Boston Red Sox

Baseball is Back: Spring Training notes and more

Good Morning and happy Friday! There were three Spring Training games yesterday, all pitting Major League clubs against college teams. Thankfully, all were able to avoid an embarrassing loss to their amateur opponents. While the scores are largely irrelevant, it is fun to report a score and a few statistics. Spring Training action continues today with six games, five of which are exclusively Major League teams.

Back to yesterday:

Phillies 6, University of Tampa 0

Is that Mark Leiter? Yes! Mark Leiter, Jr. is a prospect for the Philadelphia Phillies and started the game yesterday. Leiter spent all of last year at AA, going 6-3 in 17 starts and 23 total appearances. Leiter pitched one perfect inning yesterday.

Leadoff hitter Roman Quinn spurred the Philadelphia offense, going 2-for-3 with a solo HR in the third. Quinn is listed as the Phillies 7th Overall Prospect by MLB.com, and even earned a cup of coffee in the Bigs last season. With an impressive spring, Quinn could be in Philadelphia sooner rather than later.

This game saw a collection of Phillies prospects, including JP Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Dylan Cozens and Scott Kingery take the field.

Red Sox 9, Northeastern University 6

The hometown (…kind of home away from home?) fans were treated to a number of Major League players yesterday when Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland and Pablo Sandoval played against Northeastern University.

In his first game action for the BoSox, Moreland hit a three run HR in the third. The Red Sox will be counting on Moreland to replace some of the power that retired when Big Papi retired at the end of last season.

I really wanted to write this article without talking about Pablo Sandoval. I’m sick of reading about how many calories he ingests in the fifth inning of Thursday games played after a double header…UGH. But give Panda credit, he is only 30 years old and is looking to bounce back after only playing three games last season.

LHP Brian Johnson (26 years old) started the game for Boston, hurling two no-hit innings while striking out three.

Tigers 8, Florida Southern College 0

Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus penciled in a number of Major League players in his starting line-up on Thursday, as the team defeated FSC.

Third baseman Nick Castellanos doubled and catcher James McCann drove in a run as the Tigers pitching held the Moccasins (the snake, not the footwear) scoreless.

 

Check back tomorrow for a comprehensive review of the games that are going on today and sometime this weekend for a preview of the NL East- the land of topflight shortstop prospects. Good day!

 

The Winter Meetings: 3 Up and 3 Down

The Winter Meetings concluded in Maryland yesterday and the Hot Stove is a burnin’. Here is my take on the three teams that improved the most and those that made some questionable moves.

3 UP:

Chicago White Sox

Having only finished above .500 twice since the 2008 season, the time had come for a full rebuild on the South Side. By dealing their ace, Chris Sale, the Sox received top-prospect Yoan Moncada (2b/3b/maybe SS) and Mark Kopech (RHP). Many know about the talents of Moncada, but Kopech is also a top-tier prospect. In 134.2 innings on a Minor League mound, Kopech has a sparkling 2.61 ERA to go along with 172 k’s and 69 bb’s. While it must have been difficult to let Sale go, haven’t we all been thinking “when is that scrawny little arm going to fall off of that tall bag of bones?” Great move Chicago.

To add to this, the White Sox also traded the diminutive Adam Eaton to the Nationals for top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito (RHP) and Reynaldo Lopez (RHP). Both are considered by Baseball America to be top-100 prospects and each saw time in the Bigs last season. Adam Eaton, who had a top-15 WAR last season at 6.2, has never appeared in an All-Star Game or hit better than .300 in a season will head to D.C. and take over center field. While he is under team control under a great contract (a little under $30 million due through 2021), he reminds me of a Jayson Werth Lite. Not as strong, not as fast, not quite as hairy, not as good.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox got their guy in Chris Sale. While they paid a high price, they acquired an ace who is under team control at a reasonable price for the next three seasons. With the emergence of Rick Porcello, the Sox now have the depth in their rotation to make a run deep into October (assuming David Price never, ever pitches in the playoffs. Just kidding, kind of…)

San Francisco Giants

I get it. The money going to closers is insane. Mark Melancon, who absolutely sucked in Boston (6.20 ERA in 2007), is now the big money closer for the Giants, but he is exactly what they need. The Giants blew a league leading 30 saves last season and still managed to win the Wild Card and advance to the NLDS. With Melancon, a strong rotation that now features a steady Matt Moore and their usual collection of pesky position players, the Giants can expect to have a strong team in 2017 who can chase down LA.

Also under consideration: Rockies and Yankees.

3 DOWN:

Washington Nationals

The Nats were outbid on Chris Sale, who would have given them one of the most devastating starting rotations in all of baseball (Scherzer-Sale-Strasburg) and a chance at some great alliteration-based marketing. Regardless, they went right back to the same team (the White Sox) who had spurned them on Sale and offered a similar package for a guy who has never made an All-Star team and is named after the most mediocre pitcher in baseball history (the other Adam Eaton). Nats fans can’t be happy, thinking that Adam Eaton could be the outfielder they see for years to come as rumors start to swirl that Harper won’t be with the Nats past 2018, if not sooner…

Los Angeles Dodgers

So the Dodgers gave a ton of money (3 years/$48mil) to Rich Hill, a 37 year old who has never in his career thrown over 200 innings. Don’t they already have an aging lefty who can’t stay healthy? Yes, his name is Scott Kazmir. The Dodgers are spinning their tires and going nowhere as the Giants and Rockies improve.

Washington Nationals

Yes, the Nationals are listed in the “3 Down” category twice. I almost went with the Orioles (who haven’t done squadink while the Red Sox and Yankees improve) but I just can’t shake this trade. Baseball Reference (the most glorious website known to man) has a section named “similarity scores” that compares a player’s statistics to those of current and former players. Mike Trout is similar through age 24 to Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey and Hank Aaron. Fair enough. You want to know who Adam Eaton is compared to? DAVID DEJESUS. The Nats just traded their top pitching prospect (who is considered to be a future front line starter) for David freakin’ DeJesus. BEST CASE, he turns into Johnny Damon. But even then, the Nats traded far too much for a player of Eaton’s caliber.

Also under consideration: Orioles

 

**Photo credit of Chris Sale to Keith Allison** Check him out on flickr.

Francona is headed to the World Series, but what about Cooperstown?

As the Cleveland Indians prepare for what they hope will be their first World Series championship since Harry S. Truman was President, many are considering the Hall of Fame credentials of Terry Francona. We at BoT decided to take a look at Francona’s life in baseball to evaluate his worthiness.

Francona’s career in baseball started as a 22-year-old outfielder with the Montreal Expos in 1981. Over ten seasons in Major League Baseball, Francona amassed 474 hits and had a respectable .274 AVG.

Francona did some coaching in the minors and was eventually hired to be Buddy Bell’s third base coach in Detroit. At the end of the 1996 season, the 38-year-old Francona was hired to be the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, replacing Jim Fregosi.

The Phillies organization was in a free fall since their pennant winning season in 1993 and brought in the young skipper to right the ship. But Francona and the Phils floundered. Over four seasons, the Phils never finished higher than 3rd place (although the Braves and Mets were mighty good) and suffered two last place finishes. Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen and Bobby Abreu were some of the lone bright spots on a team that relied all too heavily on the likes of Robert Person, Doug Glanville and Desi Relaford. Francona was fired at the end of the 2000 season, with a record of 285-363. This version of Francona showed no signs of one that would go on to manage the Red Sox to two World Series championships.

At the end of the 2003 season, the Boston Red Sox organization was licking its proverbial wounds after a tragic Game 7 loss to the New York Yankees in the ALCS . The infamous decision by Grady Little to leave an overtired Pedro Martinez in the game led to Little’s contract going unrenewed. Theo Epstein had decided to move on, and was in search of a new skipper. Francona, who  had bounced around the American League (including a stop in Cleveland) as an assistant coach over the previous three seasons,  was hired. Epstein, according to a 2003 Associated Press article, had also considered Texas first-base coach DeMarlo Hale, Dodgers third-base coach Gene Hoffman and Anaheim bench coach, Joe Maddon.

Francona inherited a team that had averaged 94 wins over the previous two seasons. The Sox had an ace in Pedro Martinez and a legitimate slugger in Manny Ramirez. Johnny Damon was in his prime and David Ortiz was coming off of a 54 HR season. To add to this stable of talent, the organization acquired Francona’s former ace, Curt Schilling, from the Arizona Diamondbacks just a few days before his arrival. Schilling signed a three year extension shortly after arriving, leading many to speculate that he had a lot to do with Francona ending up in Boston.

Regardless of the reason, this talented team with Francona at the helm, was able to rid Boston of the 86-year championship drought on the diamond and won the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004. This tremendous season was marked by an epic rally in the ALCS when the team trailed the Yankees three games to none. The 2004 Red Sox remain the only team to ever recover from such a deficit. Whether Francona was the manager or not, this battle-tested group with the infusion of Schilling and his championship pedigree, were poised for a championship season. The 2004 Red Sox made Francona a winner, not the other way around.

In stark contrast to the ’04 team, the 2007 World Series Champions were not as talented The starting rotation was led by Josh Beckett (who had a career year) and supported  by Daisuke Matsuzaka and a duo of 40-year-olds (Schilling and Tim Wakefield). While the team scored the 4th most runs in the majors, it was not as star-studded as the 2004 version. Names like J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp replaced Damon and Ramirez. Managers who get more from marginal players are worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, and Francona did just that.

Not only did the offense over perform that year, but he guided his team through the season with a bullpen that included Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin, Kyle Snyder, Javier Lopez and then closer Jonathan Papelbon. This team won the AL East, swept the Angels in the ALDS and beat the Indians in seven in the ALCS. An impressive season from a team that was not dominant on paper.

Francona’s tenure in Boston ended with two consecutive third place finishes. The 2010 and 2011 each finished seven games out of first place, and the two sides decided to part ways.

The Cleveland Indians hired Francona in 2013 and the team went on to win 92 games. Franconca was selected as the AL Manager of the Year as the team improved on their 68-94 record from the year before.

The 2016 Cleveland Indians have dominated the postseason. After sweeping the Red Sox, the Indians beat the Blue Jays in five. The team is powered by two sluggers, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana, who had 34 HR’s a piece in the regular season. The team also led the American League in stolen bases, fueled by a quartet of burners. Fransisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez each have more than 15 steals, while a rejuvenated Rajai Davis has 43.

The completeness of the roster extends to the pitching mound. The Cleveland starting rotation, led by ace Corey Kluber, finished with a collective WAR of 8.9, good enough for best in the American League. Combine a strong  starting staff with shutdown relievers Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, and the Indians are a manager’s dream. Above average at nearly every position.

This consistency from a group of average to above average players is a credit to Terry Francona. Baseball fans, especially those in Boston and Cleveland, have been able to watch Francona blossom from a sub .500 manager to one with a strong championship pedigree.

At some point in the next decade or so, the Veterans Committee will receive Francona’s resume for consideration for baseball’s greatest honor, a plaque in the Hall of Fame. Had it not been for the the Grady Little calamity and a loaded ’04 Red Sox roster, it is uncertain that Francona would have had the opportunity to enter this discussion. But he seized the opportunity, and will eventually end up in Cooperstown because of his success with the ’07 Red Sox and his tenure in Cleveland.

Check back soon for a World Series preview, Baseball on Tap’s choice of beer for the Fall Classic, brewery features and…a new logo!

 

 

Morning Six Pack: Piscotty paves the way for Cards comeback, Liriano deals

Two Beers: Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals: Piscotty stepped to the plate with the Cardinals trailing 5 to 2 in the bottom of the eighth and blasted a three run homer which capped an epic four run inning. The Cards went on to win the game when…

One Beer: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals: Diaz had a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth, plating Tommy Pham and sending the Cardinal faithful home happy. The Cards have won seven of their last ten and now trail the Cubs by 6.5 in the NL Central.

One Beer: Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates: FINALLY! Liriano looked like a front-line starter last night against the Brewers in their 5 to 3 win in PNC Park. Liriano went 6.1 in the winning effort, striking out 13 Brewers along the way without any walks. The Pirates could really use Liriano down the stretch, as they sit just three games back of the second wild card spot.

One Beer: Dustrin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: Pedroia was 5 for 5 last night with three runs scored in Boston’s 13 to 2 win over Minnesota.  Pedroia’s average is now .304 on the year and the team stands alone in first place in the AL East.

One Beer: Mark Reynolds, Colorado Rockies: With the Rockies leading 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Mark Reynolds unloaded on delivery from Braves reliever Hunter Cervenka. The ball traveled an estimated 484 feet and is the second longest home run of the year. The Rockies took the game from the Braves, 7 to 3. The ten year pro is also hitting a modest .277, which is 40 points over his career average.

Other scores from Thursday:

Marlins 9 @ Phillies 3

Dodgers 6 @ Nationals 3

Orioles 4 @ Yankees 1

Tigers 2 @ White Sox 1 (7 innings)

Rays 7 @ A’s 3

 

 

BoSox blow out Twins, Yelich stays hot against Phils

Dustin Pedroia went 5 for 5 and David Ortiz mashed his 24th home run of the season, leading the Red Sox past the Twins 13 to 2.

Pedroia had two doubles and scored three runs in the rout. Knuckleballer Steven Wright threw eight innings against the last place Twins, surrendering four hits while striking out nine to improve to 12 and 5 on the year.

Twins starter Tyler Duffey did not make it out of the third inning and saw his record fall to 5 and 7.

The Red Sox have won nine of their last ten and are a half game ahead of the Orioles in the AL East.


The Miami Marlins punded out 16 hits against the Phils in the City of Brotherly Love this evening, cruising to a 9-3 win.

Christian Yelich slammed a solo shot in the 4th off of Jared Eickhoff. Yelich had six hits in the four game set in Philadelphia and two home runs. Tom Koehler went eight innings and only allowed two hits and one earned, bringing his record to 7 and 8 on the season.

The Marlins head back to Miami for a big weekend series against the Mets and will throw southpaw Adam Conley against Logan Verrett in the opener.