Thursday, January 29, 2015

Nava And Red Sox Agree On One-Year Deal

Daniel Nava and the Red Sox avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.85 million contract. The 31-year old fan favorite will be part of an extremely competitive outfield mix—even if a few are traded off in the near future. Along with Nava, Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. will all vie for playing time. This should be fun!

ESPN Rates Sox Farm System As Fifth Best

ESPN has named the Red Sox minor league system as the fifth best in the major leagues. Topping the list was Theo Epstein's Chicago Cubs system, followed by the farm systems of the Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, New York Mets and Red Sox. Other teams in Boston's division ranked as follows: Toronto #19, The Evil Empire #20, Baltimore #22 and Tampa Bay #23. So far, Ben Cherington has resisted the temptation to trade any of his top prospects to fill needs on the big club—although there is still plenty of time to do so before the start of Spring Training.

MLB Scout: What Tom Brady Could Have Been

Backstop Brady
No matter what happens on Sunday, Tom Brady is a lock for enshrinement in Canton, Ohio. If things had gone a little differently, he might have been a lock for enshrinement in Cooperstown, NY as well. After all, he graduated from the same California High School as Barry Bonds—um.....never mind. Montreal Expos scout John Hughes helped snag Brady in the 18th round of the 1995 amateur draft. He recently waxed poetic about what might have been, "I think he would have been a pro. He had all the intangibles. He could throw, left-handed power. There is no reason to think this guy couldn't have been a big league catcher." The 6'3" backstop even had a tryout for Les Expos at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The 17-year old Brady kid stepped into the box and, "It was foggy, wind was blowing in. It was cold. I think Tom hit one out of the park, but the ball wasn't going anywhere." So, who knows? This season, 'veteran catcher' Brady might have been retiring as a Washington National—and not aiming for his fourth Super Bowl ring. As Hughes said, "I could have ruined NFL history if I signed this guy." Indeed.

Sox Place Five In ESPN's Top 100 Prospects

ESPN.com's Keith Law has announced his Top 100 Prospects and five players in the Red Sox organization made the list. Not surprisingly, catcher Blake Swihart (generally regarded as the best backstop prospect in all of baseball) was the most highly ranked—at #10 on Law's list. Next up—at #20—was 6'6" LHP Henry Owens. Another left-hander—Eduardo Rodriguez (acquired in the Andrew Miller deal)—came in at #29. Further down the list were 3B Rafael Devers at #55 and speedy OF Manuel Margot at #70. Having this many prospects in the Top 100 is particularly impressive considering other young Red Sox players who've already tasted The Show (e.g., Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo) are not eligible for this list.

Better Sox Catchers Could Help Robbie Ross

(USAToday Sports)
Jeff Sullivan of the authoritative FanGraphs.com makes an interesting case that new Red Sox reliever Robbie Ross could be significantly helped by a better catching corps in Boston. Based on Sullivan's analysis, Ross—who started a lot for the Ranger last year— suffered disproportionately from strike zone-related issues. Specifically, as a starter, Ross had the highest rate of pitches taken by batters within the strike zone that were called balls. Part of this is due to the framing skills of catchers. In Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan, Ross will be tossing to two of the best receivers in the game. As Sullivan says, "With better catchers, he’ll either get more strikes, or he’ll be able to move out of the zone a bit more often, generating more swings and misses and weak contact." Ross will likely be used exclusively as a reliever by Boston, but part of his acquisition was probably as starter insurance should someone in the rotation get hurt or under-perform. Either way, Ross should more closely match his 2012 and 2013 numbers rather than the dismal ones he put up in 2014.

Xander: 'Strongest Ever Going Into A Season'

Xander Bogaerts
Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is feeling pretty good this off-season—in fact, the best he's ever felt going into a season. Said the 22-year old, "This is probably the strongest I've ever felt going into a season -- and by far. I'm definitely real excited for the season." This is music to every Sox fan's ears. After a disappointing first full season in The Show, a little bit of the lustre came off the Bogaerts brand. With a steady position and good health, this could be the year he breaks through to true stardom. Bogaerts has been training at the same Arizona facility used by teammate Dustin Pedroia—who will also be fully healthy for the first time in a while.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Red Sox May Be Eyeing Korean First Baseman

Multiple reports out of The Republic Of Korea indicate that the Red Sox (and possibly the Oakland Athletics as well) are interested in signing 28-year old first baseman Park Byung-ho. Park is a two-time Korean Baseball Organization MVP—hitting 52 HRs in 2014. Park is eligible to be "posted" to MLB teams for 2015—and has signed with a a US agent. Boston may be looking down the road one year when Mike Napoli is eligible for free agency.

Yoan Moncada Free-For-All Set to Begin Soon

When the Obama Administration relaxed relations with The Castro Family Prison Island, we all joked that at least it might make it easier to sign Cuban ballplayers. Now, word comes that—in fact—the new rules may allow super-prospect Yoan Moncada to become a free-agent very soon. Earlier, most pundits assumed teams would have to wait until June to go after the 19-year old switch-hitting infielder. Boston is one of several teams who held a private workout for Moncada—so it's very likely they will enter the bidding fray. Stay tuned!

Red Sox Trade Anthony Ranaudo For Reliever

The Red Sox traded one of their young pitchers to further bolster their bullpen. Anthony Ranaudo was sent to the Texas Rangers in exchange for relief pitcher Robbie Ross. Ross had a miserable 2014 (6.20 ERA, 103 hits in 78.1 innings), but was pretty good in both 2013 (3.03) and 2012 (2.22). So, Boston has added yet another lefty to the 'pen, seemingly setting up a Spring Training free-for-all to determine which port-siders survive into the regular season. Good move by Ben Cherington.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Joe Kelly Thinks Allen Craig Will Be "Awesome"

Kelly (L); Craig (R)
Joe Kelly—fresh off predicting he'll win the 2015 AL Cy Young Award—is forecasting great things for his old Cardinal teammate Allen Craig. Kelly points to the years when Craig was the best hitter on the St. Louis squad, "We had Matt Hollidays, we had Lance Berkmans. But check out any playoff games, any stats, the guy was our best player, 100 percent." And, what about in 2015 (where Craig has no real position on the Red Sox)? Kelly is confident about his buddy's performance, "He’s not nicknamed ‘The Baseball-Whacker Guy’ for nothing. He’s going to go out there and hit some balls hard off that wall. It’s going to be fun watching him come out and he’s going to start whacking and people are going to be like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know he could do that.’ Well, he can do it." Joe, tell us what you really think.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ex-Sox Pitcher Bill Monbouquette Passes Away

As a kid growing up in Somerville, Mass., it was quite a thing to have a real Red Sox player living in Medford, Mass.—the next town over. Bill Monbouquette, who died on Sunday at the age of 78, was just such a player—in fact he was born in Medford. "Monbo" (as he was affectionately called by fans) tossed a no-hitter in 1962 and toiled for The Carmine Hose for eight years before being traded to the Tigers for George Thomas. In his eight Boston seasons, Monbouquette went 96-91 with a 3.69 ERA for some pretty lousy Red Sox teams. Since 2008, he had been battling acute myelogenous leukemia. Rest in peace, Bill.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Evil Empire Brass Reject A-Rod's Mea Culpa

This kind of sounds like the Klingons refusing a sit-down with the Siths. According to The New York Daily News, the Yankee brass have refused a meeting with Alex Rodriguez—meant to convey an apology by The Fraudulent One for the Biogenesis fiasco. The rejection from The Steinbrenner Brood came with the following greeting, "We’ll see you in spring training." Of course, The Bronx Embalmers still owe The Centaur $61 million through 2017. They probably have to talk at some point. Don't you just absolutely love this?

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!