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Greg Cunningham

Opening Day 2016 posted by Greg Cunningham

In her book about growing up as a Brooklyn Dodger fan, Doris Kearns Goodwin laments an often-used cliché about the Dodgers, one which even made its way onto an official Dodger Calendar, and became the title of her memoir: “Wait until next year.”  As her coming of age story progresses, she learns the phrase is not just about hoping her beloved Dodgers win a World Series after a season of disappointment  (which they eventually did), but also about moving forward, finding solace, and using time to heal emotional wounds.

It is no surprise that the start of the baseball season is associated with the concept of rebirth and rejuvenation.  Spring wakes us from a long winter’s nap, and as the days get brighter, our spirits rebound as well.  As the home opener approaches, the sun has not quite set when we arrive home each evening, the winter hats and scarves are safely tucked away, and our energy levels grow stronger each day. 

By today, there is a palpable feeling of magic in the air.  The sun shines brighter, the sky seems bluer, and grass is as green as an emerald jewel.  Getting out of bed this morning was easy, and with each step, there is an extra bounce.  There is joy in our hearts and we almost giggle with excitement as the day progresses.   “No,” we tell our friends who are not indoctrinated in the game of threes and nines, “I am not on drugs.”  Today there is a euphoria better than any type of artificial high, a day for optimism and faith, a day like no other day on the calendar: today is Opening Day at Fenway Park.

Continue reading "Opening Day 2016"

Greg Cunningham

Opening Day 2015 posted by Greg Cunningham

Sports fans in Boston have been truly blessed.  Just fifteen years ago, uttering these words would have been absurd, as only those collecting Social Security would remember a time when any team other than the Celtics were able to raise a championship banner in the City of Boston.  And once some of the great Celtics players of the 80’s retired, the city went into a decade long funk, with absolutely nothing to celebrate. 

A high school freshman today has no concept of this Boston, a place for perennial losers, second place and second rate teams that never could quite make it to the finish.  But seemingly from out of nowhere, The New England Patriots began an onslaught of hope, a last second field goal that reminded us what it was like to raise our arms and yell for joy, and they did it again two years later.  Then we saw a miracle right before our very eyes, when the Red Sox reversed a curse that had lasted for three generations.  The Celtics and Bruins followed, along side two more World Series trophies.  Boston Pride was running high. 

But after a first to worst performance by the 2014 Boston Red Sox, we needed a little shot in the arm to get ourselves back on top.  “The Butler Did It” was a Monday-after-the-Super Bowl headline which took care of business.  We were reminded that, in Boston, we don’t just want to win, we expect it; a year without a banner is a year that is incomplete.  Two years ago, when President Barrack Obama raised our spirits from our lowest of moments, he told us, “…when the Sox, then Patriots…are champions again…the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street…Bet on it!”  We had no idea how prophetic he would really be.  Two years, and two parades later, the road to recovery has been realized.

Continue reading "Opening Day 2015"

Red Sox Fan

Henry Owens posted by Red Sox Fan

Born July 21, 1992, Henry Owens is left-handed pitcher, currently playing for the Boston Red Sox. In 2011, Owens was selected by Boston in the first round of the MLB draft. At that time, he was studying in California, and attending Edison High School in Huntington Beach. In the same year, Owens was named Pitcher of the Year for Sunset League, and All-American of Louisville Slugger High School. However, his best achievement in that year was winning the State Player of the Year Mr. Baseball award from Cal-Hi Sports. In 91 innings, he struck out 140 batters, and posted 3 saves, earned 1.15 run average, and a 12-1 record.

Professional debut for Owens was in 2012, when he played for minor league low Class A team, Greenville Drive. In 23 games, he managed 47 walks, 130 strikeouts, 4.87 ERA, and a record of 12-5. Additionally, he came fourth for most strikeouts in South Atlantic League. Due to his outstanding performance, Owens was promoted in 2013 to Salem Red Sox, where he managed to post an overall record of 8-5, hitless streak of 19 innings, and 2.92 ERA. With this performance, he was again promoted in July to Portland Sea Dogs, a Double-A team. In the same year, Owens held the 77th rank of the top 100 MLB prospects, and he was considered the eight best prospect by Red Sox.

In 2014, Owens has started with a six-inning no-hitter. In Portland, he has managed a 14-4 record in three full games; he has struck out 126 batters, pitching in 121 innings, with 2.6 as earned run average. This got him a promotion to Pawtucket in August 2014.  Owens is known for his changeup at 80 mph, and fastball at around 92 mph. His curveball is in the lower 70s, and combines well with his fastball. 

Continue reading "Henry Owens"

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 ..."

Boston Red Sox News

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Braves-Twins preview (The Associated Press)

The Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins waged one of the most memorable World Series in history 25 years ago. The Twins will celebrate the silver anniversary of their second world championship this week with festivities scheduled prior to both games against the Braves. The Braves and Twins each finished in last place that season before rebounding to meet in the 1991 World Series. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

AP source: Yanks discussing deal to send Chapman to Cubs (The Associated Press)

Aroldis Chapman and the rest of the New York Yankees dressed in their Sunday best for a flight to Houston following a 5-2 win over the San Francisco Giants that completed a 6-4 homestand. New York was discussing a trade that would send Chapman to the Chicago Cubs as part of a swap that would bring 19-year-old shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres to the Yankees, a person familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing and New York owner Hal Steinbrenner had not made any final decision. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

Reds-Giants preview (The Associated Press)

Veteran right-hander Jake Peavy will seek to extend two impressive streaks when the San Francisco Giants open a week-long homestand Monday night against the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds' lone win of the series came against Peavy, the 35-year-old veteran of four teams -- the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and now the Giants. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

Astros call up top prospect Alex Bregman after rout of Angels (Big League Stew)

You could argue that the Houston Astros won twice on Sunday. The first win came during a 13-3 rout over the Los Angeles Angels. The second came hours later, when the team announced top prospect Alex Bregman would make his major-league debut Monday. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

LEADING OFF: White Sox host Cubs, Arrieta; Giants head home (The Associated Press)

A look at what's happening all around the majors today: [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

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