A Weekend of Opportunity

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A Weekend of Opportunity

This weekend at Fenway, the Red Sox host to the last place Toronto Blue Jays.

Of course, that the Jays are in last place at this stage of the season means next to nothing especially since they're only two and a half games behind Boston but after a rough few months, it's nice that we can refer to another team being in last place. Go ahead. Give a try.

The last place Toronto Blue Jays!

See? A lot of fun.

But to be honest, last place is the least of Toronto's problems right now. In the last month, they've lost two starting pitchers: Brandon Morrow (until August) and Kyle Drabek (for the season). In the last week, they've lost third baseman (and the owner of one of the dumbest tattoos in baseball) Brett Lawrie to a calf injury and slugger Jose Bautista to a wrist injury.

So, what do you think? Is this when the Sox finally get over the hump? Will they feast on the broken Jays and finally leave .500 in their dust, or will we reconvene on Monday, having the same tired conversation?

They're inconsistent! They're average! Trade the whole team! Bring up everyone from Pawtucket!

Man, I hope not. Not sure if I can play that game anymore. I'm sick of drama. I'm ready for baseball. We all are. We all love what this team has given us since the All-Star Break, but it's only natural to demand more. It's almost August. Nearly everyone's healthy. Excuses are over, and it's time to win.

And wouldn't you know, there are two guys in that clubhouse who currently find themselves in prime position to take Boston to the next level.

Josh Beckett, who has one win since May, will be on the mound tonight. Jon Lester, who hasn't won all month, takes the bump on Sunday. With everything clicking around them, the Sox two embattled starters are poised to both reaffirm their dominance and keep the Sox rolling.

And what better target than the last place Blue Jays.

Yup. That phrase still sounds much better in front of another team's name.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”