David Ortiz

Best Boston Sports Day Ever?

Sunday may well have been the best Boston sports day ever.  Of course neither the Patriots game nor the Red Sox game decided anything but for sheer excitement and thrilling outcomes, it has to, at worst, rank highly.

First I must admit I was admonished by my wife for having a crappy attitude watching the Patriots game.  My son was watching with us and when the Pats turned it over with 2+ minutes left, I proclaimed, “It’s over.”  To be fair, I legitimately thought mathematically the game was over and said as much.  Admittedly I said it with a strong tone of poor sportsmanship.  My wife told me it was the wrong message to send to my son and it turns out, boy was she right.

I think my son learned the lesson as well as the Patriots sure put me in my place and he’ll never believe another thing I say.

As for the Red Sox, I was at game 1 and it was probably one of the longest, most frustrating nights of my life.  The Red Sox were embarrassed, struck out 17 times and only mustered 1 hit and the game took nearly 4 hours to play.  To make matters worse, my drive home from Fenway was interrupted by downed power lines which forced me and many others to park our cars on Route 1A for an hour until things were fixed.  Bedtime came at 2:50 am, a late night.

Sunday night’s Red Sox game was a near carbon copy for 5 innings with Max Scherzer mowing down Red Sox at will and the Red Sox not getting even a sniff of a hit.

Things changed in the 6th with the Red Sox scoring their first run of the series and David Ortiz worked his magic in the 8th.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia capped the night with a walk-off hit.

Game 1 provided much room for debate, like why is Mike Napoli so bad?  Why can’t the Red Sox hit?  How many checked swings can one team have in one night, oh really, that many?  As for strategy debate, I can’t really argue with John Farrell as if your team isn’t hitting across the board, I’m not sure what you can do besides try a few pinch hitters, which he did.  Basically you have to tip your hat to Detroit.

Game 2 was David Ortiz’s game and he got the job done.  His grand slam was punctuated with an amazing effort by Torii Hunter flipping over the wall into the bullpen, and one of Boston’s finest raising his arms in triumph as the ball landed in the glove of a bullpen catcher (how the hell did the catcher even see that ball coming at him by the way?  He was in a crouch, his head below the top of the wall.  When did he first make eye contact with the ball?  Remarkable).  One of the most dramatic sports moments I’ve seen.

Good timing too as heading to Detroit down 0-2 and facing Justin Verlander isn’t ideal.

Mark Oct 13th, 2013 as a special day in Boston sports.

Ortiz and A-Rod Are Friends

Baseball is so different than it was when I was growing up.  Opposing players hug each other during BP and go out to lunch and dinner with one another.  The hate seems to be gone for the most part.  It could be my memory is distorted, but I don’t recall the kind of love today’s players show for each other back in the 80’s.  Perhaps most MLB players are so rich that little things like rivalry and winning take a backseat to friendship.

No matter, David Ortiz today expressed displeasure with Ryan Dempster hitting A-Rod on Sunday.  He said it wasn’t because he and A-Rod are friends, rather it woke up the Yankees and breathed life into the them.

If I was Dempster, I’d be steamed right now.  Ortiz did say that Dempster was a “great guy” but calling out a teammate in public is wrong.  Especially for an isolated incident vs. an ongoing, well documented issue.  By criticizing his teammate on a strategy decision, he might as well call out John Farrell for bringing Brayan Villarreal, he of the 7.5 walks per 9 innings between MLB and AAA this year, into a bases loaded tie game only to see him walk in the winning run on 4 pitches (not much of a surprise).  Or he could call out Shane Victorino for not letting a foul ball drop and instead catching allowing the game tying run to score on a sac fly.  Or myriad other examples.

So Ortiz claims his words aren’t because of his friendship with A-Rod (they reportedly did lunch on over the weekend) but rather the fallout after the plunking with the Yankees rallying to win the game.  I’m not buying it David but either way, keep your trap shut.  What good does it do to throw your teammate under the bus.  Why not pull him aside and tell him you disapproved, in private, and leave it at that.

So while it is easy for Ortiz to blame Dempster for the Yankees rallying, I think we can all point to Ortiz and blame him should the Red Sox falter down the stretch.  You can’t have it both ways David.

It Was The Right Call

So the intentional walk to David Ortiz has become a point of controversy. If you turn on sports radio this morning or read columns like this one, Girardi made a colossal blunder. Personally, I don’t see it that way at all.

Let’s separate the names from the equation and just look at the situation. Boston starts the inning with three-straight hits and then Phil Hughes strikes out Pedroia. So now we have runners on second and third with one out and a left-handed hitter coming to the plate. The next guy up is a righty. This year lefties are hitting 100 OPS points higher against Hughes than righties are and they have twice the number of home runs. Furthermore, an intentional walk sets up a potential double play to end the inning. I don’t see why you wouldn’t intentionally walk the hitter in that situation.

But, if you have some hesitation then consider the fact that the hitter is David Ortiz, a guy who has murdered the Yankees through the years and is hitting incredibly well in 2013. And while Mike Napoli is certainly no slouch, he isn’t Ortiz and he is on pace to strikeout 230!! times this season. I just don’t see how Girardi can be criticized for his decision to intentionally walk Ortiz.

If you want to blame someone, blame Phil Hughes. Hughes served up the gopher ball and did so after jumping out to an 0-2 count on Napoli. Look at the breakdown of the at bat, a frustratingly typical tale for Hughes:

Pitch 1- 94-mph fastball-swing and a miss

Pitch 2- 94-mph fastball-called strike

Pitch 3- 94-mph fastball- foul

Pitch 4- 93-mph fastball-called ball

Pitch 5- 82-mph slider- called ball

Pitch 6- 94-mph fastball- deposited into the seats

Hughes struggles to put hitters away and it costs him. In fact, 39% of the plate appearances against Hughes this year have gone to an 0-2 count. (For comparisons sake I looked at the same figure for these pitchers: Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, Darvish, Moore, Buchholz, Hernandez and Kuroda. Most of them had a figure in the 20’s. Only Verlander and Sanchez were close to Hughes, but both of them were at 35%. Also, the MLB average is 23%.) I don’t know what it would take to transform more of those 0-2 counts into strikeouts, but that is what Hughes needs to figure out if he is ever going to live up to his potential.

And this is one of the biggest questions for the Yankees going forward. What exactly is Phil Hughes? He certainly doesn’t seem to be a top of the rotation pitcher. But it’s also worth noting that he is still only 27 with only 114 starts to his name. Look at Cliff Lee, who didn’t put it all together until 29. Or Annibal Sanchez who has taken it up to a new level at that same age. The Yankees have to decide if Hughes can make that jump and how much they are willing to spend on that bet. It’s just one more tough decision they will have to make in a season full of them.

Red Sox Cuts

Just a bit more than a week until Opening Night, the Red Sox are trimming their roster to 25.  At the moment, there are 35 players still in the mix.  If we assume David Ortiz goes on the DL, make it 34 players meaning 9 more cuts.

On the bubble:  Clayton Mortenson, Mike Carp, Mauro Gomez, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway, Junichi Tazawa, Lyle Overbay, Alfredo Aceves, Ryan Sweeney, Jackie Bradley Jr., Pedro Ciriaco and Brock Holt.

If Drew goes on the DL, I think Iglesias makes the team, otherwise he is headed to Pawtucket for more seasoning, remember he is only 23.  Drew was declared ready for baseball activities again and since he’d had 16 at bats already this spring, I imagine he’ll be ready for opening day.  Holt and Ciriaco are interesting too as Ciriaco offers a bit more flexibility (all infield positions, save first base/catcher and all outfield positions) while Holt is a better offensive player.  They could both stick.

Mortenson and Tazawa are casualties of the numbers game.  Good enough to be on the team but there is no room.  Aceves is such a wild man I’d be looking to deal him immediately.  He is a headache is as likely to get suspended as he is to provide good innings.

With Daniel Nava learning first base on the fly I see him sticking (reports today on ESPN suggest this) meaning Carp and Overbay are cut.  Lavarnway just won’t get any PT with 2 catchers on the team already in Ross and Saltalamacchia.  Back to AAA for Lavarnway.

That leaves the following:

catchers: Ross and Saltalamacchia

infield: Pedroia, Middlebrooks, Drew, Holt,  Ciriaco, Napoli

outfield: Gomes, Ellsbury, Victorino, Nava, ???

starters: Lester, Buchholz, Dempster, Doubront and Lackey

bullpen: Hanrahan, Bailey, Uehara, Breslow, Miller, Morales and Bard (*)

* If Bard isn’t quite ready, which is being reported, Mortenson, Tazawa or Aceves could step in.

Regardless, that leaves 24 players.  The big talk is whether or not Jackie Bradley Jr. (no, not Jackie Rogers Jr) makes the team.  Bradley has torn it up this spring (.444/.545/.578) and while he has never played above AA, there is strong temptation to bring him to Boston.  The upside is that he is an exciting player who will probably take over for Ellsbury once his time with Boston is done, but the downside is that the jump from AA is huge.  Small market teams are forced to do this kind of thing with their dearth of talent. Personally I’d assign him to AAA and let him get some reps there with the idea of promoting him if he continues to rip it up.  If Bradley doesn’t break camp with the Red Sox, Ryan Sweeney will.

I’m sure I’ll be wrong on several fronts (especially Aceves) but this is my $0.02.