Sunday, August 02, 2015

Red Sox v. Rays (August 2, 2015)

Boston Red Sox (47-58) v. Tampa Bay Rays (51-54)
Fenway Park

SP - Wade Miley (8-9, 4.65) v. Jake Odorizzi (6-6, 2.76)

1. Holt, 2B
2. Bogaerts, SS 
3. Ortiz, DH
4. Ramirez, LF
5. Napoli, 1B
6. Shaw, 3B
7. Castillo, RF
8. Hanigan, C
9. Bradley, CF

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Red Sox v. Rays (August 1, 2015)

Boston Red Sox (46-58) v. Tampa Bay Rays (51-53)
Fenway Park

SP - Joe Kelly (2-6, 5.94) v. Matt Moore (1-2, 7.61)

1. Holt, 2B
2. Bogaerts, SS
3. Ortiz, DH
4. Ramirez, LF
5. Napoli, 1B
6. Shaw, 3B
7. Castillo, RF
8. Hanigan, C
9. Bradley, CF

Friday, July 31, 2015

Ortiz, Ramirez, Schilling All Should Join Martinez In Cooperstown

Pedro Martinez was billed as a future Hall of Fame pitcher the day that Dan Duquette traded Tony Armas Jr. and Carl Pavano to the Expos for him and he lived up to those expectations in his seven seasons in Boston.  Sunday's induction ceremony in Cooperstown was a mere formality as anyone who ever watched Pedro pitch in his prime, which includes his last season in Montreal when he won the 1997 N.L. Cy Young award, knew he would be immortalized with a plaque on the wall of the Hall of Fame.

Three of his teammates with the Red Sox also deserve to one day join him as Hall of Famers.  Here are my arguments for the inclusion of David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Curt Schilling in Cooperstown.

David Ortiz



While the numbers he produced in his first six seasons as a member of the Minnesota Twins will help his case in the end, Ortiz made his case for the Hall of Fame in his 13 seasons with the Red Sox.

Since coming to Boston before the 2003 season - imagine, he was a bargain bin free agent that was signed to backup Jeremy Giambi and Kevin Millar - Ortiz has produced numbers second only to Ted Williams in Red Sox history.

A batting average of .287 to go along with an on-base percentage of .384 and a slugging percentage of .562 make for an impressive "triple slash" in his Boston career (through last night's game) that match well with his career line of .283/.377/.543.  He has crushed  428 home runs with the Red Sox and currently has 486 for his career.  He also has 1589 career RBI (1351 in Boston) with 564 career doubles (456 with the Red Sox).  With at least one more season to go in his career to go along with the rest of 2015, Ortiz is likely to finish with over 500 home runs, 1700 RBI, and 600 doubles.  Those are Hall of Fame numbers.

Ortiz' Hall of Fame case is bolstered by his performance in the biggest moments.  He has countless big hits in clutch situations that have helped lead the Red Sox to win three World Series titles.  His playoff "triple slash" of .295/.409/.553 tops that of his regular season production while his World Series "triple slash" of .455/.576/.795 is off the charts.  He also has 17 home runs and 60 RBI in 82 career postseason games.  In 2004, he was named MVP of the A.L.C.S. and was World Series MVP in 2013.

One of the cases against the nine-time All-Star is that he has been primarily a designated hitter but the Hall of Fame did open its doors for Frank Thomas in 2014 and Ortiz' body of work will match well with that of the Big Hurt and his playoff pedigree will further his candidacy.

The other case against Ortiz is his association with Performance-Enhancing Drugs.  While Ortiz has never failed a drug test, he did participate in a 2003 voluntary drug screening done by MLB and was then one of four players who had their names revealed as failing that test in 2009.  Ortiz still claims he never knowingly used PED's and in an interview with the Boston Globe this year during Spring Training he claims that he is regularly tested - including one random test administered at 7:30am in his home in the Dominican Republic in February - and he has never failed an official test.

Ultimately, I believe that Ortiz will be enshrined in Cooperstown.  I also believe that the stars who are more closely linked to PED's - like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds - will also enter the Hall of Fame. Cooperstown is a museum and the great players of each generation deserve to have their accomplishments be a part of the history of the game.  For that matter, Pete Rose will one day be admitted despite his gambling issues.

Manny Ramirez



In the case of Manny Ramirez, his history with PED's will delay (or prevent) his entry into the Hall of Fame. After failing two PED tests, in 2009 and 2011, Ramirez will have to wait for the voters to change their stance on the players associated with PED's before he gets in.  I do believe that at some point that will happen but it will be a matter of time.

Statistically, Manny Ramirez is a Hall of Famer.  The 12-time All-Star posted a "triple slash" of .312/.411/.585.  He accumulated 2574 career hits, including 555 home runs, and drove in 1831 runs.  His 165 RBI in 1999 with the Indians led the majors, he led the A.L. in 2003 with a .349 batting average, and he also topped the A.L. in home runs with 43 in 2004.

Ramirez was one of the greatest sluggers of his generation well before the PED problems.  Ask any pitcher that had to face him in the late 1990's or the 2000's.  Combining with Ortiz on the Red Sox from 2003-2008, Ramirez was a part of a middle of the order duo that rivaled the great Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

While Manny never won an MVP, it's pretty hard to ignore his seasons in 1999, 2000, and 2004 when talking about the greatest individual performances of all-time.

1999: .333/.442/.663, 44 home runs, 34 doubles, 165 RBI
2000: .351/.457/.697, 38 home runs, 34 doubles, 122 RBI
2004: .308/.397/.613, 43 home runs, 44 doubles, 130 RBI

Like Ortiz, he produced great numbers in the postseason.  hitting 29 home runs and driving in 78 runs in 111 career playoff games.  In 2004, he was named World Series MVP.

For Manny it will strictly come down to how the baseball writers decide to vote for any player who was proven or alleged to be involved with PED's.  If they do decide to allow those players in to Cooperstown, then his numbers will get him in to the Hall.

Curt Schilling



When Curt Schilling was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Red Sox he said that, "I want to be a part of bringing the first World Series in modern history to Boston and hopefully more than one over the next four years."

Schilling's quote was prophetic.  He helped pitch the Red Sox to championships in 2004 and 2007, solidifying his reputation as one of the great playoff pitchers in the history of the game.  That reputation for performing when the games matter the most is why Curt Schilling should be in the Hall of Fame.

216 wins over 20 seasons (16 as a starting pitcher) may not be Hall worthy and his 3.46 ERA does not scream out "Hall of Famer," even when you consider that he pitched during the height of the PED era.  He also never won a Cy Young award, although he did finish second three times in 2001, 2002, and 2004 and was a six-time All-Star.

The real case for Schilling is when you combine his very good regular season statistics with his excellent postseason numbers.

Schilling's teams appeared in the playoffs five times and all three teams he pitched in the playoffs for made it to the World Series at least once.  In 1993, he was N.L.C.S. MVP in pitching the Phillies in to the World Series where they would lose to the Blue Jays.  In 2001 he teamed with Randy Johnson to lead the Diamondbacks to a World Series title over the Yankees, sharing World Series MVP with his co-ace.  Those two playoff performances alone make a good case for his Cooperstown candidacy.

Then came his run with the Red Sox.  He embraced the pressure of trying to help lead a team to a championship that had not won one since 1918 and had a history of losing in memorable fashion.  Even when an ankle injury threatened to end his 2004 season in the A.L.C.S., Schilling risked the rest of his career to have a procedure administered to suture a tendon to the bone that allowed him to pitch and win against the Yankees in Game 6 of the A.L.C.S. and the Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series.  The job he was acquired to do - win a World Series for the Red Sox - had been accomplished.

After an injury plagued 2005 season and a pretty good 2006 season, Schilling ended his career in 2007 by helping the Red Sox win a second title in four years.  His regular season was mediocre but once again he was at his best in the playoffs, save for a poor start in Game 2 of the A.L.C.S. against the Indians

In his series clinching win over the Angels in Game 3 of the A.L.D.S. over the Angels, Schilling pitched seven shutout innings.  He bounced back from his poor start in Game 2 in Game 6 of the A.L.C.S., scattering two runs over seven innings while forcing a Game 7.  In his lone start in Game 2 of the World Series against the Rockies, Schilling pitched 5.1-innings and allowed just one run in an eventual 2-1 win that set the Red Sox up for another title.

Over 19 career starts in the playoffs, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.968 WHIP.  In the World Series he was 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA and 0.896 WHIP.  Most importantly, his teams won the World Series three times.

Schilling has not yet received more than 40% in the Hall of Fame voting - 75% is required for admission - and will face a tough road to enshrinement.  Hopefully voters will consider his playoff performance more than his regular season performance while also taking into account that he pitched in the PED era when hitters produced numbers not seen before in baseball history and reward one of the greatest pitchers of his generation with a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Belichick's Focus Already In Mid-season Form



One of the many factors that makes Bill Belichick one of, if not the single greatest coach in NFL history is his ability to ignore distractions and focus on the job of coaching his football team.  In an era of 24-hour coverage, social media, and amateur bloggers (like myself), he coaches with possible distractions that other great coaches like Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh never faced in their careers.

On the surface, nothing ever seems to bother Belichick.  No controversy ever derails his goal of preparing his football team to improve every day in their yearly quest to win a championship.

The Patriots have survived many controversies over the years including the Brady-Bledsoe debate in 2001, the "Spygate" fiasco of 2007, and the Aaron Hernandez murder case.  Nothing ever gets in the way of the Patriots focus.

On Wednesday, after Robert Kraft made a statement in support of Tom Brady while criticizing the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, Belichick conducted a press conference in which he refused to answer any questions regarding the "Deflategate" controversy that has embarrassed the team and resulted in quarterback Tom Brady currently facing a four-game suspension for his alleged knowledge of an alleged ball tampering violation.  After deflecting several questions about "Deflategate", Belichick told a reporter that he ought to "go back and look at your notes" to get information about the issue because Kraft had already spoken on the matter.



At today's press conference, Belichick was once again in his classic singular focus mood.

When asked about an interception made by rookie safety Jordan Richards and his development as a player, Belichick stated that, "It's always about moving ahead."

Belichick was repeatedly asked in several different forms about the team's plan for handling the quarterback position with the possibility of Brady having to miss games.  The four-time Super Bowl winning coach continued to say, "I'm focused on what we're doing today."

When asked if Brady would speak to the media, Belichick said that, "I speak for myself, I'm here trying to do my job."

There was a question about Belichick's desire to win every game this season by 50-points as a way of sticking "Deflategate" abck in the face of the NFL and Goodell.  Belichick retorted that, "We're in day two of training camp, that's where we are," and while that may be important to some people, it's not important to him and the team.

One reporter even asked for the coach's reaction to a plane that flew over Gillette Stadium that was rented by Jets fans to taunt the Patriots and their reputation for being cheaters.



Belichick's response?

"I don't know what you're talking about.  What plane?  I'm just trying to coach the football team."

While it has to be a challenge for the professional media, who are charged with getting relevant information about the Patriots, to work with Belichick, it is refreshing to the fans that he continues to focus solely on the development of his team and his day-to-day pursuit of winning another Super Bowl.

Random Patriots Thoughts (July 31, 2015)

With the Tom Brady suspension hanging over Foxboro like a looming thunder storm, the New England Patriots opened training camp yesterday at Gillette Stadium.

The NFL's ruling on Tuesday that Brady's four-game suspension would be upheld has placed a rare feeling of uncertainty at the beginning of a Patriots camp.  Bill Belichick is all about control and not knowing if his Hall of Fame quarterback will be playing the first four games can not have the eternally grumpy head coach in the best of moods.

If Brady does have to sit - the NFL Players Association has filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Brady in an attempt to reduce or eliminate the suspension - then Belichick is likely to hand the ball to second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the team's second round pick in 2014.

According to reports from camp, both Brady and Garoppolo looked good yesterday.  The Boston Herald reported that Brady was 27-for-30 during team drills while Garoppolo was 28-for-36 in team drills.

The spotlight will be focused heavily on Garoppolo and his development over the next month and while he said all the right things yesterday, you would have to believe he's going to be feeling the pressure of potentially taking over for Brady in September as the team starts its Super Bowl defense.

When asked about the possibility of taking over the starters job if Brady's court appeal fails, Garoppolo said, "We're not really looking that far ahead."  Although the Patriots organization does a better job of any professional sports franchise at focusing on the day-to-day details, I doubt Garoppolo would pass a lie-detector test with that comment.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said both quarterbacks split their reps about 50-50 on the first day but Brady spent all of his time with the first team.  As camp progresses, it will be interesting to see how the reps are distributed - and to see if the third quarterback, Matt Flynn, takes many reps - as it will be important to make sure Garoppolo has as many opportunities as possible to prepare with the first team offense.

***

The team's offense has a chance to be special.  All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski makes any attack potent and when you pair him with receivers Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, and Danny Amendola, any quarterback would be blessed to lead that offense.

An addition to this group that could cause nightmares for opposing defenses is Scott Chandler.  A 6-7, 260-pound tight end, Chandler will benefit greatly from the attention paid to Gronkowski and will make for a nice Red Zone target for Brady (or Garoppolo).

If third-year receiver Aaron Dobson builds on a strong off-season to bounce back from a poor second season and second-year running back James White can absorb at least part of the role that Shane Vereen - now with the Giants - played in the past, the passing attack will be one of the best in the entire NFL. Travaris Cadet and Dion Lewis are also in the mix to be the primary "third down back" if White is not up to the challenge of replacing Vereen.

The running game will rely on the power game of LeGarrette Blount with White, James Develin, Brandon Bolden, Jonas Gray, and Tyler Gaffney competing in camp for a roster spot.

***

The offensive line had a very young look to it yesterday.  Nate Solder at left tackle and the combination of Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon at right tackle did provide a veteran presence but second-year center Bryan Stork and rookies Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason at right and left guard provided the unit with a youthful appearance.

Stork did establish himself as very good center as a rookie and can be projected to develop into a leader of the line even at this point of his career.  The focus will be on the development of Jackson and Mason for both their individual ability to establish a passing pocket as well as to open holes for the power running game of Blount.

Veteran Ryan Wendell can play guard and center and will provide depth while Cannon can also slide in to play guard.  The development of second-year tackle Cameron Fleming, who helped the power running game as a rookie when he came in as a tight end/third tackle, will dictate Cannon's flexibility to play guard.  Both Josh Kline and Jordan Devey will compete for a spot as a reserve.

***

In a light moment for day one of training camp, a few Jets fans rented a plane to fly over Gillette Stadium in an attempt to troll the Patriots and their fans.



To no one's surprise, Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports came up with a great retort to the Jets fans.



Light moments like this are what make great rivalries like Patriots-Jets great for the game and great for the fans.

***

The team announced that attendance on day one was 10,108.

Imagine that there was a time when that would have been a good crowd at the old Foxboro Stadium for a regular season game and now they get that many people to watch the team practice in shirts, shorts, and helmets.

If you plan on going to practice, get there early or you will either be stuck in an obstructed viewing spot or will be shut out completely.