Game 31 vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Off Day Blues(Part 3)

Frank Viola and Darren Oliver  were a bit opposite in the directions they were coming from and going to. At the crux of it, neither were defining players with the Red Sox or Blue Jays. Neither of their arrivals or departures made a lick of difference. They were just there, and then they weren't. 

The same can't be said for David Wells. David Wells never went anywhere quietly. Maybe this was because he saw the rise of success and then saw it abruptly ripped away from him more than once. The first time he won a World Series with the Blue Jays, the team released him in the spring the following year. He joined the Tigers and spent parts of three years with the middling AL Central team. The Reds picked him up for their stretch run in 1995, though the team fell short in the NLCS. The following year he found himself on the Baltimore Orioles and in the thick of a playoff run once again. Failing once again, his O's were knocked out of the ALCS by the New York Yankees.

The O's didn't retain Wells, but he found himself with the team of his all time favorite player, Babe Ruth. Despite finishing third in Cy Young balloting in 1998 and the ALCS MVP that year, the Yankees traded Wells to the Toronto Blue Jays for Roger Clemens. Wells won another ring with the Yanks, but just as quickly, he was dispatched to oblivion. By 1999 the Blue Jays were medioce again. Wells won 37 games over 2 seasons for the third place Blue Jays, before being shipped out again. He ended up on the Yankees once again in 2002, but by then the dynasty that won 4 titles in 5 years had begun to become unglued. 

Wells went on to change teams a few more times, including his 2005 stint with the unsuccessful run by the reigning World Series Champion Red Sox. That was one of the weirdest sights. David Wells, wearing number three on the mound at Fenway. It seemed he ended up on teams right after their recent success, or he was being jettisoned soon after that success.

Maybe Juan Nieves and Edward Mujica will have successful tenures elsewhere. Maybe the Red Sox are about to acquire the next David Wells(1997-2000 era!) and straighten the Red Sox Pitching Staff Ship. One can only hope!

Game 30 vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Off Day Blues(Part 2)

On Thursday the Red Sox front office sent a message when they fired Juan Nieves. Perhaps it was a message that they're sick and tired of watching the pitching staff get beat around like a bunch of indy league players. Perhaps they were just trying to save a failing experiment.

One thing is for sure, they were sending a message. Proof is in the fact that Edward Mujica was sent packing along with Juan Nieves. Since it was an off day, and the Sox were heading to Toronto for a series with the Blue Jays, do you think Mujica and Nieves were at least relieved that they didn't have to go through customs? It's unclear if Mujica's 4.61 ERA would set off any alarms as he passed through the border. 

At the time of his release, Mujica was, numbers-wise, the worst performing member of the 2015 Red Sox bullpen. No one else came close that had any regular playing time. The closest to the worst, Robbie Ross, has a sub 4.00 ERA. However, releasing Mujica sends a clear message to Red Sox players. Sure, the coach is taking some blame, but sucking isn't going to work for long. The message is pretty clear. Suck less. Do better. Play like you're not a recovering last place team. 

There will probably be players looking over their shoulders. Clay Buchholz, tomorrow's starter, better hope the Red Sox don't decide to leave him in Toronto if he throws another stinker. The positional players are probably safe. Mike Napoli and Allen Craig aren't doing so well, but they're also not crippling the Red Sox chances every time they hit the field. Okay, that might be up for debate.

Frank Viola played for the Red Sox and Blue Jays. By the time he joined the Red Sox he was a bit removed from his Cy Young winning, World Series MVP days of the Minnesota Twins, but he also wasn't too bad. He logged over 200 innings, and won 24 games over his first two seasons. Still, if you look at Viola's Wikipedia page, his Red Sox days fall under 'Later Career'. The only highlight was a shared no hitter and ending his third season with the Red Sox by requiring Tommy John surgery. It took Viola into his 'Later Years' to reach Mujica Status. I just made that up. There isn't a real Mujica Status, but it's a real thing. It's that time when a team has decided a player is not quite good enough. That they're actually better off without the player being around. Viola was a World Champion! 

After becoming a free agent is the off season of his final year with the Red Sox, Viola joined the Blue Jays in 1995, though he never played for the team that went on to lose 88 games. The Jays released him from their AAA team, and the Cincinnati Reds game Viola a chance in the late summer reclamation project along the way to the NLCS. Due to giving up 20 hits in 14.1 innings, Viola didn't make the postseason roster and didn't stick with Cincinnati either. His last stop was a second engagement with the Blue Jays. Viola was inserted into the rotation in late April, and was released at the end of May that year. Despite his best efforts, Viola didn't save the 1996 Blues Jays from avoiding another 88 loss season. Viola was essentially Mujica'd. That team didn't seem to learn anything from the dumping of a inadequate player, but then again that team had eleven different pitcher start at least 1 game during the season.

So what's the point here? That players come and go, but whether or not it has any indication as to whether a team is any good for the rest of the season is much murkier. I'm freakin' hoping the Red Sox don't have a Toronto season ahead of them.

Game 29 vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Off Day Blues

Yesterday was supposed to be a regular off day. A day to reflect on the current status of the Red Sox. A day for relaxation. Perhaps a day to think about the New England Patriots and deflated balls.

Juan Nieves, pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox, was fired yesterday, mixing up an otherwise ordinary day. From various corners of the internet there are folks saying Nieves is a scapegoat, that the bigger issue is a bad pitching staff. John Farrell has said that it had to do with leadership more than anything else. 

I don't believe the idea that Juan Nieves is to entirely to blame for the pitching woes of the Red Sox, but I do believe it makes sense to make a statement to the team and mix things up by getting rid of one area that may not be performing at its best. The team can't really fire players(well, they can, but I'll get to that tomorrow), so firing a coach is the best next thing.

The Red Sox pitching staff is adrift. Clay Buchholz has had two starts of greatness, and four starts that cause people to long for the days of Darren Oliver, who mowed down each of the AL East opponents over the course of five starts in 2002. Sure, Oliver's season ERA that year ended at 4.64, but for a brief period he was an AL East Slayer for the Red Sox. Oliver ended his career with two strong seasons as a middle reliver for the Blue Jays. Buchholz's season is nothing like Oliver's one year wonder. Soon after Oliver left Boston, he was converted to a reliever and extended his career by about a decade. Some wonder if Buchholz would benefit from a new scene.

I could go into the rest of the starting rotation, but their numbers speak for themselves. For one off day, it seems it wasn't an off day at all. The Red Sox front office has decided they've seen enough baseball to consider the season has exceeded Short Sample Size stage. Now they're onto the stage of determining whether to shit or get off the pot. 

I don't expect a sudden resurgence with the three game set versus the Blue Jays, but boy it would be nice!

Game 22 vs.Toronto Blue Jays: Roger Clemens

On this day in 1986, Roger Clemens struck out 20 Seattle Mariners. 10 years later, Clemens did it again against the Detroit Tigers. With the Red Sox lacking a bonafide ace starting pitcher, Clemens seems like an appropriate pick for today's game. I could do a fun recap of his career, but his numbers speak well enough

The truth is, the Red Sox do not have an ace pitcher. The last time the team didn't have an ace was during the 1997 season. The season featured such greats as Aaron Sele, Steve Avery, and Jeff Suppan. Of course, Pedro Martinez arrived on the scene after that season. 1997 was the first post-Clemens season in Boston. The team finished in fourth place. Somehow I suspect the 2015 Red Sox will have a better end than the 1997 team. 

Clay Buchholz made up t-shirts for the rotation that said "He's The ACE" and handed them out during spring training. As all of the pitchers now have ERAs ranging from 4.94 to 8.62, the obvious question is whether they were kidding or not.

Roger Clemens isn't walking through that door. Nor is Pedro Martinez or Jon Lester. Chances are the rotation will bounce back, and Rick Porcello will take the torch as the ace and run with it. I almost wrote Clay Buchholz, but at this point, I'm not even certain he'll be on the team long enough to claim anything. 

 

 

Game 21 vs. Toronto Blue Jays: John McDonald

With Mookie Betts capping off an amazing walk off victory over the Toronto Blue Jays last night, I searched through the list of players who have played for both franchises to find the best representation for today's post. The 2013 Red Sox had 11 walk off victories, and the 2015 Red Sox have 2 or 3 already. So, I'm trying to go with a theme here. Ideally, a Red Sox from the 2013 team that was on the Blue Jays at some point in their career, that contributed to one of those walk off wins in 2013.

Alas, I didn't find anyone. I did notice that John McDonald played a few years with the Blue Jays and had a few games with the 2013 Red Sox. In 2013 he also played for the Pirates, Indians, and Phillies. In his few games as a Red Sox he didn't do a whole lot. He had about a half dozen balls hit to him and he handled all of them error-free. That seems fair enough reason for the Connecticut native and Providence College grad to have the benefit of riding along the 2013 Duck Boat Parade. 

In 2013, John McDonald played 5 positions for the 4 teams he played for and 6 if you add in the third of an inning he pitched for the Phillies. He was like a poor man's version of Brock Holt...though I think that's an insult to the Brock Star. John McDonald seems to have served the role of stopgap. Serviceable Defender comes to mind. 

Mookie Betts isn't a super utility guy, but let's look at him anyway. Since the start of 2014, Mookie Betts has played right field, center field, and second base, but he has done so much that can't really be described by numbers. Look at Mookie steal 2 bases on one play. On the same day, look at Mookie Betts rob a home run!

Here's hoping for a little more Mookie Magic.

Game 20 vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Canseco

When I was really young, Jose Canseco made up one half of the Bash Brothers, and led the Oakland Athletics to a World Series title in 1989. Over a six year period, Canseco slugged over 200 home runs, won the Rookie of the Year award, and was named an MVP along the way. He and Mark McGwire were superstars. 

Then, suddenly Canseco became a really ordinary as a ballplayer, but it took a while before the legend of Canseco wore off. The A's traded him to the Texas Rangers for 3 players and cash. That was worth every bit of happiness that was brought by the fly ball that bounced off Canseco's head for a home run. It is a grainy video, but you can clearly see the ball bounce off Canseco's noggin. 

After parts of three ordinary years in Texas where he played in just 193 games, the Red Sox signed Canseco to a 2 year deal. He hit 24 homers and had his last season hitting above .300, but he went hitless in 15 at bats during the 1995 ALDS. It almost seemed like the end of was near when the Red Sox traded Canseco to the Athletics in 1996 for John Wasdin in return. 

Canseco wasn't done yet. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998, reunited with old friend Roger Clemens. Though the team finished third, Canseco had a big comeback year with 46 home runs. It paired well with Roger Clemens's 20 win season, after all of the steroidal scandals that popped up for that ambitious duo.

Canseco had another All Star year in 1999, but was out of baseball after the 2001 season. Thank goodness for YouTube, so we can relive Canseco's blunder forever.

The Red Sox have come a long way since loading up a team with has-been ordinary ballplayers like Jose Canseco. Sure, there's lots of risk in saying that after they signed Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval...but it's not like they're the team that is about to unload Josh Hamilton for virtually nothing. It seems the days of overpaying for a player's past are a thing of the past. 

It's unclear if the Toronto Blue Jays have given up this same tendency. 32 year old Russell Martin signed a 5 year deal with the Blue Jays, but that might be the worst of their long term plans. Since winning back to back World Series, the team has basically floated adrift between 3rd and 4th place, occasionally peaking at 2nd or last place. They're the definition of an ordinary humdrum ball club. Maybe that'll change in 2015? 3/5ths of their rotation is under 25 years old, so there's definitely hope.

The hope here is that the Blue Jays don't find their way for at least three more games.