it may seem like you just finished shoveling feet of snow off your porch, for the Red Sox and MLB Players alike, it’s time to strap on the cleats for baseball season! A little blizzard can’t keep Wally, his sister Tessie, and Bus driver Al Hartz from driving the Red Sox equipment truck to Fort Meyers, FL for the start of spring training!

The “Truck Day” tradition began in 2003, and has been a Red Sox tradition ever since. Tomorrow morning crews will begin loading the truck with over 20,000 baseballs, 400 pairs of socks, 60 cases of sunflower seeds, and much more! The bus will take off from Fenway Park around noontime surrounded by a crowd of die-hard Red Sox fans.

Truck Day kicks off Spring Training, which officially begins with pitchers and catchers reporting on Thursday, February 18. The Sox will have a busy couple months preparing for opening day on Monday, April 4, facing off against past Red Sox Manager, Terry Francona, and the Cleveland Indians.
All eyes will be on LHP David Price. The Red Sox signed the lefty in December in hopes to strengthen the starting rotation. The new ace arrived in Fort Meyers today and is already enjoying his new club. This morning, Price tweeted:

First day at was great!! Wow what a complex we have here!!

Price comes to the Sox after a rather impressive 2015 season with the Toronto Blue Jays and a competitive 2.30 ERA.

The other focus of Spring Training will be on David Ortiz and his final Major League season. David Ortiz announced on his 40th birthday that he will retire at the end of the 2016 season. Making this Ortiz’s final Spring Training as an active player. This season will be David Ortiz’s 20th season playing in the big league. The designated hitter’s charisma and altruistic personality have added so much to the Fenway clubhouse. David will be honored throughout the 2016 season. Big Papi said:

I’m really proud of what I had accomplished through the years … I’m very thankful for having fans like you guys who have support me through my career. I wish I could play another 40 years.

The slugger’s final MLB game will be Sunday, October 2, 2016 at Fenway Park.

This 2016 Red Sox season will be an interesting one to say the least. Under Manager John Farrell, who is in remission after being diagnosed with cancer last year, the Red Sox will play with a new, revamped starting rotation, and will say goodbye to one of the greatest men to ever play the game of baseball. This season will be one for the books.

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