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Greg Cunningham

Opening Day 2014 posted by Greg Cunningham

Mitch Albom, in his book The Five People You Meet In Heaven taught us that “…all endings are beginnings. We just don't know it at the time..."  Looking back at the end of the 2012 Boston Red Sox season, little did we know the stage would be set for what many would call the greatest come-back season in Red Sox history.  And without the abysmal ending of 2012, it may never have come to pass.

The season had barely begun, and fans were still trying to learn the names of some of the players, when the character of the 2013 Boston Red Sox was firmly established.  While the echo of explosions could be heard at Fenway Park on April 15th, the reverberations were felt for days, weeks, and months after.  The City of Boston was reminded, and more importantly, reminded itself, that we were strong, we would not cower, we would not give in.  We thanked the real heroes in uniform: the police, fire and EMS departments far and wide who worked tirelessly to provide aid and comfort.  We paused to honor and remember the fatalities: Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu and Sean Collier.  We tried to raise the spirits of those who had lost limbs, and those who almost lost their lives after being wounded.  But Boston refused to act wounded, and rose up as one, unified nation.

In what proved to be a stirring moment of foreshadowing, President Barack Obama provided a call to action: “We come together to celebrate life and to walk our cities and to cheer for our teams [and] when the Sox, then Celtics, then Patriots or Bruins are champions again…the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street…Bet on it!”  The Red Sox did more than bet on it.  They did it.

Continue reading "Opening Day 2014"


Greg Cunningham

Opening Day 2013 posted by Greg Cunningham

I think the Grateful Dead may have put it best:  “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

The great hope and a 2012 team full of what many called “An All Star Roster” quickly morphed into the team we loved to hate.  The Sox lost a game?  The starting pitcher blamed his golf game.  The manager made some comment about a player to the media?  Such a comment about the manager was returned in kind.  The 2012 Boston Red Sox seemed to epitomize everything wrong with professional sports today: highly paid men playing a game meant to be played by children.

But it was Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote about the birth of Spring long before baseball was even envisioned as a game: 

When April with his showers sweet with fruit

The drought of March has pierced unto the root
…(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)-
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage,

Pilgrimages to Fenway Park certainly were not what Chaucer had in mind.  But like salmon returning upstream to start the process of life anew, Red Sox Nation returns to Fenway Park to breathe new life into the stadium.

Players and coaches will tell you they would much rather play as an underdog and not as the favorite.  Underdogs are easier to motivate; favorites can be too sure of themselves.  If this is the case, the 2013 Boston Red Sox must be in the best place they have ever been to begin the season.  Not one Boston Sports Writer picked the team to win the division this year, and only one picked the team to win a wild card spot.  “Underdogs” is an understatement.  And this year, they seem fine with that.

Continue reading "Opening Day 2013"


Charles Bisbee

Seismic Deal Cleans Sox' Slate posted by Charles Bisbee

As you may have heard, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto were traded to the Dodgers last week for James Loney, pitching prospect Rubby de la Rosa, and an assortment of water-logged baseballs. (I kid, obviously, though baseballs- fresh ones at least- could eventually prove to be more valuable than the players the Sox received).

On paper and from an overall talent perspective, the deal looks atrocious. James Loney is a utility player for a middling squad and the best prospect the Sox received (de la Rosa) projects as a mid-rotation innings-eater. Dan Shaughnessy compared the trade's magnitude to the infamous sale of the Bambino in 1920. 

While the gulf in overall baseball talent is wide, this is a deal that needed to be made. It doesn’t take a chemistry major to have noted the growing toxicity within the Sox clubhouse over the past couple of years, or to understand that Beckett and Crawford in particular were lightning rods for the vitriol directed toward the squad, both from fans and the media. Crawford was always hurt and could never live up to his $142 million contract. Beckett was inconsistent and seemingly lazy. If success were to be reclaimed by these players, it was not going to be in the hub. 

In gutting the nucleus of the squad, the Sox save more than $250 million and give Ben Cherington the opportunity to build his team, instead of continuing to saddle him with Theo Epstein’s band of misfits. This is a clean slate for the Sox. And after the past couple of years, a clean slate may be better than any player the team could have acquired. 

Continue reading "Seismic Deal Cleans Sox' Slate"


Charles Bisbee

Youkilis Trade Needed to be Made posted by Charles Bisbee

Keeping your finger near the pulse of the Boston sports scene while living in Seoul, South Korea is no small task. News is generally filtered through the same outlets, but there is a certain level of detachment. Kevin Youkilis’ departure, for example, didn’t resonate with me in a way it might have were I still living in New England.

Anyway, this trade seemed inevitable for a while. The poorly-disguised bad blood between Youkilis and Bobby Valentine, the emergence of Will Middlebrooks, and the steady deterioration of Youk’s all around game made the decision, if not easy, certainly a clear one for the Sox’ front office. To his credit, Youk handled the situation professionally, thanking the organization and the fans and managing to steer clear of the Valentine topic completely.

Upon returning to Fenway last week, Youk was met warmly by the faithful, who showered him with a chorus of what we know were “Yoooouuuk”s and not “booooo”s. Youkilis doffed his cap in his typically abrupt, all-business way, and proceeded to collect 5 hits and a home run in the three-game series. Youkilis appeared classier next to Valentine, who continued his petulant child routine and blamed Youkilis for their strained relationship.

A change of scenery could do wonders for Youkilis. At 33 years old, he should still have enough lead in his pencil to produce a few more solid years for a surprisingly contending White Sox team. At the same time, it was a move that Boston had to make, given the factors mentioned above. Give new GM Ben Cherington credit for making a difficult decision that, while maybe unpopular, was absolutely necessary. 

Continue reading "Youkilis Trade Needed to be Made"


Richard Kagan

A Tough Loss to Boston posted by Richard Kagan

I was following the score on the internet.  And turned it off with men on 1st and 2nd base with one out in the 9th.

I didn't want to see what could happen.  Now, I know.  Cody Ross, tagged Matt Thornton for a walk-off 3 run shot in the 9th to win it for Boston, 3-1.  I thought, could a 1-0 lead hold up in Fenway Park.  Not likely.  And, this was a wasted performance by the starter, Quintana who threw a 5 hitter and shut down the Red Sox offense.  Till Thornton came out and blew the save.  The Sox then brought in Addison Reed, their closer and he gave up the shot by Ross.  This a tough loss.  It's baseball.  Sometimes you win these type of games, now the ChiSox knows how it feels to be on the other side.  Don't let this happen again.  Close out these type of games.  A team has a few of these losses per season.  Enough.

Continue reading "A Tough Loss to Boston"


Greg Cunningham

Opening Day 2012 posted by Greg Cunningham

Exactly one year ago this week, I wrote the line, “…and if all is well in September, a slow start to the season will be laughed at as the playoffs begin.”  Oh the humanity (and the irony).

It is possible no other team in the history of the Boston Red Sox caused as much heartbreak as did the 2011 team.  A season that began like the Titanic righted itself and sailed along with great promise during a summer that listened to talk of World Series games being played once again at Fenway Park.  But when T.S. Elliot wrote "April is the cruelest month," Red Sox fans would have eagerly agreed, until September brought cruelty that even Elliot could not have envisioned; Fenway Park became a modern day "Wasteland” and lay dormant and barren during the month of October.

As the Fall continued, things didn't get much better in Red Sox nation.  Instead of talk of MVP's and free agent signings, Sox fans spent much of the off season talking about fried chicken and beer; as comfort food may have been the intended scapegoat of 2011, Red Sox Nation watched yet another casualty fall, and bid goodbye to once beloved (and still beloved by many) manager Terry Francona.

Writer and inspirational speaker William Arthur Ward wrote, “Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.”  We can only hope the men that make up the 2012 Boston Red Sox are more prone to breaking records and not prone to just breaking down.
 

An unfortunate end to a season might be forgiven, as winning often cures all.  But with a lackluster start to 2012, the maelstrom of issues from last season continue to swirl around Fenway like gusts of wind on a cool April afternoon.  

Continue reading "Opening Day 2012"


Joe Halstead

The Detroit TIgers Must Approach This April Like the Playoffs posted by Joe Halstead

It is said- and correctly so- that while a pennant may not be won in April, a pennant may be lost in April.

On this note, the Detroit Tigers have immediate cause for concern. Their early schedule- in the month of April alone- includes two more games against Boston, a three-game home series with the Tampa Bay Rays (April 10-12), a four-game home series against the American League Champion Texas Rangers (April 19-22) and, just to pour a bucket of salt water over the wounds incurred, a three-game series in the Bronx Apr. 27-29.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland is known for using his entire roster liberally. OFers Clete Thomas and Andy Dirks, and 2Bmen Danny Worth, Ramon Santiago and, eventually, Brandon Inge, might see significant playing time.

But, should they?

The Tigers made substitutions in the 2011 post-season out of necessity. They were beat up, and running out of players. Luckily, some of those substitutes stepped up in a big way, such as UT Don Kelly and Santiago.

However, the Tigers are at nearly 100% health, and they need their front line to do battle with the American League's best. 

So, here's hoping that Leyland doesn't tinker with his team too much. Obviously, he wants OF Delmon Young to continue what he's been doing for the Tigers since last August, which is to drive in runs. Surely, Leyland would also like to see one of his second basemen grab the brass ring. So far, all we have are multiple second basemen who play competently enough to hit .250 and turn the double play when necessary.

Ah, maybe, that is, until now. 2B/OF Ryan Raburn had the Spring Training of his life, batting over .400 for a stretch, eventually cooling a bit to a .268 average. However, he still slugged .661, having hit 6 HRs, 2 2Bs and a 3B. That accounts for nine of his 15 hits in the spring.

Continue reading "The Detroit TIgers Must Approach ..."


Joe Halstead

The Detroit TIgers Scratch Out Gutsy Win on Opening Day Versus Boston Red Sox posted by Joe Halstead

It's really refreshing to see the Detroit Tigers win on national televison. Aside from September's telecasts last year, the Tigers usually play just poorly enough to remind ESPN and Fox National to stop carrying Tigers games.

Not so on this chilly but sunny- and sold out- Thursday afternoon.

Justin Verlander cruised along on the strength of a devastating back-door curve ball, mixing in his fastball mostly to keep hitters honest or to get a two-strike count. According to MLB Network's Mitch Williams, Verlander never topped 94 mph.

Cruise control- 8 innings pitched, zero earned runs, 2 hits, 7 strikeouts and a walk. The MVP has returned, although he earned a no-decisoin. Interestingly, it was closer Jose Valverde who notched the win, after blowing his first save opportunity of the 2012 season. Valverde was perfect in 49 save opportunities last year, and in 3 opportunities in the playoffs.

The other Detroit Tiger of note today has to be Austin Jackson, who was 3-5 and, notably, did not strike out a single time. Of course, this is a small sample size, just as small a sample size as if he'd gone 0-4 with 4Ks. It's one game. However, his muted footwork at the plate seems to have led to a faster bat and better pitch selection. AJ looked really, really good.

In fact, it was Jackson who shot a hard grounder just inside third base and past a drawn-in Nick Punto for a walk-off single, scoring pinch runner Danny Worth. The Tigers will need plenty more of this from Jackson if they are to compete in what looks like a more competitive scene throughout Major League Baseball.

Continue reading "The Detroit TIgers Scratch Out Gutsy ..."


Greg Cunningham

Opening Day 2011 posted by Greg Cunningham

Lou Gorman, General Manger of the Boston Red Sox from 1984 to 1993, was asked what he was going to do after negotiations with a player had just broken down.  He replied, “The sun will rise, the sun will set and I’ll have lunch.’’  Somehow, I can hear him saying the same line this week, after one of the worst opening weeks in Red Sox history.  Lou passed away last week, on the morning of the Sox season opener.  What a difference a week makes.  It was just one week ago Red Sox Nation was talking about 100 victories and the best team ever to take the field.  And today, just seven days later, we are looking at a team with a record well below the Mendoza line.

 

This, after so much optimism during the off-season.  As we watched with delight and glee, the Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez, a name so often talked about in these parts, it seems he’s been part of the team for years .  And just when the celebration was winding down about Gonzalez, a late night deal put Carl Crawford in a Red Sox uniform.  Adding to the euphoria was Cliff Lee, sure to sign with the Yankees, until he chose to head to Philadelphia.  Get the duck boats ready!!  Everyone was excited and could not wait for April to arrive.

 

Just a week ago, all this optimism about the Olde Towne Team was enough to bring a smile to even the most pessimistic fan.  And somehow, now six games later, people are worried and scarred.  What if they don’t start hitting?  Maybe the pitching isn’t as good as we thought?  Could the word “Overrated” replace the famous “1918” chant that was finally put to rest seven years ago?    

Continue reading "Opening Day 2011"


David

Buyer or Seller? posted by David

With the Dog Days of August about to begin, now is the time for teams to decide whether they are buyers or sellers – that is, whether they should mortgage their future and go for it this year or trade away their veterans for up-and-coming prospects.  “Going for it” says to a team’s fans that the organization thinks it has a legitimate chance to win it all, but a more conservative approach can send just as strong a message.  While a middle-of-the-pack team may have to acknowledge that this isn’t the year, going out and building for the future – as long as it is not the distant future – can usually be taken to mean that the front office is willing to sacrifice an outside shot at the playoffs in order to increase its chances of winning in the long term.  Buyer or seller, every GM will be busy until tomorrow’s trade deadline.

How ‘bout that?

How about Buster Posey?  The 22-year-old rookie has been on fire since taking over as the Giants’ starting catcher when Bengie Molina was traded to the Rangers.  Though his 21-game hitting streak came to an end on Thursday, Posey has helped San Francisco go 17-8 in the month of July, in the process taking the lead in the Wild Card race.  It won’t be easy to edge Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg, but Posey has a legitimate chance to claim the National League Rookie of the Year award.

How about José Bautista?  Bautista leads the power-happy Blue Jays with 75 RBI and a .585 slugging percentage (teammate Vernon Wells, who is second, has driven in 55 and slugged .515), but more impressively, leads the majors in homers.  The journeyman played for Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh before finding a home in Toronto, and while he has always shown some pop, the Dominican native’s previous career highs were 16 homers (2006), 63 RBI (2007), and a .420 slugging percentage (2006).

Continue reading "Buyer or Seller?"

Boston Red Sox News

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Dunn dealt to A's, could be his last shot playoffs (The Associated Press)

One more shot at the playoffs for Adam Dunn before he says he's probably done. The slugger with 460 career home runs but zero at-bats in the postseason was traded by the Chicago White Sox to Oakland on Sunday, possibly giving the contending A's the power boost they need for the stretch. The White Sox also sent cash to Oakland while acquiring minor league pitcher Nolan Sanburn. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

Boston's Buchholz pitches shutout (The SportsXchange)

Clay Buchholz's wealth of skills was such on Sunday that he seemed almost guilty about it afterward. Utilizing what he described as likely the most effective first-pitch fastball of his career and five pitches he could dabble and dart, the right-hander won for the first time in six weeks as the Boston Red Sox downed Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 at Tropicana Field. "You don't always go out there with four or five pitches working," said Buchholz, who threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of 29 batters, "but when you do, you have to make the most of it." "I've had a chance to witness a [Buchholz] no-hitter, but today [he] was extremely efficient," Boston manager John Farrell said. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

Bautista homers again, Jays rally past Yankees 4-3 (The Associated Press)

The Blue Jays finished off a forgettable August with their biggest power display of the month. Jose Bautista homered for the fifth straight game and Toronto erased a three-run deficit to beat the New York Yankees 4-3 on Sunday. Edwin Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera also connected for the Blue Jays, who had their most home runs since hitting four in Houston on July 31. ''We've kind of been missing that.'' Derek Jeter had a chance to tieit for the Yankees in the ninth inning. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

Game roundup: Angels sweep slumping A's (The SportsXchange)

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Shoemaker blanked Oakland on five hits over seven innings, and the Los Angeles Angels completed a four-game sweep of the Oakland A's with an 8-1 rout Sunday. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

Buchholz throws 3-hitter, Red Sox beat Rays 3-0 (The Associated Press)

Buchholz threw a three-hitter to stop his string of seven starts without a win, leading the Boston Red Sox over the Rays 3-0 on Sunday. Buchholz (6-8) walked none and struck out six. ''He was in complete command for nine innings,'' Boston manager John Farrell said. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

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