Red Sox Double Down for Moncada

Moncada

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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Red Sox Magic Number? Its 62

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates
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.

Flash

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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Butchie Says: Red Sox what’s The Hold up?

cole-hamels

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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Butchie Says: what Would Jackie Say?

Little League International has stripped Jackie Robinson West of its United States Title. Yes the team that proudly bore the name of the most important player in baseball history, the man who ended segregation in baseball. Jackie Robinson West was found to be guilty of its own twisted brand of segregation when they excluded ballplayers who rightfully belonged on that team and left its district to put together a super team that blew away the competition by eliminating it. Not on the field but in the selection process that assembled this lineup and sent it on it’s way to Williams Port. On its way to a title they didn’t deserve.

By now you have all read and have come to your own conclusions but allow me to give you just a little bit of inside Little League info. I have been a part of Little League for a great portion of my life, as player coach and local board member. District lines are put in place to assure that things like this don’t happen, that super teams are never assembled, that kids aren’t left out. In my town we work hard to evenly distribute talent. On the league level teams are redrafted every year, there are pros and cons to this but in the end it works well. No team ends up 22-0 and no team ends up 0-22. This is what Little League is about. Fair play and instilling a love of the game in the next generations of baseball fans not baseball players. This wasn’t the mission of Chicago West Manager, Darold Butler and district administrator Michael Kelly who let fair play take a back seat and showed these kids that winning is what drives the bus. While many are talking about the severity of Little Leagues governing body’s punishment I don’t think it was harsh enough. Kelly, Butler and every coach, board member and parent who was involved in this should be banned from Little League, have to apologize to each team and coach who they cheated out of an opportunity to advance in All-star play, the kids whose rightful places they took on that Jackie Robison West team. And most of all to Jackie Robinson’s Widow Rachel his children Sharon, David and Jackie Jr. for the way they dishonored the most iconic name in baseball.

So I have no answer for Butchie, not this time. I cant speak for Jackie. But those “adults” could have.

follow/Give Me grief on Twitter @Tmurph207

Fansettters Magazine!

We at Sports Infusion are pleased to announce that our own Pamela Michelle is now managing editor at Fansetters Magazine!

Fansetters is a unique publication honoring fans, and their passion for their favorite teams, and sports.

Make sure you give them a follow on twitter @fansettersSport and checkout their website for the newest edition of the magazine. Featuring Tom Brady on the cover of the Super Bowl edition! Along with stories about motivational speaker and for NFL wide receiver JJ Birden, comedian and NFL DB Tim Mctyre, Writer Ryan Riddle, and a Q&A with the mulit-talented  play by play guy for ESPN 3  and radio host on Boston Herald Radio, also heard on WEEI Boston Chris Villani.

Head over to www.fansetters.com for all of these stories and more!

Monster Keys to Superbowl XLIX

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Who would have thought after week four that the Patriots would be here now? The Pats team that limped out of KC looked nothing like the one that’s in Arizona today. Like Halloween candy, long gone are the trades and cuts that were the conversation of weeks zero through five. The talk of Brady being washed up and speculation that it was already Jimmy G time had been carved up along with the Thanksgiving turkey, and by Christmas the topic of conversation was who should be MVP Gronk or Tommy? The ghosts of playoffs past were exorcized in January’s New Years party and all that’s left is taking care of February and brining home the roses and Lombardi. Here are my Keys to the Pats doing just that.

Ground and Pound: I know how daunting the Seahawks run defense has been over the course of the season, but over the past two weeks they have been giving up serious real-estate to both the Panthers (132) and the Packers (135). When this game is over, I want the Seattle Fans to replace the nightmare of Bo Jackson with Day Terrors of LeGarrette Blount. Use heavy run sets – two and even three TE formations. Run Blount between the tackles and to the edge. Force this Seattle defense to respect this aspect of the Patriots game. Get Blount running down hill and open up play action.

Win the Turnover Battle: you knew this was coming – it’s not your first rodeo.

Tank Sherman: Richard Sherman reminds me of the old NHL slot hockey game. You know, the one your dad or granddad had when they were kids. Metal hockey players on a rink that just move up and down the ice in a single line and cant move out of their slots. People like to say Sherman cuts the field by a third, well that’s foolish – he takes away 10 square yards around him. Yes, throwing into that is foolish, but the way you combat it is with go-routes. Time and again I want to see whoever Bill decides to put on Sherman (see Sherman doesn’t get put on anyone) run Go’s. Remove him from the equation and throw the ball underneath his coverage.

Bunch Up: The Seahawks like to jam receivers at the line. The way to battle this is with motion and bunching your receiver groups. Get Gronk moving into stack looks so he can move freely and Tom can either hit him in the seams or use the confusion of the stack to find LaFell, Amendola and Edelman on slants to move the chains.

Contain Wilson: Russell Wilson will make thirty yards out of nothing faster than I can misspell Mike Francesca. If you allow him out of the pocket he will kill you with his legs. If you give up on your coverage to stop him, he will make you pay with his touch. What the Pats need to do is rush a four-man front, keeping Wilson in front of them and eliminating his escape to the outside. Pick their spots to blitz Collins and Hightower and force him to throw the ball where the Patriots are strongest.

Leash the Beast: Yeah, easier said than done. It’s paramount the Patriots stop Marshawn Lynch at the point of contact this Sunday. Putting eight in the box on early downs and letting Jamie Collins spy Lynch can get the party started but Patrick Chung and the rest of the minions need to gang tackle Lynch and keep him from busting this game open in 6 seconds …or less.

MVP: Forget about it. Don’t try to be the hero. Let the game come to you and don’t force the issue. “Do your Job” and don’t worry about the other guys.

FLM: Fast, Lose and Mean. This is the attitude I want to see from this Patriots Team on both sides of the ball. From the moment they come out of the tunnel until the final gun it is them against the world, play that way.

That’s it folks. My last set of keys for the season. I’ve sure had a lot of fun writing them and I want to thank you all for coming back week after week. Will Bill listen to me? Probably not, but as long as he is hoisting that trophy Sunday night…who cares?

Follow/Give Me Grief on twitter @Tmurph207

Of Patriots And Shenanigans

When this Deflate-Gate story broke late Sunday night I said to myself, why the hell didn’t I go to bed early? I had no deadline to meet, no need to rerun this epic blowout and dissect this that or the other thing to see just how Bill and Tom had once again spanked the Geldings. I was happy. So happy in fact, that you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face if you tried. Two weeks of bliss were staring me in the face. The Pats are back in the Superbowl. Stories of Tom Brady making his record setting sixth trip to the worlds biggest dance, who’s the better CB Revis or Sherman and LeGarrette Blount’s late season signing were in my future. I was looking forward to interviewing and not getting answers from Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks game film was my must see TV – now I have to deal with Deflate-Gate. Thanks Bill.

Deflate-Gate is a non-story. I’ve heard NFL insiders, talking heads and former players equating this transgression to Bounty-Gate. How you make the jump from a better grip on a football to a conspiracy to maim and injure human beings for cash is beyond me. And to pound your fist on what ever table you maybe be sitting at clamoring for the same punishment is ridiculous.

So why are you here? Why are you reading me this morning? Its obvious that I don’t care the least bit or feel it gave Tom Brady a significant advantage Sunday or any day for that matter. It is well known and has been admitted to that every QB in the league has a preference in how they like their footballs. That’s why each team gets their own set to doctor, rough up and get ready every Sunday. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady lobbied the NFL for this right. Aaron Rodgers has said “ I try to get over inflated balls past inspection”. And any QB you hand a microphone to has said “sure, we all do this”.

So why? Because I’m sick and tired of having to defend Bill Belichick and this kind of garbage. I’m tired of having to defend his and the Patriots integrity. To this day, every time I’m asked on a radio show, I’m grilled about camera placement and game film. I’m reminded that the Pats haven’t won a Superbowl since “spy-gate”. I have to remind radio-hosts, football fans and my readers that some of the best coaches in league history said, “hey, we did this too” and that a Superbowl walk trough was never taped and retractions had to be written. It makes no difference that the Pats have played in six AFC title games and now won three.

Bill has to know this team has to do it cleaner than everyone else. Has to know that while he can push the line, he can’t cross it. He has to realize while he could care less what everyone thinks, WE DON’T. He has to realize ” Because Everyone is doing it, wont get the Patriots Cut any slack. Once again, Bill, your arrogance has sucked the fun out of one of the things I love most in life. It’s easy for you to stand behind your podium, roll your eyes and grumble under your breath at reporters afraid to ask the tough follow-ups. It’s easy for you to toss out “we’re on to (Insert team Here)”. Easy because you live in the ivory tower. Easy because you just don’t care. Easy because the rest of us are fighting your battles for you…well I’m tired of it.

Follow/give Me Grief on Twitter @Tmurph207

Monster Keys to The AFC Title

more Gronk

Monster Keys to AFC Title

It’s 2am Friday morning. My wife and kids are asleep and I’m writing this column for the umpteenth time. ( I think you deserve that kind of effort) The only other person up thinking about Sunday’s match-up between the Pats and the Colts is Bill Belichick. At least I’d like to think so. I’d like to think Bill has gone over and over his game plan, ran it through his mind, adding this and removing that. Thinking of every scenario then rethinking them and finally (Like Me) telling himself to stop over thinking it all. After all, he has owned this Andrew Luck-led Colts team like no one has ever owned an opposing QB. In the three games the Pats have squared off against the Luck-led Colts, the Pats have beaten them by 21, 22 and 35 points. As my childhood hero Darth Vader would say…Impressive- Most Impressive. But those were the last three games – and Sunday is not any of them and no matter how deeply we want it to be. There is no guarantee the Pats will rack up anywhere close to the 200 average rushing yards per they have in those contests…there is no guarantee that Luck will again toss multiple INT’s…and there is no guarantee the Pats will come close to a 35, 22 or even 21 point victory. I don’t know about you, but I’d go home happy winning by ONE. Here are my Keys to the Pats being just one point better.

The Quick and the Dead: Fist quarter scores have been less than abundant for the Pats lately. Sunday it’s going to be important to jump out fast and get those elusive early scores. Get Luck thinking from the get go that he’s going to have to make plays that aren’t there to be made.

Lights Camera Play-Action: Where has this teams running attack gone? I don’t know – who else would tell you that? Its easy to blame injuries to the line and being down fourteen points to the Ravens not once but twice. Any way you try to explain it away, it can’t happen this Sunday. The Pats need to establish the threat of a run game to get these Colts to bite and give Brady room to work across the middle.

P.S. I’m done caring who runs the ball…just run the damn ball!

GRONK ON: Rob Gronkowski had 70 yards and a score before showing Sergio Brown to the door in week 11. I’m predicting a huge game from the G-man. If Sergio Brown is going to start yapping at your favorite bouncer again Sunday, I hope Mr.G shows him out of the club well before closing time.

Hey Large People: Do your Job. Yes, I’m talking about the large men on the defensive line – the ones who showed up late to work last week. Shut down the run and turn this game into a Luckless show.

Mixology: Patricia needs to mix up Luck, keep him guessing as to what coverage’s he’s seeing – keep him off balance and make him think at the line.

Secondary Thoughts: Revis and Browner are not the issue. Who’s on Hilton and who’s on Moncrief is not the problem. Jam the Colts wideouts at the line – move them off their routes, see no problem. The problem is who’s covering Fleener and Allen. Jamie Collins and our old friend Patrick Chung are going to need to be hard hitting at the line of scrimmage and help is going to have to come from over the top to contain these two weapons. Amd keep their YAC down.

Win The Turnover Battle: I save the best for last …were you nervous? Did you think I forgot? Not in this lifetime.

That’s it folks – the key ring is full this week. Lets see if Bill and Company uses them to lock and unlock the right doors and get this Patriots team back to the Superbowl.

Follow.Give Me Grief on Twitter @Tmurph207

Monster Keys to Patriots Ravens

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To call the Patriots journey to twelve and four interesting would be an understatement. Week three reports of Tom Brady’s demise were greatly exaggerated. In week five, Rob Gronkowski answered the lack of weapons question and the quest for the missing Dante Scarnecchia was called off in week six. By week eight, this Patriots team was clicking on all cylinders and the only question that remained was should Brady or Gronk be named the leagues MVP. In the blink of an eye Belichick and Brady took this team from an episode of American Horror Story to another AFC East title and a date with The Ravens. Here are my Keys to Patriots victory.

Show Up: not just show up – but show up. There is a difference people. I want to see that look on Tom Brady’s face, that pissed off take no prisoners look Brady wears out of the tunnel that spreads across both sides of the ball and into the stands at Gillette.

Spread Them Thin: empty the back field, spread Vereen out wide and pick apart the Ravens secondary like a group of six year olds you left alone with a bag of Oreos.

Gronk Up Son, Gronk Up: Self-explanatory? Ok I’ll go deeper. I’m not breaking any news here or selling state secrets – Rob Gronkowski is the most devastating weapon in football. Use him, use him early, use him often,use him with reckless abandon, Use him to drag coverage away from Edelman, LaFell and yes, Amendola.

Win the Turnover Battle: Yeah, every week. Not jinxing this one by leaving it out.

Roll with Blount: Once the Pats have the Ravens on their heels, start pounding. Yes we used the pass to set up the run. WOW I’m such a genius.

Stack that Line: Justin Forsett is not Ray Rice (I’m sure his wife likes that fact) but so should the Pats. Forsett has been worked to death – 235 rushing attempts this season. Stack the line and make this team one-dimensional.

BLITZ, BLITZ and Blitz some more: the Patriots have the personnel to do this, the Ravens don’t have the personnel to stop them. Twenty years from now, I want to hear about the nightmares Flacco is still having after this Saturdays game.

Everyone has a plan: Until they get smacked in the mouth. The Law Firm of Smith & Smith have a plan – Revis and Browner need to smack them in the mouth. Beat up Steve and Tory at the line. Give Jones, Collins and Hightower time to get into Flacco’s face and get him on the turf.

That’s it folks. Simple isn’t it? Lets see if Belichick & Co will take my advise. And move on.

Follow/give me grief on Twitter @Tmurph207

Monster Hall Of Fame Ballot

Monster Hall Of Fame Ballot

The Hall Of Fame, I don’t know if you dreamt about your induction but I did. I was nine years old when I wrote my induction speech. I wrote down who I would thank and who I thought I would go in with. Most of those names you wouldn’t know because I played little league with them, one you would. But I knew someday we would all be in the bigs and I knew we would get our day at Cooperstown. Now some forty years later I couldn’t fathom what’s going through the minds of the men on this ballot – to be at the cusp of being remembered as one of the best of the best – the greatest of all time. To be spoken about in the same breath as Williams, Ruth, Cobb and DiMaggio. I guess you need to be a nine year old to put yourself in these men’s shoes. Ignorance is bliss, but here I am – gone are the days of ignorance – gone are the hero’s I grew up watching, whether inducted or moved off the ballot. What is left are the players of my discerning eye – the men I know belong or not. The voting members of the BBWAA have ten votes. I’m going to use their outline and the Hall’s criteria.If you agree with me great, if not – even better. That’s what makes baseball the best game in the world.

1) Pedro Martinez, SP: Pedro is the greatest pitcher I’ve ever seen. Even with his plaque proudly displayed in Cooperstown, I’m afraid that his greatness will be lost to the sands of time. The things Pedro did, in the era he did them, in the division he dominated, in the ballpark he owned won’t properly be remembered.

2) John Smoltz, SP/RP/SP: John Smoltz may be the most unselfish pitcher that ever took the mound in MLB history. Well on his way to a HOF career as a starter, he answered the call when his team asked him to move to the bullpen to close – 213 wins, 154 saves – and one of the most clutch post season pitchers of his or any era.

3) Randy Johnson, SP: 303 wins 4,874 strikeouts. Oh and five Cy young awards. That was easy.

4) Jeff Kent, 2B: Jeff Kent is the best power hitting second baseman of his era. No second baseman has hit more HR (377) than Jeff Kent. He’s better than Sandburg better than Morgan. He’s an MVP and finished in the top 10 three other times. Three silver sluggers…better than Biggio.

5) Tim Raines, LF: There is one person I would rather have leadoff a team I owned – Ricky Henderson. That’s it. Tim Raines got on base and changed the game when he did. He had 808 stolen bases and averaged 100 runs a year and over 60 RBI as a leadoff man. If you watched Tim Raines play you know. You just know.

6) Fred Mcgriff, 1B: Until quite recently, I sat on the fence when it came to the man they called “ The Crime Dog”. What swayed me – 32/102 his career average HR and RBI numbers. Six times he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting during an era where you needed a lot more than 30 and 100 to have any chance to get the MVP. With 493 HRs, I won’t keep a man out because he fell short by 7 round trips.

7) Allen Trammell-Detroit Tigers, SS: Did you notice, the only player on my ballot who has his team next to his name is Allen Trammell. For twenty years, Allen Trammell’s name was penciled in at SS for the Tigers – Twenty. Trammell won four gold gloves (and should have won more) and was an All Star five times. Trammels sin was he played in the same era as Ripkin, Smith and Yount. Then he was lost in the explosion of the Nomar, Alex Roid and Tejada era. When I think of Allen Trammel and I think of Cooperstown, I smile and nod. That’s the real test.

8) Mike Piazza C: More HR than ANY catcher in history. ANY. A stright decade of Silver Slugger Awards, a Decade and a half of All Star games in his prime he was in every MVP race. As a Catcher.

9) Jeff Bagwell 1B Houston Astros: for 15 years Jeff Bagwell pounded balls out of one of the most cavernous ballparks that was ever constructer (The Astro Dome) when thinking about Bagwell im shocked he was an all Star just six times, if he had played in Boston (like he should have) LA or NYC he would have been canonized. But he played in Houston. Now he will live forever in Cooperstown. Ask me someday how Jeff ended my baseball life.

10) Curt Schilling SP: the Post Season counts people. When the calendar turns with the leaves and the post season is on the line Curt Schilling was the man you wanted taking the mound, five times he took the hill with his team facing elimination. His team won all five of those games. Bloody Sock aside 11-2 and a 2.22 ERA in the post season. Kiss the Rings

That’s it folks I only get ten votes and I took them all, I think every one of these men deserve to be in , I know they all wont. Ain’t that a shame

Follow/give me grief on Twitter @Tmurph207