Credit to the immortal Jon Couture for capturing this moment.

Credit to the immortal Jon Couture for capturing this moment.

Just before I started paying attention to baseball and, by default, the Boston Red Sox, the team had undergone a transformation, sliding from a pennant winner to the basement and back.

I missed most of that. When I hopped on the train, Mike Greenwell and Ellis Burks were kings, with Dwight Evans providing the steady guidance of a veteran. A lot of older players had already been cast aside, but Bill Buckner was probably more likeable than A.J. Pierzynski.

Blaming everything that’s gone wrong with the 2014 Red Sox on their former catcher would be lazy and probably inaccurate. Pierzynski was (and is) an aging catcher with a less-than-stellar reputation both on defense and in personality — his career highlight for a lot of fans was being punched in the face by Michael Barrett in 2006.

Instead, Pierzynski has unwittingly served as a marker in the sand, documenting the changing tides of the team. When he arrived, he was a stopgap, a veteran presence with plenty of pop left in his bat to keep the Red Sox in contention while younger players worked their way through the system. (more…)

Bob Welch won games, and that's as much as I could say for a long time.

Bob Welch won games, and that’s as much as I could say for a long time.

What did I know as a kid? So close to “nothing” that I’m shocked I even made it to middle school.

I knew I wanted people to like me, but understood so little about how other people thought or moved as a group that I could never keep up. Solitude was much easier to handle. I could sit in my room and keep track of the various nonsensical things I liked in my notebooks and watch sports and follow players and try to get an understanding on how the game worked, who was good and who wasn’t.

From this perspective, it was a lot easier to get a grasp on things. I could watch baseball, for example, and understand how it worked, what was supposed to happen and what was not supposed to happen. I knew that in a lineup, the fastest players hit first, the best hitters hit third and the biggest power threats hit fourth. I knew that power pitchers were big, burly guys and that control pitchers were older, a little funnier looking maybe, but could be counted on for seven or eight innings every night. And closers, even within the facial-hair-friendly world of baseball circa 1989-93, all had mustaches. (more…)

Brock Holt is just hitting everything he sees, it seems.

Brock Holt is just hitting everything he sees, it seems.

On April 19, the Boston Red Sox came back in the late innings to top the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. David Ortiz took Bud Norris deep to right field for a fourth-inning home run, and in the bottom of the seventh, Brock Holt, batting ninth and playing third in place of an injured Will Middlebrooks, hit a triple into the triangle to tie the game and, eventually, score the go-ahead run on a Jonathan Herrera bunt.

Since then, the Red Sox have been down, then up, and then down again. But two constants seem to be taking shape. First, Ortiz is still a monster and hits when he’s supposed to hit. And Holt has become the team’s best hope for a catalyst, someone at the top of the order to work pitchers and give the rest of the lineup a chance as spring turns to summer and the season starts to dwindle.

It’s still a weird team and a weird season where they don’t seem as out of the race as they likely should seem. Jonny Gomes has played much more than he should, thanks to injuries and the unofficial exile of Daniel Nava (though he seems to be squeaking back into the lineup). The season isn’t yet a lost cause, and there’s plenty to be hopeful for this season — Jon Lester and John Lackey anchoring the rotation, the continued growth of Xander Bogaerts, Mike Napoli getting on base every single day, David Ortiz doing his David Ortiz thing whenever possible, etc. (more…)

Remember when Manny Ramirez spent four years hugging David Ortiz?

Remember when Manny Ramirez spent four years hugging David Ortiz?

Beyond the fact that the Boston Red Sox had spun a 10-game losing streak into a 3-game winning streak, there was some unbelievable stuff taking place at Fenway Park last night.

Plenty about it was certainly within belief. The team honored the 2004 World Series champions, so there were some old idiots welcomed home. Kevin Millar’s unhinged stream-of-conscious commentary during one inning of play was delightfully manic. Pedro Martinez danced through the outfield. David Ortiz hugged everyone. And Manny Ramirez showing up with a mohawk wasn’t the most ridiculous haircut he could’ve sported.

But the contrite Ramirez that apologized for the inglorious ending and burned bridges wasn’t something that ever felt possible. Peter Gammons, famously, reported that manager Terry Francona told him, “Manny Ramirez is the worst human being I’ve ever met.” He knocked down 64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick towards the end of his stint in Boston in 2008. There were numerous run-ins with management and other players beyond that — I vividly remember him and Kevin Youkilis getting into it in the dugout during one game — and the bizarre path of his career after Boston, through Hollywood and Chicago and North Korea, spaced out by suspensions and retirement, made it seem as though Ramirez was lost in the woods forever. The man who, with Ortiz, formed half of the most terrifying 3-4 in baseball since Ruth and Gehrig, arguably, was a punchline and a fading memory. (more…)

Steve Tracshel is not in a hurry.

Steve Tracshel is not in a hurry.

Baseball games are long sometimes. This is not news.

It’s a game played at a leisurely pace without a clock and with the defense in possession of the ball and able to control the pace of the game, for the most part. There are breaks and pitching changes and music is played between batters and then there are commercials and when Joe Girardi breaks out his giant binder, forget it. Baseball games are long. Some are longer than others.

So it’s up to the good people of Major League Baseball to speed things up, presumably. And as is the case all too often, it’s the people in charge of baseball who need to be kept from baseball at all costs.

This is probably not going to come to fruition, but the fact that an executive within MLB told a reporter that “they ought to change the game to seven innings” is frightening. That person makes money to work within the highest level of the game, and he has that opinion. (more…)