Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is The Kung-Fu Panda Coming East To Boston?

(Photo: DreamWorks Animation)
Almost every review of the off-season needs of the last-place Red Sox includes talk of a left-handed-hitting third baseman. Of course, implicit in this discussion is the notion that Will Middlebrooks is history—something the team steadfastly refutes. Nevertheless, Boston needs another left-handed bat to augment David Ortiz in a heavily right-handed line-up. Two of the most obvious options are two switch-hitting denizens of the hot corner: Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley. Both are free-agents in 2015 and thus would come with no sacrifice of prospects or current players. In combined action for both the Padres and Evil Ones, Headley hit .243 with 13 HRs and 49 RBIs (almost exactly the same as the numbers put up by Xander Bogaerts so far in his short career). Sandoval remained pretty healthy this year and posted better stats than Headley—in 157 games, The Panda hit .279 with 16 HRs and 73 RBIs. Headley also strikes out a lot more than Sandoval—but both have about the same OBP (.324 for the Panda, .328 for Headley). So, which one will the Sox land? Sandoval would be a lot more fun and probably more productive. Stay tuned.

FN Poll: Starting Pitching Overwhelming Choice

Very early voting in our latest FenwayNation Poll shows that an overwhelming majority of readers think the Red Sox should spend most of their off-season dough on starting pitching. As the chart shows, fully 88% choose this option, while 12% think the team should shell out more cash for an upgraded offense. No voters have yet chosen either relief pitching or an upgraded defense. You can still vote in the poll HERE.

Lester Newton House Listing Not What It Seems

(Exclusive FenwayNation Photo)
Only in Boston would there be speculation about the meaning of a former Red Sox player putting his local-area house on the market. So, when Jon Lester put his Newton house up for sale, conspiracy theories abounded. Now, thanks to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, we find out that it may be simple practicality behind the move. Lester is merely hedging his bets by listing the $1.85 million abode—in case he does sign with another club. It's not easy unloading such properties quickly in this "recovering" Massachusetts economy. Also, the lefty can just as easily take the house off the market as put it on. Lester also wanted it to be known (apparently via Bradford) that he is not be 'averse' to buying another Boston-area home if he comes back to re-don Carmine Hose. So, take off the tin-foil hats, stop listening to the moronic Coast-to-Coast AM radio show and start thinking straight!

A-Rod Presence Will Cast Pall On Empire Spring

Pout-Rod
He's baaaaaaack! After a full-year suspension for PED use (and having played in only 14 games back in 2013), Alex Rodriguez will be in Tampa come February looking for his old job back. But, employment at the Bronx hot corner may not be completely assured. Listen to Joe Girardi, "Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely. Do we expect him to play third base? Yes, [but] in fairness we have to see where he is at. I think that is the thing that we have to do. I believe he is going to be 40 next summer, and we need to see where he is physically at." Hmm, our guess is that's not going to sit too well with The Fraudulent One. After all, he needs just six more HRs to tie Wille Mays at 660 on the all-time list. Oh, and did we mention, that that triggers a $6 million windfall for The Centaur? Spring Training is going to be a Yankee-Haters delight—with distractions galore! Said Griardi, "I think our players will handle it fine. The first couple of days of spring training, there will be more attention, and that will die down. That will die down." Sure, Joe. We can't wait.

Xander Bogaerts Turns Just Twenty-Two Today

Do you remember when you were 22? Most of us who can recall that far back probably do not have fond memories of being a fully accomplished person. And yet, many of us expect the now 22-year old Xander Bogeaerts to be a flawless baseball player. Let's look at the kid's performance so far. First of all, he has a World Series ring. Not bad. Second, in a grand total of 162 games (that's the equivalent on one full season for those of you who are cipher-impaired), he's hitting .241 with 13 HRs and 51 RBIs. Now while one single season of those numbers would not win him Rookie Of The Year honors, it's not horrible either. And don't forget his 2013 post-season—when the poised 21-year old hit .296 with an .893 OPS while playing a steady third base. Granted, he had a bad stretch this year that may have been due to fatigue. Going forward, that cannot be an excuse—he needs to get his body ready for the full grind of a season. Having said that, it is true that when he returned from the concussion DL, he looked refreshed and re-loaded. He seemed locked-in at the plate for the balance of the year—albiet still a little shaky on defense. The bottom line is that Bogaerts has the kind of elite potential that makes him a keeper. With a little patience, he should be a perennial All-Star for The Carmine Hose. Happy, birthday, Xander!

Jeter Eliminates Media Middle Men In New Site

(Exclusive FenwayNation Photo)
Just two days after retiring from baseball, former Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter announced a new website that aims at making a direct connection between athletes and fans—effectively eliminating the filter of sports media. The idea is a reflection of Jeter's career-long reluctance to open up to the New York media. His stated reasons have always been that he refused to allow "negative" vibes to distract him from his own approach to the game. We'd say it worked pretty well for two decades. Jeter stated that the new website—The Players Tribune—has the following goal: "...to provide unique insight into the daily sports conversation and to publish first-person stories directly from athletes." The player-driven content should be intriguing. Jeter went on: "Over the next few months, we’ll be introducing a strong core of athlete editors and contributors who will shape the site into an online community filled with first-person stories and behind-the-scenes content. My goal is for the site to ultimately transform how athletes and newsmakers share information, bringing fans closer than ever to the games they love." The sure-fire Hall of Famer was candid about his own image, but clarified things thusly, "I’m not a robot. Neither are the other athletes who at times might seem unapproachable. We all have emotions. We just need to be sure our thoughts will come across the way we intend." Brilliant.

FN POLL: Which Need Should Get Most Cash?

Where Should The Red Sox Cash Go?

Which ONE of the following needs should be addressed with the most cash?

  Current Results

Marlins "Talking" A Good Game On Giancarlo

Coming To A 100-Plus-Year-Old Ballpark Near You?
If you listen to the words of Marlins President David Samson, you might think they'll be building a Giancarlo Stanton statue outside their gaudy Miami stadium any day now. Said Samson, “He’s on this team [in 2015] either way. I can’t wait until after the season to sit down with Giancarlo and [agent] Joel Wolfe and talk about contract. We’re ready. We want him to be a Marlin well past his arbitration years. We hope that he believes in us and believes in Miami and believes in the direction of this team and recognizes that he has a chance to be the leader of a successful team for many years to come." Wait, didn't The 2014 Fish just escape the NL East cellar for the first time since 2010? Let's see, did they make the playoffs? No. Did they draw appreciably more fans? No (1.7 million, fourth lowest in MLB). Do they generally stink less? A little (maybe). So, why should Stanton stick around? Maybe it's the uniform color scheme or the exploding 'art deco' thingy in center field. The bottom line is you need to take everything Samson says with a huge grain of South Beach sea salt. After all, the total Marlins payroll this year was $45.8 million—that's $110.5 million less than the $156.3 million the last-place Red Sox spent. And what are they doing financially to convince Stanton that they're a real franchise? They're upping that payroll to a whopping $60 million next year! Ooooooh, that should impress him.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Will Manny Be Next Cubs Asst. Hitting Coach?

(Photo By Minda Haas)
Theo Epstein hasn't ruled in or out the possibility of Manny Ramirez becoming the next assistant hitting coach for the Cubs. After proving a positive influence on many of Chicago's young prospects, Manny's stock in the organization has risen dramatically. The Cubs will likely be relying on a slew of young prospects in 2015—in a similar way to how the Red Sox did this past season. So, Manny Being Mentor could be elevated into an even more formal position in the very near future.

Surgery On Buchholz Knee Deemed Successful

The Red Sox announced that this morning's meniscus surgery on the right knee of pitcher Clay Buchholz was successful. The right-handed starter is expected to make a full recovery in time for next February's Spring Training. The 30-year old Texan was 8-11 in 2014 with an ERA of 5.34. He is signed through 2015—with team options for 2016-17.

REPORT: Red Sox Not Pursuing 3rd Cuban OF

(AP Photo)
According to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, the Red Sox will not be pursuing a third Cuban outfielder—to join existing players Yoenis Cespedes and Rusney Castillo. Boston had previously expressed interest in 23-year old slugger Yasmani Tomas, but apparently feel they are already over-loaded in the outfield. Reportedly, the team was also concerned about Tomas' excessive strikeout rate while playing in Cuba. Tomas has been compared to yet another Cuban player—Jose Abreu of the White Sox.

Cubs Facing Same Prospect Conundrum As Sox

(Getty Images)
Listen to Theo Esptein on his bevy of young prospects: "Not all of them will work out, but we like these players quite a bit and they have a chance to play together for a long time." Sound familiar? Maybe it's because it's virtually the same mantra we hear from Ben Cherington. Of course, the Red Sox gambled on their prospects a lot more than the Cubs did in 2014. Next, year, however, Theo may be facing the same temptation to hand over full-time jobs to Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, Kris Bryant and Kyle Hendricks. They are the doppelgangers of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Mookie Betts, Christian Vazquez and Garin Cecchini. Will Theo have more luck than Ben? Probably not.

AL Wild Card May Feature Two '15 Sox Hurlers

One scenario being bandied about has Jon Lester coming back to Boston (although he's putting his Newton house up for sale) and the Red Sox also adding James Shields. If you're into that possibility, it might behoove you to watch tonight's AL Wild Card game (8PM Eastern, TBS). Both aces will face-off against one another in the stupid "lose one game and go home" format bequeathed to us by outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig. But, hey, it's still baseball—something we Red Sox fans have to wait 143 more days for. So watch, already!

Alex Wilson Is FN's 2014 'Under The Radar' Pick

Alex Wilson: 1-0, 1.19 ERA, 0.88 WHIP
He only appeared in 18 games for the 2014 Carmine Hose, and so relief pitcher Alex Wilson's contributions may have been missed by a lot of fans. For that reason, the editors of FenwayNation have awarded Wilson with the 2014 'Under The Radar' Award. In 28 innings pitched, Wilson gave up just 20 hits and finished with a stellar WHIP of 0.88. He walked just 5 batters and struck out 19—a nearly four-to-one ratio. He was 1-0 with a 1.91 ERA. Wilson will turn 28 in a month or so, and may be coming into his own. Here's hoping Wilson is a big part of the 2015 pitching staff. Congratulations, Alex!

40% Of Red Sox Home Games Have Ticket Hikes

Ever the expert parsers, the Red Sox touted to the world yesterday that they are "holding the line" on ticket prices for the 2015 season. Of course—as in politics—the truth is in the details. In fact, tickets prices will go up over 2014 levels for 32 home games—40% of the schedule at America's Most Cramped Ballpark. While it's true that the "average" ticket price will not increase in 2015—they did increase a whopping 4.8% last year. The sleight-of-hand by the NOG (New Ownership Group) is truly breathtaking. Just look at the comments from Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino: "Given the challenges we experienced on the field this year, and the steadfast support of Red Sox Nation through those challenges, we are holding the line overall. We are adjusting some of the variable pricing categories to better correspond to demand." They even have the gall to resort to the oldest of political canards—the appeal to the 'kids'. Lucchino goes on: "Over the last two years, we will have dropped the prices, for example, of Infield Grandstand seats by $17 for certain games. That helps us improve the affordability and accessibility of Fenway Park for families and children." Affordability? The phony "variable pricing" scheme is also back for 2015—with five different "Tiers" of games categorized by "anticipated" demand. These guys should run for something.

Brock Holt Is 2014 FenwayNation Rookie O' Year

(Getty Images)
Despite making his major league debut back in 2012 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Red Sox Uber-Man Brock Holt finally qualifies for rookie honors in 2014. While he won't win the league-wide prize, he does get FenwayNation 2014 Rookie Of The Year honors. While injuries and fatigue slowed him near the end of the season, Holt was an on-base machine and spark-plug at the top of the Boston order for most of the year. His final numbers are more than adequate—.281 BA, .331 OBP, .581 SLG, .711 OPS. He also had 23 doubles and five triples—and stole 12 bases. In just 106 games, he collected 126 hits and was one of the very few bright lights in the dismal 2014 season. Congratulations, Brock!!!!!