December 27, 2015

RIP Hendu

Dave Henderson - Red Sox hero of the 1986 ALCS and World Series - died today, one month after receiving a kidney transplant. He was 57 years old.

Before there was David Ortiz, there was Dave Henderson.

Before Big Papi thrilled Red Sox fans with his October heroics, the man they called Hendu brought Boston back from the dead in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS. Before Ortiz turned clutch, late-inning and game-winning hits into an art form for the Red Sox, Henderson made a spectacular bid to become the man who would lead Boston to the Promised Land of a World Series championship.

With the California Angels one strike away from winning the 1986 AL pennant, Henderson – a backup outfielder obtained from the Seattle Mariners in mid-August of that season – crushed a two-run homer that gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. (And despite World Series championships in 2004, 2007, and 2013, Henderson's blast will remain one of the most memorable moments in franchise history.) Then, after the Angels tied the game in their half of the ninth, Henderson knocked in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eleventh. Boston's 7-6 victory sent the ALCS back to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox easily won Games 6 and 7.
Henderson: "The pitch I fouled off was a fastball I should have hit. I had to step out of the batter's box and gather myself, think about what I had to do. With two strikes I had to protect the plate. I really just wanted to reach down and make sure I at least put the ball in play."

Boston first baseman Dave Stapleton: "I looked across the field and I could see everyone in the Angels dugout getting ready to celebrate. Gene Mauch. Everyone. They had those nice little smiles that you get before you start hugging everyone."

Angels pitcher Donnie Moore: "I'd been throwing him fastballs, and he was fouling them off, fouling them off. Then I threw him an offspeed pitch and I shouldn't have thrown it. I should have stayed with the hard stuff. The kind of bat speed he has is offspeed. That pitch was right in his swing."

Henderson: "I knew when I hit it, it was gone."
And it was Henderson who whacked a solo home run in the top of the tenth inning in Game 6 of the World Series against the New York Mets - a drive that snapped a 3-3 tie would have forever made him a Red Sox God had his teammates (and his manager) be able to hold a two-run advantage in the home half of that inning.

David Lee Henderson played for five teams over 14 seasons.

December 22, 2015

Schoenfield: An Early Look At The 2016 AL East

ESPN's David Schoenfield takes an early look at the American League East - and how the five teams might finish in 2016:
This one's easy: The Red Sox rotation had a 4.39 ERA, better only than the Orioles and Detroit Tigers in the AL. So welcome to Boston, David Price.

It's not that simple. Price alone doesn't turn the Red Sox into a playoff team. They'll still need improvement from other guys in the rotation, most notably Rick Porcello, who posted a 4.92 ERA and allowed 25 home runs in 172 innings. The bullpen was just as bad as the rotation, posting a 4.24 ERA, also 13th in the AL. So new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski traded for closer Craig Kimbrel and setup guy Carson Smith, who had a dominant rookie season for the Mariners. With Kimbrel, Smith and Koji Uehara, the Red Sox could duplicate the late-inning dominance of teams like the Kansas City Royals and Yankees.

(This impact could be overstated, however. The Red Sox's winning percentage when leading after seven and eight innings was actually right at the MLB average. But improved bullpen depth could help facilitate more late-game comebacks.)

On the other side of the ball, the Red Sox saw Mookie Betts emerge as a star. He'll be even better in 2016. After a slow start, rookie catcher Blake Swihart showed promise in the second half, hitting .303/.353/.452. Second-year shortstop Xander Bogaerts hit .320 and is capable of adding some power and OBP to his game. That trio is the new core of the Boston offense. That leaves the veterans: Does David Ortiz have one big season left in him? Will Pablo Sandoval rebound from his minus-0.9-WAR season? Will Hanley Ramirez play first base better than he "played" left field? Is Rusney Castillo actually any good?

The FanGraphs projection system likes the Red Sox as the AL East favorite right now. Of course, the projection systems loved the Red Sox a year ago as well. But with one of the best starters in the game now heading the rotation, a dominant closer and a talented group of youngsters, the Red Sox look like the surest bet to improve in 2016. And maybe the division favorite.
Projection from FanGraphs:
Red Sox       92-70
Yankees       89-73
Blue Jays     87-75
Rays          84-78
Orioles       78-84

Fox Broadcast Booth: Reynolds And Verducci Out, Smoltz In

That's what you get for insulting Canada!

Andy Martino, Daily News:
After two years, Tom Verducci and Harold Reynolds are out of the Fox broadcast booth, and John Smoltz will be the network's lead game analyst, two people familiar with the plans told the Daily News. Smoltz and play-by-play man Joe Buck will be the new World Series team.

A Fox Sports spokesperson confirmed the change. An official announcement is expected later on Tuesday. ...

The three-man booth drew mixed reviews, and now Fox is making a change.
"Mixed reviews" is putting it kindly, because Reynolds was beyond horrible.

This is amazingly great news, although we will still have to put up with Joe Buck.

My favourite Reynolds meme:

December 21, 2015

Red Sox Will Retire Wade Boggs's #26

The Red Sox will retire Wade Boggs's #26 in a pre-game ceremony on May 26. It will be the 10th number retired by the team.

Boggs played 11 seasons with Boston (1982-92) and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005. His .338 batting average with the Red Sox is second in team history (trailing only Ted Williams's .344). Boggs played more games at third base than any player in Red Sox history. He led the American League in Times On Base for eight consecutive seasons (1983-90).

(Brock Holt will switch to #12.)

December 18, 2015

Baseball America: Top 10 Red Sox Prospects

Alex Speier of the Boston Globe has ranked Boston's Top 10 prospects for Baseball America:
1. Yoan Moncada, 2B
2. Rafael Devers, 3B
3. Andrew Benintendi, CF
4. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
5. Michael Kopech, RHP
6. Brian Johnson, LHP
7. Sam Travis, 1B
8. Deven Marrero, SS
9. Luis Alexander Basabe, CF
10. Michael Chavis 3B

December 11, 2015

Mookie Betts, Bowler

The Red Sox's young outfielder - and budding MLB superstar - is competing in the Professional Bowlers Association World Series of Bowling VII in Reno, Nevada.

When Betts was in high school, he thought he might have a future as a pro bowler.

He rolled a 224 in his first game as a professional last Tuesday. (Betts has rolled four perfect games in his life, including one recently as he prepared for the tournament.)

Betts: "I watch bowling pretty much every Sunday."

Betts's mother won her state championship when she was eight years old, and Mookie started bowling when he was four.

Spring 2016: The Selling Of The Babe & My Father, The Pornographer

Two books I am looking forward to reading next spring:

The Selling of the Babe: The Deal That Changed Baseball and Created a Legend
By Glenn Stout
(Published by Thomas Dunne, March 8, 2016)

The complete story surrounding the most famous and significant player transaction in professional sports.

The sale of Babe Ruth by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees in 1919 is one of the pivotal moments in baseball history, changing the fortunes of two of baseball's most storied franchises, changing the game forever and helping to create the legend of the greatest player the game has ever known.

More than a simple transaction, the sale resulted in a deal that created the Yankee dynasty, turned Boston into an also-ran, sold the American people on the modern home run era after the Black Sox scandal and led the public to fall in love with Ruth. Award-winning baseball historian Glenn Stout reveals brand-new information about Babe and the unique political situation surrounding his sale, including:

- The political battle among baseball's elite that inspired the sale.

- How Prohibition and the lifting of Blue Laws in New York affected Yankees owner and beer baron Jacob Ruppert.

- Reveals how a shortage of quality wool due to World War One led to changes in the way baseballs were made that resulted in the inadvertent creation of the "lively" ball.

- Uncovers Ruth's disruptive influence on the Red Sox in 1918 and 1919, and uses sabermetrics to showing his negative impact on the team as he transitioned from pitcher to outfielder.

The Selling of Babe is the first book to focus on the ramifications of the sale and captures the central moment of Ruth's evolution from player to icon, and will appeal to fans of The Kid and Pinstripe Empire. Babe's sale to New York and the subsequent selling of Ruth to America led baseball from the Deadball Era and sparked a new era in the game, one revolved around the long ball and one man, The Babe.

My Father, the Pornographer (A Memoir)
By Chris Offutt
(Published by Simon & Schuster, February 9, 2016)

After inheriting 400 novels of pornography written by his father in the 1970s and '80s, critically acclaimed author Chris Offutt sets out to make sense of a complicated father-son relationship in this carefully observed, beautifully written memoir.

"Clearing Dad's office felt like prospecting within his brain. As I sorted, like an archaeologist, backward through time, I saw a remarkable mind at work, a life lived on its own terms."

When Andrew Offutt died, his son, Chris, inherited a desk, a rifle, and 1800 pounds of porn. Andrew had been considered the "king of twentieth century smut," a career that began as a strategy to pay for his son's orthodontic needs and soon took on a life of its own, peaking during the '70s when the commercial popularity of the erotic novel was at its height.

With his dutiful wife serving as typist, Andrew wrote from their home in the Kentucky hills, locked away in an office no one dared intrude upon. In this fashion he wrote 400 novels, ranging from pirate porn and ghost porn, to historical porn and time travel porn, to secret agent porn and zombie porn. The more he wrote, the more intense his ambition became, and the more difficult it was for his children to penetrate his world.

Over one long summer in his hometown, helping his mother move out of the house, Chris began to examine his deceased father's possessions and realized he finally had an opportunity to come to grips with the mercurial man he always feared but never understood. Offutt takes us on the journey with him, showing us how only in his father's absence could he truly make sense of the man and his legacy. This riveting, evocatively told memoir of a deeply complex father-son relationship proves again why the New York Times Book Review said, "Offutt's obvious kin are Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff, and Ernest Hemingway."
Earlier this year, the New York Times ran a fascinating feature on Offutt and his father's books.

December 7, 2015

Red Sox Trade Miley/Aro to Mariners for Carson Smith/Roenis Elias

The Red Sox have traded Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro to the Mariners for right-handed reliever Carson Smith and lefty starter Roenis Elias.

David Schoenfield, ESPN:
After earlier acquiring Craig Kimbrel from the Padres, they've now added Smith, a right-hander who dominated in his first season in the majors, with a 2.31 ERA, 92 strikeouts in 70 innings and just two home runs. With a low arm slot and his fastball/slider combo, Smith gets a lot of movement and sink on his pitches and crushed right-handers, who hit just .169/.248/.254 against him; lefties weren't much better with a .227/.315/.273 line. He's not a big name, but he's very good.

Elias has started the past two seasons for the Mariners, but command issues mean he'll probably never develop into anything more than back-of-the-rotation starter. But his fastball/curveball/changeup repertoire means he could profile well in the bullpen, especially if his 91-92 mph fastball plays up in relief.

December 4, 2015

David Price Will Wear #24

Red Sox pitcher David Price will wear #24.

During Friday's introductory press conference, when asked about his 0-8 postseason record as a starting pitcher, Price replied: "I was just saving all my postseason wins for the Red Sox. I know good things are going to happen to me in October. ... That time is coming for me, and hopefully, it's in 2016."

ESPN asks (and answers) the question: What makes Price so good?
He threw 67 percent first-pitch strikes last season, which ranked 11th among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title. He ranked third in that stat in each of the previous two seasons. ...

Price's changeup has evolved into one of the best pitches in the game. ... Opponents have hit .218 against the pitch since the trade to the Tigers, chasing it (swinging when it was out of the strike zone) 46 percent of the time (compared to 35 percent with the Rays). ...

He went to a three-ball count against only 14 percent of the hitters he faced, about five percentage points below the major-league average. Price is one of five pitchers who had a walks per 9 innings rate of less than 2.0 while qualifying for the ERA title in each of the last three seasons.

He averaged nearly seven innings per start last season. Over the last three seasons he trails only Clayton Kershaw in average innings pitched per start. In 2015, Price held opposing hitters to a .205/.240/.285 slashline when facing a hitter for the third time in a game. Their OPS was 240 points lower against him than the average pitcher facing a lineup for the third time last season.
David Ortiz talked a little bit more about why he is retiring at the end of 2016. ... Now that they are teammates, Ortiz has called off the "war" he said he had with Price.

December 1, 2015

Red Sox Sign David Price To Highest Contract Ever Given To A Pitcher

The Red Sox have signed free agent David Price to head their 2016 rotation. Reports state that the team and Price, who turned 30 last August, have agreed on a seven-year, $217 million contract. Annual salaries: 30, 30, 30, 31, 32, 32. 32.

Ian Browne of reports that the deal for the left-hander "is the largest contract ever awarded to a pitcher, narrowly edging out the $215 million extension Clayton Kershaw signed with the Dodgers and the $210 million pact Max Scherzer signed with the Nationals."

It appears that there is a three-year opt-out, so some SoSHers are calling this "a 3 year, $93 million deal with a player option for a 4 year, $124 million extension".

Price thought he was going to sign with the Cardinals today, but he ended up picking Boston. St. Louis' bid ended up being roughly $30 million less than the Red Sox's increased offer.

Price led the American League with a 2.45 ERA last season while pitching for the Tigers and Blue Jays. He finished fifth in fewest walks/hits allowed per inning. Price finished 2nd in Cy Young voting and 9th in MVP voting.

President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski made it quite clear he would be targeting a bullpen arm, a fourth outfielder, and an rotation ace during the off-season. ... And what do we have? Craig Kimbrel, Chris Young, and Price. ... I love it when a plan comes together.

Keith Law, ESPN:
The Red Sox had one overarching need this winter, and it wasn't a closer – it was a legitimate top-of-the-rotation, difference-making starter, preferably one with some history of durability. There were two such pitchers available, and the Red Sox landed the one who doesn't require them to give up their first-round draft pick.

David Price is an ace, regardless of what you may have heard about his performances in October; his regular-season body of work tells an accurate story. He's a five-win starter who has reached 200 innings in five of six full seasons as a big leaguer, who hasn't posted an ERA above 3.50 in any of those seasons, and who may very well have been the best starter in the American League in 2015. The Red Sox get him at the peak of his career, with no immediate warning signs that he's going to slide any time soon.
Bob Montgomery's Helmet Hat, SoSH:
So we got arguably one of the top 3 starters in baseball and one of the top 3 closers in baseball without parting with Bogaerts, Betts, Swihart, Edro, Moncada, Benintendi, Devers, or Espinosa. I absolutely love this, crazy money notwithstanding.