The Red Sox are off today and enjoying the view from atop the American League. They have the best record in the league and the highest run differential (+80) after 84 games.
Seems like a good time for some random thoughts:
• The Sox have 78 games remaining and a whopping nine of them are against the Yankees at home. The Yankees play their first game at Fenway this season on July 19.
Alex Rodriguez starts a rehab assignment on Tuesday, by the way.
• The schedule makers have a sense of humor. The Sox play the Dodgers in Los Angeles Aug. 23-25, the one-year anniversary of the big trade. The Dodgers are 56-61 since the trade, the Red Sox 59-61.
• David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia deserve to be All-Stars. But that may be it. Clay Buchholz went from being in line to start the game to probably not even making the team because of injury. Koji Uehara deserves a look, but middle relievers rarely get selected.
It speaks well of the team’s depth that they have played so well without necessarily having a lot of standout players.
• The Red Sox have a long list of prospects that other teams would be interested in: Xander Bogaerts, Bryce Brentz, Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Barnes, Garin Cecchini, Rubby De La Rosa, Will Middlebrooks, Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, Allen Webster and Brandon Workman.
Outside of Owens and Swihart, all are at Double A or above and therefore close to being major-league ready.
Obviously some of these guys are untouchable. But all 13 aren’t going to be productive major leaguers, either. It’s a matter of figuring out who is expendable.
The Red Sox need pitching help and and Ben Cherington has the chips to make some interesting offers. But it’s important to remember that the long-term success of the franchise has to be rooted in player development. The Red Sox ended up in last place because they relied too heavily on free agency.
• Outside of Bogaerts, is there anybody you absolutely would not trade?
• Things are really looking up for John Lackey. He won a year’s supply of gum — seriously — from 5 Gum because he struck out five batters in a row in his last start. According to the company, that’s a case of gum or 120 packs.
• The international signing period starts on Tuesday. According to Baseball America, the Red Sox are expected to land Dominican third baseman Rafael Devers. He would command at least $1 million.
• It’s a down year for rookies in the American League. It very well could be Jose Iglesias or Wil Myers for Rookie of the Year.
• Mike Napoli had big numbers at Fenway Park (.306, .710 slugging percentage) in 19 games before he signed with the Red Sox. But he has hit a modest .250/.343/.408 at Fenway this season.
Napoli never really put much stock in those 19 games or thought he was a lock to mash at Fenway.
“That’s not many games,” he said the other day. “Plus I was facing their pitchers and I had success against some of those guys. It’s not like I’m up there trying to hit the wall every time.”
Napoli had 27 RBIs in April and has 27 since. But he has been a better hitter in his career in the second half of the season. His second half career OPS is .909.
• A few readers have mentioned they would like to see an infield of Iglesias (SS), Bogaerts (3B), Pedroia (2B) and Middlebrooks (1B) next season. That’s very intriguing. Now that Iglesias is proving he can hit in the majors, Bogaerts needs to play somewhere and third base makes sense given his athletic ability. But how about left field?
• Ortiz is third in the AL in OPS at 1.008. That two-year contract is working out pretty well so far. He has been a rock in the middle of the order.
• In case you missed it, Josh Beckett is done for the season because he needs surgery to take pressure off a nerve that caused him to lose feeling in his right hand.
Backett has two World Series rings, 132 victories and 1,794 strikeouts. But it’s a mixed legacy. Did you know he received Cy Young Votes only twice in his career?
• Some in the Toronto media were yucking it up on Saturday when the Red Sox had two runners thrown out at the plate. They didn’t get along with John Farrell and enjoy taking shots at him.
Farrell had a contentious relationship with the media there and it got worse when he left for the Red Sox. But it has been smooth sailing in Boston in that regard. Farrell has been accessible, accountable and candid with the media.
So much of that stuff is timing. Farrell was seen as an outsider in Toronto but at Fenway Park he’s the ultimate insider and some relationships were already in place.
If you don’t think media relations matters, consider the atmosphere around the team this year when compared to last.
• Much rather have Scott Feldman from the Cubs as a starter than Matt Garza, who has been just a little above average the last two seasons.
• Sleeper closer acquisition: Francisco Rodriguez of the Brewers. He could give the Sox three good months.
• The Aaron Hernandez situation is terrible in every way. But if the fourth or fifth best Red Sox player was arrested and accused of cold-blooded, execution-style murder, it would be twice the story and team officials would be badgered into explaining how they didn’t see it coming.
The NFL skates on issues like PEDs and crime, even violent crime, because we accept pro football as having a certain amount of thugs. The Patriots have gotten away with issuing a self-congratulatory statement about releasing Hernandez. Not one team official has spoken on the record about it. That’s inconceivable in baseball.
• According to fangraphs.com, Shane Victorino has a 10.8 UZR in right field, which would be first in the majors at that position if he had enough games to qualify. His defense has been every bit what the Red Sox hoped. The offensive numbers will get there, too.
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s marked improvement behind the plate this season suggests that Gary Tuck, who resigned on the eve of the season, as been ably replaced by Dana LeVangie and others on the coaching staff.
• It’s fair to be cynical about the Red Sox. There are issues with the pitching and you wonder if the offense will hold up. But this team won 69 games last season and was in complete chaos at the end.
So a 50-34 record on July 1 can’t be dismissed. The Red Sox have a team that’s fun to watch, a coaching staff that is professional and a farm system set to bear fruit. It’s hard to ask for much more that that.
When Jonny Gomes was at the plate on Friday night in the seventh inning, the crowd was on every pitch and the noise kept rising, reaching a crescendo when he singled in the go-ahead run.
Those who are cynical probably aren’t watching very closely. There’s a lot to like about the way this team plays.