Game 28 vs. Tampa Bay Rays: 1975

Last night the Boston Red Sox celebrated the 1975 AL Champion Red Sox with a Carlton Fisk bobblehead. Throughout the game music from '75 blasted over the speakers throughout Fenway. More than 25 members of the 1975 team were on hand. It's part of a season long celebration of the 40th anniversary of that season.

Fortunately it also marked the end of a Red Sox losing streak. Thanks to Mookie Betts and his two solo home runs, the Red Sox finally stopped the bleeding.  Interestingly enough, Betts is the youngest Red Sox player to hit 2 homers in the same game since Jim Rice did it in 1975. Mookie Betts plays like his hair is on fire. He scampers around the bases like Fred Lynn in his early Red Sox days. Lynn didn't have a lot of speed, but he swiped a bag when he could. 

When I started writing this blog entry, I was going to tie Mookie Betts to Fred Lynn, the 1975 Rookie of The Year. Both center fielders, both fan favorites, both using all of their talents. Then I saw that Mookie Betts was the youngest to slug 2 homers in a game since Rice. Then I wanted to compare him to the Hall of Fame right fielder. Then I didn't think that was fair, as Rice went on to hit 382 home runs. So I considered comparing Betts to Dwight Evans. That's not really fair either. A Should-Be Hall of Famer?

So I decided to link Mookie Betts to 1975. There's a little bit of Lynn, Evans, and Rice in Mookie Betts. Perhaps less Rice, but that remains to be seen. This isn't the first entry to center around Mookie Betts, and I suspect it won't be the last for the 2015 season. Look at the stats of the 1975 team. Wouldn't it be amazing if Mookie Betts turned into even a fraction of the triple headed outfield monster that was the 1975 Red Sox outfield? 

It's only one game, and Betts has only had a few games to look amazing, The 1975 Red Sox didn't have a great April, May, or June. The team turned up late in June and ran with it the rest of the way. The 2015 pitching staff is questionable, but so was the 1975 pitching staff. On the season, no started that year had an ERA below 3.95. 

It provides some hope that the early stumble isn't the precursor of a long drawn out summer of bad baseball. Especially if Mookie Betts has anything to say about it.

Game 27 vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Wade Boggs

Wade Boggs in the ugly Tampa Bay Devil Rays jersey is almost as jarring as Wade Boggs atop a horse celebrating a New York Yankees World Series title. 

For some Red Sox fans, watching another player wear #26 is jarring each and every time. Brock Holt is the latest in a long line of 26 wearers. In total thirteen other players have worn #26 for the Red Sox since Wade Boggs left town. 

The belief that a number belongs to a certain player after a certain level of fame is reached is strong. Perhaps none stronger than the New York Yankees belief that everybody should have a retired number.  It seems there's some difference in belief, depending on the terms of which a player leaves. Nomar Garciaparra, for instance, wore number 5, which remained unused for five full seasons, and put on mothballs for another three years after Rocco Baldelli's brief time as the wearer of number 5. 

Dwight Evans's #24 went unused for six seasons, and eventually was given to Manny Ramirez. If I were deciding retired numbers, I'd retire #24 in honor of both Dewey and Manny. Number 21 has not been worn by anyone since Roger Clemens following the 1996 season. 

So how did Wade Boggs, arguably one of the top five hitters in Red Sox franchise history, end up with a uniform number so easily discarded to Aaron Sele and Rob Stanifer? Even with an ownership change, Scott Podsednik donned the Boggsian number. Boggs was a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for two seasons, and his number 12 has been retired. What gives?

What Gives? That's the same question we can ask about the 2015 Red Sox. Through 26 games, the man currently wearing Wade Boggs's Red Sox number is tearing up the American League, while playing all over the field. Brock Holt is averaging more than a hit per start, just like his numbersake. Meanwhile, the lowest ERA for the starting rotation is 4.71. The highest is 7.15. Add in the rest of the pitching staff and the team has a 5.04 ERA. 

Yes, it's a small sample size. However, most teams begin establishing whether they need to upgrade their team or downgrade their realistic season expectations by the time June rolls around. This means the team has a few more weeks to work out some kinks, but after five turns through the rotation, signs of worry abound.

The exception is within the scope of #26. Everybody knows Brock Holt is a super star(Brock Star) in the making, Maybe the next Ben Zobrist, even. Just like Wade Boggs. Everybody knew Boggs would smash at the big league level, whether it was during the regular season or the post season. It's too bad Brock Holt hasn't given pitching a shot yet. Wade Boggs did, twice in fact, in 1997 with the Yanks and 1999 with the Devil Rays. Sure, both times he came in for mop-up duty, but he has 2 career strikeouts under his belt. 

If Boggs is any indication, maybe Brock Holt pitching and the magic of 26 holds the answer to winning a ball game!

Game 26 vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Hideo Nomo

It used to be that the Red Sox, coming off the heels of a three game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees, could seek respite in the arms of the Tampa Bay Rays after such a weekend. It was a guarantee that the Red Sox would score mightily and the pitching staff would look like a team of All Stars. 

This is no longer the case. The Rays may not be the upstart team they were recently, but they're also not the doormat of a team from yesteryear. Hideo Nomo is not walking through that door.

This is probably partly the Baseball Gods being angry with my lackluster weekend posting performance for the Yankees series. 

When Hideo Nomo came to the Boston Red Sox, he was already well beyond his Rookie of The Year honors in 1995. However, when his first start in a Red Sox uniform was a no hitter followed by another shutout 6 weeks later, it was as if the Red Sox had struck gold. It turns out they were partly right, as Nomo rejoined the Dodgers in 2002 and went on to have consecutive seasons of winning 16 games. 

By 2005, Nomo was back in the AL East, this time with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. This time, he was not the man he was with the Red Sox or during either tenure with the LA Dodgers. He was a shell of his former self. Two of his first four starts in 2005 were against the Red Sox, and he was torched for 12 runs on 12 hits in just 8 innings. Nomo also allowed 8 walks. 

The Red Sox need the ghost of Hideo Nomo's Tampa Bay Past to ride into Fenway Park and provide some much needed confidence building for Red Sox hitters. If the Ghost of Hideo Nomo's No Hitting Boston Past wants to help out the current Red Sox pitching staff, I don't think anyone will object.