This hurts – it hurts a lot. I am a huge fan of Christian Vazquez. Yes, he strikes out too often and draws far to few walks and he doesn’t make enough contact to go with his classic power stroke, but I love this kids arm, love the way he calls a game, and I love his D. For all these reasons and a few more, I had no issue with Blake Swihart being put into a deal for Cole Hamels. God I’m tired of typing that guy’s name. Now that Vazquez is dealing with an elbow issue and is seeking second opinions (Paging Dr Andrews) there are some who think Swihart could break camp with the big club and be on the opening day roster. This would be a huge mistake. Every writer with an opinion – every scouting department – every prospect publication has this kid inked as the next coming of Buster Posey, save me – of course. I haven’t seen it so I cant say it. I also can’t say that he isn’t.
What I can say is whether Swihart is the real deal or not he isn’t ready to prove it at the big league level. Swihart has been impressive – his stats show that, but he has played just 18 games at AAA. The jump from Pawtucket to Fenway shouldn’t be like driving through the speed pass lane when getting off the Pike. You need to get into that cash lane, the no exact change lane with the attendant who can break a fifty and let you know that goggle maps screwed up and gave you the wrong exit to get off. For Swihart, that lane is backed up all the way to Pawtucket where his manager and coaches can let him grow into whatever potential he might truly have. Bring this kid up to soon like the Sox have done with far to many “can’t miss” prospects and it might hurt this team in more ways than one. Kill his confidence stunting his progress or worse yet lose any chance of having a blue chip to deal for Cole Hamels or any front line starter. There are other options – let Ryan Hanigan and Humberto Quintero make the trip to Boston – don’t give Swihart a speed pass he hasn’t earned.
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If you think Shane Victorino tossed anyone under the bus yesterday you’re right. Who he tossed under the bus is what everyone seems to be missing. It sure as hell wasn’t a bunch of prospects and it wasn’t Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts, two guys who you cant truly consider prospects anymore. He never mentioned Rusney Castillo Blake Swihart or for that matter anyone by name. So who did Hula Hustle toss under a bus? Ben Cherington and the Five Aces, sound like a Mo Town Group doesn’t it? Its even a stretch to say he tossed “ The Aces” under a bus as id bet you dollars to Fenway bricks none of the five would come out and say they belong in the same sentence as Hamels.
Down at Fenway South or as I like to call it Camp Yawn there has been one story of any significance all spring. The Lack of an ACE on this staff and how well Cole Hamels would fit that bill. So when Philadelphia Daily News writer Ryan Lawrence came to town the logical person to come to was Victorino. He asked the former Philly a question and Shane answered.
“Any time you can get a No. 1, as I told these guys – not the front office, but the players – any time you can go get a guy in my opinion who is established, who has done it [you do it],” Victorino said. “And I understand you don’t want to give up this prospect or that prospect. You’re hoping this guy becomes a Cole Hamels. Hoping. Oh wait, that guy is there now. And even as a hitter. Why would you hope that guy becomes this hitter, when you have it right now? And I understand there’s a financial side. And there’s a bigger picture. But like I said, at the end of the day, it’s right here in front of you. Why are you hoping?”
Oh No !! What are you thinking Shane? I’ll tell you what he’s thinking. Victorino is looking around his locker room and sees a lineup stacked with all-star talent. And he’s thinking to himself. We have all this talent here. We have talent in the minors and our rotation doesn’t measure up. Why on earth aren’t we trying to bring in someone who has proven himself to be one of the top five arms in MLB?
Victorino wants what you want, to win another world series, that’s it, he isn’t looking over his shoulder he isn’t trying to secure his spot. It’s His. He mentioned no names stabbed no one in the back and certainly tossed no kid under their big yellow Pawtucket school bus. He was asked a question and he answered it. Isn’t that what we all complain these guys never do?
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From the moment a camera was put on an NFL sideline some greedy owner has kept local fans in the dark. The NFL’s Black Out rules have been in effect since the 1950’s. No matter how poor your teams was, no matter how pathetic the product they were selling you was – if there wasn’t a sell out, there was no TV. Growing up in CT, this rule affected my every Sunday, but not for the same reasons it might have affected yours. You see, I lived outside the NFL’s blackout area, so if the Patriots had a home game my street was filled with green license plates. Uncle’s, Aunts, Nana and the cousins would make the trip down the pike and have Sunday dinner at our house. If the Pats were on the road, my family was shipping up to Boston. Sunday dinner was always big in my family back in the day – so were the Pats. It was a great way to grow up. Don’t get me wrong, we did our part every week – quite a few of the Clan Murphy made it to games, but when you have twelve aunts and uncles and seventeen cousins – let’s be real here, the Sunday table was still full.
Now start the parades, toss the ticker tape, sailors grab your sweethearts – it’s a Life Magazine moment. Yes, thanks to the generosity of the NFL, everyone’s Sunday dinner table can be full. Sell out or not next season and probably beyond, there will be no black outs in the NFL. But why – why now? Los Angeles – that’s why. Don’t be fooled by deflate gate or rules changes. Don’t be distracted by veterans combines. The big discussion at this years owners meeting is what two teams the NFL will let move into the Nations second largest TV market.
The NFL is the most lucrative sports entity in the world. TV revenue is over $5 billion a year and the game is no longer driven by ticket sales. LA had been famous or infamous in the days of yore as a terrible market at the turnstiles. Week after week, Rams and Raiders games went unwatched by millions. I mean, how bad does it have to be that the Rams leave the second largest market in the country for St Louis and for the Raiders to go back to the Oakland coliseum. That’s like moving back to the Love Canal. Yes, I understand there were stadium issues and luxury boxes to be had, but attendance and boxes played a huge part in both teams’ exoduses. Fast forward to today. Now a new stadium is set to be built, with luxury boxes to be sold – but after the newness wears off and the teams that move in don’t win (and they won’t), there’s always that memory of tens of thousands of fans dressed up as empty seats. But this time, the TV revenue is what’s driving the bus and new network contracts (Goodell’s real Job) are going to be negotiated. Just a decade ago one in ten games was blacked out. Twenty years ago, it was one in three. How much more ammo will Goodell have when he talks to the alphabet soup groups when he can say I guarantee you every TV in LA will be turned on week in and week out for not one local game, but two? How much is that going to be worth to the NFL? Another quarter, half, or even a billion dollars a year? Don’t be fooled by the leagues dropping the blackouts, these men do nothing unselfishly.
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In his fist AB against major league pitching this spring, Rusney Castillo made a serious impression on the chicks that dig the long ball. In the bottom of the seventh with two men on, Castillo stepped into the box to face Orioles righty Steve Johnson and proceeded to tattoo a 2-2 fastball over the left center field wall and his name into the mind of the home grown Baltimore kid, giving the Sox – albeit briefly – a 5-3 lead over their AL east rivals. After the game Farrell sang the praises of his rookie saying
“For his first AB in spring training he steps in and makes a pretty big impression”
I’ll Say. Call it being in touch with my feminine side but like chicks, I too dig the long ball and this kid has the build and talent to take many a hurler yard over the next seven years for Boston. The issue is, where will he play and where will he start the season.
Mookie Betts is this team’s starting center fielder and leadoff man. With a good showing last season and another fine spring, he’s earned that spot. Sugar Shane Victorino will be patrolling right on opening day (barring injury). Shane’s earned that right having won a WS ring here in 2013 and with his literal balls to the wall play in the toughest right field in MLB. Farrell and the Sox owe him that veteran respect. And I think he will get it.
So what do you do with a prospect that looks like he was chiseled out of marble yet plays smooth as silk and has no hope of regular playing time? Send him down to Pawtucket and let him get used to playing right field. Making Castillo another one of the 5 forth outfields on this team serves no purpose at all. A game or two a week is only going to hinder this kids progress. Let him start the year in AAA and wait for, god forbid, an injury or the team to make a move with one of the starters. And no, I don’t care if this takes all year, unless his play falls off so dramatically that he’s embarrassing himself I’m perfectly happy with a healthy Shane playing 130 games in right this season for the old town team.
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If you believe the rhetoric leaking out of every open mouth employed by John Harrington that the Sox were not giving Phillies GM Ruben Amaro JR a first hand look at Blake Swihart you have to wonder to yourself: why the hell not? Two of Boston’s five aces took the mound Sunday and combined to give up 10 runs to the lowly Phillies. Six of those runs were given up by returning son Justin Masterson – two of them coming on bombs by Jordan Danks and John Phillips. Struggling to get a handle on those names? Don’t feel bad; they are both non-roster spring training invitees. Maybe Masterson wore the wrong Tee Shirt? But have no fear, another of the mighty five, Wade Miley, only gave up four runs in four innings of relief. Maybe all the “He’s The Ace Tee’s” were in the laundry? Combined, the two “Aces” managed to surrender 10 runs while walking 5 in 7 1/3 innings. On the bright side, Miley did mange to strike out 2. Masterson – he went K-less. To be fair, Masterson had pitched well since putting a Boston uniform back on. Over his first five innings of work this spring he hadn’t give up an earned run to any of the AAA bats he’s faced.
If not Swihart, Sunday did showcase what I fear this rotation will look like on most days this season – a group of pitch to contact hurlers who far to often don’t get the ground ball outs they will need to succeed. No matter what the lineup looks like there is no way they can keep up with how potentially poor this staff could be. There is no turning back, but this team has the pieces to move forward. Give Amaro a reason to say yes to a move – Swihart and a piece from this bloated outfield. Betts and Offer to pick up a chunk of Craig’s salary, Vasquez and prospects if you have to keep both. Make this deal for Hamels work, before Texas wakes up and does.
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While everyone is talking about who the breakout kid will be this season, the real story behind the curtain in Boston is the Vets. The men among the boys, the professionals who make 650 plate appearances season after season – not the flavor of the week signing or the AAA threat that can’t miss once old what’s his name gets moved along in a trade to bolster the pen. Its old what’s his name that has to come through for this team to get back to the post season. Mookie can bat .310 from the leadoff spot and Xander can Belt 17 over the fences – it wont matter a damn if the man who’s faded tee shirt you wear so proudly while you cut your lawn doesn’t show up to play 150+ games this season. And at least match their 162’s.
While it’s sexy to talk about where Rusney Castillo will start the season and when/if Swihart will get the call up, it’s Pedroia staying healthy for the entire season and Mike Napoli getting a good night sleep that’s going to determine the success or failure of this Red Sox incarnation. It’s if Big Papi has one more glorious season in the sun in him or if Father Time will grab his shirttail and say that’s it big man – and if Sandoval and Ramirez can make the adjustments to the American League, handle a baseball crazy town that doesn’t forgive hangnail days off and won’t put up with excuses of getting used to a new position for slumping bats. Triumph or failure hinges on how veterans like Shane Victorino and Alan Craig handle possible new rolls playing off the bench and down in the batting order. These are the questions that can’t be answered going 3-3 in March.
Then there’s the arms…oh the arms. If Koji Uehara had been born in America, his parents could have taken him to a Bicentennial parade. This season he will need to come up as big or bigger than any in his career. How will his rubber arm hold up at age 40 with 350 innings under his sleeve? And while we may all think the “He’s the Ace – I’m The Ace” Tee-shirt business shows a lot of moxie, the truth of the matter is this Veteran staff is our date to the dance. And people are going to have to show up to the park every five days – step out on this mound and produce.
So go on people, argue about breakout potential and avoiding sophomore slumps. We all know it’s the seniors who take the underclassman to the Prom.
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Hey I don’t write the headlines people so get off my ass…. Rusney Castillo and his strained oblique could be out a week, two weeks or a month. With an injury like this, you can never tell. Especially when you don’t know the player involved. Yes, we all know the name but what do we truly know about Rusney Castillo? Is he Dustin Pedroia – a guy you have to drag off the field? Is he JD Drew – a guy you have to drag on the field? Or even worse, is he Jacoby Ellsbury – a guy you have to drag out of the MRI tube? We just don’t know. What I do know is this: with $72 million invested in this import, the Red Sox are going to play this rehab game very cautiously. While we all love the long ball, the Sox know this is no time to swing for the fences. After his defection, Castillo didn’t play any baseball for more than a year, then had a hand full of games here last season before playing in less than 20 games in the Arizona Fall and Puerto Rican Winter leagues due to a thumb injury. I’m trying really hard not to see softness in this kid already – really, really hard – but it isn’t easy when since inking his deal your $72 million dollar man has spent more time designing his 200K Porsche than he’s spent playing baseball.
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If you caught me watching film (what little I could find – thanks State Department) of Yoan Moncada playing baseball you would have seen the man-crush well up from my toes engulfing my entire being before I had a chance to hit replay. Yoan Moncada is a nineteen-year-old switch-hitting Demigod, a kid so talented he played and dominated on both the Cuban U sixteen & U eighteen national teams, at the same time. Calling Moncada a five-tool player is not a stretch, but I’m going to stretch that analogy. These tools are not the ones you and I may get from our kids on Fathers Day, they weren’t bought at the school store. This kid’s five tools are made by Craftsman – not Fingerhut. A middle infield glove I can only compare to Roberto Alomar, Run Ricky Run type speed and a bat that looks like a stinger-missal cutting thought the air and sounds like an explosion when he makes contact.
The Sox front office must feel as strongly about this kid as I do. In a time where PEDs no longer turn .300/17/100 All Stars into .330/37/140 Hall of Famers, they see enough to gamble $31.5 million dollars for Moncada and double down on the hand knowing they had to pay out the same dollar amount in Taxes (bloody democrats) totaling $63 million just for the potential. A kid this young and with this much upside, the “Bonus” money is a bargain.From the point he signs his name he will be held to the same rules governing any rookie drafted and singed by any club. And wages-wise, will have to climb the ladder like any of them. Control-Arbitration-Free Agency.
While International signings have been very very good to the Red Sox, Ben and Larry have seen the writing on the wall. This process is going to change. Like the lack of PEDs have shrunk the size of the forearms and biceps in MLB ranks.the International signings rule changes are going to level the field.
The international draft rules that will be implemented are coming sooner than later and the Sox won’t be able to flex their financial Muscle like this again. Free agency is not the game it used to be, teams are recognizing the need to keep their position players and are inking them to deals that take them well past their prime years at the plate. As I wrote when Boston inked fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo, this is the new money ball – until of course, everyone catches up or the powers that be change the rules again. But that’s the beauty of it – you can’t change the game – just the rules.
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I hear what your thinking: Murph how can the Sox have a magic number when there are more press passes in Fort Myers than there are players. Well my rabid readers, it’s simple…it all hinges on what you consider magic. The Red Sox magic trick is going into a season where its projected starting outfield has exactly Sixty-Two games in their back pocket. Mookie Betts has the fattest wallet of this trio – fifty bucks burning a hole in his billfold, while Rusney Castillo is hitting up the dollar menu at Jerry Remmy’s with that 10 spot he has stuffed into his left stirrups. Then there’s Hanley Ramirez’ broke ass – Ramirez hasn’t got two nickels of experience to spend in left. Shane Victorino has almost played in as many playoff games (60) as the three amigos that Larry and Ben have set to patrol the green bastions of Fenway’s outfield this year.
Most, conveniently, are sitting back applauding the Siegfried and Roy of Boston’s front office. Has the sexy magicians assistant (flashy signings) distracted us so much that we have all forgotten about the white tiger that jumped off the stage and attacked Red Sox Nation last year? Flash paper spent in left, flash paper spent in center. True, Ramirez is no rook and Betts looks unshakable, but we all know Hanley’s history and Betts, at least in this writers eyes, has to overcome the stigma of can’t miss sophomores that have swung and missed ahead of him in the order. As for Castillo, fingers crossed that this kid is the kind of tiger that doesn’t get spooked when the spotlights on and the roar of the crowd hits. That’s the thing with magic shows, you’re never sure what amazing things you might see or you could walk away feeling like you’ve been fooled
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So let me get this straight, the only thing holding back a deal that would bring Cole Hamels to the Red Sox is Mike Trout? No? Andrew McCutchen? No? Adam Jones? Not even close. So what is it? Where’s the deal Camille? You can’t tell me the hold up is Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart? Not and, Or.
Honestly, Mookie Betts of the 213 Plate appearances, Mookie Betts the converted second baseman who came up last season and set the world on fire helping the Sox finish 20 games under .500 and DEAD LAST in the AL East. To be fair, Mookie had a fine 50 games. He batted a solid .291 with 5 round trips – that’s three more than Rusney Castillo hit in 150 fewer at bats, so I can see the hesitation. I can also understand why keeping a talented kid like Mookie around seeing that – the Sox are just so unbelievably thin in the outfield. Moving Betts would truly put a huge strain on the Sox and leave John Farrell with just Allen Craig, Brock Holt, JBJ, Shane Victorino, Castillo and for some foolish reason Hanley Ramirez at his disposal.
Then of course there’s plan B. A deal revolving around top prospect Blake Swihart. Swihart is Baseball Prospectus’s 17th ranked minor leaguer this year. Xander was #12 a year ago this time. Remind me – how’d that work out? While I would love to hold onto the young gun, there is no guarantee this kid is the second coming of Fisk. Boston also has Christain Vasquez, who is a plus defender behind the plate and handles the rotation well. If the Sox are dead set on keeping Swihart I can’t see why a package including Vasquez can’t be pitched to Philadelphia that they wouldn’t find enticing.
Cole Hamels is studly. If he walked into the Sox clubhouse he wouldn’t only be the best pitcher in Boston’s rotation he would be the best pitcher in the AL East. I’m all for making the best deal you can, but if the only snag is one of these two players the hitch isn’t worth the horse tied to it. Boston may have a rotation that can get them a playoff spot, but they don’t have an arm that I trust going into a series against anyone they might face. Get this done. Get it done before camps open. Let Hamels become comfortable with his teammates and coaches from the get go. Then go win the division
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