There has been a shift in baseball fandom as of late that seems to necessitate that a fan must A.) enjoy baseball for no team besides their own, and B.) only care about the winning percentage, regardless of how it affects the clubhouse.
You can’t spend more than 5 minutes in any fan group on social media without the masses crying for a player to be traded or sent to the minors after what statistically amounts to a few bad outings. Fans tend to forget the players and managers are fallible people and like everyone else, prone to making mistakes. Calling for their hopes and dreams to torn away from them because their batting average hasn’t been at league-high levels or because an injury takes them out of the lineup is both ignorant and asinine.
Let’s take Dustin Pedroia, for example. A Boston player through and through, Pedroia has given what basically amounts to his life to the city and the team, but even that won’t catch him a break as injuries cause his eventual spiral towards retirement.
His case is the perfect example of fan fickleness. Pedroia has put his health on the line for his team, he uprooted his family and, as a 4x All-Star and AL MVP, went back to the minors to improve for his team.
And let’s be clear; dealing with an injury to the knee as 34-year-old second baseman is tough enough without being forced to work from dirty, crowded minor league locker rooms while your family sits awake at night wondering if your dream has come to an end.
But it didn’t, and Pedroia managed to grind his way back on the roster at the expense of Hanley Ramirez, who found himself in the spotlight one moment to out of a job the next, waiting patiently for a team to utilize him.
This is the cutthroat business of baseball. One moment you are on top of the world, your dreams a living facet of your imagination, and the next your back at the bottom, a cog in the minor league industry.
Truth be told, no one catches more flack from fans than rookie Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man applauded by players across the big show for being a man of the people. Cora took a hard stance at the beginning of the season, determined to be a more “modern” manager who put the needs and health of his players before the game. And so far it has worked out splendidly, as Boston sits third in the MLB power rankings behind Houston and New York, and power hitters like J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts have recovered quickly from any injuries that, under the hand of less mindful leadership, could have ended their season if pushed too far.
At the end of the day, even as a seasoned sports journalist and lifetime fan of the game, I realize that these guys are just that, guys with cool jobs. They are susceptible to emotion, loss, anger, and pressure just like we all are. So lets cut them a little slack and enjoy the game.
“Managing games comes second. Managing people comes first.”
― John Feinstein, Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life In the Minor Leagues of Baseball
2018 ALCS: Astros Aiming To Repeat, Red Sox Looking For Revenge
This year’s American League Championship Series won’t be an unfamiliar scenario for baseball fans, because it’s a rematch of last year’s American League Division Series. Defending World Champion Houston will square off with Boston for the second consecutive postseason, this time with one more game and a lot more at stake. Houston wants a second consecutive pennant, Boston wants second blood.
The Astros defeated the Red Sox three games to one in one half of last season’s ALDS. The Red Sox were on the cusp on forcing a decisive Game 5, but questionable managerial decisions from ex-skipper John Farrell ultimately led to the team’s demise. The Astros then defeated the Yankees and then Los Angeles (both in thrilling seven game series) to bring the Commissioner’s Trophy to Texas for the first time ever.
Both teams have different looks this time around in converse ways. Houston traded for superstar RHP Gerrit Cole last offseason while Boston signed slugging free agent OF/DH JD Martinez. What’s interesting is that both moves paid massive dividends. Aside Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, Cole helped make the Astros’ starting rotation the unquestioned best in the game. Martinez, on the other hand, rejuvenated the Red Sox’ previously dormant offense and made it a force to be reckoned with again, coming within inches of the Triple Crown in the process.
What’s even more interesting is the new dynamic the rematch presents. As previously mentioned, the Sox parted ways with John Farrell last fall after his controversial pitching decisions killed the team’s rally and got them bounced from the ALDS for the second straight year. Who did they hire almost immediately after? Houston Bench Coach Alex Cora, who resigned from AJ Hinch’s staff after Game 7. Though there doesn’t appear to be any hard feelings on Houston’s side, it’s safe to bet that it will still serve as motivation.
Boston’s motivation is quite simple, don’t lose to the same team two years in a row. To do this, the team will have to find a way to topple that lethal trio of Verlander, Keuchel and Cole, but also to shut down Houston’s relentless offense, led in the ALDS by Alex Bregman and George Springer. Though he was injured for a majority of the year, Jose Altuve still goes without saying as well.
Don’t get it wrong, though. The Red Sox are no slouches, featuring two MVP front runners in Martinez and Mookie Betts alongside Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts. Chris Sale anchors a rotation that fared quite well against the Yankees in the LDS (with the obvious exception of David Price). Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello were all excellent vs. New York’s powerful core, Cora will be hoping they can replicate that success. He has announced that Price will start Game 2 despite yet another disaster in ALDS Game 2, the reasoning behind this decision is anyone’s guess.
Game 1 is Saturday at 8:09 PM ET on TBS from Fenway Park. Each team will lead off with its ace, Verlander vs. Sale. Don’t miss it!
Orioles Part Ways with Buck Showalter
Showalter, 62, was at the helm for a nightmare 2018 that saw the team trade Mann Machado as they decided to start a massive youth movement, and the O’s went 47-115 to became just the fifth major league team since 1900 to lose 115 games or more in a season.
“Mr. Angelos’ family has been great to me and mine,” Showalter said on Sunday regarding the pending decision of owner Peter Angelos . “So whatever direction they decide to go, I’m at peace with it.”
“It’s about winning the game,” Showalter said at the conclusion of the season. “That’s one of the things I really feel like we need to get back to, the expectations of winning. That’s part of it. You’ve got to have expectations of winning, regardless of if you’re whatever they call it nowadays — building. I don’t believe in rebuild, the word rebuild. The first thing you have to accomplish, and one of the things I tried to do when I got here, is to raise the expectations of winning.”
Per the report, Showalter received official word in a meeting with brothers John and Lou Angelos on Wednesday morning.
White Sox Outright Dustin Garneau
The Chicago White Sox have outrighted catcher Dustin Garneau to Triple-A Charlotte, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Daryl Van Schouwen.
With the move the White Sox created an open spot on their 40-man roster.
Garneau posted a dreadful .194/.269/.321 over 280 plate appearances at the major league level, a far drop off from his production at the Triple-A level this season, where he posted a .252/.340/.468 line to go along with seven homeruns.
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