Thursday, January 17, 2019

Massachusetts Governor Baker Files Bill To Legalize Sports Betting In State

It looks as if Massachusetts will be joining the growing number of states looking to "cash-in" on the sports betting market. Governor Charlie Baker will file legislation to legalize sports betting in the Commonwealth. Touted as "An Act To Establish Sports Wagering in the Commonwealth" it would allow sports wagering lounges at the three licensed casino operations in the state, and also permit bettors within Massachusetts to place sports wagers from their phones and laptops. The bill is estimated to generate $35 million in tax revenues in fiscal 2020 alone. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal law restricting sports betting to Nevada, a succession of states have talked about taking the plunge. New Jersey already has—and to a lesser extent Rhode Island has as well. This Massachusetts legislation does not include the so-called "integrity fee" that has been requested by professional sports leagues like Major League Baseball.

Evil Empire Signs Adam Ottavino, High Urgency For Red Sox to Sign Kimbrel

According to multiple reports, The Bronx Embalmers have signed relief pitcher Adam Ottavino to a three-year, $27 million contract. The former Northeastern University Husky was rumored to be high on the list of Dave Dombrowski as a partial replacement for Craig Kimbrel. Now, it appears more vital than ever that the Red Sox re-sign Kimbrel. Unconfirmed reports have suggested that the closer may be willing to sign back with the Red Sox on a one-year, $18.5 million deal—allowing him to test the free-agent waters again next off-season. Whatever it takes, Boston clearly needs a more fortified bullpen that they have right now—they need Kimbrel back.

What's In A Name? Melvin Upton Is Now B.J. Upton Once Again For 2019

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Somehow, this is comforting news. The Player Formerly Known As B.J. Upton (and Melvin Upton since the switch) will now be B.J. Upton again. In case you didn't know, the original reason for the "B.J." nickname was to avoid confusion with the player's Dad, Melvin Upton (who had the nickname "Bossman"). The younger Melvin was often called "Bossman Junior"—hence the B.J. moniker. Got it? Anyway, while he was known as B.J., Upton had a pretty good eight years in Tampa—clouting 118 HRs. Upton has not played in the majors since 2016, so the name change thing might be a way to re-ignite his career and hook-up with a new team.

The Red Sox Will Pay An Early Visit To The White House On February 15th

The 2018 World Series Champion Red Sox will visit the White House on February 15th—an atypically early visit. Generally, the team has made the White House visit during the regular season—usually when the team makes its first trip to Baltimore. Red Sox President Sam Kennedy offered the following explanation for the unusual timing:"This was the date that was preferred by Alex Cora, Dave Dombrowski and the coaching staff. We wanted to set it up earlier rather than later. Some years in the past, we went during April or May when we’ve played down in Baltimore. Those always seemed a little bit stale. There was quite some time between the championship and the visit. So, we wanted to do it during the winter. We looked at the possibility of doing it after Winter Weekend, which is this weekend (Jan. 18-20), but this is the date everyone will be in Fort Myers. We’re going to do a charter from Fort Myers up to Washington D.C. and back in the same day. It’s actually most convenient to players and their spouses." Thankfully, while some (un-named) players will not attend, the team is going out of its way to avoid political issues. Said Kennedy: "Just like in the past, I’m sure there will be players who choose not to go, who do go. We’ve been pretty consistent and clear about this. This is an honor and a privilege to be invited to the White House. We’ve tried to not make it a political statement." This will be the fourth visit by the Red Sox to the White House to celebrate a title in the last fifteen years.

Monday, January 14, 2019

With Over 41% Of Ballots Now Public, Curt Schilling Is Inching Closer To HOF

With 41.5% of all ballots now in the public domain, Red Sox legend Curt Schilling is actually picking up some ground in his quest to be inducted in the National Baseball Hall Of Fame. As of this morning, Schilling has garnered 73.7% of the public vote—with 75% needed for induction. He needs 183 of the 241 remaining votes to get to the magic 75% threshold. Interestingly, Schilling is now ahead of both Barry Bonds (72.5%) and Roger Clemens (73.1%) in the voting. Still on-pace for induction this Summer are: Mariano Rivera (100%), Roy Halladay (94.2%), Edgar Martinez (90.1%), and Mike Mussina (81.3%). Very few observers thought Schilling would gain entry this year—or even get this tantalizingly close. He will have three more shots at getting in after this year, so things are looking up for the big righty. Over his 20-year MLB career, Schilling posted a 216-146 record—with a 3.46 ERA. He also struck out 3,116 batters. In the postseason, he was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA. You can track all of the public Hall Of Fame voting HERE.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Red Sox And Eduardo Rodriguez Agree On A $4.3M Deal, Avoid Arbitration

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The Red Sox 'inked up' another player today, agreeing to a one-year, $4.3 million contract with left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez. This amounts to a nearly $2 million raise for ERod—who finished 2018 with a 13-5 record and a 3.82 ERA. As MassLive.com's Christopher Smith points out, Boston's starting rotation will set John Henry back a whopping $87.625 million for 2019. This includes the new contract for Rodriguez, plus those of Chris Sale ($15M), David Price ($31M), Rick Porcello ($20.635M) and Nathan Eovaldi ($17M). Various estimates of the total 2019 payroll are in the range of $236 million—$30 million over the $206 million luxury tax threshold. And that doesn't even count what it will cost to bring back Craig Kimbrel or a substitute like Adam Ottavino. Of course, at least most of that money will be going to players who are actually going to perform for the team in 2019—unlike the $23 million that will be paid Pablo Sandoval this year. Oy!

Evil Empire Signs DJ LeMaheiu To Two-Year-Deal, Now Likely Out On Macahdo

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Well, forget about that Red Sox-Giants trade for Joe Panik. Multiple reports now confirm that The Evil Ones have signed free-agent second-baseman DJ LeMaheiu to a two-year, $24 million contract. This probably also means that The Bronx Embalmers are now out on the Manny Machado sweepstakes—a free-agent they never actually made a formal offer to anyway. It's more and more likely that Machado will end up with either the White Sox or Phillies—both of whom have made efforts to sign players and/or coaches that are "Friends Of Manny". With the arbitration settlement of Mookie Betts (1 year, $20 million) and the signing of LeMaheiu, it looks like this otherwise dormant off-season may be ready to go into full DefCon1 mode for Machado, Bryce Harper and others. Stay tuned!

BREAKING: Mookie Betts And Red Sox Settle On $20 Million In Arbitration

Multiple reports indicate that the Red Sox and their star American League MVP, Mookie Betts, have reached an arbitration settlement of $20 million for the 2019 season. This represents a near doubling of his $10.5 million 2018 salary—and augurs well for a future long-term deal that can keep him in Boston. The settlement is also a record for a player in his second year of arbitration—and will likely have a huge impact on other elite players in similar situations. Stay tuned for further details.

FenwayNation Offers Live Boston WEBCAM For Readers Outside The Area

It occurred to us that since FenwayNation has visitors from 180 countries, it might make sense to give readers outside of our home area a little peek at what Boston actually looks like—not the cartoonish view often seen in cringe-worthy Boston-themed Hollywood movies. So, we've added a new live-action WEBCAM of our fair city. The scene is a portion of the Charles River with the breathtaking Zakim/Bunker Hill Bridge and the famed Boston Garden (where the Celtics and Bruins play) in the background. The WEBCAM also offers live sound—so you can actually hear the honking horns that so typify Boston's legendary traffic. Enjoy the view whenever you like by clicking HERE or by going to "Key Resources" on the right side-bar and clicking on the "Boston Live Cam-Zakim" link.

Could The Red Sox Make A 'Panik' Move At 2B If Giants Acquire DJ LeMahieu?

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UPDATE: Evil Ones Sign DJ LeMahieu
Multiple reports suggest that the San Francisco Giants are looking to "upgrade" at second-base by signing free-agent DJ LeMahieu. If that happens, they would likely look to move 2B incumbent Joe Panik in a trade. Enter your Boston Red Sox. While Boston got the good news that Dustin Pedroia will start a running program soon to prepare for a full return in the 2019 season, there is still a lot of uncertainty as to exactly how healthy The Muddy Chicken will be. So, a 'stop-gap' measure might be to trade for Panik—with an eye toward sharing the keystone position between the two during the 2019 season. The 28-year-old Panik has now logged five MLB seasons—all with the Giants. He's posted a .277 average and a .733 OPS over that span—and also collected a Gold Glove (2016) and an All-Star appearance (2015). In 2014, he finished 6th in the National League Rookie-Of-The-Year balloting. The left-hand-hitting Panik might be a interesting option for Boston—as long as he and The Laser Show can accept a shared role.

Former Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks Announces Retirement From Baseball

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He was part of the World Series Championship 'Band Of Bearded Brothers' in 2013—hitting 17 HRs that year. After injuries and limited play in a down 2014 season, Will Middlebrooks was traded by Boston to the San Diego Padres. He then moved on to Milwaukee, Texas and finally the Philadelphia Phillies where he hoped to re-establish what had been such a promising career. Along the way, he married former NESN star Jenny Dell—and they now have a little infant daughter together. Last Spring Training with the Phillies, he suffered a gruesome injury to his left leg (fractured fibula) that sidelined him for the season. Despite an attempt at rehab, the Texas native decided to hang up his spikes and retire from Major League Baseball. Perhaps the most vivid memory of Will's time in Boston was his being called for obstruction in Game Three of the 2013 World Series. We still don't thing it was obstruction! Anyway, we wish Will and Jenny all the best in the years ahead.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Yankees To Machado On Stanton-Level Contract Needs: 'Good Luck With That'

Apparently, the lock of "perfect potential Yankee" Manny Machado going to the Bronx is not so inevitable after all. A series of reports have suggested that Machado is demanding Giancarlo Stanton-level money in his negotiations with The Evil Ones—and that is creating an impasse. One source within The Concrete Bunker On 161st Street put is thusly to the New York Daily News, "Good luck with that". Some reports have Machado asking for deals that produce an average annual value in excess of $31 million. Still other reports suggest that, while the Yankees might technically still be in the running (even though they haven't even made Machado an offer), the only teams left in the hunt are the White Sox and Phillies. Further rumors indicate that both the Machado and Bryce Harper deals are about to 'pop' very soon—as early as this week. Stay tuned!

Can The Red Sox Get Back-To-Back Titles For First Time Since 1915-1916?

Major League Baseball has not had a repeat World Series Champion since The Bronx Embalmers did it in 1998-2000. In fact, in the last 40 years, the only other team to achieve this feat was the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992-1993. In 2019, the Red Sox have a chance to join that elite fraternity—and do it for their own franchise for the first time since 1915-1916. Of course, MLB has much more parity than it did in those previous times—so it's much harder to go back-to-back. Various odds makers have placed the Red Sox, Astros, Dodgers and Yankees at the top of the heap in terms of total projected wins in 2019. The vagaries of baseball (the long season, unexpected injuries to key players) make it difficult for bettors to wager intelligently on the national pastime. Nevertheless, you can go to an MLB betting website and test your skill and knowledge about the upcoming season. Hopefully, The Carmine Hose will be able to ride the momentum of 2018 to an historic back-to-back championship in 2019.

Former Yankee And Red Sox Hitting Coach Rick Down Passes Away At Age 68

Down With Manny (Getty Images)
Only a few players and coaches have seen both sides of the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry. Rick Down was one of them. He served two stints as hitting coach in the Bronx (1993-95; 2002-03). In between, he was hitting coach in 2001 for the Red Sox. He also served in that capacity for the Orioles, Dodgers and Mets. Down passed away Saturday in Las Vegas after a long illness at the age of 68. Down spent 27 years in the employ of major-league ballclubs—also serving as a roving hitting instructor and an advance scout. He was also a highly successful manager at AAA for many years. He only made it to the AAA level as a player, but had a true love for the game. Said a former coaching colleague of Down: "He was just a great baseball guy. Rick made us better."

Facebook Tries A Little Too Haaaaaad To Be Boston-Friendly In New Offices

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Facebook has been under a lot of scrutiny lately on a myriad of dicey issues. So, we get it that they may need to boost the morale of their employees at their new Cambridge, Massachusetts offices in Kendall Square. After all, Mark Zuckerberg thought up his crazy social media scheme at his Harvard dorm in Cambridge. And yet, the over-the-top naming of Boston-themed conference rooms at the new facility is a bit much. Apparently, Facebook "polled" employees about what to call the rooms. Here are some of the more choice selections: Dirty Water, Sox Vs. Yankees, Dunkin', Billrickah, Peebidy, Woobuhn, Wusstah and Buh Buh Buh (Sweet Caroline lyrics). Why does this effort seem to reek of all those cringe-worthy bad Boston accent movies? There's such a thing as trying too hard. Look, Facebook be who you really are—a northern California company—you ain't Boston.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Brock Holt's Value To The 2018 Champion Red Sox Cannot Be Overstated

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Most Red Sox fans will likely recall his ALDS Game Three 'cycle' as the the top contribution of Brock Holt to the 2018 World Series Champions. And, the fact that it came against The Bronx Embalmers, of course, made it even more delicious. But, as great as that moment was, it's important to remember the total contributions that Holt made throughout the 2018 season. He played in 109 games for Boston, and ranked fourth on the team in OBP (.362), fifth in OPS (.774), fifth in BA (.277) and fifth in OPS+ (109). Then, of course, there's his versatility. In 2018, Holt played 56 games at 2B, 23 games at SS, 11 in RF, 6 in LF, 5 at 3B and 2 at DH. He also served 15 times as a pinch-hitter. And then there are the career postseason numbers with the Red Sox—a .297 batting average and a .976 OPS over 12 total games. Given the number of superstars on the roster, he can tend to get a little lost in the shuffle. But a presence like his is almost always necessary on a championship team—and always valuable.

University Of South Carolina Honors Two Baseball Alums: Bradley And Pearce

There it is, in all its glory. In the clubhouse of the University Of South Carolina baseball team is a huge mural depicting the World Series exploits of two of its program alums: Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Steve Pearce. Both of the former Gamecocks had illustrious post-season runs in 2018—JBJ copping the ALCS MVP award and Pearce getting the World Series MVP. The mural shows the two former USC stars celebrating key moments in the triumphant championship run of the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Interestingly, Pearce was originally drafted by Boston in 2004—but returned instead for his senior year at South Carolina. Said a teammate of Pearce, "We kinda all gave him a hard time because the Red Sox were his dream team. That's the team he wanted to go to, and he turned it down for his senior year, to come back and play at South Carolina again. That kinda shows his loyalty and support ... how much he cared about his teammates." Eventually, of course, he landed with that dream team of his youth and performed at the highest level in The Fall Classic.

We Just Returned From Time-Traveling To January 2020—Here's The News!

In our never-ending effort to serve our readers, a small contingent of FenwayNation editors (one, actually) agreed to 'time-travel' into the future to 'see what we could see'—so to speak. After downing a couple of Dramamine with some Jack Daniels on the rocks (just three cubes, like Sinatra), we strapped ourselves into the S.S. Darren Daulton to spin through a wormhole and end up in January of 2020. Our mandate covers only sports—so we have no insight for you on politics or how much Jeff Bezos' wife got in the divorce settlement. So, here's what we can bring back:

The Red Sox defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series (sorry, Ellen Adair)—even after The Fightins acquired both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper in the off-season. Machado ended the four-game sweep by striking out on a knuckle-curve from re-acquired Craig Kimbrel (who logged an MLB-record 80 saves, after agreeing to a 3-year, $45 million contract—with two team opt-outs);

The Yankees finished in fourth place in the AL East—with Troy Tulowitzki leading the team in home runs at 14. In June, Giancarlo Stanton pulled a hammy in the on-deck circle and missed the rest of the season, while James Paxton lacerated a thumb on his pitching hand while chopping down a big maple tree on his New Jersey estate back in March;

Dustin Pedroia Won His Second American League MVP AwardThe Muddy Chicken returned to the Boston line-up and led the league in hitting (.341), OBP (.406) and stolen bases (60). He also won his 5th Gold Glove at second base.

That's all we got—oh, and the Patriots beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl, 58-14.