Dear Red Sox Nation – Grow Up

There is a saying in TV when a TV show has become stale, uninteresting, and basically has become an unoriginal parody of itself that it has “jumped the shark”.  Today Red Sox Nation is up in arms about Clay Buchholz attending a charity event.  Let me repeat that – he attended a charity event where he helped raise money for a cause.  Congratulations Red Sox Nation, you have officially jumped the shark.

It’s used to be fun to be part of the Boston sports scene.  We had the reputation of being tough but fair and very knowledgeable.  Now I am beginning to see that it was all a facade, riding the coattails of Bill Belichick’s genius, Terry Francona’s ingenuity, and Doc Rivers’ leadership.  We hid behind strong and smart athletes like Kevin Garnett, Tom Brady, and even Josh Beckett.  Then when we were convinced by ratings hungry gutter journalists we decided to turn on them at the drop of a hat.  Tell me where the intelligence in that is?  John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino took the Red Sox franchise from a great big pile of obscurity and turned it into a 2-time World Championship winner and turned a once decrepit hole in the wall into once again America’s most beloved ballpark and they are now public enemies #1, 2 & 3 around here these days.

The problem wouldn’t be so apparent if most people could conjure up an original thought of their own.  Instead most people around here just take up the opinion of idiots like Michael Felger and Glenn Ordway and pass it off as their own.  Let me tell you something about these shock jocks that we tend to love so much around here.  They don’t care about you, they are not doing this for you, they are not being honest with you.  They make who they don’t like into public enemies no matter the reason and let the guys they like off the hook.  That means that you’re never really getting the entire story accurately.  These guys have one motive – making money and getting ratings.  It doesn’t matter if they have to create a few “bad guys” along the way or embellish some things to make a sexier story, as long as the ratings come in and no one’s the wiser anyway.  Here’s a novel idea – how about going by what you see on the field or on the court or on the ice and formulating an opinion of an athlete as a professional that way.  And here’s another concept that you might be wise to consider – you are likely never going to personally know these athletes and, unless they are on the beat, neither are the journalists so please don’t pretend that you know who these guys really are or what they are like off the field.  Because you don’t.  And you never will.  I can’t think of anything more ignorant than people thinking they do.

The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter what an athlete does in their off time, it’s nobodies business.  The beer and chicken in the locker room is one thing because that was during games but all of the other stuff is, as far as I’m concerned, off limits.  Let me ask you something Mr. Joe WEEI Caller.  If, the next time you call up to rant and rave the jockey asks you if you’ve ever had any homosexual thoughts or like to dress up like a school girl (I know, stolen from the movie Enemy Of The State but still proves the point) what would you say?  That it’s none of their business right?  Exactly.  So please explain to me when athlete’s personal lives suddenly became everyone’s business.  If you think that all pro athletes should be required to live their lives in solitude because everyone has a Twitter account and a camera on their cell phone these days then you are seriously narrow-minded.  Who in their right mind has the nerve to suggest that they should dictate what other human beings do with their lives in their free time?  Apparently a whole lot of Boston sports fans and mediots do and to be 100% honest it’s a little sickening.  And pathetic even.  Let me see if this sinks in – You don’t have the right…it’s none of your business…it doesn’t matter if you put your whole annual salary back into the Red Sox, it does not buy you the right to dictate what these guys do when they’re not on the field.

And for the people who think they are “owed something” for buying tickets and concessions at over-inflated prices please realize this – it doesn’t matter how much money you spend on tickets or beer – that doesn’t buy you wins.  I spent $11 for a beer once at American Airlines Arena, $10 at SkyDome.  Boston isn’t the only town where the amenities at sporting events are overpriced.  Hell, in some small markets they jack the ticket prices up as much as 50% when a good team comes into town.  Imagine you are a Royals fan and you want to take your family to see the Royals play one of the elite teams like the Red Sox or Yankees and you’ve got to pay double.  By this logic you have just bought yourself a world championship.  Congratulations Royals!  There are 4 major sports championships and if they simply gave each one to the fan base who thinks they spent the most money on their teams at the box office or the beer stand it would kind of take all of the fun out of it, would it not?

Is every Boston sports fan over-officious, overly arrogant, and extremely narrow-minded?  Of course not.  There are some die-hards who watch and understand the games because they like the sport.  Then there are those who get into it because it is “cool” at the time and can’t formulate their own opinions because they don’t understand enough so defer to the Felgers of the world to formulate thoughts for them.  Then, well let’s face it, there are just some ignorant narrow-minded people in the world and they act as such when it comes to their sports fandom.  So what makes us different from any other sports fan bases?  Nothing really, we can just be counted among the 5 or 6 cities in this country that have a heightened passion for our teams.  No more, no less.  Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about our athlete’s personal lives and start worrying more about our own.  Wins and losses are not as important as raising your children, fighting a fire or a crime, or finding a cure for a disease such as cancer (although coincidentally if you are an athlete and you want to help people who do you better check with the fan base first and see if it’s ok).  Sports were invented for people to sit back and enjoy so my advice would be to do just that.

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Keep ‘Em Or Trade ‘Em – Red Sox Pitchers And Catchers Edition

Let’s get right to it…

Beckett will likely not be on his way out of town

SP Josh Beckett – I’ll get this one out of the way early.  Josh Beckett is not going anywhere.  For starters he is on the DL.  Then there is the fact that he is still owed upwards of $40 million over the next 3 seasons.  Thirdly he’s got 10/5 no-trade rights that gives him the right to refuse any trade.  That is probably the most important factor because surprisingly Beckett still likes pitching in Boston.  Maybe it’s the atmosphere, maybe he likes the bar scene, maybe all of the hate keeps him motivated.  Who knows?  What I do know is that many people close to the veteran right-hander think that he’s none too anxious to waive his no-trade.  Due to the contract the return would be nothing special anyway and let’s face it, Beckett has been one of the most consistent starters for the Sox this season.  Of his 12 starts 8 have been quality starts.  Only Jon Lester has more quality starts, with 9 in 15 starts.  Beckett will probably play out his contract here so people should probably get used to him sticking around for a while.

Verdict – Keep Him

SP Jon Lester – This is similar to people saying that they should trade Pedroia.  I don’t really see the point…you don’t dump a guy after a poor 1/2 season.  He’s by far the most durable starter for the Sox over the past 2-3 years so I see little sense in giving him up when you have a lack of starting pitching depth.

Verdict – Keep Him

SP Clay Buchholz – I could copy and paste the above in this spot.  Like Lester he’s only 28 and signed to a team-friendly deal.  He had a bit of trouble coming back from his back injury from last season but he seems to have put that behind him.  He’s missing his scheduled start today because of the flu but that shouldn’t keep him out too long.

Verdict – Keep Him

Doubront’s been a work horse in his rookie season

SP Felix Doubront – He’s 24 and is 8-3 on June 23rd of his rookie year.  Next question.

Verdict – Keep Him

SP Daisuke Matsuzaka – The Red Sox have spent roughly $98 million on Daisuke since they acquired him before the 2007 season.  Might as well see this thing through and pay him the $5 million remaining.  I’m not sure he’s got much value anyway since it’s up in the air whether or not he is committed to continue playing in the U.S. after his contract expires at the end of the season.

Verdict – Keep Him

SP/RP Franklin Morales – Morales has seemed to curb the control issues that have plagued him for most of his career.  He’s made 2 good starts in place of Josh Beckett.  He’s probably the Sox most versatile pitcher since Aceves is currently the closer.

Verdict – Keep Him

SP/RP Daniel Bard – This one of tempting.  Part of me says that he’ll eventually put it together but part of me says that he never will and you might as well try to get a maximum return for him while you can.  When I see Bard I see visions of his college teammate Andrew Miller.  Miller has been traded twice already and had to fight for a roster spot on the Sox this season.  He finally found his spot as a reliever but only after two major league teams had already wasted time waiting for him to realize his potential.  If there is a Matt Garza type of player out there and Bard can be the centerpiece of a trade I don’t think he’s the type of guy that you walk away from the table to keep.  His arm and head are too much of a question mark to consider him a sure thing.

Verdict – Trade Him if you can make him the centerpiece of a potential blockbuster

Padilla could be the odd man out if they get Bailey and Bard back in the back end of the bullpen

The Bullpen – As the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  The Sox bullpen has been exceptional since the beginning of May.  Andrew Bailey will have a place when he comes back and so will Bard if he’s not moved.  Miller is the late inning lefty.  Bailey, Aceves, Bard, and Melancon will take up in the back end.  Scott Atchison has excelled in his very specific role.  Clayton Mortensen, Junichi Tazawa, and even Mark Prior are waiting in the wings.  Two guys who could be moved are Matt Albers and Vicente Padilla.  When the back end is healthy they would prove to be redundant and everyone always needs bullpen help.

Verdict – Keep Bailey, Aceves, Melancon, Miller, Atchison, and Mortsensen.  Trade Padilla and Albers for value.

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Saltalamacchia just turned 27 and looks to be headed to Kansas City as one of the American League All-Star catchers.  The Sox should honestly be thinking of a contract extension for Salty rather than a trade.  He’s a keeper.

Verdict – Keep Him

Shoppach fits good in the backup C role for now

C Kelly Shoppach – He may have some value but I’d keep him.  The Sox need a backup catcher and Ryan Lavarnway is still developing and wouldn’t be best served to come up to the big leagues to get 1-2 starts a week.  There probably isn’t a better secondary catcher available than Shoppach so I’d keep him for the rest of the year and let the young catchers in the minors continue to develop down there.

Verdict – Keep Him

So there you have it.  Bard is our best piece and like I said teams are always looking for relievers so we might be able to steal something of value for an Albers or Padilla.  Beckett is going nowhere so it’s best if Red Sox Nation dropped that notion.  There is no point in doing a fire sale since a lot of these guys are still young and could be valuable in the future.  There’s no need to sell off players like Lester and Buchholz at this point.

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My 2012 MLB All-Star Ballot

Voting for the 2012 MLB All-Star game ends this Thursday, June 28th so you only have 2 more days to vote up to 25 times (per e-mail address).  I’m just an old fashioned guy so I only vote the once, as close to the deadline as I can.  Here’s who I’ve got for the American and National League starters for the All-Star Game:

1B

American League – Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox – Konerko is having one of his best seasons at age 36.  He’s hitting .337 which leads all qualifying AL first basemen by .034 points.  He also leads all qualifying 1B with 13 home runs and trails only Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, and Mark Teixera in RBI.

Reds 1B Joey Votto

National League – Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds – This one is a no-brainer.  Votto is hitting .335 with 14 home runs and 47 RBI.  He leads all qualifying National League first basemen in each of those categories as well as runs which he’s scored 48.  He’s probably the M.V.P. of the National League for the 1st half of the season

2B

American League – Robinson Cano, New York Yankees – Cano might be having his best season yet.  He’s leading all qualifying AL second basemen with a .302 batting average and 17 home runs.  Only Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis’ 42 RBI are more than Cano’s 39 among AL 2B.

Yankees 2B Robinson Cano

National League – Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds – Phillips makes it 2-for-2 for the Reds in my NL infield.  His .284 batting average is 4th among qualifying NL 2B.  His 10 home runs are tied for 2nd behind Atlanta’s Dan Uggla.  He leads all qualifying National league 2B with 45 RBI.  He’s among the best defensive second basemen in MLB.

SS

American League – Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers – It’s tough to go against Derek Jeter here but he has cooled down a bit.  Andrus only has 1 home run but he is only .004 behind Jeter with a .300 batting average.  His 44 runs scored and 13 stolen bases lead all qualifying AL SS and only Mike Aviles, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Alexei Ramirez have more RBI among AL SS.

Cubs SS Starlin Castro

National League – Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs – Castro is the lone bright spot in the dismal Cubs 2012 season.  He leads all qualifying NL SS in batting average (.301) and RBI (39).  He is 4th in runs scored with 39 and 2nd in stolen bases with 16.

3B

American League – Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers – I was tempted to go with Angels’ youngster Mark Trumbo here but I guess experience won out.  Only Trumbo and Adrian Beltre have a higher average among AL 3B than Cabrera’s .307.  His 15 home runs is 2 less than Trumbo’s 17 and he leads all qualifying 3B with 59 RBI which is ten more than Trumbo, the next guy on the list.

Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera

National League – David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals – Freese has quietly followed up last year’s World Series M.V.P. with an all-star caliber 1st half.  His .281 batting average is 4th among qualifying NL 3B and his 13 home runs and 46 RBi lead all qualifying NL 3B

C

American League – Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox – I went with the home town tie-breaker here.  Salty is close with A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli.  His 13 home runs leads all qualifying AL C and his 34 RBI are 3rd behind Pierzynski and J.P. Arencibia.  His .254 batting average is 3rd behind Joe Mauer and Pierzynski.

Cardinals C Yadier Molina

National League – Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals – Yady is having another monster season in St. Louis.  He’s 2nd among qualifying NL C with a .319 average.  He leads all NL C with 11 home runs and his second behind Arizona’s Miguel Montero with 41 RBI.  No one is better at throwing runners out at 2nd.

DH

American League – David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox – This is the biggest no-brainer since Votto.  Only Andy Dirks has a higher batting average among qualifying AL DH than Papi’s .304.  He is 3rd among AL DH with his 20 home runs and 2nd in RBI with his 52.  Adam Dunn leads Papi in both HR and RBI but Ortiz has an average almost a full hundred points higher.

Red Sox DH David Ortiz

OF

American League – Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue JaysJosh Hamilton, Texas RangersAdam Jones, Baltimore Orioles – Hamilton leads everyone in RBI with 66.  He also has 23 home runs and a .318 batting average.  Bautista leads the AL in home runs with 24.  He also has 57 RBI, 2nd among qualifying AL OF behind Hamilton.  Adam Jones boasts a .300 average, 19 home runs and 40 RBI for the contending Orioles.  He is also the best fielder of the bunch and one of the best defensive CF in the league.

Cardinals OF Carlos Beltran

National League – Carlos Beltran, St. Louis CardinalsRyan Braun, Milwaukee BrewersCarlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies – Beltran is having a nice season replacing Pujols in St. Louis.  He’s batting .313 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI.  Braun, the reigning National league M.V.P., hasn’t missed a beat after winning the appeal to overturn his 50 game suspension.  He’s hitting .314 with 20 home runs and 52 RBI.  The 20 home runs apiece for Beltran and Braun ties them for the lead among qualifying NL OF.  CarGo is hitting .327 with 17 home runs and 53 RBI for the Rockies.

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Red Sox Trade Kevin Youkilis To White Sox

Kevin Youkilis has been traded to the Chicago White Sox for minor league pitcher Zach Stewart and utility player Brent Lillibridge.

Youkilis played parts of 9 seasons with the Sox

Youkilis spent parts of 9 seasons with the Red Sox.  He hit a home run in his first game with the Sox against the Blue Jays in Toronto in 2004.  He was a part of two World Champion Red Sox teams in 2004 and 2007.  He’s hit 133 home runs with the Red Sox and driven in 563 runs.  He ammased 959 hits for the Sox, 388 of them of the extra base variety.  He played Gold Glove defense at first base in 2007 and was a solid third baseman for the better part of his career.  Youk moved from third to first after the 2005 season to accomodate the newly acquired Mike Lowell and stayed there for 5 seasons and when the Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez to play first he moved back to third without complaint.

Youk was always a lightning rod in Boston and around the league as a whole because of the intensity that he played the game with.  He often offended other teams by continually wearing his heart on his sleeve when he was out on the field.  He constantly argued with umpires over balls and strikes, celebrated a big hit, or lashed out at himself in anger when he made an out.  As a matter of fact back in 2008 Youkilis got into an argument with former Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez in the Red Sox dugout because Manny didn’t like how he was slamming his bat and helmet in the dugout in front of the younger players.  Youkilis’ act could certainly have been grating at times but there were times when you could appreciate his old school mentality.

The fact of the matter was that when Youkilis is not going good he is not easily likable with his intense personality and he has not been going good all year.  In a time with so much scrutiny surrounding the Red Sox Youk seemingly has had a giant target on his back.  Many people pointed to him as the leak for a lot of the stories coming out about the goings-on in the Red Sox clubhouse.  The thing is that Youk is breaking down at the age of 33 because he has played with that “balls to the wall” mentality for much of his career.  He has developed hip, groin, and wrist problems that seem to linger with him.  Youk’s attitude could be grating on you as a fan but one thing that you couldn’t question for the past 9 years was his passion and intensity.

As has happened for much of my life and much of the Red Sox history before I was born it seems like the Red Sox will have a less than amiable divorce with one of their former star players.  There is ample evidence that young Will Middlebrooks will make us put Kevin Youkilis in the rear view mirror relatively quickly but the fact will remain that Youk did what he did for the Red Sox for almost 9 full seasons.  Not many Red Sox players in the last 90 years can see that they contributred to 2 Red Sox World Championships but Youkilis can.  That alone should preserve his place in Red Sox history.

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MLB Suspends Rays Pitcher For Blantantly Breaking The Rules, Joe Maddon Complains

http://washington.cbslocal.com/2012/06/21/joel-peralta-suspended-8-games-for-having-pine-tar-in-glove-against-nats/

Seriously bro, shut up

So the rulebook clearly states that pitchers can’t have pine tar on their glove.  So when Rays’ reliever Joel Peralta was caught Joe Maddon complained that the Nationals only knew that Peralta had pine tar on his glove because he used to play for the Nationals.  He says that it shouldn’t count because the Nats used “insider information” to get him caught.  So apparently if you get caught cheating by insider information it cancels out the infraction?  Like it’s alright if you’re cheating as long as the other team already knows?  His argument is pathetic.  It really is similar to SpyGate in which Eric Mangini blew the whistle on Belichick’s taping practices but you didn’t hear him crying that it shouldn’t count because there was a tattle tail.  And he lost a 1st round pick, not a middle-of-the-road relief pitcher for 8 games.

Haven’t people figured out Joe Maddon by now?  The guy is a clown.  Everyone went gaga over him the minute he turned the Rays around and it went right to his head.  Now all of a sudden he is making up his own unwritten rulebook?  I’m sick of hearing about his stupid mohawk or his bow tie and I’m definitely sick of him whining about every little thing that doesn’t go his way.  It’s time for everyone to get over Joe Maddon.  Like Davey Johnson said he is just a weird wuss.

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Keep ‘Em Or Trade ‘Em – Red Sox Outfield Edition

Earlier in the week I did the infield so today we’ll look at the outfield.  Since so many guys have shuffled in and out of the lineup in the outfield there are quite a few guys to get to here and at the end of the day there are a limited number of roster spots if everyone is healthy so someone’s gotta go.

NOTE – I forgot to mention in the last column that David Ortiz has 10/5 no trade rights so he can veto any trade which would be another argument against trading Papi.  The only other Sox player with 10/5 rights is Josh Beckett and I’ll get to him on Sunday.

Ross’ right handed power is essential to the Sox lineup

Cody Ross – Ross is on a 1-year deal so he would be a rent-a-player for any potential trade partner.  With the exception of Darnell McDonald he is the only exclusive right-handed hitter that the Red Sox have in their outfield.  For that reason alone, particularly if Youkilis is traded, Ross is near untouchable.

Verdict – Keep Him

Ryan Sweeney – Sweeney is 27 and cost-controlled but he’s one of the most versatile outfielders that the Red Sox have.  He’s been on the DL twice already this year and currently resides there now.  He would be a guy that teams would inquire about but his health concerns may turn them off.  He also has virtually no power so if teams are looking for a power outfielder then they’ll look elsewhere.  He’s an intriguing trade option no doubt but I think at the end of the day his injuries preclude him for being moved at this point.  He also has some long term value to the Sox that some of these other guys don’t have.

Verdict – Keep Him

Kalish will probably stick around in Boston for a long while

Ryan Kalish – Kalish would be the most valuable Red Sox outfield piece on the open market.  He’s just 24 years old and seems to have put his injury problems of last season behind him.  He could be the center piece of a deal to bring a big time major league player back in return but I don’t see the Red Sox moving him.  He is their best outfield prospect ready to play in the big leagues right now and with only Carl Crawford signed beyond next season it seems like he’ll be primed for a lot of playing time in the future.  If he wasn’t injured he’d be the starting right fielder this season.  He stays and probably for a while.

Verdict – Keep Him

Daniel Nava – This is an interesting one.  I know that Nava has become a tremendous fan favorite in his time in Boston and he’s exactly the scrappy kind of player that the fans love.  The thing is that he’s 29 years old so he’s not any sort of young prospect and you’d be basically selling a guy at their highest point of value.  Nava is the type of guy that a contending team that is desperate for outfield help would overpay for at the deadline.  He has less than 2 years of service time so he is cost-controlled and he’s still got options.  Let’s face it – at the end of the day all of these guys can’t have a roster spot.  Only 5 outfielders will be kept on the roster at a time until September 1 and you could sell Nava high right now.  One option is to trade Sweeney and keep Nava but Sweeney is younger and his health issues may prevent you from getting the most value from him.  I’d hate to see him go but this one makes the most sense.

Nava’s value will never be higher

Verdict – Trade Him, his value will never be any higher

Darnell McDonald – McDonald is a pretty average player and I think that the only reason he has made it this far is that the Red Sox have no other right-handed hitting outfielders besides Cody Ross.  You wouldn’t get much if anything for him in return but with versatile players like Nava, Sweeney, and Scott Posednik ahead of him it would be hard to see him with a chair when the music stops.  He’s a good clubhouse guy but will likely fall victim to the numbers game.

Verdict – Trade Him

Scott Posednik – Posednik’s speed has been a great asset for the Red Sox since he was called up.  He is also hitting close to .400 for the Red Sox.  It’s tough not to see the Red Sox finding a place for him when he is healthy.  Even at 36 he is probably the fastest guy on the Red Sox not named Ellsbury or Crawford.  Imagine the ground covered by an outfield with those three guys late in games?  Surprisingly Posednik has proven to be very valuable to the Sox since they picked him up and should be the 5th guy even when everyone is healthy.

Verdict – Keep Him

Carl Crawford – Contract and health issues make this conversation a non-starter.  Just get him healthy and in the lineup and hope to get something close to the player he was in Tampa.  Maybe the rest and rehab did him good.

Verdict – Keep Him

Ellsbury’s health diminishes his value

Jacoby Ellsbury – This is another interesting one.  Scott Boras said yesterday that there have been zero talks about a contract extension with Ellsbury which is interesting since he is going into the final year of his contract next season.  The time to trade him would be somewhere between now and the start of next season.  There are two problems with trading him before the deadline this season.  First is obviously his health.  He is looking at a early to mid July return.  The second is that any trade involving Ellsbury would net a substantial return.  It would likely involve an All-Star caliber player or high level prospects coming back in return.  The issue really is timing.  If Ellsbury comes back around the All-Star break that leaves other teams two weeks to evaluate whether or not Ellsbury is healthy enough to contribute this season (not a given considering what happened in 2010) and then they’d have to work on a complicated trade with the Red Sox front office.  There really doesn’t seem like there is enough time for a blockbuster Ellsbury deal to come together at the deadline.  I can absolutely see it in the off-season depending on where contract extension talks go but for now he stays.

Verdict – Keep Him, for now

By the length of this article alone you can see that there is a numbers game in the Sox outfield.  Eventually if all of these guys are healthy they can’t keep them all.  It will be interesting to see what the Sox actually do when the time comes.  Of course all of these guys have to get healthy first.  Sunday morning I’ll have pitchers and catchers.  That one should be fun.

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Keep ‘Em or Trade ‘Em – Red Sox infield edition

I’m back from a week of vacation in Miami and the Red Sox have remained stagnant in the standings.  Despite a 4-2 road trip last week they still stand 7.5 games out of first place.  Despite winning 7 of the last 8 series the Red Sox are still at .500, 18 days into June.  Obviously there will be changes to the roster between now and the end of the season whether the Red Sox are in contention or not.  Here is a breakdown on the guys on the roster and whether I think they should stay or go:

Gonzalez is the type of player that you stick with through a slump

1B Adrian Gonzalez – There is no doubt that Adrian Gonzalez is having a difficult year thus far.  His .260/.315/.403 line is ridiculously lower than his career averages.  He is hitting 78 points below his final average from last season.  He is on pace to hit less than 20 home runs for the first time since 2005 when he played in only 43 games for the Rangers.  Clearly Gonzalez is a better player than this.  The big consideration would be the fact that he is only a few months into a 7-year contract extension that he signed last season.  The contract makes him nearly unmovable and if all things were equal I’d keep Gonzalez anyway.  Eventually the old Gonzalez will be back.  He’s the type of hitter that you ride through slumps with like the Sox have done a few times with David Ortiz.  Put him back at 1B full time, try to find a regular spot in the lineup for him and just wait for him to come around.  Hitters like him always do.

Verdict – Keep Him

Pedroia isn’t nor should be going anywhere

2B Dustin Pedroia – Any argument to trade Pedroia seems ludicrous to me.  The best thing that I can come up with is that people have entertained the idea of trading him just to entertain the idea of making a trade.  Even if you could get value for Pedroia you are simply creating another hole in your lineup as there are no prospects near ready to play 2B in the big leagues.  You’d be going with Aviles or Punto if you traded Pedroia.  Pedroia’s been the heart and soul of this team since he’s been called up and he should never put on another uniform at any point in his career.

Verdict – Keep Him, forever

SS Mike Aviles – Aviles is a guy that could generate some interest at the trade deadline since he has played a very good defensive shortstop this season and could help a team in contention in what is a weak position league-wide.  The enticement for the Red Sox for moving Aviles is that they have Cuban youngster Jose Iglesias waiting in the wings.  Iglesias has seemed to turn the corner offensively in the minors.  Aviles was a huge help to the Red Sox lineup early in the season in the lead-off spot when Ellsbury went down but he has barely hit in the lead-off spot of late.  Even if he’s not a starter he’d be a valuable player and with Dustin Pedroia’s health in question it might make more sense to keep him even if you do decide to bring Iglesias up.  Still if another club is offering some good pieces for him it would be hard not to try and make do without him.  The difference between keeping or getting rid of Aviles will come down to how much a team is willing to give up for him.

Verdict – Trade Him only if you get good value back.  Otherwise keep him.

Youkilis’ days in a Sox uniform appear to be very numbered

3B Kevin Youkilis – Here is the thing about Youkilis right now – he is playing so poorly that it might not even get to a question of whether to keep him or trade him.  It’s easy to rip the Red Sox for continuing to put him in the lineup but it was the right move.  You needed to try and establish value for Youkilis after he came off of the D.L.  It’s pretty clear at this point that Youkilis has little to no value on the trading market.  The one other thing that has kept Youk alive thus far has been the fact that the Red Sox would be losing a lot of right handed power if they got rid of Youk but the impending return of Cody Ross, which could come as early as tomorrow night, would alleviate that problem.  At this point it will start to become increasingly tougher for the Red Sox to justify keeping Youkilis on the roster at all.  He will likely be designated for assignment in the not-too-distant future.  The only saving grace for the Red Sox would be that there are several National League teams that need a 1st Baseman so maybe one of them would claim Youk off of waivers or they could make a trade with one of them after he cleared waivers.  Either way it would be a tremendous upset if Youk were sill on the roster come the All-Star Break let alone the trade deadline.

Verdict – Trade Him if you can even get anything for him

Middlebrooks has a bright future in Boston

3B Will Middlebrooks – Middlebrooks is 24 years old and playing behind a gimpy soon-to-be free agent in his 30’s who, as I’ve outlined above, is not too much longer for this team anyway.  He’s have some bumps along the way but Middlebrooks will be a fixture at 3B for the Red Sox by August at the latest.

Verdict – Keep Him

IF Nick Punto – There is no reason to dump this guy unless you have someone to take his place.  The only way he goes is if Iglesias or someone else supplants Aviles at the shortstop position and even then they’d have to make sure Pedroia was 100% before they got rid of him.

Verdict – Keep Him

DH David Ortiz – This is another pointless exercise.  As big of a name as Ortiz is he is still a 36 year old designated hitter with an expiring contract.  There is no possible way to get back the value that he currently gives you in a trade.

Verdict – Keep Him

So there you have it.  Only Youkilis is definite to go, all others should be secure unless the Red Sox are blown away by an offer for Aviles.  Tomorrow I’ll do outfield where there seems to be an impending logjam.

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Felix Doubront Showing That He Has A Bright Future With Red Sox

Lost in the hoopla of the Daniel Bard fiasco is the fact that Felix Doubront is quietly becoming one of the best young left-handed starters in the game.  A lot of the focus was on Bard coming into the season but people forget that it was Doubront who actually secured his starting spot before Bard in spring training.  Doubront, not Bard, is the guy who has shown that he has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter in the early part of the season.  At 24 years old Doubront looks to have a very bright future ahead of him.

Doubront has pitched confidently so far this season

In his 12 starts so far this season Doubront has carried a 6-3 record.  He was under a 4.00 ERA for most of the season before getting knocked around by a tough young Nationals lineup on Friday night.  His ERA now stands at 4.34.  Only 10 left-handed starters in the American League boast a better ERA.  Doubront has been a K machine so far this season as well.  He’s struck out 72 men in his 66 1/3 innings pitched.  5 lefties in the majors have more strikeouts than him – C.C. Sabathia, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez, Johan Santana, and C.J. Wilson.  That’s some pretty good company.  Even in a game where he only lasted 4 innings on Friday night against the Nationals Doubront struck out 6 guys.  He averages 9.77 strikeouts per 9 innings.  That is better than every left-handed starter in the American League and only Gio Gonzalez averages more K/9 as a left-handed starter in the entire majors.  If you factor in right-handed starters as well only Detroit’s Max Scherzer has a better K/9 rate than Doubront in the American League.

The key to a lot of Doubront’s early success has been the same thing that has failed Daniel Bard and some of the other Sox starters – he throws strikes early in counts and gets ahead of hitters.  He’s not afraid to stay around the strike zone.  A guy like Daniel Bard nibbles too much early instead of going right after hitters with his power stuff.  Doubront comes out early and pounds the strike zone.  He has looked very much like Jon Lester did when he came up to the team in 2008 and became a top of the rotation guy (if only Lester would start to look like that guy again).  Doubront’s consistency has been key so far in an inconsistent Red Sox rotation.  He has 7 quality starts in 12 outings.  Only Josh Beckett has more quality starts on the Red Sox staff with 8.  Most of Doubront’s numbers trail only Beckett’s and it’s clear that Doubront has been the second best starting pitcher on the Red Sox staff so far in 2012.  That’s not bad for a guy that had only 3 career starts coming into this season and none since 2010.

Doubront has pitched like one of the top LHP in the AL

People didn’t notice Doubront at the start of the season even though he out-pitched Daniel Bard and every other pitcher going for a rotation spot in spring training.  At this point in time it seems like the future is much brighter for Doubront than it is for Bard.  Doubront is two years younger than Bard and is already showing that he can be a successful big league starter.  Bard hasn’t even proven if he can be a consistent set-up man, let alone closer or starter.

If the Red Sox want to stay in the pennant race then Felix Doubront will have to stay consistent.  His last outing was disappointing but he still K’ed 6 against a tough lineup.  He is 2-1 against the American League East so far and should be 3-1 if the bullpen didn’t blow the 9-1 lead that he left them with in his 1 start against the Yankees.  Lester and Buchholz had inconsistent starts.  If they can come around and Doubront keeps up his pace it’s hard to imagine the Sox not staying in the race, particularly when they get key hitters back from injuries.  Daniel Bard may have been a failure for the Sox but Doubront has been a great success.  And it looks like he may be around for a long time.

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Red Sox Finally Climb Out Of Last Place

If someone told you at the beginning of the season that the Red Sox would be situated in last place in the American League East division from opening day until June 2nd you would have probably gone into full-blown panic mode.  The truth of the matter is that despite being in last place for two full months the Red Sox climbed up into 4th place last night and now stand only 2 games behind the 1st place Orioles and Rays.  They are only .5 game behind the Yankees at this point for 3rd place as well.  Such is life in the American League East this year.  No one team is much greater than the rest and once the Red Sox bounced back from a horrid start and the Orioles came back down to earth a bit the division has been bunched up together for the past few weeks and it will probably stay that way for much of the remainder of the year.

Things are looking up for Bobby V.’s Red Sox

One thing that’s for sure at this point is that it’s time for Red Sox Nation to give the devil its due.  Bobby Valentine has done a phenomenal job these past few weeks to get the Red Sox back into the AL East race.  He had a rocky start and he certainly heard it from the fans but after settling in Bobby V. has really found his groove.  He has had to maneuver around a minefield of injuries, many significant, and has done an excellent job.  He had what amounted to a patchwork bullpen at the beginning of the season after the injury to Andrew Bailey and ineffectiveness of Mark Melancon and has done an excellent job maintaining with what he has back there.  He’s worked well with the starting pitchers.  For the better part of the last month Bobby Valentine has seemed to push all of the right buttons and it’s time he gets his due.

Andrew Miller has become a key component in the Red Sox bullpen

The bullpen was a mess in the early going but Valentine and Ben Cherington never stopped trying to fit the right pieces in.  They weren’t afraid to admit a mistake when they sent Mark Melancon, who they traded two players for to become the primary set -up man, to AAA Pawtucket to get himself right.  They added Andrew Miller who has the big frame and arm but not the mentality to be a starter into the pen and he is enjoying a renaissance of sorts in his new role.  He stuck with Alfredo Aceves and Vicente Padilla even though they struggled in the early-going and they have become more reliable.  He has gotten used to the roles that he wants the pitchers to have and it’s worked out for the better.  He’s used Scott Atchison in a bridge role and he has responded with an early 0.89 ERA.  He uses Matt Albers primarily against righties late in games and Albers has a 1.32 ERA against them thus far.  Conversely he’s used Rich Hill as a lefty specialist and Hill has a 1.13 ERA against left-handed hitters for the season.  Whatever Bobby V. seems to do with the pen works these days and that’s a far cry from where we were at the beginning of the year.

Valentine has stuck with Nava who’s paid dividends

The injuries and spare parts in the lineup actually tailors more to Bobby V.’s managing style.  Valentine is not the type of manager to keep the lineup the same every night so it’s no surprise that he is mixing and matching with guys like Mike Aviles, Ryan Sweeney, and Daniel Nava.  Instead of replacing Jacoby Ellsbury with a permanent lead off hitter in his absence Valentine has done lead off man by committee which is probably a good idea since there is not a guy on the roster currently with extensive lead off experience with the exception of 36-year old Scott Posednik.  He’s shown faith in guys that have produced like a Daniel Nava.  Francona was a great manager but he tended to stick with the veteran players even if a younger guy was out-producing him.  Nava has been great, Will Middlebrooks has wrestled away a spot in the every day lineup and Mike Aviles has shown why neither Marco Scutaro or Jed Lowrie are missed in the Red Sox order.  No matter where they are in the lineup it seems like another role player or two is producing every game.

The Sox have been hot since Ortiz’ players-only meeting

Lastly the biggest improvement of the team from the start of the year comes in the chemistry department.  I’m not sure if they had to hit rock bottom to come up from the problems of last season but the Josh Beckett golf outing/David Ortiz meeting seems to have become the turning point in team chemistry.  The players seem looser now than they have for a long time.  Sure winning cures these types of things but they have seemed to have gotten over that hump and have come together as a team.  Whatever happened to team chemistry I hope it keeps up because these guys are playing like a team and winning games.

It’s amazing to think that this team was all bit written off a mere few weeks ago.  Now the starters are pitching better including Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard who both went through brutal stretches.  The bullpen is winning games.  The lineup, whatever it is for any given game, is producing.  Eventually guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Cody Ross, Carl Crawford, and Andrew Bailey will be back.  There is still a long way to go and anything can happen but you can’t deny that there’s life in this team now.  You couldn’t say that about them a month ago.

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