Terry Francona: ‘They’re All In For This Year’

Terry Francona still believes the Boston Red Sox have a chance, despite their 52-51 record! (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan for NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan 

Following Monday’s contest against the Detroit Tigers, ESPN analyst and former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona expressed his outlook toward the local nine.

“They’re all in for this year,” exclaimed Francona on ESPNBoston.com. “With the payroll they have, the players they have, they have to try and win. That’s the way they’re geared, [and] their fans won’t let them do anything different.”

The Sox have won three consecutive contests, but remain locked in fourth place in the American League East. They’re eight and a half games behind the New York Yankees, as well as four games behind Oakland for the Wild Card.

However, despite the distance between them and New York and Oakland, Francona believes that their current winning streak may be exactly what Boston needs to propel them toward the playoffs.

“This is the timing. They’ve got nine more games left at home, they’ve finally fought their way over .500, they need to stay there and gain some ground,” added Francona.

Boston is 26-28 at Fenway Park this season, and will attempt to continue their current trend for the next few days against Detroit, Minnesota and Texas.

Question of the Day: Do You Believe In The Red Sox?

By Matt Noonan 

OK… OK…OK… After Friday’s awful performance against the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox currently reside in the American League East basement. They’re 49-51 overall, and have lost seven of their last 10 games.

If they’re going to make a so-called, “run,” they’ll need to win at least 42 games to conclude the season with 91 wins. Yet, can they do it? Do you believe in this team? Does this team have what it takes to earn a Wild Card spot in the American League?

Post your thoughts below or continue the conversation on Twitter (@NoonSportsBlog) or Facebook (Facebook.com/NoonSports).

The Grass Really is Greener on the other Side…

By Andy Lindberg

I love adventures, and any time I can couple an adventure with sports, it is the peak of the mountain for me.  This past week I decided to take an adventure to the West Coast, a place I had never even been close to.  From Sunday night, July 15 through Saturday night, July 21, I was in Oakland, CA devoting my time to rolling through the ‘hood and going to Oakland Athletics games.  I went to five A’s games, to be exact.

It didn’t take long for me to become enthralled with the atmosphere in the concrete monolith known as O.co Coliseum.  Never drawing large crowds, the passion for A’s baseball in Oakland is surprisingly palpable, made all the more entertaining for me by the fact that three ex-Red Sox make up the heart of the batting order.  Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and a resurgent Brandon Moss have become starting-nine staples on the east side of San Francisco Bay.

Brandon Moss has hit a single season high 11 home runs since joining Oakland

I was not once bored with watching the 2012 Athletics.  They’re exciting, likable, and can they ever come up with timely hits.  To this point in the season, the Oakland A’s have 11 walk-off hits.  Brandon Hicks and Brandon Moss both had walk-off hits (a home run and a single, respectively) while I was in O-Town.  For a team that is 51-44 on July 24, tied with the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim (STILL the most absurd name in baseball) for the second AL Wild Card spot, the A’s sport a league-worst .228 batting average.  They are 27th in RBI with 344 and their batters have struck out 764 times, ninth most in baseball.

So why, pray tell, are the A’s a winning baseball team tied for a playoff spot in late July with a total payroll of  $54.5M?  The Red Sox are four games out of a wild card spot, yet have committed $173.2M to a team with a losing record (48-49) on July 24.

Along with timely hitting, the A’s have shown they can pitch, and pitch very well with young arms and an established bullpen.  Pitching wins, and it shows in Oakland and allows the A’s lineup to come up with timely hits and ease the pressure off of struggling hitters.  The A’s are fourth in baseball with a 3.37 ERA.  They have only allowed 769 hits (good for 4th in baseball), have only allowed 321 earned runs (also tied for 4th), have only allowed 77 home runs (good for sole possession of 4th), and have a WHIP of 1.23 (good for 3rd in baseball).  The A’s once again have a stockpile of young talent at the starting pitching position.

Twenty-five-year-old Tommy Milone is 9-6 with a 3.34 ERA and a 120 ERA+ (an ERA+ above 100 is considered above average).  Twenty-three-year-old Jarrod Parker is 7-4 with a 3.00 ERA and 133 ERA+.  Brandon McCarthy and Travis Blackley are both having exceptional years and 25-year-old Ryan Cook is enjoying his first All-Star season in the bullpen.

So what have the A’s done differently than Boston in order to win so much with a payroll roughly $120M LESS than the Red Sox’?  First and foremost, even with limited funding, the A’s have not pursued overhyped free agents nor have they committed to trading away young talent under team control for “win-now” rental players.

I think back on Theo Epstein’s tenure in Boston and yes, the man helped build a two-time World Championship team, but many of the moves he made were, for lack of a better word, atrocious.  Free agent pickups like Julio Lugo and John Lackey were and have been miserable.  One of the worst trades I can remember was trading outfielder David Murphy for Eric “Going, Going” Gagne in 2007.  Since 2007, Murphy has hit .280 in six years with Texas along with a .343 OBP and 106 OPS+ (again, above 100 is above average).  He has 66 home runs and 48 stolen bases.  After the trade, Murphy batted .343 for Texas for the rest of 2007.  Eric Gagne, however, went 2-2 for Boston with a 6.75 ERA in 20 games and was, mercifully, not a postseason-ender that year.  Carl Crawford is yet to be determined, but with how this season has gone and with rumors of Crawford being shopped for Hanley Ramirez, we can chalk that up to another poor Epstein move.

This offseason the A’s swapped outfielder Ryan Sweeney and closer Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox for outfielder Josh Reddick, a player I was screaming to keep knowing Crawford might not be 100% and also having that right-filed slot open.  To this point in the season Andrew Bailey hasn’t pitched in the big leagues due to a thumb injury and Ryan Sweeney has batted .267 with no home runs and 14 RBI.

Meanwhile, in Oakland, Josh Reddick has been taking baseballs to Pound Town.  While batting .271, Reddick has super-smashed 21 home runs and 19 doubles to go with 46 RBI.  Hmm, I see a discrepancy in production from Sweeney and Bailey in that trade…

Josh Reddick stares down a Roy Oswalt offering on Tuesday, July 17.

Let us not forget how the 2004 Red Sox came together as a team and gelled.  Their clubhouse chemistry was amazing.  This year, it is looking more like 25 players and 25 cabs.  In Oakland, the clubhouse chemistry could not be better.  Walk off’s are met with Reddick pies to the face and Gatorade baths.  The team fights for every run they can scrap.  The A’s are fun.  The Red Sox are likely done.

Maybe it’s time Goliath took a lesson from David…

POLL: Will You Cheer For Kevin Youkilis?

Will you be cheering or booing Kevin Youkilis on Monday at Fenway Park? (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan for Noontime Sports)

By NoontimeSports.com 

The Boston Red Sox return home to Fenway Park on Monday, and will begin a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox.

Don’t consider this a regular season series because Bostonians and New Englanders will be forced to watch their team’s former first and third basemen, Kevin Youkilis, sporting black and white instead of red and white.

So, we’re curious… will you be cheering for Youk or booing him?

Don’t worry… we won’t share this with Mr. Bobby Valentine, we promise, but we’d like to know how you’ll react to Mr. Youkilis once his name is announced over the public address system.

Answer our poll questions below and feel free to leave comments, too!

Three Outs: recapping Lowell – Tri-City (Minor League Baseball)

(Photo Credit: JimMacleod.com)

By Brian Willwerth 

LOWELL, MA – Here are three takeaways from the Lowell Spinners’ 2-0 loss to Tri-City on Monday night.

Outstanding pitching: As you can tell from the score, this game was all about the pitching. Both teams pitched well, but especially for the ValleyCats. The Spinners could only muster four hits, all of them singles.  Tri-City only had five hits, four of them singles, but they were enough.

Holmes is hot: Tri-Valley starter Brian Holmes picked up his first win of the year, in his longest outing of the year. He went six innings, allowing just two of Lowell’s four hits. He has 11 strikeouts in 12 innings this season.

Haley’s debut: Justin Haley made his professional debut Monday night, allowing one run and striking out two. The Orangevale, CA native was selected in the 6th round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2012 draft.

Few Thoughts On Clemens Perjury Trial

Did Roger Clemens earn another win for the record book? (Photo Credit: New York Daily News)

By Matt Noonan 

Once Monday’s news was announced about Roger Clemens, it became quite easy to realize that government and sports don’t coincide.

Clemens, who was acquitted of charges toward lying about steroids and human growth hormones to Congress in 2008, was officially sent out of a Washington courtroom as a “free man” on Monday.

And while many are continuing to scratch their heads over this particular case, it certainly emphasizes the fact that an athlete is more powerful than a group of non-baseball fans, ahem…the jury.

Of course, he will certainly be remembered as one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game.

The Rocket spent 24-years in the big leagues, and walked away with a record of 354-184 on the bump. He appeared in 11 All-Star Games, earned seven Cy Young Awards, paced the American League with the most wins by a flame-thrower in ’86, ’87, ’97, and ’98, and was awarded the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award in 1986.

Yet, excluding those various credentials, it’s unlikely that his name will ever be scratched from the so-called, “steroids era.”

Baseball has become a game of cheaters. Players seem more focused on their various accolades than winning a World Series, and the same could possibly be said for Clemens, right?

Clemens will certainly be remembered as a cheater, as well as someone who maneuvered his way forward with various performance enhancement drugs to extend his career, and one example could be seen when he joined the Toronto Blue Jays for a two-year stint in ’97-’98.

The right-hander hadn’t earned 20 wins or more since the 1980’s, and after a few up-and-down seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Clemens’ numbers skyrocketed in Canada, as he won 41 of 54 games. He also earned two back-to-back Cy Young Awards, too.

So, did the government strike out or did Clemens earn himself another win for the record books?

Well, according to the New York Times, this particular trial was a so-called, “waste of government time, and money.” Clemens became the second Major Leaguer to sneak through the cracks — the first was Barry Bonds, who was sentenced to one month of house arrest after a seven-year investigation in April of 2011. And while Bonds was convicted on one of four charges, (obstructing justice) he still managed to walk out of the courtroom.

Clemens avoided 10 years in federal prison, but will now be faced with the difficult task of convincing the baseball writers that he deserves a spot in the Cooperstown, (he’ll need 75 percent of the ballots to earn a spot).

All in all, I believe that he cheated. Clemens, Bonds and others turned America’s Pastime into a game that’s no longer linked to the days of Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and others.

Will baseball ever resort back to the “good ole days?”

I’m not sure, but once again, the government failed to send a message to all baseball fans and players that cheating is not allowed in a game and life.