My Kingdom for a Cole Hamels!

blob-pulling-hair-out-in-desperation-clipartWhile the headline is a blatant ripoff of Shakespeare’s Richard III, with just about ten days left until the start of the regular season, I’m still having a hard time getting a read on just how good the 2015 Boston Red Sox will be. It certainly looks like the offense is much improved – hell, it would be hard for it not to be. On the other hand, the starting pitching looks like it has the makings of a train wreck – the optimistic headlines of the Red Sox spin doctors aside.

As the spring winds down, Clay Buchholz took the mound Friday and gave up four runs and twelve hits in five innings of work. The headline on the Red Sox website? “Buchholz fans six over five innings.” The quite the optimistic viewpoint considering Boston’s “ace” had a WHIP of darn near three for his five innings of work. Granted, his previous three appearances (spanning a total of ten innings) had been pretty good. Of course, I’d like to see my pitchers getting better with each appearance. But that’s just me.

I know you’re not supposed to make a lot of pitcher stats in spring training, but when your potential five starters have worked a total of 60 innings, given up 73 hits, walked 20 (a 1.55 WHIP), and pitched to a 4.80 ERA, don’t you have a little reason to be concerned?

I wrote earlier that I believe the Red Sox need to make the trade for Cole Hamels. I stick by that. Hamels has had an ERA of 3.06 or lower in four of the last five years. The one year it was higher it was an “astronomical” 3.60.

Look, I like Buchholz and think he’s a decent second or third starter. I think Rick Porcello is very good and would be a great number two. Wade Miley is a number three or four in my book. He eats innings, which is a good thing, but he also allows more runners than the starting line at the Boston Marathon. Justin Masterson is not turning a lot of heads in camp, and Joe Kelly looks like he might be hurt again.

Sox management is singing the company line of “We Don’t Need No Stinking Ace.” I disagree. If you don’t have a pitcher you can look to every fifth day that has the ability to get your team out of a losing streak, you run the risk of having a very long season indeed. I get that you don’t want to trade Mookie Betts. Every day that goes by he’s making that look like an excellent strategy. However, there is more than one way to skin a cat. If it takes Blake Swihart (as much as I’d hate to lose him) and Henry Owens to get it done – get it done. I’m begging you.

 

Curt Schilling and Bloomsburg U. Set Fine Example

Angry_faceIn this day of online nastiness and mob mentality, it has been refreshing in the last month or so to see people fighting back and companies holding people accountable for their thoughtless, hurtful comments.

When Curt Schilling’s daughter was the target of some vulgar tweets after her father announced her decision to play softball at Salve Regina University, he immediately fired back and outed the offenders. One of them fired from their job, another suspended from school, two suspended from their college hockey team, and received letters of apology from several other student-athletes who joined in the “fun”.

He continues to search for the others so that they can be held accountable. The young man fired worked in the ticket office for the New York Yankees. Another was a disc jockey for a community college on Long Island. Schilling named names in some of the cases. He also said he is considering legal options in some cases because many of the tweets were of a sexual nature and his daughter is underage.

“These boys have yet to understand one of life’s most important lessons,” Schilling wrote in his blog. “In the real world you get held accountable for the things you say and if you are not careful that can mean some different things.”

As a father of two daughters (who are now adults), I know exactly how he feels. When my girls were that age, if they had been subjected to that kind of harassment I would go to the ends of the earth to see that those responsible were punished. Frankly, with my temper, it would have been hard for me not to throttle them personally. I am sure it crossed Schilling’s mind too.

I liked Curt Schilling before. I like him even more now.

Just a couple of days ago, a bullet-headed baseball player at Bloomsburg University baseball player posted an offensive tweet when he found out that Disney was considering a movie about Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitcher who took the country by storm in 2014. This rocket scientist actually called her a “slut.” She’s thirteen, for God’s sake! Not that anyone should be called that, but good heaven’s, does this kid’s elevator actually go all the way to the top?

Bloomsburg immediately bounced the offender from the baseball team. Frankly, bouncing him from school would have been more appropriate. Sometimes extreme measures are necessary for people to learn a lesson.

To Davis’s credit, she and her coach actually contacted Bloomsburg President David Soltz to ask him to reconsider and reinstate the miscreant. How’s that for maturity? A 13 year old trying to help out the 20-year-old idiot. Good for her. But what’s wrong with that picture?

Granted, these Mensa candidates mostly did their dirty deeds under their actual names with their pictures attached. That was helpful, but not strictly necessary. Despite what people think, you’re not truly anonymous on the Internet. Even if you create a screen name, you can be traced – and there are plenty of people out there who know how to do it.

I would love to see examples like this become the norm rather than the exception. If more people start to fight back and hold people accountable for these attacks, perhaps we’ll start to see a swing in the other direction.

I’m not holding my breath, but it has to start somewhere.

The Yard Goats? Really?

goatIt was announced this afternoon that The Eastern League minor league baseball team that starts play in Hartford next season will be known as the Yard Goats. Man, I am sure the local Chamber of Commerce can’t wait to get behind that one!

It’s got to go down as one of the most ridiculous nicknames since the Montgomery Biscuits began play in the Southern League. Heck, at least I like biscuits!

The name harkens back to the old days of the railroad. A “yard goat” is the slang term for an engine that switches a train to get it ready for another locomotive. It is true that Hartford has a rich rail history, but here’s the problem – if you have to explain what your mascot means, or why you chose it, you’ve already lost! All people are going to see is a big-headed goat mascot on the field, and just assume the people of Connecticut really like Capra aegagrus hircus. The owners might as well have named the team the jackasses, because that’s exactly what people are going to think we are.

Look, the Rock Cats (the team’s current name while they finish play in New Britain this season) is a pretty stupid name too, but after twenty years it has kinda grown on people.

I get that you want to have something people will remember, but there were MUCH better choices than this. Some of those even made the top ten (Screech Owls, Blue Frogs), some of them didn’t (Huckleberries), and some people – including me – wanted a nod to Hartford’s strong baseball history (Dark Blues, Laurels, Bees).

Baseball began in Hartford in 1876, hosting one of the charter teams in the National League, the Dark Blues, and New Britain’s move to Hartford will return baseball there for the first time since 1952. Baseball legends such as Connie Mack, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, and Warren Spahn all played in Hartford. Mark Twain called Hartford home. They may all be whirling dervishly in their graves after today’s announcement.

If I had a grave, I would be.

Cubs Doing the Right Thing by Waiting on Kris Bryant

Cubs logoI think we can all agree on one thing – baseball is a big business. As such, owners have to do what makes the most business sense for their teams. Right? Just as they’re not going to sell tickets for $2 to try to meet a $100 million payroll, the Chicago Cubs aren’t going to shoot themselves in the foot and allow top prospect Kris Bryant the opportunity to leave their team a minute earlier than they have to.

A quick review… Bryant, a third baseman out of the University of San Diego, is considered the top minor league prospect by Baseball America and just about everyone else who follows the game. He hit .295 with a 1.037 OPS at AAA Iowa last season, and is tearing up Spring Training pitching this season with six homers and a batting average north of .300. Sounds like a no-brainer that he should start the season with the big club, right? Wrong. Here’s why:

Once Bryant, who by the way is only 23, has 172 days of service time in the bigs his “clock” starts and he’s given credit for a full year in MLB. Once he gets six years over service time, he’s eligible to become a free agent. If he’s everything people think he is, that means in six years he’s going to command a monopoly-money salary – something north of $30 million a year. However, if the Cubs wait for a 2-3 weeks to bring Bryant to the big league club, he can’t accrue 172 days this season, which means he won’t get credit for a year of service until AFTER his second year. In effect, it means the Cubs would have him for seven years before he’s eligible to be a free agent.

Now before you start screaming “that’s not fair,” ask yourself how you felt the last time one of the best players on your favorite team left for a big paycheck somewhere. If you’re a Cub fan, you want Bryant there as long as possible. So why not bite the bullet for 15-20 games?

Just as players have the opportunity to make as much money as they can during their career (and God knows they make a ton), owners have the same right to make as much money and control players on their teams within the framework of the Collective Bargaining Agreement as long as possible. We are not talking about a throwback to the days of old when players were essentially indentured servants. We are talking about a few weeks in exchange for an extra year. After that, Bryant will still be plenty young enough to go out on the market and make a fortune.

As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I understand how Cub fans feel and how anxious they are to win their first World Series since Washington chopped down the cherry tree. But take a step back, take a deep breath, and realize we’re talking about a few weeks. That still gives Bryant plenty of time to contribute to a potential post-season run.

The Cubs owners are being smart. Relax.

Castillo’s Injury Leaves Door Open For Craig

Boston-Red-Sox-LogoWith Rusney Castillo down with an oblique strain, it appears that the Cuban who was supposed to challenge Mookie Betts for the starting job in center may have to start the season in the minor leagues. That could be great news for Allen Craig.

I am assuming here that Boston will carry five true outfielders. Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Shane Victorino are givens. I also think (and hope) that Daniel Nava will be coming north with the big club, and Jackie Bradley Jr. is going to need a monster spring to make the team. I just don’t think his bat is good enough.

That leaves just one spot. Craig appeared to be the odd man out. Yes, I know he can also play first base, but so can super sub Brock Holt. Castillo’s injury makes it almost imperative that he start the season in AAA. He barely had a cup of coffee in the Majors after signing late last year and his winter ball activities didn’t make him MLB ready either. He needs reps every day against good pitching, and the longer he goes in the spring without playing makes that less and less likely.

If nothing else, making that move will give Craig a chance to showcase what he can do and prove that he is the player he was in 2012 and 2013 with the Cardinals. If he can it makes him a very valuable commodity in the trade market.