Mike from Attleboro: Once similar, Sox can kick Heat comparison

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Mike from Attleboro: Once similar, Sox can kick Heat comparison

Last night, while one of the most fundamentally detestable sellouts in the history of sports finally won the championship that pundits have claimed was his destiny, Daniel Nava continued to defy the experts and remain one of the best stories in sports. And the dichotomy between the two made it clear to me how the Red Sox went astray this season.

If youre like me, seeing player born collusion rewarded with a boat loads of cash and a title in the NBA is more than enough to turn you off to the sport for quite a while. Almost everything about LeBron James and the Miami Heats creation and title run is repugnant and in opposition to what I value in sports. Entitlement, petulance, self-promotion, fraudulence, and arrogance are all tenants of the NBA and especially the Heat. These attributes overshadow any athletic excellence and clouds their achievements, no matter how great.

Conversely, Daniel Nava coming through in the crunch time for the game winning hit embodies everything that makes watching sports great. This is a guy who shouldnt be on this team let alone in the Major Leagues. Hes the consummate underdog. He was cut from teams repeatedly, never got drafted and ultimately had his contract purchased for one dollar by the Red Sox. Thats about 99,999,999 less than LeBron James got for his first promotional agreement with Nike. Always doubted and counted out and yet somehow he not only perseveres but achieves a level of success most thought was unattainable. Navas accomplishments seem like a hardball version of Rudy and who doesnt love that scrappy little hobbit?

And then it hit me. Going into this season, the Red Sox had more in common with the Miami Heat than they did with the underdogs that make sports so enjoyable. Going into last season, the Red Sox were widely touted as not only one of the best teams in baseball, but one of the best teams ever! And much like the Heat last season, after slow starts, it looked like they would live up to the billing. How wrong we were. In the time since the Sox went belly up last September, this team has been a pack of selfish, bitchy, unlikable All-Stars who were far superior at making excuses than they were at making the playoffs.

In baseball, you need 25 players to not only function as a team, but to buy in to that concept to contend for a title. There are no isolation plays and clear outs. All Star ball players cant depend on reputation calls from officials and actually have to perform on their own merits. Given the make up for the team going into this season and their attitudes, the front office needed to change more than just the Manager to make this team successful.

But as luck would have it, the injuries this team has suffered were a reasonable facsimile for the moves that should have been made this winter. Injuries to Kevin Youkillis, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford have allowed Will Middlebrooks, Nava, Cody Ross and Mike Aviles to not only see the field, but overachieve and rise to prominence. In addition, young players that this team was counting on like Jarod Saltalamacchia, Felix Dubront and now Ryan Kalish are beginning to contribute. And in doing so, they are giving this team the likability that escaped the previous star laden line up.

Last nights win was a prime example of this as Salty, Middlebrooks, Aviles, Kalish and Nava all came up clutch, with gritty play and timely hitting. It was the teams biggest win of the season and it uncovered a blueprint for the Red Soxs future: A team that isnt expected to win it all by just showing up, but a team that might win more than you think by showing up every night.

Soon the injuries will heal and GM Ben Cherington is going to have to make his own decision. Does he hold on to toxic, selfish stars, content to keep counting an attendance streak that makes the NBA seem legitimate? Or does he move forward with the kind of youth and talent that will once again capture the hearts and minds of the fans in this town. Unlike Miami, in Boston, we want to root for a team that sells out on the field, not a team that fields a roster of sellouts.

Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

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Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

SAN FRANCISCO  — As an irate Bryce Harper charged toward the mound, Buster Posey just stood and watched from behind home plate.

And when the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants cleared their benches Monday and punches flew both ways, the All-Star catcher did his best to remain just outside the fray.

Not where some expected to find the Giants team leader with his pitcher, Hunter Strickland, exchanging head shots with Harper.

“Posey did NOTHING to stop Harper from getting to his pitcher,” former major league pitcher Dontrelle Willis wrote on Twitter. “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

Posey declined to enter the fracas, instead remaining around its edges and watching as the players scuffled in “a pretty good pile,” as Giants manager Bruce Bochy called it.

Posey dealt with a concussion in April after being struck in the head by a pitch, but did not say he held back because of concerns related to that. He did say he was wary about the risk of injury.

“There were some big guys tumbling around out there,” Posey said. “You see Mike Morse and Jeff Samardzija are about as big as they come and he was getting knocked around like a pinball. So it was a little dangerous to get in there.”

Still, social media was abuzz at the sight of Posey not sticking up for his teammate.

“Strickland must have told @BusterPosey he was hitting him and let him come cause he didn’t even give a soft jog,” Willis wrote.

“Says all you need to know that Buster Posey didn’t bother to hold back Harper,” tweeted Fox broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt . “Let him go get his pitcher.”

Also absent from the fight: hard-nosed Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. As his teammates flew over the dugout railing, Bumgarner stayed put, perhaps because the left-hander is still recovering after injuring his pitching shoulder and ribs in a dirt biking accident in April.

 

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.