Sunday, March 31, 2013

Can Red Sox Get Much Needed Fast Start in 2013?

In recent seasons under both of their two preceding mangers, one constant for the Red Sox has been very poor starts to a new season.  The last three Aprils have started with 4-10 ( 2012), 5-11( 2011), and 6-10( 2010) beginnings.  This year's edition for many, many reasons need to reverse this mini-curse. The reasons include the avoidance of dropping off the pace in a very balanced AL East, the need to erase some of the sting of 2012's worst Sox record in about 45 years, and from the ownership 's view the need to put fannies in the seats at Fenway.

Here are some of the reasons the Red Sox are likely to get out of the gate with a winning April:

1. The schedule.  Now this is always a slippery slope to analyze, but there are at least two reasons the April schedule could very well help.  The Sox begin this week with a 6 game trip to New York and Toronto.  All winter long this trip had been considered a reason why the Red Sox may get off to a bad start again.  However, with a spring full of major injuries to the Yankee star players, there will be no better time to take on the New Yorkers ( just take a look at their Opening Day lineup).  And Toronto, while the hot pick to win the AL East, may well need time to have all their new players adjust to one another.  As a matter of fact, the Sox will have all ready 2 of their 3 trips to Toronto  for the entire season before May 3rd!

Also in April, the Red Sox have a higher concentration of home games than any other month, 17 out of 27 April games are at Fenway.  This includes a stretch of 17 of 20 at home after the six game opening road trip ( the last road game for April is back in Toronto on April 30).  The Sox have a 7 game home stand with the O's and Rays, then go on the road for three in Cleveland.  Then come right back to Fenway for a ten game stand with 3 each hosting KC and the A's, followed by 4 with Houston.

2. Starting Pitching-  I know spring training records mean nothing, but spring training performance can, and all five of the starters had good to excellent springs.  In addition, the entire rotation is set, there is no guessing or hoping about who will fill the back of the rotation.  And yet, each of the five has something to prove ( Lester and Buchholz to rebound from poor 21012, Dempster to pitch well in AL. Lackey recovering from TJ surgery, and Doubront to build on rookie year).  All five should pitch with the proverbial chip on their shoulders.

3. Jackie Bradley, Jr. Effect- OK, this may be a stretch and I am not here to nominate JBJr for Cooperstown, but if he can bring even 75% of the spring training performance ( and his 2012 minor league performance) north, this can give a needed jolt of youthful energy to this team.  Will Middlebrooks also can provide this boost.

Now a few reasons that we could be in for the same ol' April:

1. The absence of David Ortiz.  Let's face it without Big Papi in the cleanup spot this offense shrinks.  It leaves the afore mentioned Middlebrooks along with Mike Napoli to anchor the heart of the order.  Despite his age, Ortiz was among the top five in all of MLB in OPS when he was injured last year.  The 2012 Red Sox actually had a WINNING record with Papi in the lineup.  They will likely need him back as soon as possible to hope to contend in 2013.

2. Assimilating the newcomers.  Above I chalked up the Toronto early season to possibly needing an adjustment time for all the new Jays.  Realistically, you have to have the same concern in Boston.  Although, just this weekend, John Farrell in an interview said he felt this had been accomplished in Florida.  Hey, after 2012 the good news is the Red Sox have new players.

3. April weather. This is the flip side of the coin to having many April home games.  Now as anyone living in New England knows, April weather is a complete crapshoot.  But about half of these April home games are at night ( as are all three in Cleveland).  The Red Sox have  four games at the stadium formerly known as Sky Dome, and then ALL of the other April games are played in either Boston, New York, or Cleveland.  In addition, one advantage to April schedule is the Sox have only three off days.  Often a team has trouble getting into their every day routine because April has lots of time off.  Any bad weather could add to the three April off days and cause this disruption of routine.

So this new season is upon us.  The answer to question posed in the title of this piece will be answered in about 4 to 6 weeks.  I for one feel this year's Red Sox team will have a winning record by the time they finish the second trip to Toronto on May 2nd.

Play Ball!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast: 2013 AL East Preview!

The Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast is back with a preview of the AL East.  Barry and Brandon discuss Red Sox story lines heading into the 2013 regular season, and then play a round of Cross Examination where we debate all the story lines in the AL East.  How do you think each team in the AL East will do in 2013?  Let's discuss in the comments section below.

Barry and Brandon discuss Jackie Bradley Jr, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, John Lackey, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and many more!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cousin Jason's Baseball Bracket Round 2

One weekend down in the NCAA Tournament and surprises abound along with plenty of Maine connections in the Sweet Sixteen. Former Black Bear coach Dr. John Gianinni and his La Salle Explorers take on Wichita State and #15 seed Florida Gulf Coast, who Maine beat in December at the Alfond, has beaten Georgetown and San Diego State.

As promised here is the second round of the RSM March Madness Baseball Bracket.  Let's start with our Baseball Movie region, mostly this bracket went chalk with only the #10 seed Angels in the Outfield based mostly on the glowing recommendation of Matt DiFilippo's recommendation gaining the upset. Only two other contests were close with the #6 seed Eight Men Out besting #11 Fever Pitch, which despite it's Sox connection is based on a soccer book and the Maineiacs are football American style fans. The other close one was the #5 seed Bad News Bears being taken to the brink by #12 Rookie of the Year before Buttermaker and the kids pulled out the win.
The other winners were #1 Major League, #2 Bull Durham, #3 Field of Dreams, #4 The Natural (although #13 The Sandlot put up a good fight alas "You're killing me, Smalls!"), and #8 Moneyball.

In our Baseball Stat region, we have some upsets as our equivalents to the aforementioned La Salle and FGCU come through. #12 seed Quality Start outdid #5 the Complete Game only to be showed up by the #15 seed On Base Pct. routing #2 Slugging Pct. The other winners were #1 OPS, #3 Stolen Base, #4 Wins, #6 WAR, #7 WHIP, and #8 Home Runs.

In our Baseball Book region, we have a first round that goes mostly chalk again with only the #9 seed Big Hair and Plastic Grass pulling off the mild upset over #8 The Art of Fielding. Our other close contest was between #4 seed Now I Can Die in Peace by Bill Simmons edging out #13 The Teammates by David Halberstam, in the end the euphoria of 2004 beat out Teddy Ballgame, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Dom DiMaggio.

In our Baseball Records region, we have our most competitive bracket as nearly every contest went down to the wire. This was also our wildest bracket with the #10 Orel Hershiser, #12 Hack Wilson, and #14 Rickey Henderson all pulling the upsets.

Be sure to vote below as we'll have a quick turn around with our Sweet Sixteen appearing the beginning of next week. Enjoy the games!

Vote for Baseball Movies Round 2 here
Vote for Baseball Stats Round 2 here
Vote for Baseball Books Round 2 here
Vote for Baseball Records Round 2 here

Monday, March 25, 2013

Deacon Art's 2013 Baseball Predictions

For a few years now I have made annual predictions for the upcoming baseball season.  These were shared with mostly family members, including the co-founders of the Red Sox Maineiacs site.  In some small part this annual tradition caused us to start this website.

The predictions are done in a manner that pays homage to Peter Gammons and the Boston Globe using the format they created in the 1970's.

So with no further ado here are the 2013 predictions.

American League

East

1. Tampa Bay- The Rays are not Perfect, but the Price is Right
2. Boston- What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
3. Toronto- Another Off-Season Champ Fails to Make Post-Season
4. New York- Elderly Empire Falls Back
5. Baltimore- Return to Earth in One Run/Extra Frame Games Means Return to Fifth

Central

1. Detroit- Top Talent Takes Tigers to Title
#2.Cleveland- Francona- The Indians Years....First Chapter=Second Wild Card Spot
3. Kansas City- All-In Kansas City Shields Selves from Another Losing Campaign
4. Chicago- First Fan Barack Obama's Second Term will be Smoother than Ventura's
5. Minnesota- Target will be Squarely on Ron Gardenhire

West

1. Oakland- Oakland Outlasts Over-Spending Opponents
* 2 Los Angeles- Grabbing Wild Card Despite Thin Pitching is No Joshing Matter
3. Texas- End of the Ron Washington Error
4. Seattle- Offense has Smoak-No Fire...but They'll Always Have Felix
5. Houston- "Alex, I'll Take "Historically Inept" for $2,000"

 *= First Wild Card, #= Second Wild Card

Playoffs
Wild Card Game  Indians over Angels (  Not Weaver's turn to pitch)
ALDS  Rays over A's in 4, Tigers over Tito's Tribe in 5

ALCS Detroit over Tampa Bay in 5

MVP  Mike Trout
CY     Jered Weaver
Mgr of Year   Tito
ROY   Aaron Hicks ( you know I really meant Jackie Bradley, Jr. but I don't wanna jinx it)


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Roster Becoming More Clear

With a week of spring training left the Red Sox roster is becoming more and more clear by the day, but there are still decisions to be made.  Let's take a look at the latest roster update, we'll start with the pitching.

Rotation:
Jon Lester
Clay Buchholz
Ryan Dempster
Felix Doubront
John Lackey

Bullpen:
Joel Hanrahan
Andrew Bailey
Andrew Miller
Koji Uehara
Junichi Tazawa
Alfredo Aceves
Clayton Mortensen
*Bard has pitched his way out of the bullpen in his last two appearrances

Catcher (2)
Jarrod Saltalammacchia
David Ross

First Base (2)
Mike Napoli
Daniel Nava

Second Base (1)
Dustin Pedroia

Shortstop (1)
Jose Iglesias (Drew starts on DL)

Third Base (1)
Will Middlebrooks

Utility (1)
Pedro Ciriaco (He should be healthy and may play today)
Brock Holt (If Ciriaco starts on DL)

Outfield (3)
Jonny Gomes
Jacoby Ellsbury
Shane Victorino

25th Man (3)
This seems like a 3 man race, although it's really probably a two man race. My bet is that JBJr will open the year in AAA.
Mike Carp
Ryan Sweeney
Jackie Bradley Jr
If Sweeney or JBJr make the team they will have to cut Carp to make room on the 40 man roster.  I'm putting my money on Carp.  Nava can back up LF and RF and Victorino can back up CF if needed, so I don't think Sweeney will make the team.

Thoughts? Leave them in the comments section...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cousin Jason's Baseball Related March Madness

With the NCAA Tourney a little more than 12 hours away, I thought it would be fun to start a RSM tradition by holding our own March Madness. It contemplated an All-Boston event but decided on the All-Baseball Bracket.  Our four regions will be baseball movies, baseball books, baseball stats, and baseball records.  We'll post our brackets and then allow fans to vote over the weekend.  At the end of next week, we'll post our Sweet 16 brackets and repeat the process, followed by our Final Four and Champion.

Let's Preview our Bracket.  Our four #1 Seeds are Major League in the Movie category, OPS in the Stat category, Joe DiMaggio's 56 Game Hitting Streak in the Records category, and The Curse of the Bambino in the Books category.  We also have Moneyball making an appearance as both a movie and a book. The criteria for choosing seeds was totally arbitrary.  The process for selecting winners is also arbitrary, whatever you feel like voting for will work, but we are going for which choice you like better.

In the Movie category we have the some intriguing match-ups, with #6 seed Eight Men Out looking like a possible upset candidate against #11 Fever Pitch.
In the Stats category all of the first round match-ups pair similar statistical tools, with #3 seed Stolen Bases representing traditional stats against the sabermetrical #14 seed Ultimate Base Running.

In the Book category we have a mix of Sox, classics, newer, obscure, and historical reads, with the 8/9 match-up featuring a couple of newer books, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach going up against Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s by Dan Epstein. Also I made an error in making up the bracket and misnamed Jonah Keri's The Extra 2%, The Other 2%...but hey it is about the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

In the Records category we again have match-ups of similar statistical records, with #7 seed of Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens 20 strikeout games facing off against #10 Orel Hershiser's 59 consecutive scoreless inning streak.

Vote for Movies here
Vote for Stats here
Vote for Books here
Vote for Records here

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Red Sox Maineiacs March Madness Challenge

Try to beat your favorite Maineiacs in the March Madness Tourney Challenge! It is free.  Just join the group and fill out your bracket.  It's SO EASY!! Click on the link below to join.
The group # is 173027
The password is RedSox2013

Click here to join the maineiacs group on yahoo

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Weekend Update: Spring Training Story Lines

With Opening day just over two weeks away the Red Sox team continues to take shape.  Here's an update on the Spring training story lines.

1. According to John Farrell Big Papi has responded well to rest and medication and is hopeful to start taking batting practice possibly as early as Monday.  It's too early to tell if he's on his way back, but at least the news is positive so far.  At this point Papi is going to start the year on the DL.

2. Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to produce and impress, but his momentum for making the team seems to have cooled off.  The only question remaining is will he start the year at AA or AAA.  Selfishly I hope he starts at AA so I can take in an early Sea Dogs game and watch him play, but AAA is more likely after the spring he's had.  JBJr's most impressive play of this week came from the defensive side of the ball while playing CF.  He caught a fly ball with the bases loaded and the runner from 3rd faked like he was going to tag and go, so JBJr threw behind him to 3B and almost got him for a double play.  The play showed off two of his best attributes his strong arm and his natural instincts.

3. Alfredo Aceves will start today vs. the Rays in Port Charlotte.  John Lackey is going to pitch in a minor league game in order to avoid pitching against an AL east rival and also to avoid the bus trip.  So Aceves gets the start.  The start today comes on the heals of a Nick Cafardo report that the Rangers are interested in Aceves.  The report says that the Red Sox are not interested in trading any of their bullpen depth with injuries to Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales.

4.  Stephen Drew- In my roster predictions in the comments section of the last spring training update I assumed that Drew would be healthy and the Opening Day starting SS.  Shame on me for not recognizing the DREW factor.  It should have been clear right away that this injury is going to affect him 6 months longer than any other baseball player, including little leaguers.  I'm not trying to be insensitive to concussions and head injuries, but this guy is going to be on the DL to start the season and this will be a recurring theme all year long.   We've been Drewed again...thank goodness he's on a one year deal not a five year deal.

5.  Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster were outrighted to AAA Pawtucket this week.  They along with the knuckleballer Steven Wright will make up what should be a good starting rotation.  De La Rosa showed flashes of brilliance early in Spring Training but it was Webster who was more consistent and more dominant.  Both guys will make an impact in one way or another this season for the big club.

6. Since Tuesday the Sox have shown a little more pop with the bat.  Jarrod Saltalammachia continues to hit the ball hard this spring.  He's hitting over .400 and he hit a two run homer last night.  Will Middlebrooks has been hitting the ball with authority this week including a bases clearing double with the bases loaded.  With Shane Victorino coming back from the WBC (Puerto Rico elimintaed the US) the Red Sox will start to employ a more regular lineup as we get near the end of spring training.  I think we'll see Pedroia hitting 3rd more often.  Mike Napoli who has had a very good spring will probably hit clean up.  This team will score enough runs to compete.  The key question will be the...

7...Starting Pitching- This has been the most encouraging part of the spring so far, but remember spring training can sometimes be deceiving.  Here's what I think is real and what may be a spring training facade when it comes to the rotation.  The Jon Lester turnaround is real, period. Will that produce a 20 win season? Maybe.  That will depend on things out of his control like run support and bullpen help, but he will pitch must better under Farrell/Nieves.  His other problem will be going against other teams aces.  It's no secret that the Red Sox offense has raked against poor pitching and struggled against the top starters.  If he doesn't get run support he won't be good enough to win 1-0 or 2-1 every time out.  Clay Buchholz will have a season reflective of a #2 starter.  Ryan Dempster will become a 6 inning pitcher when the games start for real.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think his spring training success has some people's expectations too high.  Same with John Lackey.  I'm not saying he's not going to be good, but there will be growing pains early in the season, but he'll get better as the year goes on.  Felix Doubront is rounding in to form and I think he will repeat his success of last year.

8.  The Yankees continue to be desperate for corner infielders, but they did sign Brennan Boesch this week after he was released by the Tigers.  He should be able to help them...well a left handed hitting monkey could hit a few homeruns to right in the new Yankee Stadium.

Opening Day is 16 days away. I for one can't wait for the games to start for real.

Update: Thanks to the Deacon for mentioning Bryce Brentz and his "comeback" from a shotgun wound.  I meant to include that as a new story line but I ran out of time.  Here is a nice read from Pete Abraham about Brentz and his game yesterday.  The thing that stuck out to me is that he already talks like a big leaguer.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring Training Story Lines

There are a lot of story lines brewing down in The Fort, so let’s go through them!  As always, feel free to discuss down in the comments section...

1.  The big story this week is the shutdown of Big Papi.  The Nation is scrambling to try to figure out how bad Papi’s heels are, how long he’ll be out, and what the Sox will do in the mean time (although the Maineiacs were on this back on March 3).  Today, John Farrell told the media that “we envision it being a little bit of a rotation”.  Thanks for the insight John.  This probably means that several players will get some time at DH to get guys some at bats and some days off in the field.  Nava, Gomes, Napoli, Carp, Sweeney, and Salty all seem like candidates to get some DH at bats in Papi’s absence.  Some good news today came in the form of a Nick Cafardo tweet (as much as you want to trust Cafardo) that claims a source of his told him the Sox’ training staff does not expect Papi’s heels to be a long term situation.  Let’s all hope that Papi rests his heels, gets back into the lineup by mid-April or early May, and commences to rake.  Is it too late to change my pick of over 30 home runs for Papi? The biggest downside to Farrell’s acknowledgement that the DH will be a rotation is that it all but assures us that Jackie Bradley Jr will start the year in AAA.  I had been hoping that JBJr would force his way into the everyday LF slot and Farrell would go with Gomes as the everyday DH.  Speaking of JBJr...

2.  Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to tear the cover off the ball.  He is second among all AL players this spring with a .519 batting average and first among all AL players with a .618 OBP.  Those are absurd numbers, and sure a lot of them have come against AAA pitchers or major leaguers just working on various pitches, but come on.  Who would you rather have in the lineup - the electric JBJr, or Daniel Nava? Ryan Sweeney?  even Jonny Gomes?  Give me JBJr.

3.  Alfredo Aceves is back from the World Baseball Classic where he was centrally-involved in a violent bench-clearing brawl.  Fettuccine was thrown to the ground by a house of a Canadian outfielder, then had to be held back by Canadian coach and former major league all-star Larry Walker.  Walker, in what is perhaps the best quote I have ever seen anywhere, said, “I had a hold of him, and I thought I saw Satan in his eyes”.  Ladies and gentlemen, Alfredo Aceves!  If you’re keeping score at home, so far just this spring Fettuccine has blown off a BP drill, was reprimanded by John Farrell and Juan Nieves, was a part of the ugliest scene in the history of the WBC, and was exposed as the embodiment of Satan.  Oh yeah, and he’s probably unhappy with his role as a long reliever with the Red Sox.  I’m no expert, but this is probably not going to end well.  

4.  Stephen Drew remains out with a concussion.  All reports indicate that he should be fine within the next week or so, and that he will bounce back and be the opening day shortstop for the Red Sox.  I say not so fast.  My vast medical experience is alerting me that something may be amiss here.  No, actually I have no medial experience whatsoever.  But I do know that concussion symptoms tend to linger, just ask Ricky Craven (there’s a Maine-centric, obscure reference for you).  It helps that this is Drew’s first concussion, but much like the Wu-Tang Clan, concussions ain’t nothin’ to f*** wit’.  In fact, I’m going to make this prediction right now: Jose Iglesias starts more games at SS for Boston than anybody else in 2013.

5.  Rubby De La Rosa, otherwise known as my man crush, has fallen apart.  Is it too late to go back and change my over pick on 3 wins in 2013?  De La Rick Vaughn could only manage to get two outs in the 7th inning on Monday, allowing four walks, two hits, and five earned runs.   Last Wednesday, De La Wild Thing gave up three runs in two innings against the Pirates.  John Farrell says it looks like he’s “overthrowing and not trusting his stuff as he should” (scroll down to next-to-last bullet point).  Personally, I think Rubby should be fitted for some black frames with skulls and he’ll be fine.

6.  In some depressing stat news, the Red Sox are last among AL teams with only 9 home runs this spring, and “lead” the AL teams by striking out 131 times.  Let’s not sugarcoat it: without Big Papi’s bat in the middle of the order, this could be a really bad offensive team.  To me, the more alarming of those statistics are the strikeouts.  A team can get by without bashing a lot of dingers, but strikeouts are the death knell of offensive production.  There’s a good chance we’re really s***ty on offense, which will put even more pressure on our pitching staff.

7.  In better news, and speaking of that pitching staff, Jon Lester continues a very strong spring.  Lester is second among all AL pitchers with a 1.29 ERA and is tied for the lead in innings pitched with 14.  We all said it when Farrell was hired, but if Farrell does nothing else as manager of the Red Sox but get Jon Lester back on track as an ace pitcher, then hiring Farrell will have been worth it.  For those of you out there preparing for your 2013 fantasy baseball drafts, do yourself a favor and target Jonny Lester is More-ter.

8.  Speaking of good news, is anybody else taking delight in the fact that the Yankees are so desperate for corner infielders that they called Derek Lee to try to talk him out of retirement and reached out via Twitter to Chipper Jones?  The Yankees are so desperate for old corner infielders that Kevin Millar got into the act.  The sad part, if you're a Yankees fan, is that Kevin Millar right now would probably be an improvement on what they have at first base.  Buahahaha!  The day of reckoning is upon the Evil Empire.  I’ll save my extended thoughts on the 2013 Yankees for an upcoming podcast, so for now let me just say, “hey Yankees, tell me how my a** tastes”. 

There are abundant story lines already for the 2013 Red Sox season, and we’re still two and a half weeks away from Opening Day!  Let’s get some discussion going below:

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Future of Defense in Major League Baseball

If you’re an average baseball fan, you probably think of the sport essentially as a series of one-on-one match ups between a pitcher and a batter.  After all, if you turn a baseball game on the TV all you’re going to see is Jon Lester facing Derek Jeter.  You might get a shot or two of the base runners or fielders between pitches, but those are mere moons orbiting the essential planet of the pitcher/batter showdown.  If you look at your favorite players’ baseball cards, all you’ll see are statistics telling you how successful they are during the pitcher/batter showdown.  Ok fine, nobody looks at baseball cards anymore, myself included.  The point remains: if you look at the baseball reference page for David Ortiz, you’re going to find mostly stats from the pitcher/batter showdown.  The average baseball fan doesn’t know where the defenders are aligning, or why, or how good these defenders are at their job of preventing runs.

Over the last 8-10 years, cutting edge front offices have come to view defense as the last uncharted frontier in baseball.  Run prevention has become almost as desirable as run production.  Every question raised in this post has undoubtedly been debated at length in front offices around the league.  But why hasn’t this filtered down to the average baseball fan?  Do these front offices guard their defensive stats and approaches so close to the vest that they never escape the baseball offices?  Do media outlets decide that the average fan doesn’t want to think about the game beyond how fast a pitcher can throw and how far a batter can hit a home run?  Would the machinations of data-based defensive shifts bore the daylights out of most fans?  The answer to all three of these potential answers is probably a resounding ‘yes’.

Which leads to my essential question: what is the future of defense in Major League Baseball?

These thoughts came about when I read this interesting and encouraging (if you’re a budding “future of defense” thinker like myself) article from Fox Sports on the 2013 Red Sox.  Turns out, our new manager John Farrell, and especially our new third base coach Brian Butterfield are two of the foremost proponents of new-age thinking on defense in the major leagues.  Butterfield, as has been mentioned on this blog numerous times, is a fellow Orono High School graduate in eastern Maine and he seems to really be the engine behind this staff’s thoughts on the advances of baseball defense.  Which means he not only is the guy responsible for waving in or holding up runners rounding third while on offense, but also responsible for defensive positioning while on defense.  Oh, and he gets to the clubhouse at 3:30am.  Hardly surprising with his OHS education.  He is quoted in the article as saying:

“But with a man on first or nobody on, with those real good hitters, let’s go. Let’s roll the dice. We’re trying to defend well-executed pitches and balls hit firmly off the bat. So, you reinforce to your players, ‘Look, that was a ball off the end of the bat, a fisted ball that beat us. That’s OK. Don’t worry about it.’ We have a game plan on where we want to throw to him.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see how the Red Sox employ Butterfield’s shifts.  As Butter says, let’s go! Let’s roll the dice!  Let’s bring the Sox onto the cutting edge of forward thinking in the MLB!  

Happy 60th Birthday, Jim Rice

Some of us, who grew up in the Impossible Dream era and on into the 1970s, have just gotten used to Yaz being in his 70s.  Today, Jim Ed Rice turns 60!

Many Red Sox fans, including some of the Maineiacs, remember only the end of Rice's career, and they do not fully appreciate how great a hitter Jim Rice was in his prime.  They remember the ending years of his career, when he still crushed the ball, but with his speed gone, he hit into lots of double plays (as did fellow HOFers like Yaz and Ripken).

But if you do not remember take a look at Rice's stats in the 1970's and into the 80s.  Especially his greatest year: 1978.  He led the AL in homers with 46 and RBIs with 139. He reached 400 total bases  ( 406 to be exact). The last AL player to have reached 400 at that time was Joe DiMaggio in 1937, and no American Leaguer has done it since.  Only Stan Musial in 1948 and Hank Aaron in 1959 accomplished the feat between Joe D and Rice.  And Rice reached the milestone in part by hitting 15 triples.  That is not a misprint, and further illustrates Rice's running ability as a younger player.  And if case you think that was a fluke, Rice had also hit 15 triples in 1977, the year before.

Until Rice's final season in which injuries had robbed most of his ability, he was a lifetime .300 hitter    ( he finished at .298), and played in the pre-steroid era.  The only Red Sox hitter of all time who is definitely better than Rice is Ted Williams.   Manny Ramirez is right there with Jim.  They would be the top 3 (and I am not forgetting Yaz, as a hitter only both Rice and Ramirez were better.)  

Happy Birthday, Jim Rice

Sunday, March 3, 2013

12 Ways to Tell That You Are a Red Sox Fan

Here is a brief diversion from our spring training coverage.  The signs of Red Sox fandom in some type of reverse, countdown order:

12. For evermore,  February 14th is referred to as Hearts and Flowers Day.

11. Letting the other teams take all the Yankee players in your fantasy baseball drafts.

10. Having in your CD collection/on your Ipod both the Bronson Arroyo AND Peter Gammons CD's.

 9. Filling an entire section of your bookcase (if not the entire bookcase) with Red Sox themed items.

 8. You own more than one article of clothing with a Red Sox logo. Hats, shirts, necktie, underwear, etc.

 7. In any March or April (or earlier) if you are asked to make any family or business commitment for mid to late October, decline.  That is Red Sox playoffs and World Series time.

 6. You have taken (or hope to take someday) a road trip to see all of the Red Sox minor league affiliates play in their home ballparks.

 5. Never, never, ever watch any Red Sox game on TV with the digital volume set at 13!

 4. Depending on your age (and despite of your age), you can perfectly mimic the batting stance and/or at bat routine of Yaz, Dewey, Nomar, or Big Papi.

 3. You hope that Fenway Park will last forever, until you are trying to squeeze your ass into a circa 1912 seat.

 2. If you are over the age of 18 (maybe 14 or 15, if you were raised properly) you remember where you were, who you were with, and what you felt on the night of October 27, 2004.

 1. You are a Red Sox fan because no matter what happens...curse reversing World Series titles, Grady Little, Bucky F. Dent, or 69 win seasons....you care.

What if Big Papi Starts the Year on the DL?

It wouldn't be spring training if we couldn't blow things out of proportion and jump to conclusions, but by Big Papi's own admission he may not be ready for opening day.  According to John Farrell the next 3 days will be critical in determining Papi's timetable. It's a little early to start this debate (but that's what  we do here at RSM!) about who will DH the first two weeks of the season.  If Big Papi does start the year on the 15 day DL it will give the Red Sox a lot more roster flexibility than we anticipated coming into camp.  Let's take a look at a few options for opening day DH's if Big Papi is in fact not in the line up.
  • Option #1- is a straight up replacement.  There really is not back up DH in camp unless you want to count Mauro Gomez.  This is not the most likely option.  Other potential fill-ins are Mike Carp, Daniel Nava and Mark Hamilton.  
  • Option #2- Keep 3 catchers.  Ryan Lavarnway is a potential DH, but he is most likely to start the year catching everyday at AAA.  The Red Sox will not keep 3 catchers on the roster unless Big Papi is on the DL and they plan to use Lavarnway at DH.  In order for this to happen Lavarnway will need to start producing with the bat a little bit better in spring training or if Saltalammacchia's back keeps acting up.  If the Sox feel that Salty needs a little protection and Lavarnway can be a part of a DH rotation than they may keep 3 catchers.  
  • Option #3- Keep JBJr on the roster and use J. Gomes as a DH.  JBJr continues to impress in Spring Training (here's today's JBJr update) and while common sense continues to tell us that he has yet to master the AA and AAA levels, temptation will grow much stronger by the day to keep him on the team if Big Papi is a no go to start the season.  
  • Option #4- Keep an extra 1B/OF type and rest Mike Napoli's hips a little bit more early in the season by using him as a DH 80% of the time.  
This spring training situation also gives us a glimpse at the future of the Sox DH position in '15 or if Big Papi's achilles injury is much worse than we fear and is out for the season (or a big chunk of it).  I simply think that Papi is pulling a veteran move to get a little more rest during what is a longer than usual spring training.  We are probably about 7 to 10 days away from reading an article that talks about how Papi has made great strides and he's back to 100% and ready to start revving it up for the regular season. 

If Papi is in fact pulling rank it is probably a smart move.  He needs to save his legs for a long season and at age 37 he and the team should be thinking big picture and making sure that he is healthy in August and September rather than February and March.  The fact that this spring training is longer than usual because of the World Baseball Classic means that he can still get plenty of AB's to get ready for the regular season even if he misses another week.  He also may be using this injury as a way to get out of playing for the Dominican in the WBC (which is another good thing for the Red Sox in my opinion).   

As Deacon likes to remind us, what happens early in spring training doesn't mean much, and he's right. I believe that we are just a week or so away from Big Papi being declared healthy and ramping up his in game AB's to get ready for the season.  After all he's done for the Red Sox over the last ten plus seasons I wouldn't be surprised if he's just pulling veteran rank and getting a little extra heal time (he's earned his not sure that Clay Buchholz has and that pun was intended btw).  

Of course there's no way that he would just decide to stop playing because of a small trade...right Bobby V?  

Friday, March 1, 2013

What Has Happened to the Hot Corner?

Barry made a comment about Middlebrooks’ wrist injury under our “What Position Should Xander Bogaerts Play?” post that got me thinking.  And since it’s Friday and I’m sitting at my desk counting down the minutes until 2:20, I thought I might as well blow my thoughts up into a post of their own.  So here goes:

Barry’s point might be moot now, but it was that if Middlebrooks were to miss the entire 2013 season (and I say thank you, Jobu, for fixing Willie’s wrist.  I give Jobu cigar.  And rum.  He will keep Willie’s wrist safe.  I digress...) or even most of it, that the Red Sox would have to make a trade for a starting 3B at the major league level.  Let’s take a gander first at the in-house options to replace Willie Middle at the hot corner:

Xander Bogaerts
Brian Butterfield

Egads.  A couple of AAAA nomads (Ciriaco, Sutton), a couple of potentially-ready-but-not-really-hot-prospects (Holt, Gomez), one stud prospect who has never had an at bat above AA and is supposedly a shortstop (Bogaerts), and a couple of jokes.  Although I bet former Orono High School Red Riot Brian Butterfield could snag a few at the hot sack.  Clearly, if Middlebrooks goes down, the Sox are screwed at 3B.  Could you imagine having Brock Holt or Pedro Ciriaco as our everyday 3B hitting 8th?  Could you imagine if Pedro Ciriaco and Jose Iglesias were the left side of our infield (with the inevitable Drew DL stint)?  Hello AL East basement!  I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but maybe we should have held onto Nick Punto?  Oh god.  Clearly, Barry is right about needing to swing a trade if this happens.....but not so fast.  Come with me, if you will, on a trip around the MLB, and see how putrid the third base position has become.

The Best Player of His Generation as Long as You Keep Him Away From Tequila:

Franchise Cornerstones:

All-Star Caliber:
Hanley Ramirez (probably a SS unless Dee Gordon learns how to hit a little), LAD

You’re Feeling Good With These Guys:

Could Be Good, but Too Young to Tell:

Veterans Who Probably Don't Suck Yet:
Kevin Youkilis (actually, he might suck.  It’s up in the air), NYY

Craptastic Replacement Level Players:

Who Are These F***ing Guys?:

As best I can tell, these will be the 30 starting third basemen in 2013 barring injury.  And so I’ll channel my inner Paula Cole (do do do, do do do, do do do, do do do) and ask, where have all the hot corner boys gone?  By that list, nine teams will be starting either a replacement level player or a player I’ve never heard of.   Two more will start old creaky veterans, and seven more start talented but unproven youngsters.  Two questions emerge:
  1. What the hell has happened to the third base position?
  2. What the hell would the Red Sox do if Middlebrooks did miss most or all of 2013?