Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pedroia: 'I Plan On Playing 162 Games' In 2015

The Muddy Chicken is back. Dustin Pedroia—fully healed from a raft of nagging injuries—is champing at the bit to play every game of the 2015 season. Appearing at the Red Sox Winter Weekend extravaganza at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, The Laser Show stated,  "I'm back. My body is back. I feel strong. I'm lifting everything...I’m here to win games. I’m not going to talk about anything else. I’m going to go out there and do it." There was concern in some quarters that season-ending wrist surgery might hold Pedroia back some in 2015. No chance. Get ready for another epic year from number 15.

Kevin Youkilis To Open California Brew Pub

Former Red Sox fan favorite Kevin Youkilis will open a brew pub in California with his brother Scott—who runs the Hog & Rocks ham and oyster bar in San Francisco. The brothers will open the brew pub at the site of the Los Gatos Brewing Company. The new pub will feature "easy California comfort meals with a twist" using "fresh, seasonal ingredients". Kind of fitting, actually, since Youk was always "fresh" with a "twist", wouldn't you say?

Sox Owner Henry Supports Pitch Clock In MLB

Red Sox principal owner John Henry believes a 30-second pitch clock will migrate from the AA and AAA levels (where it will be in force this season) to the major leagues "in a couple of years"—and he likes it. Curiously, though, Henry says he is not concerned with the length of games, just the pace. While there is a subtle difference, they are clearly connected. Here's his puzzling quote, "I don't think it's about shortening the game. We just introduced replay, which has lengthened the game. Our concern was not how long the game is going. Our concern is the pace of play. We thought that had gotten away from us in the last 50 years and needed to be addressed." Huh? Ultimately, it's the turgid three and four hour contests that will send Millennials off to something more exciting—not whether Clay Buchholz appears to be delivering the ball in a set time frame.

'Mr. Cub' Ernie Banks Passes Away At Age 83

Ernie Banks (1931-2015)
When I began following baseball as a young kid in the halcyon days of the late1950s, there were a few players who stood out as special. There was, of course, our hometown hero Ted Williams—but also Wille Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Ernie Banks. I took a particular liking to Banks, since we shared an unusual first name—and he was so much more interesting to follow than other namesakes like 'Tennessee' Ernie Ford and the fictional Ernie Bilko. Of all the superstars of that era, Banks seemed more low-key—not in terms of performance, but demeanor. He was a true gentleman with a slick glove and and powerful bat—one that netted him 512 HRs over his 19 seasons and Hall of Fame enshrinement. His entire career was with the Chicago Cubs—and so ingrained was Ernie to that team that he will always be known as "Mr. Cub". Ernie passed away yesterday at the age of 83. The world lost a great baseball player and a great gentleman.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Boston's $26.5 Million Allen Craig Conundrum

(AP Photo—Winslow Townson)
Over the next three years, IF/OF/DH/3B Allen Craig is owed a whopping $26.5 million. That's a lot of dough for an underachieving bench player. But the Red Sox have a problem trying to move the 30-year old and free up a bit of the log-jam in the outfield. You see, Craig used to be a really good ballplayer. In his five years as a St. Louis Cardinal, Craig hit .291 with an .803 OPS. In both 2012 and 2013, he hit over .300 and knocked out a total of 35 HRs. But, a nagging foot injury at the end of 2013 really hampered him—although in six post-season games that year against the Red Sox he hit .375. The problem is, until he proves otherwise, teams have to assume the injuries are still a factor. If he shows promise in Spring Training (along the lines of Grady Sizemore last year), perhaps Ben Cherington can part with him and free up playing time for others. Otherwise, Craig—and his contract—will be a serious drag on this team.

Brock Holt Free Of Concussion Symptoms

(AP Photo)
After one of the most amazing rookie seasons in Red Sox history, Brock Holt was forced to miss the final 21 games of 2014 due to concussion concerns. After being given a clean bill of health last October, he has been monitored by medical staff ever since. The good news is that doctors are "really happy" with his progress and the 26-year old is on track for a 'super-utility' role for The Carmine Hose in 2015.

Former Sox Wily Mo Pena Turns 33 Today

Wily Mo Pena
It's hard to believe that Wily Mo Pena is just 33 years old. He first came to the majors at age 20 back in 2002 with the Cincinnati Reds. He got to Fenway in the Bronson Arroyo trade in March of 2006. During his brief, two-year stay in Carmine Hose, he hit .271 with 16 HRs. Your humble correspondent was present at Fenway for one of those home runs. On a warm, early August night in 2006, Wily Mo launched a laser shot that hit the back wall of the Monster Seats—traveling the distance in approximately a nano-second. A very lucky fan moved his head just in time to avoid decapitation by the SCUD missile of a baseball. It was one of those Fenway moments when all 35,000 attendees sat for a moment in awed silence. Pena had that kind of raw power—rare then, even rarer now. He was appointment TV. Happy birthday, Wily!

Jonathan Papelbon Trade To Brewers Likely

It now appears that former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon will be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Reports suggest that the last remaining obstacle is how much of Pap's 2016 vesting option ($13 million) will be eaten by the Phillies. Papelbon also needs to waive his no-trade clause for the deal to go through. In his three years in Philly, the 34-year old has posted a 2.45 ERA with 106 saves. During his seven-year tenure in Boston, he delivered a 2.33 ERA and 219 saves.

Jonny Gomes Signs One-Year Deal With Braves

(Jeff Roberson / AP)
Former Red Sox World Series hero Jonny Gomes has signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Atlanta Braves (formerly, of course, the Boston Braves). The pact also includes a $3 million vesting option for 2016—but, since Gomes would never wear a vest, this seems moot. The 34-year old free-spirit can still hit lefties, so he's likely to see a lot of platoon time for the Bravos. We wish him all the best!

Fake Portland Steals Real Portland's Ballcap

Real Hat, Fake City
It's bad enough that some rogue New Englanders settled on the West Coast and named Portland, Oregon after its Maine counterpart. Now, it appears that the Left Coast impostor is stealing our East Coast baseball identity. The new FOX detective series "Backstrom"—set in the fake Portland—is using baseball hats with the Portland, Maine Sea Dogs logo (the AA affiliate of the Red Sox). Apparently, the producers requested a dozen or so Sea Dog caps a while back—but did not disclose their intended use. So, what's the moral of this story? Simple. Real cities have baseball franchises of their own. Case closed, Backstrom.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Swihart Rated #1 Catching Prospect In Baseball

Blake Swihart (FenwayNation Photo)
If you needed any more ammunition for opposing a trade involving Blake Swihart, you now have it. MLB.com's 2015 Prospect Watch has designated the backstop as the number one catching prospect in all of baseball. Perhaps the most exciting quote to come out of the analysis is this, "His toolset resembles that of a young Buster Posey." OK, we can deal with that. As the Red Sox continue to value versatility, they have to like this comment as well, "Swihart has much more athleticism than the typical backstop and could profile well at multiple positions." Want to hear something about offensive potential? OK, here you go, "He could develop into a .280 hitter with 15 homers per season." All in all, it's going to be very difficult to part with Swihart—even for a Cole Hamels or a Stephen Strasburg or a Jordan Zimmerman.

FanGraphs: Betts For Strasburg Sensible Trade

Strasburg (L), Betts (R)
Dave Cameron of the authoritative FanGraphs.com website makes an interesting case for a Mookie Betts for Stephen Strasburg trade. In fact, he argues that the deal would be a "win-win" for both the Red Sox and the Nationals. Why? First, Cameron uses a complex analysis of WAR projections for Betts and his likely replacements on the 2015 roster. He concludes that—at worst—Boston would lose one win without Betts. On the other hand, they would pick up around three wins with the acquisition of Strasburg—netting a two-win advantage. Betts would solve the Nats second base problem—and the loss of Strasburg is significantly mitigated by their remaining abundance of starting pitching (Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, Tanner Roark). Cameron concludes thusly, "It’s almost certainly not going to happen, but as far as speculative trade suggestions go, this one seems to make as much sense on both sides as any I can remember." We shall see!

OFFICIAL: Red Sox Cap On Pedro's HOF Plaque

Hall-Of-Famer Pedro Martinez
We all knew it was just a formality, but now it's official. The Hall of Fame plaque for Pedro Martinez will have a Red Sox cap. Arguably the greatest pitcher in franchise history, Pedro delivered ridiculous numbers during his seven years donning Carmine Hose: W-L—117-37; ERA—2.52; WHIP—0.978; SO9—10.9.  Did we mention one ring, two Cy Young awards and six All-Star appearances? So, while we knew it would happen, it's still great to hear the official word.

Nats GM Willing To Trade Jordan Zimmermann

According to FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is willing to trade starter Jordan Zimmermann (and Ian Desmond as well, for that matter) assuming it makes "baseball sense". Clearly, that means getting back talented, cheaper players in return—something the Red Sox are willing and able to do for Rizzo. Earlier reports have a bevy of young Boston prospects going to the Nation's Capital in exchange for the righty—who would become the ace of the Red Sox staff. The reports also indicate that the prospect pool excludes Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MLB Seeks Shorter Between-Innings Breaks

In its continued effort to shorten games, Major League Baseball is proposing a number of new steps to reduce the elapsed time between innings. While the new measures would not cut out any commercial time, players would be required to be ready to go immediately after return from the break. To do this, batters would be required to be ready to start their at-bats 20 seconds before the end of each break. Similarly, pitchers would be required to be ready to make the first pitch 30 seconds before the end of between-innings commercials. It's unclear exactly how these proposed rules would be enforced, and the players' union is already grousing. But, it's estimated that these measures alone could cut 10 to 15 minutes from games. The intent is clearly right.

REPORT: Sox Preparing Trade For Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
According to a report on BaseballHotCorner.comthe Red Sox are "prepared to make a move" to acquire Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann in a trade. Reportedly, the pool of players that are involved include: Allen Craig, Joe Kelly, Garin CecchiniJackie Bradley Jr. and Matt Barnes. If the report is accurate, it means that Ben Cherington could get one of the best right-handed starters in baseball and not give up Boston's two best prospects (Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart). Losing Barnes, Bradley, Jr. and Cecchini would hurt—but there is enough depth at each of their positions to justify this kind of move. The soon-to-be 29-year old Zimmermann (May 23rd) has a career ERA of 3.24 over six MLB seasons. He has a record of 57-40 and has made 32 starts in each of the last three years. He pitched a no-hitter in his final start of 2014—a season in which he put up a 2.66 ERA and 182 strikeouts. Stay tuned.

Zimmermann Is Top Choice As Sox Trade Target

Jordan Zimmermann has emerged as the clear choice of our readers as the preferred trade target among Nationals starters. As the chart shows, fully 55% now choose Zimmermann, followed by 34% who pick Stephen Strasburg and just 7% who select Doug Fister. Five percent said they don't prefer any of the three Nationals starters.

Red Sox Sign Another Arm In Dana Eveland

The Red Sox added another left-handed arm to their bullpen with the signing of Dana Eveland to a minor league contract—with an invitation to major league Spring Training. Eveland was shutdown last July after being hit on the elbow. Before that, he pitched pretty well for the New York Metropolitans—albeit in only 27.1 innings. The 31-year old posted a 2.63 ERA, with a nearly five-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. For his career, Eveland has a 5.27 ERA over nine seasons with the Brewers, Diamondbacks, A's, Blue Jays, Pirates, Dodgers, Orioles and Mets.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

POLL: Zimmermann Pulls Ahead Of Strasburg

Our second wave of polling indicates that Jordan Zimmerman has pulled ahead of Stephen Strasburg as the Nationals starter the Red Sox should try to trade for. As the chart shows, 50% now choose Zimmermann, followed by 37% who pick Strasburg and 11% who select Doug Fister. A scant percentage (2%) do not want Boston to trade for any of the three starters. You can still vote in the poll HERE.