October 16, 2017

One Report Says 99.9% Chance Alex Cora Will Manage Red Sox

Ty Anderson of WEEI shares a report from Puerto Rico's El Nuevo Diaort that Alex Cora is a virtual lock to be the next manager of the Red Sox.

An unnamed source told the paper:
There is a 99.9 percent chance of [Cora] being named Red Sox leader. They want him for the job. That post is for him. Alex is very beloved there. And he would love to run Boston. They want to make the fast decision.
Dave Dombrowski interviewed Brad Ausmus today. ... The Mets are reportedly interviewing Cora tomorrow.

And from the Department of No Shit, Sherlock: "Boston's Clear '18 Goal Is Longer October Run"

If The Red Sox Hire Ron Gardenhire ...

... I might have to stop watching games. For the sake of my sanity.

Hey! I have an idea! Why don't they see what Grady Little's been doing lately?

October 15, 2017

Manager Search: Red Sox Will Interview Alex Cora Today

The Red Sox begin their interview sessions for potential managers today when they meet with Alex Cora in New York.

Cora, who played for the Red Sox from 2005-08 and was known around these parts as "Einstein", is currently the bench coach for the Astros. ESPN reports that while Cora has no experience managing in the majors, he
has experience as both a manager and a general manager of a winter-ball team in Puerto Rico. He has a reputation as a strong communicator and a mentor for young players, and ... the former infielder is familiar with the heightened demands and expectations that exist in sports-crazed Boston.
Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox's president of baseball operations:
We have a young core of players that are outstanding young talents. I think they have a chance to be championship-type players. They're still in their growth stage. It's a great foundation for a baseball club. ... [I]t's going to be very important for whomever it is to be able to relate to those youngsters and ... help them get better as players.
Peter Gammons tweeted on Saturday that Dombrowski "spoke at length with [Astros manager] A.J. Hinch Thursday and got a strong recommendation on Alex Cora".

There are reports that the Red Sox are also interested in talking with Brad Ausmus and Ron Gardenhire. (As long as the team is not actually interested in hiring Gardenhire, I guess it's okay if they talk to him.)

Schadenfreude 217 (A Continuing Series)

George A. King III, Post (early edition):
The Dead Bats Society has cast a deadly spell on the Yankees' lumber. And if the Yankees don't find a way to break it, their first taste of the ALCS in five years won't last long.

After wasting a solid start by Masahiro Tanaka on Friday night, the bats didn't offer much support to Luis Severino, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson during a 2-1 loss to the Astros in Game 2 of the ALCS on Saturday ...

Houston is the 29th team in LCS history to take a 2-0 lead since the seven-game format was introduced in 1985. Just three teams who won the first two games didn't make it to the World Series. The last team to lose the first two and get to the World Series was the 2004 Red Sox, who dropped the first three to the Yankees and rallied for four straight victories.

Justin Verlander thrilled the sold-out crowd with nine brilliant innings in which he allowed a run, five hits and struck out a season-high 13. Verlander's 124 pitches were the most he has thrown this year.

Aroldis Chapman gave up a one-out single to Jose Altuve in the ninth and he scored from first on Carlos Correa's double to right-center that Aaron Judge fielded and threw to shortstop Didi Gregorius. His throw home arrived ahead of Altuve, but catcher Gary Sanchez didn't handle it on the bounce and the Yankees were losers.
George A. King III, Post:
In the end, Didi Gregorius' throw home short-hopped Gary Sanchez as Jose Altuve scored from first in the ninth inning to lift the Astros to victory.

Yet, before the hosts copped a 2-1 win ... the Yankees did a lot to put themselves in position to go down, 0-2, in the best-of-seven affair.

One game after Dallas Keuchel handcuffed the Yankees in Game 1, Justin Verlander dominated them Saturday when he hurled a complete-game in which he allowed five hits. Verlander's 13 strikeouts were a postseason best for the right-hander who threw a season-high 124 pitches. ...

That brought things to Aroldis Chapman and the ninth inning, when the Yankees went into a ditch that finally might be too deep to escape. ...

Gregorius' throw home was ahead of Altuve, but it bounced very close to Sanchez's glove and the catcher never controlled the ball to make a tag. ...

When a team gives up four runs in 18 postseason innings and loses twice, the onus falls on the hitters, some whom are in funks so deep it's hard to see an exit.

The two main culprits are Judge and Sanchez. The rookie who set a major-league record with 52 homers has two hits in 27 at-bats (.074) since the start of the ALDS and has whiffed 19 times. In addition to being in a 4-for-30 (.133) slide since Game 1 of the ALDS, Sanchez has struck out 15 times.
Andrew Marchand, ESPN:
On the decisive play of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius let go of his relay throw like a quarterback under pressure, and he thought it would end in a completion. Gregorius believed catcher Gary Sanchez would make the catch at the plate for the out and the Yankees would prevent the winning run. ...

Gregorius, just behind second base, received the ball just as Correa did a popup slide at the bag. Although Yankees manager Joe Girardi asked the umpires about it right after the play concluded, Girardi even admitted there was no interference. It was a legal slide, though it affected Gregorius as an incoming rusher might. ...

[The] throw was not perfect -- it reached Sanchez on a short hop -- but it was good enough. Even with Altuve's speed, there was plenty of time for Sanchez to make the play. ...

When the ball arrived, slightly to the left of home plate, Altuve was a good 4 feet from home. Sanchez just needed to catch the ball, but he fumbled it.
Joel Sherman, Post:
Lights, cameras, October. ...

The bad at-bats and the strikeouts are mounting and the opportunities to do something about it might be dwindling. ...

[Aaron] Judge and [Gary] Sanchez were far from the only offensive culprits as Justin Verlander masterfully overwhelmed the lineup, getting ahead of 20 of the 32 batters he faced either 0-2 or 1-2 in what has become a rare postseason complete game. ...

The Yankees are batting just .200 as a team in the postseason ...

Joe Girardi said he is not going to change the lineup "because if you just start moving people around trying to play a hot hand, it doesn't necessarily work" ...

[Judge] continues to be baffled in particular by breaking balls away. ...

[Sanchez] has been particularly susceptible to breaking balls in the dirt and now seems to be thinking too much and getting caught between pitching speeds. He has had six straight games with multiple strikeouts.
Mike Mazzeo, Daily News:
Since the AL wild-card game, [Aaron] Judge is 2-for-27 with two RBIs, five walks and 19 strikeouts, while [Gary] Sanchez is 0-for-11 with a walk and eight strikeouts over his last three games. ...

Overall, Judge and Sanchez have combined to go 10-for-65 in the playoffs (.154) with five extra-base hits, seven RBIs and 34 strikeouts.

Sanchez: "Right now I'm not getting the results I want." ...

The question with Judge going forward as he continues to grow and evolve following a phenomenal rookie campaign: Can he hit good pitching consistently, or is he just a mistake hitter? ...

As for Sanchez, he looks completely out of whack, much more-so than Judge ...
John Harper, Daily News:
The Yankees were hoping the game would come down to a battle of the bullpens, believing that is their one significant edge over the Astros in this ALCS. ...

And though the Yankee bullpen was outstanding in emergency service ... Aroldis Chapman lost it in the ninth inning on a daring baserunning play by — who else? — Jose Altuve.

Altuve, who singled in the ninth for his 13th hit in this post-season, ran through the third base coach's stop sign on Carlos Correa's double to right-center. ...

Joe Girardi argued that Correa interfered with Gregorius' throw, and indeed replay showed there was contact with their lower bodies, but the umpires said the game was over.
Mike Vaccaro, Post:
Carlos Correa's ball found the gap, Didi Gregorius' throw was off-line — did Correa interfere with him on the play? No one protested, so apparently not — and Jose Altuve slid across with the game-winning run ...

What will appeal to the old-school Gibsonian spirit that lurks inside so many contemporary baseball fans is that Verlander threw 124 pitches at a time when nobody throws 124 — certainly not in a playoff game.
[Note: Actually, Verlander is the 19th pitcher since 2009 to throw at least 120 pitches in a postseason game (and he's done it seven of those 19 times). Verlander's start on Saturday was the eleventh postseason game since 2011 in which the starter threw more than 120 pitches:
Justin Verlander   2011 ALCS Game 5   133 pitches
Justin Verlander   2012 ALCS Game 3   132 pitches
Roy Halladay       2011 NLDS Game 5   126 pitches
Justin Verlander   2017 ALCS Game 2   124 pitches
Dallas Keuchel     2015 ALDS Game 3   124 pitches
Clayton Kershaw    2013 NLDS Game 1   124 pitches
Johnny Cueto       2015 WS Game 2     122 pitches
Justin Verlander   2012 ALDS Game 5   122 pitches
Jacob deGrom       2015 NLDS Game 1   121 pitches
CC Sabathia        2012 ALDS Game 5   121 pitches
Justin Verlander   2012 ALDS Game 1   121 pitches
All of the above pitchers won their game, except for Halladay. He lost 1-0, allowing a triple and a double to the first two batters in the top of the first inning.]

Peter Botte, Daily News (early edition):
An early call on a Jeffrey Maier-like play -- ruled a home run for Carlos Correa -- went against the Yanks, and the Bombers suddenly find themselves in an 0-2 hole for the second straight playoff series this October following another 2-1 loss on Saturday to the Astros ...

Correa's fourth-inning home run to the opposite field was just out of 6-foot-7 right fielder Aaron Judge's reach and deflected off the glove of a young fan dressed in a rainbow Astros jersey seated in the front row beyond the wall. The fan later was identified as 12-year-old Carson Riley of Liberty Hill, Texas.
Dan Martin and George A. King III, Post:
Luis Severino lasted just four innings on Saturday, but unlike his other brief postseason start, this time it wasn't because of ineffectiveness.

Instead, Severino was the victim of bad luck, as he appeared to take a comebacker from Yuli Gurriel off his left wrist in the bottom of the fourth ...

"I told them I was good," Severino said. "They told me they saw something. I didn't agree with that. I wanted to pitch. ... Maybe I swung my arm. My arm feels 100 percent great. ... I was feeling great and wanted to give them six or seven innings."
Peter Botte, Daily News:
Severino had been cruising along, matching three early zeroes on the scoreboard with veteran stud Justin Verlander, when Carlos Correa launched a video-confirmed home run ...

Either way, Severino pressed on in an attempt to keep the deficit against Verlander at one run. But after throwing one errant changeup way off the plate to the next batter, Marwin Gonzalez, Severino made a circular stretching motion with his right arm, causing Girardi and a trainer to immediately sprint out of the dugout. ...

Severino clearly was still displeased a couple of hours later, after he'd failed to convince Girardi or the medical staff to allow his duel with Verlander to continue.

October 14, 2017

Schadenfreude 216 (A Continuing Series)

Bill Madden, "Yankees Are Not The Best Team Left In The Playoffs, But They Are The Most Lovable":
America is watching and finding them ... well ... kind of lovable, an adjective never before associated with the Yankees outside of the Bronx. ...

They may not have the most talent, but they play the game with a certain verve — in direct contrast to the Red Sox, who beat them for the division title in the regular season but never looked like they were finding any joy in their work. Once again, the Yankees will be the underdogs in the ALCS, but the Astros are going to find them a very different animal from the Red Sox.
John Harper, "After Emotional ALDS Comeback, Yankees Seem Destined To Beat Astros And Advance To World Series":
The signs were there all season, really. ...

At some point you couldn't help but think there was something special about this group, and indeed as they peaked in September scouts were telling me to beware these Yankees. ...

[I]t just feels like the Yankees are playing at such a high level right now, riding a wave of confidence and relishing their status as underdogs, that they'll find a way. ...

[T]hese postseason games often come down to the type of mental toughness that has defined the Fighting Gardners, if you will, throughout this season. ...

Yankees in seven.

Peter Botte, Daily News:
They have a problem. ...

Dallas Keuchel continued his career-long domination of the Bombers with seven scoreless innings to send the Yankees' to a 2-1 loss to the Astros in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series on Friday night ...

[Jose] Altuve heard chants of "MVP" all night from the home crowd ... [After an infield single behind second base with one out in the fourth,] He promptly stole second base and scored on a single to left by Carlos Correa, who sprinted home later in the inning on an RBI knock by Yuli Gurriel for a 2-0 Houston lead. ...

Closer Ken Giles recorded the final five outs for Houston, including a strikeout of Didi Gregorius with the tying runs on base to end the eighth.

Bird ripped a solo shot off the right-field foul pole against Giles in the ninth for his third home run of the postseason, but Giles struck out Jacoby Ellsbury to end the game.
Ken Davidoff, Post:
If the definition of insanity truly is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then what do we make of the Yankees' decision to play against Dallas Keuchel on Friday night?

They could have forfeited and saved themselves the trouble, right? ...

Keuchel threw seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out 10 ...

The Yankees' best scoring opportunity against him wouldn't have occurred if not for a fifth-inning error by Houston's AL MVP candidate Jose Altuve, and even then, the Astros stifled it as left fielder Marwin Gonzalez fielded Aaron Judge's base hit and threw out Bird at home for the third out. The visitors made some noise in the eighth off the Astros' vulnerable bullpen, putting men on first and second with two outs, only to see Houston closer Ken Giles strike out ALDS hero Gregorius to put out the fire.

John Harper, Daily News:
Keuchel was tough again but far from his precision-pitching best. ...

In fact, there was a stretch in the fourth and fifth innings where six of eight Yankees hit the ball on the screws, and yet they came away with nothing, largely because Greg Bird got thrown out at the plate on Aaron Judge's single to end the fifth inning on the biggest play of the game.

It was 2-0 Astros at the time, and had Bird scored there, the complexion of the game might well have changed dramatically. ...

So the Bird play proved pivotal, and here's the thing: I'm still trying to figure out how he got thrown out at the plate when he had a running jump with two outs and a 3-2 count on Judge.

Bird is slow, obviously, but it looked like he didn't break quickly enough on Keuchel's delivery, and that wound up costing him. ...

It still took an accurate throw from left fielder Marwin Gonzalez, but even then Bird might have been safe if he'd made a good slide to the outside edge of the plate.

Instead he slid directly into Brian McCann's tag, even veering slightly toward the catcher, it seemed.
Mike Mazzeo, Daily News:
[Aaron] Judge actually did his part for the Bombers, matching his hit total from the entire ALDS on this night -- one. But Judge's single to left off a 3-2 hanging slider from Dallas Keuchel with two on and two outs in the fifth went for naught, as Greg Bird, who underwent ankle surgery in mid-July, was thrown out at home in an ugly display of baserunning. ...

The 25-year-old rookie Judge, who went 1-for-20 with a postseason-record 16 strikeouts in the ALDS, also was the victim of a massive strike zone in his second at-bat, as a low strike two call in his second at-bat ultimately resulted in another K. ...

Judge represented the tying run when he got up for the final time in the eighth, but he grounded out to third against Ken Giles. And Gary Sanchez and Gregorius went a combined 0-for-7 with five strikeouts ...
Joel Sherman, Post:
At this point Joe Girardi might want to see what Ronald Torreyes could do or if Alex Rodriguez would come off of the FOX set — heck, the Yankees were still paying him this season — or just what kind of shape Ron Blomberg is in.

For at this moment, the Yankees' DH stands for — take your pick — Dismal Hitting, Dreadful Hitting, Dreary Hitting. Whomever Girardi has Designated has been Decidedly Hideous.

The choice for ALCS Game 1 was Matt Holliday, who until Friday night had played as often this postseason as Babe Ruth. ...

Holliday joined the oh-fer parade, never getting the ball out of the infield ...

The Yankee DH spot is now 0-for-24.
And Bonus Shit, from the ALDS:

October 13, 2017

The Joy Of Astros

Game 1 of the ALCS is tonight: Yankees at Astros.

The NLCS begins tomorrow: Cubs at Dodgers.

(Series Threads, if you like, are in the Game Thread place.)

I am assuming that close to 100% of the people reading this post are - like myself - fervent Houston fans this week.

In the other series, I don't have super-strong feelings one way or the other, but I'll go with Dave Roberts, Yasiel Puig, and the Dodgers

What about you?

(You know what "the spirit of playoff baseball" is? It's seeing your team lose the pennant on a blown call. It builds character - and it's fun, too! Human element, y'all!)

The Daily News has an interesting story and back page:

Bill Madden: "Yankees Are Not The Best Team Left In The Playoffs, But They Are The Most Lovable"
America is watching and finding them ... well ... kind of lovable, an adjective never before associated with the Yankees outside of the Bronx. ...

They may not have the most talent, but they play the game with a certain verve — in direct contrast to the Red Sox, who beat them for the division title in the regular season but never looked like they were finding any joy in their work. Once again, the Yankees will be the underdogs in the ALCS, but the Astros are going to find them a very different animal from the Red Sox.
You're right, Bill, I've never seen Mookie Betts smile.


October 12, 2017

McAdam, Bradford, Gammons On Farrell Firing And What's Next

Sean McAdam, Boston Sports Journal:
[Dave] Dombrowski was strangely circumspect in Wednesday's press conference to announce [John] Farrell's dismissal. He repeatedly avoided specifics and declined to get into details as to his reasoning for recommending the move.

A source familiar with Dombrowski's thinking, however, suggested that Farrell was being evaluated for the entirety of his tenure since Dombrowski arrived ...

The same source indicated Dombrowski was unhappy with some of the clubhouse dynamics, and, in particular, the incident with the Baltimore Orioles early in the season.

Dombrowski loudly confronted Farrell over his handling of the team's comportment after Manny Macahdo's takeout slide – from the sloppiness and ineptitude of the on-field response, and Dustin Pedroia's on-camera message ("It's not me; it's them") — didn't speak well for team unity.

Farrell was further cast in a negative light by the David Price-Dennis Eckersley incident where the manager seemed uncomfortably caught in between a petulant player's overreaction to Eckersley's color analysis ... Farrell understood that publicly calling Price out for his behavior could jeopardize the manager's own standing in the clubhouse.

One baseball source suggested that while Henry had long been a backer of Farrell's, that support began to waver this season as the team underperformed for stretches, and Henry, who is intensely driven by analytics, began to join the chorus of those who found fault with Farrell's tactical moves.

Recently, Henry scoffed when someone suggested that the team's dismal performance in the first two games in Houston in the ALDS was not something that could be blamed on Farrell. In retrospect, losing Henry's confidence may have been the most obvious signal that his days were numbered.
Rob Bradford, WEEI:
Players believed Dombrowski and Farrell didn't get along. Whether their disagreements were worse than those between other president/GMs and managers, the clubhouse perception was that the head-butting had reached advanced levels. Once players form such a narrative among themselves, it becomes a problem. And it was.

Dombrowski might say he had a good working relationship with Farrell. Maybe he believed it in some sense. But between the clubhouse perception, the weirdly vague press conference, and the manager not mentioning his former boss by name in his post-firing statement (only thanking "two front office groups") saying the two saw eye to eye starts to sound like a stretch ...

Deciphering exactly how Dombrowski viewed Farrell at the end isn't completely straightforward, however. Two discrepancies stand out.

The first was Dombrowski's recent proclamation that his manager had done "a great job" in 2017, only to turn around Wednesday and say "John did a nice job for us." (I heard at least one person in the know suggest this was the one question Farrell asked when Dombrowski summoned him to Fenway to reveal his fate on Wednesday.) ...

There was a sense that this was not the atmosphere of a first-place team for most of the year. And that's not coming from a media that only sees glimpses. This is from those on the inside. And, according to those who would know, this was at least in part because of the cloud hanging over the upper-management/manager relationship.

Except for a few outliers, the communication concerns that some had zeroed in on between Farrell and his players weren't a deal-breaker between the manager and the clubhouse. Farrell wasn't typically a jokester and wouldn't be classified as a manager who was going to lighten the clubhouse mood. But the players understood his strengths and weaknesses. ...

Farrell was caught in between. He never quite attained a my-way-or-the-highway bully pulpit, but he also failed to exude a come-in-for-coffee vibe. ...

The bottom line was that you had an intense manager and an omnipresent president who made more road trips than any of his predecessors. As the players can attest, it wasn't a good combination.
Peter Gammons, Gammons Daily:
A lot of people from the ground to the upstairs boxes felt that he was tired, that there was a lack of energy around the team and the clubhouse. In his defense, this 2017 Red Sox team had holes; they were last in homers, their 4-5 spots in the order had the worst OPS in the major leagues, there were vital injuries to Dustin Pedroia and others, Hanley Ramirez included. ...

One of the Red Sox executives who was in on the interviews after the 2012 season, called [Brad] Ausmus' interview the best he'd ever seen; had Farrell not gotten free of Toronto, he'd have been the manager. Brad grew up in Cheshire, Ct. a Red Sox fan. ...

Alex Cora's name is going to be discussed. He, too, is exceptionally smart, and while he hasn't got major league managerial experience, he has managed in winter ball and the World Baseball Classic ...

This is an important decision. The window here closes soon, where the Yankee window is just opening. The good young Red Sox players are soon going to make big coin. According to MLBTraderumors.com, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Tyler Thornburg, Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly and Drew Pomeranz stand to make between $30-35M in arbitration this winter. If so, they will take the payroll within $20-25M of the luxury tax threshold. ...

Then Sale and Craig Kimbrel are up after 2019 and 2020. They will need to start making baseball trades in lieu of shopping for free agents at Tiffany's and draining the farm system, which they're going to need in the next two years. ...

There are probably two more seasons before the window starts closing ...They need to look at Cleveland, see their pro scouting (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, (Mike Clevinger, et al), and copy. They need to continually deal for undervalued 40 man roster players. ...

Bringing back the feel of winning three World Series in a decade is going to require more than a managerial search, it requires a long, hard look at every part of what the Boston Red Sox have become.

October 11, 2017

John Farrell Has Been Fired

Update: Statement from John Farrell below.

The Red Sox announced today that John Farrell will not return as the club's manager for the 2018 season.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski:
I thought it was the appropriate time to make a change for the betterment of the organization moving forward. You weigh a lot of different things to come into play. You watch day in, day out over a season. You come up with a decision based upon that. And for me, at this point, sometimes change can be better. ... It's not a snap decision that says "Oh, we lost in the postseason." That is not by any means the case. ... In my position, you're always thinking about how you get better in every different facet, so it's a thought process that takes place in everything you do.
Dombrowski's press conference can be watched here (NESN, 40 minutes).

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe tweeted: "Dombrowski said Farrell was fired for reasons he won't disclose and that no level of team success would have prevented that."

Dombrowski added:
I'm not going to share facts. Those are things that I keep to myself. ... I'm not going to get into particular situations that really made the final decision.
Farrell managed the Red Sox for five seasons (432-378), winning the AL East three times (including the 2013 World Series) and finishing in last place twice. Farrell was also the Red Sox's pitching coach under Terry Francona for four seasons (2007-10).
Chad Jennings, Boston Herald:
After five years of near constant scrutiny, which never went away despite three division titles and a World Series, John Farrell is out as Red Sox manager. ...

Farrell's tenure began with a championship and it ended with back-to-back division titles, something no manager in franchise history had ever accomplished, but in between were two losing seasons and persistent questions about his job security. ...

Like most managers, Farrell's in-game decision making was regular fodder for second guessing on social media and talk radio. His bullpen management and lineup construction were questioned to the very end ...

But in the past year, Farrell also became a focal point for the Red Sox' unusual clubhouse dynamic.
Tim Britton, Providence Journal:
There was not a peep Wednesday from [John] Henry or [Tom] Werner. Neither attended the press conference, and the club did not include statements on their behalf in the press release announcing Farrell's firing, as is customary. Even Bobby Valentine earned four paragraphs from ownership the day he was let go.

This is Dombrowski's call, and he decided it wasn't necessary to explain it much. He offered hints but little of substance, repeatedly declining to elaborate on why a manager who had won three divisions and a World Series in five seasons was no longer the right man for the job. ...

He said Farrell asked him a single question during their 9 a.m. meeting on Wednesday, but decided against sharing it — a tease on par with the Internet's worst clickbait. ...

Few managers had been subjected to the kind of unceasing scrutiny that Farrell endured over the past several seasons — scrutiny built by consecutive last-place finishes ...
Ron Borges of the Herald wonders: "When will the Red Sox players get some blame?"
[N]o manager can hit for his players. None can pitch for them either. When they get into the postseason the players decide who wins and who loses. Even the devotees of Moneyball admit that.

Is John Farrell the reincarnation of Earl Weaver? Not hardly. But if in five years you win a World Series, two division titles and reach the playoffs three times it shouldn't produce your dismissal ... What it should produce is a re-evaluation of your talent because, in the end, managers and coaches don't win games and neither do heads of baseball ops. Players do.
ESPN's Scott Lauber wrote that with Farrell gone, "maybe the Red Sox can address their real problems":
Drink a toast, all you champions of the #FireFarrell movement. Surely this is cause for rejoicing.

It also doesn't solve anything. ...

This isn't to say Farrell was unjustly fired. ...

But pinning it all on Farrell and pretending things will be different with another manager is as shortsighted as it is foolish. The problem runs much deeper than that. It goes to a clubhouse run by two defiant veterans, the inability of a bunch of young players to mature into team leaders and the overall makeup of a team that often seemed to be joylessly slogging back to the top of the American League East.
John Farrell released a statement on Wednesday afternoon:
Despite an end to this season that we all wanted to be different, I am proud of this ball club and the resiliency shown. I have enjoyed every moment of this job -- its peaks and its valleys. There are few, if any, positions in life that create so much passion on a daily basis.

I am grateful to an ownership group that gave me such a unique opportunity, and one that shared my desire to bring World Series championships to this great city. They supported me through a challenging and scary period in my own life, and I remain forever indebted.

I am grateful to two front office groups that worked tirelessly to provide me with the players that could consistently match up with the very best in the game. Their time and resources made my job so much easier and fulfilling.

I am thankful for fellow coaches who are far more than that -- they are close friends. They have provided the necessary direction, guidance and humor that have made the daily activities of a long season all that much more enjoyable.

I am especially grateful for five years of great players -- and people. This game has always been built around and for the players, and I have tried to respect that for five years in Boston. I have witnessed Hall of Famers, memorable Fenway wins and countless private moments that will always be with me. Those relationships will remain cherished for years.

The legions of fans who support this franchise keep their manager on his toes day in and day out. There are no days off when managing this proud franchise. I would not have wanted it any other way.

Again, I thank John Henry, Tom Werner, Michael Gordon and the ownership team for their faith in me and wish them nothing but the best moving forward.

Don't Let Us Down, Tito.

Terry Jon "Tito" Francona was the greatest manager in the history of the Boston Red Sox and, when you consider the weight of history, no other manager will ever top him. Tito manages a different team now, but tonight we need him to be a Playoff Assassin one more time.

Hey, Tito, are the Yankees gonna win tonight?

October 10, 2017

I Need A New Dictionary

John Harper, Daily News
As badly as Joe Girardi handled the infamous non-challenge in Game 2 ... excuse-making and all, it seems only fair to point out that since then he has not only owned his mistake but reacted as professionally as possible to questions about his job status and being booed before Game 3.

In short, the ordeal has humanized the often-robotic Girardi in some ways ...

Fans have every right to boo, but it's not often a manager gets that type of treatment before a playoff game. ... I thought he'd dismiss questions about it afterward ...

Instead Girardi gave a thoughtful, respectful, and what seemed to be a heartfelt answer ...

None of this gets him off the hook for his mistake last Friday night. ...

It doesn't mean the manager didn't deserve to be hammered for his handling of Game 2 ...

I just think it's only fair to note that Girardi has handled the aftermath of his mistake with a touch of class.
(my emphasis)

One definition of classy:
having or showing class: such as ...
b: having or reflecting high standards of personal behavior ...
c: admirably skillful and graceful ...
My dictionary is clearly outdated. It does not include:
d: after committing what everyone around you says is the worst blunder in your 11 years as a major league manager, display your usual stubbornness and make several excuses for your mistake, each one more bizarre and nonsensical than the one before, only to, on the following day, finally admit the obvious, that you, in fact, did make a mistake
The word "class" - like "hero" - has been devalued and debased. (Or perhaps the writers who cover the Yankees are trigger-happy to use that word when anything remotely proper happens.)

I also note that after Game 2, Harper wrote that he did not think that Girardi could "redeem himself" from his "indefensible decision". Less than 24 hours later, Harper (while not excusing Girardi's mistake) had certainly softened.

Girardi "owned his mistake"? Well, what else could he do, really? No one on the planet thought it was the right (non-)move and it probably cost his team a playoff win. He was bound to be asked about it again and digging in his heels and defending it the next day would have been insane. It would have kept the story alive for the rest of the postseason and into the winter, possibly costing him his job. It was far better to close the book on it and hope everyone will move on.

October 9, 2017

ALDS 4: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

Astros  - 110 000 021 - 5 12  0
Red Sox - 100 020 001 - 4  9  1
If not for the magnificent and occasionally historic performances of Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel this summer, the Red Sox would not have won the American League East. They may not have even qualified for the postseason. So it was both strange and sad that those two pitchers, with the Red Sox six outs away from forcing a winner-take-all Game 5, could not hold a one-run lead.

Sale began his fifth inning of relief by giving up a game-tying home run to Alex Bregman leading off the eighth. Sale turned the game over to Kimbrel with two outs and a man on first, but Kimbrel was initially overthrowing his pitches and had poor command in general. He threw a wild pitch, walked George Springer, and gave up the go-ahead run on a hit to Josh Reddick. In the ninth, Kimbrel hit a batter and gave up two more hits, the last being a run-scoring double by Carlos Beltran.

That fifth Houston run was crucial because Rafael Devers opened the bottom of the ninth with an inside-the-park home run (on an 0-2 pitch!). It was Boston's third home run of the afternoon and it cut the score to 5-4. It also electrified Fenway Park, but Houston's Ken Giles retired the next three batters: Christian Vazquez grounded to third, Jackie Bradley struck out, and Dustin Pedroia grounded to second.

And so the 2018 season has begun ...

The first three innings of Game 4 were packed with drama. In keeping with the pattern of these postseason games, the Red Sox fell behind in the first inning. Springer began the game with a double to left-center. Rick Porcello (3-5-2-3-4, 70) threw a wild pitch before walking Reddick. Boston got two outs when Jose Altuva grounded into a double play, but Springer scored the day's first run. Porcello then walked Carlos Correa and plunked Marwin Gonzalez before getting the third out.

In the bottom half, Xander Bogaerts (0-for-14 in the ALDS) homered into the Red Sox bullpen. Mookie Betts singled with two outs and stole second, but Mitch Moreland struck out.

Porcello's experience in the first inning was repeated in the second. Yuli Gurriel tripled to right field. The ball was hit so hard Betts had to dive to his left to try to cut it off, but it bounced past him. Without the dive, Betts still would have chased the ball it into the corner. Porcello bore down and struck out both Evan Gattis (sasahe!) and Brian McCann, but Springer singled, giving the Astros a 2-1 lead. Porcello allowed a hit to Reddick and he walked Altuve before getting Correa on strikes.

This is probably the right time to talk about what a piece of garbage Mark Wegner is as an umpire. After also being forced to endure Angel Hernandez and Ted Barrett behind the plate in this series, the evidence is clear: this is one serious shitshow of an umpiring crew. First, the Red Sox were screwed on three separate checkswing calls: Moreland was called out to end the first (he did not swing), McCann was not called out in the second (Porcello ended up fanning him anyway), and Altuve (the pitch was ruled ball 4).

Wegner made his mark on this game in the bottom of the second. In the bottom of the second, Hanley Ramirez and Rafael Devers both singled and Christian Vazquez walked. Bases loaded, none out. Bradley had a 2-1 count. Wegner called strike 2 on a questionable low pitch and then called Bradley out on a pitch that was well outside.
Wegner then rung up the next batter, Dustin Pedroia, on a 2-2 pitch that was out of the strike zone.
Pedroia was livid. John Farrell argued and was eventually ejected.

Morton's 0-1 pitch to Bogaerts was low and after Wegner correctly called it a ball, the crowd at Fenway cheered him loudly. Bogaerts popped out to right and a promising inning that had begun with three baserunners was aborted by several blown calls. As it turned out, with Boston losing by one run, this inning turned out to be highly significant.

It cannot be disputed that: The outcome of this game was altered by Wegner's blown calls. Situations like this happen all the time, to every team, but MLB does not care. If MLB actually wanted the correct calls to be made as often as possible in its games, it would do something to solve this problem. But MLB sees no problem.

There were so many bad calls in such a short amount of time -- all of which went against the Red Sox, either extending an Astros's rally or cutting off Boston's chances to score - that it felt like the fix was in. It is a horrible feeling when you are watching a game and you see clear, unambiguous, objective evidence that the wrong calls are being made - and there is nothing you can do about it. You are angry and annoyed and frustrated, but there is more. You are forced to accept as your new reality what you know is clearly not true. You saw that pitch go out of the strike zone - but you have to accept it as an inning-ending, rally-killing, strike three. Everyone saw your team's runner beat the throw to the bag - but he will be forever remembered as being thrown out on the play. (Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game on June 2, 2010. That is absolutely true. But in "reality", he didn't.)

It's not a good feeling when your favourite team cannot execute (as we have just seen). It's bad, but when the umpires are at fault, it's different. There is a second layer of distance. We know we cannot affect the outcome of a game, sitting in the stands or at home. But when we watch our team's players also unable to right an obvious wrong, there is a greater feeling of helplessness. And because MLB is (so far) unwilling to fix these blatant problems, our only choices as fans are: accept it or walk away. (I'll admit there was a point in 2016 when I thought I would have to walk away. But that's a post for another day.)

The Red Sox hit the ball hard in the third and came up empty. Andrew Benintendi singled but was doubled off first when Betts lined a bullet to third. Moreland doubled to right and when Ramirez dropped a single into short left, he tried to score. He was easily thrown out.

Chris Sale began warming up in the top of the third and he took the mound in the fourth. (It was his first relief appearance since May 8, 2012.) He struck out McCann, got Springer on a pop to second and retired Reddick on a comebacker. It went so smoothly that, even though Boston still trailed 2-1, the entire mood of the game changed for me. I got a little optimistic. In the fifth, Devers ran in on the grass, bare-handed Altuve's bunt, and made an exceptional throw to first. Sale then struck out Correa and Gonzalez popped to center.

During that inning, Justin Verlander began warming up for the Astros. It wasn't an elimination game for Houston, but manager A.J. Hinch was not taking any chances. So when Morton walked Bogaerts with one out in the bottom of the fifth, Verlander came in. It was apparently his first relief appearance ever, as he did nothing but start in college, the minors, and the majors. He ended up pitching 2.2 innings and allowed only one hit, but it was a doozy. Benintendi, his first batter, crushed a 2-2 pitch to right field for a two-run homer. The Red Sox led 3-2. For the rest of the inning, the crowd chanted both "Jus-tin, Jus-tin" and "Up-ton, Up-ton".

Sale struggled in the top of the seventh. Springer led off with a single and Correa singled with two outs. Sale struck out two batters, including Gonzalez to end the inning, but he was not as sharp as he had been. He threw 24 pitches in the inning, bringing his total to 65. It was unclear what acting manager Gary DiSarcina was going to do. Stay with Sale? Use Addison Reed in the eighth and Kimbrel in the ninth? Use Kimbrel for two innings?

Sale took the mound for the eighth, with Kimbrel warming behind him. (Maybe if someone got on, Kimbrel would come in for a four- or five-out save.) It did not work out that way. Alex Bregman hit Sale's 2-1 pitch into the Monster Seats - and the game was tied at 3-3. After Gurriel grounded out, Gattis lined a ball over the third base bag. Devers thought it was foul, as did the ball attendant, who gloved it. But umpire Dan Bellino had called it fair. Gattis was awarded first base and Cameron Maybin ran for him. McCann lined to right for the second out and the Red Sox made the move for Kimbrel. (After the game, Farrell defended using Sale in the eighth.)

Kimbrel was overthrowing his first few pitches, yanking them outside to Springer. One of them was wild and Maybin took second. Springer fouled off a 3-0 pitch before walking. After a mound visit, Kimbrel faced Reddick. The count went full and Reddick fouled off two pitches before grounding a single into left, bringing Maybin in with the go-ahead run. Altuve flied to center, but the damage - as they so often say - had been done.

Houston's closer Ken Giles relieved Verlander (2.2-1-1-2-0, 40). He needed only 11 pitches to set the Red Sox down, and eight of those were to Betts, who tapped back to the hill. Moreland grounded to third and Ramirez grounded back to the mound.

Looking at my scorecard now, Kimbrel had a much worse outing that I remember as it was happening. Not that I thought he was good, but it had to have been one of his worst games of the year. He had no command of his fastball and missed with a lot of pitches up and out of the zone. He struck out Correa to start the ninth, but hit Gonzalez on the back foot. Bregman flied to the edge of the track in center. But the third out was elusive. Gurriel singled to right and pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran fell behind 1-2 and fouled off four pitches before doubling off the wall in left, a ball that looked catchable, but scraped the wall on the way down. Reed came in and quickly got McCann for the third out.

Kimbrel threw 38 pitches and got only three swings and misses - and they all happened in a four-pitch span to start the ninth. (Kimbrel: "I went out there and gave everything I had. It wasn't quite good enough today."

Houston's final, fifth run loomed large, especially when Devers hit a fly (again, on an 0-2 pitch) that caromed off the wall above Springer's leap towards right-center. When Devers sprinted across the plate standing up, the Astros had not even got the ball back to the infield. (Devers is the youngest player in postseason history to hit an inside-the-park homer.)

Red Sox Postseason Inside-The-Park Home Runs
Patsy Dougherty - October 2, 1903 - World Series Game 2, against Pirates
Larry Gardner - October 11, 1916 - World Series Game 4, against Dodgers
Rafael Devers - October 9, 2017 - American League Division Series Game 4, against Astros
Fenway was rocking - but the Red Sox were still down by one. And Giles retired the next three hitters without allowing the ball out of the infield.

Perhaps the biggest question for the winter: Who will manage the Red Sox's next game?

Charlie Morton / Rick Porcello
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Moreland, 1B
Ramirez, DH
Devers, 3B
Vazquez, C
Bradley, CF
Now I know that the Astros were specifically advised to not let the Red Sox win yesterday. Did they listen? They did not. And now ... well, there is no telling what might happen.

[11:40 AM: Rain is in the forecast. One SoSHer: "Pouring now at the park"]

Postseason Series In Which The Red Sox Needed To Win
Three (Or Four) Consecutive Games To Avoid Elimination - And Did

1986 ALCS - Down 1-3 to Angels, won next three games: 7-6 (11), 10-4, 8-1
1999 ALDS - Down 0-2 to Cleveland, won next three games: 9-3, 23-7, 12-8
2003 ALDS - Down 0-2 to A's, won next three games: 3-1 (11), 5-4, 4-3
2004 ALCS - Down 0-3 to Yankees, won next three games: 6-4 (12), 5-4 (14), 4-2, 10-3
2007 ALCS - Down 1-3 to Cleveland, won next three games: 7-1, 12-2, 11-2

October 8, 2017

ALDS 3: Red Sox 10, Astros 3

Astros  - 300 000 000 -  3 13  2
Red Sox - 013 000 60x - 10 15  0

Six minutes after the first pitch of this game, Houston held a 3-0 lead, punctuated by Carlos Correa's home run to dead center. Fenway Park seemed like a morgue and it was clear: this series - and season - were over.

But who among us could have imagined even a portion of what would transpire over the next 3.5 hours?

In short, the Red Sox took their first lead of the ALDS by scoring three times in the third (Rafael Devers hit a two-run homer) after the first two batters had struck out. Before that, though, Mookie Betts robbed Josh Reddick of a three-run homer that would certainly have broken the Red Sox's backs. David Price pitched four crucial innings out of the bullpen - the longest postseason relief stint for a Boston pitcher since Pedro Martinez's six no-hit innings against Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS. The Red Sox eased the growing late-inning tension by batting around in the seventh; the first five batters reached base and Jackie Bradley homered for the final three runs on a fly ball down the right field line that Reddick knocked into the stands with his glove. All that, and about two dozen other amazing moments, too.

Our prayers - and David Ortiz's prayers, too - were answered.

The damage today was done by the lower half of the lineup:
#1-4:  3-for-18, 2 runs scored,  0 RBI, 0 extra-base hits
#5-9: 12-for-20, 8 runs scored, 10 RBI, 2 doubles, 2 home runs
Mitch Moreland (3-for-5, double, 3 runs): Began the second inning with a single. Started the third-inning rally with a double off the garage door in center. With two on and no outs in the seventh, he singled off Chris Devenski, just in from the pen, to load the bases and set things up for the scorchingly-hot Hanley Ramirez.

Hanley Ramirez (4-for-4, double, 2 runs, 3 RBI): Singled in the second. Hit an RBI-single in the third and hustled to second on an outfield error. With the bases loaded in the seventh, fouled the first pitch off, then took three straight balls before doubling into the gap in left-center, increasing the lead from 4-3 to 6-3. (In Fox Sports' studio, Ortiz liked watching it.)

Rafael Devers (2-for-3, home run, walk, 2 runs, 3 RBI): Drew a key walk in the second inning. Greeted reliever Francisco Liriano with a two-run homer in the third - which gave Boston its first lead in its last five postseason games. Showed both poise and patience in the seventh, poking a run-scoring single to left.

Jackie Bradley (1-for-4, home run, 3 RBI): Home plate umpire Ted Barrett was so bad behind the plate that I may have to revise my stance that Angel Hernandez is the worst umpire in MLB. Barrett called an outside pitch a strike on Bradley in the second, making the count 1-2. The next pitch was to the exact same spot and Bradley, knowing he could not risk being called out on another blown call, especially with the bases loaded, swung and missed. In the seventh, Reddick ran a long way to get to his fly ball. He leapt at the short wall and had the ball in his glove...

Mookie Betts singled, walked, and scored a run, but his biggest contribution to this game was robbing Reddick (!) of a three-run homer in the top of the second. Houston had runners on second and third. Doug Fister (1.1-4-3-1-1, 38) had already been pulled and Joe Kelly was facing Reddick with two outs. Reddick crushed the eighth pitch of the at-bat to deep right. Betts raced back and with his back nearly to the infield, reached out and into the stands and calmly caught the ball.

Oldtimers like me were reminded of Dwight Evans's game-saving catch against Joe Morgan in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. If Betts had not made that grab, the Astros would have led 6-0 and I feel pretty confident that we'd all be cursing another quick exit from the postseason right now. (Reddick must have been very frustrated. Little did he know ...) With a man on first in the third, Betts made another nice running catch on Alex Bregman's liner to right-center.

David Price (4-4-0-1-4, 57): Took over in the third inning with the Red Sox ahead 4-3. He allowed at least baserunner in each of his four innings, but came up big when necessary. Yuli Gurriel (4-for-4) singled with one out in the fourth, but after Brian McCann lined to right, Price struck out George Springer. In the fifth, Reddick and Jose Altuve both singled. Correa forced Reddick at third for the first out. Price overcame a bad call from Barrett on 1-2 that should have been a strikeout by hanging tough and getting Marwin Gonzalez to swing and miss for the K. Bregman then grounded to shortstop and Xander Bogaerts threw to second for the inning-ending force.

Gurriel singled with one down in the sixth, but McCann and Springer both flied to Betts. Price walked Altuve with one out in the seventh. Correa lined to right and Gonzalez struck out. After Gonzalez fanned and the inning was over, catcher Sandy Leon tossed the ball in the air slightly with his glove. Gonzalez actually tried to knock it out of his glove with his bat, making contact with Leon. At the same time, Price was walking off the mound and he was yelling towards the plate. I initially thought he was telling Barrett what he thought of his pitch-calling skills (his day was done, so who cared if he got tossed?), but he might actually have been yelling at Gonzalez. As Price got closer to the dugout, he was also motioning towards the first base umpire.

Price faced the most batters of any pitcher in the game and only Astros starter Peacock (2.2-6-3-1-4, 58) threw more pitches. Or pitch, since it was only one more. It was a bit scary that manager John Farrell had no one warming up in the pen as Price began the seventh. (The score was still only 4-3.) Price began the inning at 42 pitches, more than he had thrown in any of his previous six relief appearances. After the first out, Addison Reed began tossing.

And it was Reed who came in for the top of the eighth, needing to hold a now-comfortable seven-run lead. He gave up only a two-out hit, and needed just seven pitches to retire the Astros. Carson Smith pitched the ninth. Springer reached on an infield hit but was erased on a double play. Altuve singled to third, but Smith got Correa looking at strike three - and the dirty water flowed.

Hammerin' Hanley: "We don't give up, we keep working."

Ortiz, on Fox Sports: "This game's gonna be a game changer for the whole organization."

After Bradley's home run, the crowd at Fenway began chanting Reddick's name to the tune of that famous ditty from 1986, "Dar-ryl, Dar-ryl". Reddick: "I think everybody in Foxboro heard them chanting my name. It's good to see they still love me here. ... Just the ball kept curling over. I had enough time to get over, I thought. I thought I timed the jump pretty well on my part, just in and out. ... It's very unfortunate for myself and the team. Nothing you can do."

The time of tomorrow's Game 4 has not been decided. It depends on whether today will be YED 2017.
Brad Peacock / Doug Fister
Bogaerts, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Moreland, 1B
Ramirez, DH
Devers, 3B
Leon, C
Bradley, CF
It's Sunday, and we need some faith.

One definition describes faith "a firm belief in something for which there is no proof". You may not feel overly optimistic or particularly hopeful about the Red Sox's chances today (or in this series), but having faith is appropriate because to date we have seen no proof that the AL East champs can keep up with the Astros.
           AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
Astros    .343  .418  .686  1.103
Red Sox   .227  .278  .288   .566
Of Houston's 24 hits, 12 have been for extra bases (50%), while the Red Sox have only four extra-base hits among their 15 hits (27%).

The team that has won the first two games of a previous best-of-5 series has come out on top 66 of 75 times (88%). Since MLB adopted the current 2-2-1 format, teams up 2-0 have won 35 of 39 times (90%). Teams losing the first two games on the road - as these Red Sox have done - are 2-20 (10%). However, the two teams that came back in that scenario were the 1999 Red Sox (against Cleveland) and the 2003 Red Sox (against Oakland).

Never forget that we have seen miracles - and they can happen again. ... So we watch, and hope.

Speaking of Our Man of Miracles, the 2017 Red Sox could benefit from an impassioned rallying speech this afternoon:

And the Big Man has some words from Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians for those of us watching his brothers toil in the garden this afternoon:

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith ... be strong.

Also, it wouldn't hurt if Pedroia sent some kid out to the liquor store for a couple of fifths of JD and some paper cups.