Tag Archives: Shane Victorino

Is It Too Early To Worry About the Red Sox?

Back when I made my MLB Predictions at the beginning of the month, I certainly did not foresee the Red Sox beginning their season by spending at least 16 of the first 20 days under the .500 mark, yet that is where they find themselves as they enter play tonight against the Baltimore Orioles.

Continue reading Is It Too Early To Worry About the Red Sox?

Red Sox Roster – 2013 to 2014

Winter has been preceded by a 4 letter word more often than not in many places across the Northern part of the country this year, few more than Cleveland and Boston. It almost feels like talking about baseball is a way to warm up, so I’m going to hang out in Matt Kline’s corner of MTAF Boston today and talk Red Sox. Surely 40 degree days are somewhere in our near future if we can talk cogently about Spring Training.

Let’s take a look at every Boston Red Sox position player (I’m always jealous of Yankees fans because they can call their players a “New York Yankee”, just like Astros fans, Brewers fans, Tigers fans, pretty much 95% of the world’s sports fans can do this, but “he’s a Red Sock” sounds silly) today and see what’s what. We’re a second year into John Farrell and a third year into Ben Cherington (although, really, it’s his second year of making decisions. See Valentine, Robert), and both have been astounding successes to this point. Whether or not it continues depends largely on the 10 men below.

We’ll go player by player, from most important to least.

  1. Dustin Pedroia – UP. This is where the Sox can make some hay. Pedroia played all last year with a busted up thumb, and still ended up with a respectable season. His defense was stalwart, he stole some bases, hit over .300, and led the best clubhouse in baseball. I think we’re looking at a .320/15/100 season out of Pedey and maybe some MVP buzz.
  2. David Ortiz – DOWN. If I would have wrote this column in each of the past 5 seasons, I’d have predicted Papi to lose something every year. It never seems to happen. I’m looking at a small dropoff (although Ortiz falling off the cliff one of these years seems the most likely scenario). .300/25/100 would be understandable.
  3. Xander Boegarts – DOWN. Two of my more controversial opinions will be regarding Boegarts. Firstly, that he’s the 3rd most important piece of that lineup. And secondly, that he’ll have a swoon now that pitchers have a little book on him. I sincerely hope I’m right on the first and dead wrong on the second. This kid has a chance to be the kind of homegrown talent that Boston fans love to watch. A down season by the expectations on Boegarts would be .260/10/50 with 20 stolen bases. I think that’s about what we see.
  4. Mike Napoli – UP. Negligibly up, I’d say. I’ll predict a similar season for all the regular categories, but I think he cuts his strikeouts down a little. .260/22/100.
  5. Jackie Bradley Jr. – UP. I think you can make the case that JBJ is the 3rd or 4th most important cog in this lineup. Can you imagine the boost this franchise would get if he can come out and replicate 90% of what Jacoby Ellsbury brought? I think there’s a good chance he learned from his cup of coffee and how Boegarts came out. As long as he keeps himself loose, I could see .275/10/50 (not saying it’s likely, but I could see it). He’s got to steal bases to really warm my heart, though. And he’s got to get on the bases to steal them. That’s what I’ll be looking at.
  6. Shane Victorino – DOWN. Here’s where I see the biggest potential for drop-off. Would not surprise me one bit if he’s not in the starting lineup by the all-star break.
  7. Will Middlebrooks – UP. So can the guy play third base or is he just going to bat .220 and strike out half the time? Even when he was tearing it up in the Bobby V. season, I’ve never really bought into Middlebrooks as a corner infield starter on a contending team. I think he can hit 20-25 home runs, but who cares if they come with a .230 average. I say he goes up this year, but not by too much. Cherington will be hunting for a hot corner bat around the trade deadline.
  8. Jonny Gomes – DOWN. There’s talk about Gomes hitting leadoff (John Farrell actually brought it up unprovoked during a couple of interviews). I think Jonny J has about the same numbers as last year, but minus the heroics he seemed to bust out at least twice a month.
  9. A.J. Pierzynski – DOWN. I’m a Pierzynski guy. Actually, I might want to rephrase that to read “I am THE Pierzynski guy” because I might be the only one. I love his attitude. It’s a job and he treats it like a job. He’s Rajon Rondo without all that genius baggage. Unfortunately, he’s also a 37 year old catcher.
  10. Daniel Nava – UP. Nava is a professional hitter. I think he’ll up that average every year until around 35.
  11. David Ross – UP. I could care less about the stats. Ross is Jon Lester’s personal catcher (at least he’d better be), and I think that if Lester has an UP season, it will be in large part due to Ross’ calming and consummately professional demeanor.
      • Short tangent – As I watch more and more baseball, I’m starting to realize something. There are two types of pitchers. Those who need personal catchers and those who do not. I’m not saying either one is better (yet), but it doesn’t seem to depend on talent or makeup. Bears looking into, I think.

As far as the rest of the guys on the team, maybe for another day. I haven’t thought much on Mike Carp or Jonathan Herrera to this point. We’ll do the pitchers for sure before the start of the season, but I want to hear a little more about their health before making any predictions. Until then.

Thank you for reading.

Red Sox 2014 – It’s Never Too Early

The 2013 season was a whole lot of fun, and the playoffs took that fun to an abnormal level, but now it’s time to move on. The hangovers have been quelled, the streets have been cleaned, and the championship attire has been purchased. Let’s take a look at the 2014 Red Sox and what they might look like.

Note – Please read Matt Kline’s piece from yesterday. I hadn’t read it when I wrote this, but he covers a lot of the same stuff. That’s just the kind of thorough analysis you should expect from MTAF Boston.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a free agent and was not tendered any type of contract by the team. David Ross will be around, and the Sox should be interested in supplementing Ross with another catcher who can shoulder the load should Ross miss any time with an injury. That said, the playoffs showed that a “good field, bad hit” type backstop can win you a title. I’m cool with Ross, Ryan Lavarnway, and another low-risk option.

Potential targets: Saltalamacchia, Carlos Ruiz, a giant cardboard cutout of Jason Varitek

First BaseMike Napoli is also a free agent, but has expressed interest in coming back to the team. 1B being a relatively easy position to fill, I don’t think Ben Cherington and Sox brass will need to overpay Napoli. If he signs for reasonable money, that’s great. If not, move on.

Potential targets: Napoli, Paul Konerko, Justin Morneau

Second Base – Boston is better positioned than any other MLB team at 2B. Dustin Pedroia is not only the best in the business, but he’s the heart of the franchise (David Ortiz is the soul, in case you were wondering).

ShortstopStephen Drew is a free agent, but it will cost any suitors a first round draft pick in addition to Drew’s salary requirements. I think that pick likely means Drew will be back in Boston. If he’s not, Xander Bogaerts could slide right into this slot

Potential targets: Drew, Jhonny Peralta (just for Matt – although, he does hit lefties about as good as Drew hits righties, could be a heck of a platoon), Bogaerts full time

Third Base – Here’s another slot Bogaerts could fill. Will Middlebrooks was thought to be the future here, until he had an atrocious season both in Boston and in AAA Pawtucket. Now the spot is murky. If they sign Drew, Bogaerts probably plays third and Middlebrooks becomes trade bait. If not, they might look at:

Potential targets: Bogaerts, Middlebrooks, Michael Young, Kevin Youkilis?

Right FieldShane Victorino is the first Red Sox player I remember causing the entire Fenway crowd to burst into song whenever he takes the plate. That bodes well for his future here. We’re all good.

Left FieldJonny Gomes and Daniel Nava were a relatively successful platoon in left for the playoffs, with Gomes coming up with one of the biggest blasts of the season. I think maintaining that platoon bodes very well for the 2014 team.

Center Field – This slot will need some attention. Jacoby Ellsbury is the second most sought position player on the market this year (Robinson Cano and his $300 mil contract expectations being first on most lists). Cherington and the rest of the GM’s office have been burned by long term contracts in the past, and there’s next to no chance Ellsbury signs for fewer than 7 years. There will be someone new in the middle outfield next season, possibly a Sox farmhand.

Potential Targets: Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Jackie Bradley Jr

Designated Hitter David Ortiz. Mr. Papi. After my kids, most of my family, possibly my wife, and MTAF big cheese Josh Flagner, Ortiz has probably brought me more happiness than anyone. I love him.

Starting PitchersJon Lester is signed for at least 1 more year, John Lackey is around for a few more, Clay Buchholz is signed, Jake Peavy is signed, Felix Doubront is signed, Ryan Dempster is signed, and the Red Sox have power arms like Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa in the minors. It’s nice to not have major starting staff concerns going into an off-season. I’d forgotten what it feels like.

Potential Targets: None

Relief PitchersKoji Uehara was the best reliever, and possibly the best pitcher, in the major leagues over the second half of 2013. Understanding the caveat that closers are fickle and often drastically different from one year to the next, I’ve still got a lot of faith in Koji.

In line to pitch before Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Brandon Workman, and Craig Breslow should all be back next year. And while relief pitching is a year to year proposition, those guys looked very strong in 2013. If at least 2 of them have a similar season, and Cherington proves to be 75% as adept as he was last off-season, the bullpen should be a strength once again. Andrew Miller and Franklin Morales are a couple of strong bets to be out there in long relief once again.

Potential Targets: Grant Balfour, Brian Wilson, Jesse Crain, Eric O’Flaherty, pretty much anyone who has ever thrown a baseball. You can never have too much relief pitching.

I’ll close with my predicted lineup at the start of next year:

Shane Victorino – RF

Xander Bogaerts – 3B

Dustin Pedroia – 2B

David Ortiz – DH

Justin Morneau – 1B (I don’t know – I just have a sneaking feeling that someone’s going to blow Napoli away with a giant contract because he’s a good chemistry guy. Copycat league.)

Jonny Gomes / Daniel Nava – LF

Stephen Drew – SS

David Ross – C

Jackie Bradley Jr – CF

That might seem like a pretty weak lineup for a defending champion from the American League, but I don’t think the plan was to win this year, and I don’t think Ben Cherington is the kind of guy who deviates from a plan (he seems like someone who has the same dinner on specific days of the week. Monday is steak, Tuesday is Chinese, Wednesday is chicken, etc…).

I think they try to win with starters, relievers, runners, and defenders, while waiting for guys like Garin Cecchini, Blake Swihart, Bradley Jr, Bogaerts, Middlebrooks, and Mookie Betts to develop. And I’m a fan of this plan, maybe even More Than a Fan.

Thank you for reading.

Red Sox 2014 – It's Never Too Early

The 2013 season was a whole lot of fun, and the playoffs took that fun to an abnormal level, but now it’s time to move on. The hangovers have been quelled, the streets have been cleaned, and the championship attire has been purchased. Let’s take a look at the 2014 Red Sox and what they might look like.

Note – Please read Matt Kline’s piece from yesterday. I hadn’t read it when I wrote this, but he covers a lot of the same stuff. That’s just the kind of thorough analysis you should expect from MTAF Boston.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a free agent and was not tendered any type of contract by the team. David Ross will be around, and the Sox should be interested in supplementing Ross with another catcher who can shoulder the load should Ross miss any time with an injury. That said, the playoffs showed that a “good field, bad hit” type backstop can win you a title. I’m cool with Ross, Ryan Lavarnway, and another low-risk option.

Potential targets: Saltalamacchia, Carlos Ruiz, a giant cardboard cutout of Jason Varitek

First BaseMike Napoli is also a free agent, but has expressed interest in coming back to the team. 1B being a relatively easy position to fill, I don’t think Ben Cherington and Sox brass will need to overpay Napoli. If he signs for reasonable money, that’s great. If not, move on.

Potential targets: Napoli, Paul Konerko, Justin Morneau

Second Base – Boston is better positioned than any other MLB team at 2B. Dustin Pedroia is not only the best in the business, but he’s the heart of the franchise (David Ortiz is the soul, in case you were wondering).

ShortstopStephen Drew is a free agent, but it will cost any suitors a first round draft pick in addition to Drew’s salary requirements. I think that pick likely means Drew will be back in Boston. If he’s not, Xander Bogaerts could slide right into this slot

Potential targets: Drew, Jhonny Peralta (just for Matt – although, he does hit lefties about as good as Drew hits righties, could be a heck of a platoon), Bogaerts full time

Third Base – Here’s another slot Bogaerts could fill. Will Middlebrooks was thought to be the future here, until he had an atrocious season both in Boston and in AAA Pawtucket. Now the spot is murky. If they sign Drew, Bogaerts probably plays third and Middlebrooks becomes trade bait. If not, they might look at:

Potential targets: Bogaerts, Middlebrooks, Michael Young, Kevin Youkilis?

Right FieldShane Victorino is the first Red Sox player I remember causing the entire Fenway crowd to burst into song whenever he takes the plate. That bodes well for his future here. We’re all good.

Left FieldJonny Gomes and Daniel Nava were a relatively successful platoon in left for the playoffs, with Gomes coming up with one of the biggest blasts of the season. I think maintaining that platoon bodes very well for the 2014 team.

Center Field – This slot will need some attention. Jacoby Ellsbury is the second most sought position player on the market this year (Robinson Cano and his $300 mil contract expectations being first on most lists). Cherington and the rest of the GM’s office have been burned by long term contracts in the past, and there’s next to no chance Ellsbury signs for fewer than 7 years. There will be someone new in the middle outfield next season, possibly a Sox farmhand.

Potential Targets: Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Jackie Bradley Jr

Designated Hitter David Ortiz. Mr. Papi. After my kids, most of my family, possibly my wife, and MTAF big cheese Josh Flagner, Ortiz has probably brought me more happiness than anyone. I love him.

Starting PitchersJon Lester is signed for at least 1 more year, John Lackey is around for a few more, Clay Buchholz is signed, Jake Peavy is signed, Felix Doubront is signed, Ryan Dempster is signed, and the Red Sox have power arms like Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa in the minors. It’s nice to not have major starting staff concerns going into an off-season. I’d forgotten what it feels like.

Potential Targets: None

Relief PitchersKoji Uehara was the best reliever, and possibly the best pitcher, in the major leagues over the second half of 2013. Understanding the caveat that closers are fickle and often drastically different from one year to the next, I’ve still got a lot of faith in Koji.

In line to pitch before Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Brandon Workman, and Craig Breslow should all be back next year. And while relief pitching is a year to year proposition, those guys looked very strong in 2013. If at least 2 of them have a similar season, and Cherington proves to be 75% as adept as he was last off-season, the bullpen should be a strength once again. Andrew Miller and Franklin Morales are a couple of strong bets to be out there in long relief once again.

Potential Targets: Grant Balfour, Brian Wilson, Jesse Crain, Eric O’Flaherty, pretty much anyone who has ever thrown a baseball. You can never have too much relief pitching.

I’ll close with my predicted lineup at the start of next year:

Shane Victorino – RF

Xander Bogaerts – 3B

Dustin Pedroia – 2B

David Ortiz – DH

Justin Morneau – 1B (I don’t know – I just have a sneaking feeling that someone’s going to blow Napoli away with a giant contract because he’s a good chemistry guy. Copycat league.)

Jonny Gomes / Daniel Nava – LF

Stephen Drew – SS

David Ross – C

Jackie Bradley Jr – CF

That might seem like a pretty weak lineup for a defending champion from the American League, but I don’t think the plan was to win this year, and I don’t think Ben Cherington is the kind of guy who deviates from a plan (he seems like someone who has the same dinner on specific days of the week. Monday is steak, Tuesday is Chinese, Wednesday is chicken, etc…).

I think they try to win with starters, relievers, runners, and defenders, while waiting for guys like Garin Cecchini, Blake Swihart, Bradley Jr, Bogaerts, Middlebrooks, and Mookie Betts to develop. And I’m a fan of this plan, maybe even More Than a Fan.

Thank you for reading.

We Are the Champions (2013 World Series)

I can understand how difficult it has become for fans from other cities to root on teams from Boston once their own team has been eliminated. At one time, Boston had fallen into a Championship dearth that would rival nearly any other city’s claim, when the Boston Red Sox historic drought was taken in to consideration.  During that period of time, the Red Sox were seen as an underdog type of team, especially when they matched up with the hated Yankees.

Following their 2007 Championship run, the Red Sox lost any claim to other cities’ fans for future Championship runs.  With the Celtics’ championship, and then even the Bruins’ getting a title (combined with the press’ hatred of all things Patriot and Bill Belichick), Boston had became the most hated sports town in America.  It took some getting used to, but we eventually got used to it.  We never liked it, but we managed to suppress our tears by admiring all the Championship trophies our favorite teams had accumulated[1. Mike Pellegrino did a phenomenal job breaking down the Red Sox 3 recent title runs.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should go do that now.  Seriously.  Stop reading this article and go read that one.].  We somehow survived, and the rest of the nation found a new Villain.

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Reflecting On 2013 Tigers And Theorizing Where To Go From Here

It’s been over for nearly two weeks.

dt.common.streams.StreamServerThe Detroit Tigers’ latest assault on that elusive fifth World Series title fell short last Sunday, as Shane Victorino’s Game 6 grand slam (which is still airborne) catapulted the Boston Red Sox into the World Series (which they are expected to win within the next two days). The Tigers became the first team to reach the ALCS in three consecutive seasons since the New York Yankees made four in a row between 1998 and 2001. The Yankees won the World Series in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and were one win from another championship in 2001. The Tigers have won the pennant once out of these three appearances and won exactly zero games in the ensuing World Series. Pretty stark contrast.

Going so far as to call the 2013 season a “failure” appears at first glance to be a bit harsh, but consider that the organization’s brain trust has stated time and time again (especially over the past two seasons) that the goal of the Detroit Tigers is to win the World Series. They were very active at the trade deadline this season and last. They spent MORE THAN $500 MILLION DOLLARS to tie up three players: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander. The Tigers have had three good teams over the past three seasons, but they all had the same fatal flaw: a failure to score in the postseason. The Tigers averaged only 3.2 runs per game in the 2013 postseason, and have averaged 3.4 runs per game over the past three Octobers. The 2013 edition was extra-special because of their abysmal bullpen; the bullpen that cost Max Scherzer two wins in the ALCS and blew three wins for Detroit overall. The team appeared to be constructed well enough, yet there’s no championship. And when the franchise credo is “World Series or bust” and the franchise doesn’t win the World Series, then yeah, there’s a mildly compelling argument that 2013 was a failure, despite the third consecutive division title, despite the likely Cy Young Award for Scherzer, and despite the very strong possibility of another MVP award for Cabrera.

The Tigers’ latest postseason power outage cost them their manager, as Jim Leyland elected to step down after eight seasons on the job. As much vitriolic crap as Leyland frequently got from scores of angry Detroit fans, there’s no denying the impact he had on the club. When he arrived in 2006, the Tigers were irrelevant. They lost 119 games in 2003, their last winning season was 1993, and their last playoff appearance was in 1987. Since 2006, the Tigers have recorded the following: six winning seasons, four playoff appearances (three times as division champion), and two pennants. What that means: Jim Leyland is the second-best manager in Tigers history, right behind Sparky Anderson.

Now, regarding this team’s future. The way this writer sees it, there are two feasible routes the Tigers can go (no, neither of them involve hiring Dusty Baker and spending $250 million on Robinson Cano):

1) hire a younger manager from outside the organization (Brad Ausmus, Torey Lovullo, Tim Wallach), trade potential 2014 free agent Scherzer, and begin to utilize younger/unproven players on the major league roster (whether it be from the Scherzer trade or to fill voids left by the departures of free agents Joaquin Benoit, Omar Infante, and Jhonny Peralta). At the end of 2014, let Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez walk as free agents, and *consider* moving 2015 free agent Cabrera (unless he takes a discount), In other words, lay the miguel-cabrera-icon2foundation for a rebuild.

2) hire from within (Tommy Brookens, Jeff Jones, Lloyd McClendon), keep the band together (perhaps add an impact free agent because #MikeIlitchPizzaMoney), and give it another go in 2014. Extend Cabrera and/or Scherzer to keep a semblance of a championship window open for the next few years.

The rumors of the Tigers shopping Scherzer won’t go away, and with three guys making $20 million per year already on the payroll, general manager Dave Dombrowski may have to consider how to cut costs and get maximum value back for some of his assets. The Tigers’ farm system is one of the worst in baseball now, and it must be replenished eventually. Going route #1 would be disappointing to many fans, but no one really knows how much more 84 year-old owner Mike Ilitch can or will spend to rope in a title. And the current “win now” approach hasn’t paid all the dividends it was expected to.

MLB: Detroit Tigers-Prince Fielder Press Conference

Route #2 would appease hungry fans and likely keep the Tigers in that upper echelon in MLB. However, the farm system would still be in tatters and the Tigers would be paying at least $20 million per season to FOUR players for the next several years. Close to half the payroll would be tied up in two pitchers and two hitters, and at least three will be getting paid well into their late-30’s, unless a Marlins-esque salary dump occurs. This payroll constriction will be a problem in the years to come if the Tigers develop any top-flight prospects in the next year or so, or if secondary guys on the roster need a raise.

The Tigers are definitely a team to watch this offseason because of all the questions they have to answer. They’ve blown two golden opportunities to win a World Series for Mr. Ilitch and a rabid fanbase over the last two Octobers, and 2013 could very well prove to be the swan song for this era of Tigers baseball. Only time will tell.

Cleveland Tops Boston

Two weeks ago, when I asked how it could be that Michael Bourn was still a free agent, I would never have guessed in 1,000 years that his eventual destination would be the Cleveland Indians.  I say that without intending to cause any offense, I never imagined he would find his way to Boston, either.  He seemed much more likely to end up with a team that would wildly overpay him, or on a team that was ready to compete in the moment.  Given that he will earn less than what the Indians are paying Nick Swisher, it doesn’t seem likely that he got the fattest payday he could have.  This leaves me to conclude that he believes the Indians are ready to compete, right now.

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