Friday, February 27, 2015

'Pace Of Play' Or 'Pace Of Pay'?

by Mark Lawrence, International Editor

When David Ortiz talks – or rants, as some reporters assert – I sit up straight and pay attention.  The most recent burr under Papi’s blanket has to do with this wacky Pace of Play initiative and, sportsfans – upon consideration - I believe he has a legitimate gripe.  

My geographic remove oftentimes leaves me out of touch with the minutiae of MLB Policy, but Pace of Play confuses me a tad.  Why does the game really need to be sped up? I mean, what’s the point?  A trawl through the interwebs shows some interesting stats regarding average game length over the decades – and while I can’t vouch for the veracity of some of this information, it seems that in the past few decades, average game length has indeed increased – but only by some thirty odd minutes or so.  Is that enough to warrant these surprisingly specific new rules and regulations?  More importantly, though, I’ve been unable to find the Why of this.

Farrell: 'Merit' Will Determine Rotation Order

While past performance and reputation will play a part, it looks as if merit will be the driving force in deciding the order of the Red Sox starting rotation. As it should be. Given the relative equality of the five candidates, whoever steps up in Spring Training should get the Opening Day start. When asked about this issue, manager John Farrell stated, "Merit is one. You factor in what’s taken place either the year or years before." Frankly, whether it's Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly or Justin Masterson doesn't really matter—getting a number one does.

Clay Buchholz Will Face NU Huskies Tuesday

(USAToday Sports)
While an Opening Day starter has not yet been named, Clay Buchholz will toe the rubber in the first Red Sox contest of 2015—a Tuesday matinee against Northeastern University. He will likely only hurl one inning—or until he gets knocked out of the game by the Hardball Huskies. Fittingly, Buchholz made the final start of the 2014 season—and will forever be the answer to the Trivia Question: 'Who pitched to Derek Jeter in his last at-bat?'. This may be more of a psychological morale-booster for the 30-year-old righty, who could become the elusive number one starter that he appeared to be in the early stages of the 2013 season.

Sox Have 6th Largest International Signing Pool

According to the authoritative Baseball America, the Red Sox have the sixth-highest international bonus pool—coming in at $3,681,000. The rankings are determined by reverse order of winning percentage from the previous year. However, Boston will be unable to sign any pool-eligible players for more than $300,000 through the 2015-16 signing window. This is the result of a penalty for going more than 15% over their current pool number (2014-15)—mostly due to their mega-signings of Cubans Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada.

Moncada On Preferred Position: 'My Baby Is 2B'

(FanGraphs.com)
Newly-acquired 19-year old phenom Yoan Moncada knows where he'd like to play—second base. When asked recently for a positional preference he stated unequivocally, "My baby is second base." Unfortunately for Moncada, that infant is currently under the paternal guardianship of one Dustin Pedroiathrough the 2021 season. Fear not. Chances are Moncada will fill-out his 6'1", 220-pound frame even further in the next couple of years—and thus be more attuned to first/third base or left/right field. Trust us, for $63 million dollars, this kid won't be riding the pine in Portland or Pawtucket/Providence for very long.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

REPORT: No Sense Of 'Urgency' To Get Hamels

According to a source reporting to CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam, the Red Sox are showing "no sense of urgency" to make a trade for lefty ace Cole Hamels. While McAdams indicated that Boston is "monitoring" the trade market for Hamels, they are continuing to refuse the inclusion of either Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart in any package. GM Ben Cherington is in a good spot—since all the pressure is on Philly, particularly after Hamels made it clear he wants out of The City of Brotherly Love. As we get closer to Opening Day, the price (in prospects) for Hamles is bound to drop—even more so if the Red Sox pick up the bulk of the remaining $90 million on the lefty's contract.

Will Papelbon Wind Up Back In The AL East?

Papelbon (Top Left)
There's something appealing about the idea of facing Jonathan Papelbon lots of times in 2015. That eventuality could come about if the latest rumors pan out and he's dealt to AL East rival Toronto. After a simmering deal with the Brewers fizzled, the Blue Jays have popped up as a landing spot for the 34-year old ex-Red Sox closer. Would he go to the Great White North?: "Yes, Toronto, interests me...I know some of the guys on their coaching staff. They’re a good team...I’d be interested." Anheuser-Busch (brewers of Bud Light) couldn't be reached for comment.

Victorino Likely To Return To Switch-Hitting

(AP Photo)
Nothing is official yet, but all the tea leaves suggest that Shane Victorino will return to switch-hitting during the 2015 season. The Flyin' Hawaiian gave up hitting left-handed due to injury during the 2013 World Series Championship season. His back surgery-shortened 2014 did not involve any left-handed hitting either. Today, he took a bunch of hacks from the port-side and gave the following assessment, "I felt great." Said manager John Farrell, "It's likely that he hits left-handed in games...He's going to take all the extra work that he physically can tolerate. I think until we get into games, it'll probably be a better read on how many at-bats left-handed it would require." Good plan.

Will Angels Seek Sox OF With Hamilton Woes?

Josh Hamilton
ESPN's Tim Kurkjian is speculating about whether the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (also, Orange County, California, United States of America, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way, Universe) might go after a Red Sox OF in the wake of the new Josh Hamilton troubles. Apparently, Hamilton will be out for some time after information surfaced about a relapse in his struggle to recover from cocaine addiction. The former AL MVP reportedly met with MLB officials in New York City yesterday, and may be facing a lengthy suspension—or a long stay in rehab. With a boatload of outfielders on their roster, Boston is the logical trade partner for the Halos—a situation that would greatly help The Carmine Hose as well. Stay tuned.

Ellsbury Has No Problems With Alex Rodriguez

Jacoby Ellsbury didn't get to play with Alex Rodriguez during his first year as a member of The Evil Empire. There was the little matter of a season-long suspension for The Fraudulent One. But, now, as Jacoby approaches a new season, he's pretty cool with The Centaur. Said Ellsbury, "For whatever reason...he was friendly with me. He'd always say, 'Hello. How you doing?' So I always appreciated that. That's my memories of Alex. Whenever I got to third base, he was always seeing how I was doing. You appreciate that as a baserunner." Well, isn't that special? We hope they have a beautiful friendship in pinstripes.

NY Post: Red Sox Have Become 'Better' Empire

While Larry Lucchino refused to have the Red Sox labeled as 'Evil Empire 2.0', there is a growing consensus that the 'Empire' part truly is in play. Even the New York Post grudgingly admits that Boston—with it's three championships in 11 years—is clearly out-doing the Steinbrenners. The Yankees have won once in the last 14 years (2009). During this active off-season, the Red Sox have spent a whopping $329 million on new acquisitions—and their 2015 salary will bust through the $200 million ceiling. And, they did not hesitate to spend $63 million on 19-year-old Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada—even with the severe penalties that came with that deal. Said Lucchino about the Moncada deal, "It speaks volumes about our commitment to winning that we’ve been talking about since we got here. That’s the basic rock on which the church is built." Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Papi Profusely Peppers Pace Of Play Policies

(AP Photo)
Take it from us—David Ortiz is not too thrilled with the new 'pace of play' regulations in Major League Baseball. Seemingly unaware of the "one-foot-in-the-box" rule, Papi let fly with a string of expletives to show his disdain for the new regulations. Said Ortiz, "After a pitch, you got to stay in the box? One foot? I call that bulls---... I'm not walking around just because there are cameras all over the place...When you force a hitter to do that, 70 percent you're out, because you don't have time to think. And the only time you have to think about things is that time. So, I don't know how this baseball game is going to end up."  And what about the reported fines associated with violating the rule? Said Ortiz, "Well, I might run out of money. I'm serious. I'm not going to change my game. I don't care what they say. My game, it's not like I go around and do all kinds of stupid s---." Papi, tell us what you really think.

Ex-Red Sox Hurler Dana Kiecker Turns 54 Today

Dana Kiecker turns 54 years of age today. 'Dana who?'—we can hear hundreds of readers shouting. Well, there was once a young starting pitcher on the Red Sox named Kiecker. He pitched in only 50 games for The Carmine Hose during two seasons (1990, 1991). But, he was involved in one of the most frustrating post-season losses of the 90s—and there were a lot of those in the old days. Kiecker himself was fine—in fact, very good. The then 29-year old went 5 2/3 innings—giving up just one-earned run in Game 2 of the 1990 ALCS at Fenway. Then, things—as they always did back in those days—fell apart. Greg Harris gave up a run and later Jeff Reardon coughed up two and the Red Sox lost the game, 4-1. The A's swept the Red Sox, four games to none. But, young Mr. Kiecker pitched himself a true gem. Happy birthday, Dana!

Cherington: Papi On Sox 'As Long As He Wants'

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington didn't mince any words. When asked if the team had discussed contract with David Ortiz beyond this year—the DH's last that's guaranteed—he was pretty direct. Said Cherington, "David knows he's going to be a Red Sox as long as he wants to be a Red Sox." Any questions? If he stay healthy and accumulates at least 425 plate appearances (he had over 600 last year), the 2016 contract provisions automatically kick in. We'll see if the issue of a guaranteed extension is a topic that comes up at all during Spring Training.

Yoan Moncada Sighting In Fort Myers, Florida!

(Photo Capture From Rob Bradford VINE Post)
New Red Sox acquisition Yoan Moncada was spotted walking into the Red Sox Spring Training complex in Fort Myers this morning. The 19-year old Cuban phenom—who seems a lot smaller than 6'1"—was at jetBlue Park to get a physical before the official announcement of his signing. According to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, Moncada was accompanied by his agent David Hastings, and Boston's assistant international scouting director Gus Quattlebaum. The switch-hitter will report to camp on March 2nd.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Officials: Moving PawSox Will 'Devastate' City

Local officials in Pawtucket, Rhode Island stated today that the planned move of the Red Sox AAA franchise from their city to Providence will "devastate" the municipality's economy. A group of Red Sox owners—including Larry Lucchino—recently purchased the team from the widow of the previous owner, Ben Mondor. The new owners plan to re-name the franchise as the "Rhode Island Red Sox" and play in a new riverfront stadium in the capital city. Pawtucket has been the home of team's AAA entry since 1973 (and was also briefly home of the AA franchise).

Theo Hires Manny As Cubs Hitting Consultant

Jon Lester, David Ross, Kevin Youkilis—and now, Manny Ramirez! The Chicago Cubs announced today that they have hired Manny to be a major-league hitting consultant. Last week, it was reported that Youk was also hired by Theo Epstein as a part-time scouting and player development consultant. Be honest, whenever you think of Manny and Youk, you think: "Consultant". Anyway, Theo made the following comments about Manny, "Sometimes people say Manny is a hitting savant, but there was a lot of hard work that went into it in Boston. He's definitely thought through a lot of aspects of hitting. He's got a real intuition about what hitters are trying to do and what pitchers are trying to do to hitters and how to maintain proper swing mechanics." Manny being mechanic!

John Henry: Larry Lucchino Is Still In Charge

Lucchino, Haig
Apparently, recent reports of Larry Lucchino's waning influence on Yawkey Way were greatly exaggerated. Today, newspaper and soccer magnate John Henry re-affirmed his faith in Lucchino, stating, "There's no doubt that Larry is in charge and continues to be in charge". This conjures up visions of a pathetic Al Haig stating back in 1981, "I'm in charge here and not to worry...As for now, I’m in control here, in the White House." Will we be seeing Larry make similar statements soon? Maybe he can make the comments from the new AAA riverfront ballpark in Providence.

Cherington: Moncada Can Play 'All Over Field'

Yoan Moncada
Red Sox General manager Ben Cherington stated today that newly-acquired Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada can play "all over the field"—and is not just limited to the infield (2B, SS, 3B). The 19-year old $63 million man ($31.5 million signing bonus; $31.5 million MLB penalty) is expected to start in 'A' ball (where the weather is warmer), rather than 'AA' (where the weather is colder)—even though he probably belongs at the higher level. Multiple scouts have reported that—if Moncada were a domestic prospect—he would likely be drafted #1 overall. As former MLB pitcher C.J. Nitkowski has observed, Boston never gets to draft high enough to grab this type of talent—so it's well worth the price to get him.

Red Sox Also Signing Yoan Moncada's 'Mentor'

Carlos Mesa While In The Pirates Organization
In a weird twist to the Yoan Moncada signing, WEEI.com's Jon Tomase is reporting that the Red Sox will also sign the player's "mentor"—27-year old OF Carlos Mesa. It appears as if Moncada's agent sold the two as a "package deal"—with Mesa being "showcased" along with the 19-year old Cuban phenom. The agent, David Hastings, stated, "Carlos is a player I showcased along with Yoan from the very beginning. He’s been a mentor to Yoan. He’s an important piece of the whole package, in my opinion. It was not presented as a deal breaker, but he tried out every single time Yoan did, and he’s impressive. The team saw value in him and offered him a contract." It's unclear how much Mesa'a minor-league contract will cost the team.