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American League

Better Late Than Never: Martinez Is Whom Boston Needed

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On August 21, 2006, JD Martinez spent his 19th birthday at Fenway Park watching North America’s greatest sports rivalry. His sister Mayra’s present to him was seats at the game that she got from then-Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, whose family she worked with. 12 years later, Martinez finds himself at the Fens once again, but this time he’ll be on the field.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski officially introduced right fielder/designated hitter Martinez this morning at Boston’s Spring Training compound in Fort Myers, Florida, one week after the now-30-year-old agreed to a five-year, $110 million contract. Funny enough, Martinez’ new manager was Boston’s starting shortstop that day in 2006, Alex Cora.

“Football has Monday night; they say Fenway is like Monday Night Football every night,” said Martinez at the introductory presser. “To play in front of fans this passionate and who love the game as much as I do is exciting.”

Though widely expected from fans and media alike, it seemed at points like an agreement would never be reached. Both sides made the MLB universe sweat it out through rampant negotiations that lasted almost all winter, but it worked out it in the end. It’s a deal the Red Sox needed to make and passing Martinez up would have been a gargantuan mistake.

A drastic decrease in home run output in 2017 made it evident that the Red Sox needed a new big bat. Arch rival New York acquiring reigning home run king Giancarlo Stanton from Miami all but forced Dombrowski’s hand, and though it took until after Spring Training began, he did not disappoint and proved that the Red Sox aren’t messing around either.

Splitting 2017 between Detroit and Arizona, Martinez is coming off the finest season of his career, finishing third in the MLB behind Stanton and Aaron Judge with 45 homers alongside a .303 AVG, 104 RBI and a 1.066 OPS. Reestablishing himself as an elite threat after an elbow injury derailed him in 2016, Martinez is tasked with bringing Boston’s trademark power back to life after it went MIA in the team’s first season without David Ortiz in 14 years.

The stellar pitching of Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz was enough to make up for the outage, even with David Price being lost for more than half the season and Rick Porcello suffering from the proverbial Cy Young hangover. However, the Red Sox can’t afford to rely on pitching alone now that the only team they will contend for the AL East with has Stanton, Judge and Gary Sanchez, who hit a combined 137 homers in 2017, in one lineup. After swatting 45 of his own between the Tigers and D-Backs, Martinez should have no issue fitting in in the hitter-friendly confines of Fenway.

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Martinez was all smiles on Monday as he finally got to put on his Red Sox jersey. (USA Today)

The newest Red Sock isn’t coming to America’s Most Beloved Ballpark to lead the MLB in homers, but rather to put some badly needed oomph back into the Red Sox lineup, which should take pressure off key players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts and youngbloods Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.

Well-rounded production from an entire team is never a bad thing and it’s what Boston relied on last season, but it’s not bad either to have a big bat to lean on when the game is on the line. For 14 years that guy for Boston was Big Papi, and the team hopes the man known as Julio Daniel can help fill that void to allow other players a chance to bounce back.

The signing does create a bit of a logjam for rookie manager Cora. Rather than pursue Eric Hosmer, Boston resigned 1B Mitch Moreland for two years. But, according to Boston’s MLB.com reporter Ian Browne, Hanley Ramirez will be Boston’s primary first baseman this season after spending 2017 at DH. If this is true, then Moreland’s resigning is something of a head-scratcher. Why resign the lefty to a two-year, $13 million deal  if the plan was to make Hanley the guy all along?

However, sending Hanley back to the infield is a wise move for Cora. Ramirez performed very well at first base in 2016, his debut year at the position,  playing solid defense while smacking 30 homers and 111 RBI. Moving Ramirez back to first gives him the opportunity to rediscover that magic after shoulder injuries plagued him last year, limiting him to 62 RBI. And, more importantly, it will allow Martinez to be the sole DH, which is the only place he fits right now.

The odds of the team sending Martinez to his natural right field aren’t high at all. Pesky’s corner of the outfield at Fenway is going to be owned by Mookie for a long time to come and Boston isn’t likely to destruct the other two-thirds of its own version of the Killer B’s to make room. Betts, 2017 Rookie of the Year runner-up Benintendi and defensive wizard Jackie Bradley Jr. combine to form one of baseball’s best outfields, there’s simply no room for Martinez there.

There’s a chance that Martinez’ numbers could drop a bit as he adjusts to being a full time DH, but his impact potential is still incredibly high. He gives the Red Sox another proven bat that can hit for both power and contact and will fit nicely in the order around Bogaerts and Betts. For a team that already has one of baseball’s best rotations (Sale, Price, Pomeranz, Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez), the addition of Martinez makes the sky the limit in Beantown.

Stanton to the Yankees may have been this offseason’s biggest move, but Martinez’ signing proves that Boston is not intent on being overshadowed by its storied foes. After The Rivalry lay dormant for the better part of 10 years, Yankees- Red Sox is guaranteed to be the game to watch every time these teams meet this season.

American League

Rangers’ Part Ways with Pitching Coach Doug Brocail

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The Texas Rangers have parted ways with pitching coach Doug Brocail as they continue to analyze their current staff during their transition to new manager Chris Woodward, according to MLB.com’s TR Sullivan.

Brocail had been the team’s pitching coach for the past three seasons after taking over for Mike Maddux following the 2015 season. Prior to taking the Rangers job, he worked in the Houston Astros organization as a pitching coach.

 

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American League

Red Sox Steven Wright Undergoes Knee Surgery

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Boston Red Sox right hander Steven Wright has undergone surgery on his left knee, receiving an arthroscopy and debridement on the joint, according to an official team announcement on Tuesday.

Wright “will continue to rehab and prepare for a return to pitching in the 2019 season”, and will address issues that Wright had reportedly long been dealing with.

Wright posted a  2.68 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 26 walks for Boston this season.

 

 

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American League

2018 Home Run Daily MLB Awards

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Sports Illustrated

Awards week 2018 in Major League Baseball will draw as much intrigue as any of its predecessors. A compelling race for Manager of the Year and the Cy Young Award have people’s attention on the National League side and I’m sure that everyone is eager to see the outcome of the American League’s Most Valuable Player vote as well.

With the week set to kick off tomorrow night with the Rookie of the Year honors, here are Home Run Daily’s Award winners for the 2018 MLB season.

Comeback Player of the Year:

NL: Matt Kemp, OF- Dodgers

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The 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers were nowhere near as impressive or dominant as their 2017 counterpart but still reached the World Series for the second straight year. The man largely responsible for that is Matt Kemp, for it seemed as if he was the only one on the team producing at many points. Driving in 85 runs on top of a .290 AVG and 21 HR, Kemp was named an All-Star for the first time since 2012 and proved that the Dodgers made the right choice in bringing him back. After bouncing around from San Diego and Atlanta before returning to LA last season, Kemp exorcised the demons of many frustrating seasons this year and proved that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

AL: Xander Bogaerts, SS- Red Sox

Bogaerts was hit on the right wrist by a pitch against Tampa Bay on July 6, 2017 and suffered a sprained joint. He elected to not be put on the disabled list, and the decision effectively torpedoed his season. The consistent offense Red Sox fans had become accustomed to seeing from him went MIA as he finished the year batting .273 with just 10 homers. Bogaerts himself admitted that playing with the injury was a mistake, but he atoned for it this year, bouncing back with one of the best years of his still young career. The Aruban batted .288 and posted career highs in both homers (23) and RBI (103). The MLB is currently loaded with eons of talented young shortstops: Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Ozzie Albies, just to name a few. Bogaerts showed any doubters this year that he still belongs in that conversation.

Rookie of the Year:

AL: Finalists- Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS- Yankees, Shohei Ohtani,  RHP/DH- Angels, Miguel Andujar, 3B- Yankees

Our pick: Miguel Andujar

In a season where all the hype for the New York Yankees was surrounding Giancarlo Stanton and fellow rookie Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar stole the spotlight. He was arguably the team’s most consistent force throughout the season when considering that Stanton under-performed and Aaron Judge was lost for a lengthy stretch due to injury. For the season, Andujar batted .297 with 27 HR, 92 RBI and 47 doubles, the last of which broke the Yankees’ rookie record held by the legendary Joe DiMaggio. That’s pretty elite company to be in, especially as a 23-year-old. The Yankees will look to add a shortstop this offseason with Didi Gregorious losing 2019 to Tommy John surgery, but it’s safe to say Andujar has the hot corner locked up.

NL: Finalists- Juan Soto- OF, Nationals, Walker Buehler, RHP- Dodgers, Ronald Acuna, OF- Braves

Our pick: Ronald Acuna

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Entering 2018, the hype was there and then some for no. 2 overall prospect Ronald Acuna, and when he was called up on April 25, he delivered as expected. The 20-year-old Venezuelan wasted no time in showing why he’s considered to be a future face of the game, wowing fans with his play on both sides of the ball and helping spark the upstart Braves to their first NL East title since 2013. Acuna batted .293 with 26 HR and 64 RBI in addition to 16 stolen bases.  He also made the highlight reel in playoffs with an impressive grand slam in Game 3 of the NLDS off fellow nominee Walker Buehler. Numbers like that from a kid not even old enough to drink in the United States tell you something: this guy is going to be a freak.

Manager of the Year

NL Finalists: Bud Black- Rockies, Brian Snitker- Braves, Craig Counsell- Brewers

Our pick: Brian Snitker

The Milwaukee Brewers have always been my NL team, and as such I want oh so badly to give this one to Counsell, who led the Brewers on an incredible run. However, the most truly deserving nominee is Atlanta’s Brian Snitker. The Braves were considered to still be in the process of rebuilding entering the 2018 season and were not expected to be contenders. However, propelled by the efforts of Acuna, Albies, Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and Mike Foltynewicz, the Bravos turned nearly every head in baseball and won the NL East from rival and perennial winner Washington. Considering that he was thought of as just an interim piece when Atlanta promoted him from Triple-A following Fredi Gonzalez’ 2016 firing, Snitker’s success with the Braves is remarkable. Leading such a young and unproven team to a division championship is impressive for any manager. Thanks in part to Snitker’s efforts, baseball is quickly returning to prominence in Georgia.

AL Finalists: Bob Melvin- Athletics, Alex Cora, Red Sox, Kevin Cash- Rays

Our pick: Bob Melvin

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Under Melvin, the Athletics were one of the game’s best teams from 2012 to 2014, but the team fell rapidly afterwards, so much so that it’s a bit surprising he was never fired. However, the 2018 A’s showed glimpses of the team of old and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Despite what can be argued as a lack of talent on paper, Oakland was a revelation this season and finished second only to the defending World Champion Astros in the West. Matt Chapman, Khris Davis and Sean Manaea led the way on the field, but Melvin’s savvy and intuitive leadership was the true reason behind Oakland’s appearance in the Wild Card game. This would be Melvin’s third Manager of the Year crown. Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash could be a major dark horse here, however, as he led the Rays to their first winning record in five years despite an egregious lack of talent and fan investment.

Cy Young Award

AL Finalists: Corey Kluber, RHP- Indians, Blake Snell, LHP- Rays, Justin Verlander, RHP- Astros

Our winner: Blake Snell

Before this season, fans and critics alike could tell that the ability was there for Rays LHP Blake Snell, he just needed fine-tuning. And a demotion to Triple-A proved to be just that. Since he returned to the majors in June of last season Snell has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, and 2018 served as his coming out party. An MLB best 21 wins and .178 BAA coupled with an AL best 1.89 ERA make the man known as Snellzilla the easy favorite for the award, even though he’s matched up against bigger names in Kluber and Verlander. Despite missing the playoffs, the Rays were one of the surprises of the year in the American League and actually finished with less losses than AL Central winner Cleveland. Snell’s breakout year led the way and gave the team enough confidence to trade former ace Chris Archer to Pittsburgh. If Tampa Bay continues to surge, it will be Snell at the helm.

NL Finalists: Jacob deGrom, RHP- Mets, Max Scherzer, RHP- Nationals, Aaron Nola, RHP- Phillies.

Our winner- Jacob deGrom

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This is the most intriguing race of the year without question. Though Nola had a terrific season for Philly, the NL Cy Young is a two-horse race between Scherzer and deGrom. Scherzer by far has the all-around better line of stats, with an NL leading 300 Ks, 18 wins, .188 BAA and 220 IP. His division rival has him by the throat in one area, however, and it could be the difference maker. deGrom’s ERA of 1.70 was the best in the MLB and the lowest a qualifying pitcher has finished with since Zack Greinke’s 1.66 in 2015. That still wasn’t his most impressive achievement this season, that honor goes to his streak of 25 consecutive starts allowing three runs or less that broke a 108-year-old MLB record. If that still doesn’t convince you, remember that he would be 30-0 if the Mets had scored four runs in each of his starts. Scherzer’s all-around line may be more impressive, but it is deGrom who is the most impressive finalist.

MVP:

NL Finalists: Christian Yelich, OF- Brewers, Nolan Arenado, 3B- Rockies, Javier Baez, 2B- Cubs

Our pick: Christian Yelich

The Miami Marlins unloaded their talented outfield in the winter of 2017, sending Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, Marcel Ozuna to the Cardinals and Christian Yelich to the Brewers. Milwaukee invested top prospect Lewis Brinson and many others in the Yelich trade, so it obviously had high hopes, but anyone see them paying off like this? Getting out of Miami turned out being the best thing that ever happened to Yelich, as a better supporting cast helped him finally unleash his potential. Leading the NL with a .326 batting average while finishing second in RBI with 111 and third in homers with 36, the 26-year-old also hit for the cycle twice in a three week span. He was awarded his first Silver Slugger and Hank Aaron Awards after the season, during which he was the centerpiece of Milwaukee’s run to its first playoff and NLCS appearance in seven years. Baez and Arenado had reliably strong seasons, but Yelich is the runaway favorite here.

AL Finalists: Mike Trout, CF- Angels, Jose Ramirez, 3B- Indians, Mookie Betts, RF- Red Sox.

Our pick: Mookie Betts

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Much like Yelich, Mookie Betts checked nearly every box in 2018 and continued to rival fellow nominee Trout for the title of the best in baseball. Betts led the MLB with a .346 AVG and .640 slugging % alongside 32 HR and 30 stolen bases, making him just the second Red Sox ever after Jacoby Ellsbury in 2011 to join the 30-30 Club. He also hit for the cycle and led the MLB in its favorite statistic with a 10.9 WAR, which alone is enough to win him MVP in today’s game. Trout is a favorite every year and beat out Betts for MVP in 2016 in an underwhelming decision, but Betts has the advantage this time. On top of his formidable performance, he was also the most consistent offensive player in the game this year, more so even than teammate JD Martinez, who nearly won the Triple Crown. As the centerpiece of Boston’s 2018 World Championship, Betts did pretty much everything a hitter can do this year and will more than likely take home his first career MVP on Thursday.

Agree/disagree? What are your selections?

As previously mentioned, Awards Week begins tomorrow with Rookie of the Year, then continues with Manager of the Year on Tuesday and Cy Young on Wednesday before concluding with MVP on Thursday. Be sure to tune into MLB network each night to see how the BBWAA votes!

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