Red Sox Opening Day Lineup: Let the 2020 Season Begin

At long last, Opening Day for the 2020 Boston Red Sox has arrived. The Sox will be hosting the Orioles in a three-game weekend series beginning Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

According to team chairman Tom Werner, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker, Boston mayor Marty Walsh, and one other special guest “who’s very important to our community” will be throwing out a ceremonial first pitch prior to the actual first pitch.

As for the game itself, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will be matched up against left-hander Tommy Milone for Baltimore. Here’s how the rest of the Sox will be lined up behind thier first-time Opening Day starter:

One notable thing to notice here is the fact that J.D. Martinez is batting out of the two-hole, something manager Ron Roenicke experimented with during this week’s exhibition games against the Blue Jays.

Entering his third season with Boston, Martinez has never hit in the two-spot as a member of the Red Sox. He last did it in 2016 as a member of the Detroit Tigers.

Because the Sox are facing a southpaw, Roenicke likely wanted to move Martinez up in the order to break up the left-handed bats of Andrew Benintendi, who is batting leadoff, and Rafael Devers, who is batting third.

Speaking of pitching matchups, Kevin Pillar is starting over Alex Verdugo in right field, and Michael Chavis is starting at first base over Mitch Moreland. Chavis, Jackie Bradley Jr., and newcomer Jose Peraza round out the Sox’ lineup in this one.

Again, first pitch for the first of 60 games this season is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. It’s time.

Red Sox Make Pay Cuts for Employees Making Upwards of $50K; Said One Staffer: ‘People Are Livid’

The Red Sox have begun implementing pay cuts to their non-playing staff, according to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich.

Per Drellich, these pay cuts are for those employees making $50,000 or more per year and are tiered in the following fashion.

“Salary of $50K-99K is 20%

$100 to $499K is 25%

$500K-plus is 30%”

As Drellich notes, the employees who make $100,000 are being treated in just about the same way those making upwards of $500,000 are, which has led to the following statement from a Red Sox staffer:

“People are livid.”

This news was apparently broken at a company meeting held by the Red Sox on Friday night, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. In this particular meeting, the club announced that there would be no furloughs or layoffs, just salary cuts for those employees making upwards of $50,000 as previously mentioned.

Earlier Friday, the Red Sox announced that 22 minor-league players had been released on Thursday, so it definitely appears that John Henry, Tom Werner, and Co. are trying to cut down on costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has put the 2020 baseball season on hold for the time being.

Changes Likely Coming to Red Sox’ Uniforms Sometime in Near Future

For the most part, the uniforms donned by the Red Sox have remained unchanged over the last few decades. 

There have been subtle changes here and there, such as the addition of a blue alternate road jersey in 2009 or the decision to go from blue lettering back to red lettering on the primary road jersey in 2014, but out of the 30 clubs that Major League Baseball is comprised of, the Red Sox have one of the more classic looks in the game, as they should.

Still, that has not stopped team higher-ups from discussing how to further modernize the Sox’ look moving forward, especially now that Nike took over as MLB’s official uniform outfitter last winter.

“We are looking at changes as we go forward,” team president Sam Kennedy told The Athletic’s Chad Jennings. “[The changes will be] likely geared to get us to a uniform that is geared towards high performance. We will always be respectful of our incredible traditional look and feel, but we are always open to new and different concepts as time goes by.”

With Nike providing the Red Sox with their uniforms for the foreseeable future, the hope is that more technology can be implemented into any new uniform so that players can be more comfortable while actually playing baseball.

For instance, according to team executive vice president of partnerships Troup Parkinson, Red Sox ownership is really more focused on fit than anything else in talks about potential new uniforms.

“They think that, for example, Nike can bring tons of technology to the fit and hopefully help the performance of the athlete,” Parkinson said. “[It’s] happened in basketball and in football, but, amazingly, in baseball it hasn’t. The [players], if you talk to them, they will say the uniform doesn’t fit.”

Per Jennings, Red Sox principal owner John Henry and team chairman Tom Werner are “heavily involved” in decisions regarding the club’s uniforms and overall aesthetic look. Such decisions include changing primary logos, adding alternate jerseys, changing up batting practice looks, and sticking with batting helmets with a shiny finish rather than a matte one.

“John and Tom are both very engaged in uniform design,” said Kennedy. “They both have a passion for the look and feel of the brand. In terms of the Red Sox, while we have not made dramatic changes in our time here, we had had some relatively minor adjustments, driven by ownership’s desire to preserve our traditional look while modernizing a bit.”

To add on to that, Parkinson himself said that he expects subtle changes to the Red Sox’ uniforms to come at some point in the ‘near future.’

As Jennings puts it, these potential changes “likely won’t be wholesale or drastic changes, but they will be noticeable, especially for a fan base that’s grown attached to the current look. Which is the old look. Which is the classic look.”

What could these changes to Boston’s uniforms look like? Well, it’s tough to say.

As things stand currently, the Red Sox employ a five-jersey rotation (home whites, road grays, red home alternates, navy blue road alternates, and those special Patriots’ Day whites) to go along with white pants at home and gray pants on the road. All these uniforms are worn with the standard navy blue cap with a red ‘B’ front and center.

The home whites with the arching ‘Red Sox’ across the chest and the red piping around the collar and down the front of the jersey, for the most part, have remained a constant throughout the club’s storied history. They went with pullover tops and a predominantly red cap for a little bit there in the 1970’s, but that trend did not last into the following decade.

The road grays, meanwhile, have either featured ‘Boston’ across the chest in red or navy blue font since the turn of the century. The ‘Hanging Sox’ logo was added to the left sleeve of the road jerseys in 2010 and have been present since.

In terms of alternate looks, the red alternates worn at home have been in rotation since 2003 and have since been given a more modern look through the removal of the original blue piping that went around the collar and down the middle of the jersey.

As mentioned earlier, the navy blue alternates worn on the road were added to the mix in 2009. For whatever reason, they do not feature the ‘Hanging Sox’ logo on the left sleeve.

All in all, it’s a pretty solid mix of tradition and color rolled into one set of uniforms. It’s somewhat difficult to see how something already so good could be improved upon.

Then again, Parkinson told Jennings that “he actually likes to hear unusual uniform and branding ideas from outside companies (like Nike in this case) – those outsiders presumably are not as emotionally attached to the current look, and might offer much-needed perspective – but those partners rarely, if ever, suggest anything too far outside the box.”

Nike has proven to get creative with the looks of other historic franchises across different sports while also keeping that team’s history and tradition in tact, like with the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers.

If I could throw out some ideas here, I’d say that I would not mind seeing the Red Sox go back to wearing gray jerseys with the navy blue ‘Boston’ across the chest while on the road. That incorporates more of the team’s legacy into their look and may be nostalgic for older fans.

Speaking of nostalgia, it’s been said before, but bring back the 70’s throwbacks that we saw briefly in 2015 and 2016. It’s definitely a fun look.

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BOSTON, MA – MAY 5: Koji Uehara #19 of the Boston Red Sox reacts with Dustin Pedroia #15 after he pitched a scoreless ninth inning to beat Tampa Bay Rays 2-0 at Fenway Park May 5, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Also, could it be possible that the Red Sox would remove the red piping from their primary home jerseys? It’s the only jersey in the current mix that still features piping, although it is arguably their most classic feature.

Lastly, I’ve written about it in the past, but it would be interesting to see the Sox wear the red jerseys on the road and the blue jerseys at home. Mix it up a little, you know?

Other than that, I’m definitely curious to see what tweaks Nike and the Red Sox have in store for the team’s look. Not exactly sure when any changes will be revealed to the public, though.

What If the Red Sox Moved to the South Boston Waterfront?

Before purchasing the Los Angeles Dodgers for $430 million in 2004, Frank McCourt had interest in becoming owner of his hometown team, the Boston Red Sox.

The Watertown native, having been the grandson of a Boston Braves co-owner in addition to the man in charge of the McCourt Company, a large asset and investment firm that specialized in real estate, had his eyes on purchasing the Sox when the club went up for sale in late 2000.

Two decades prior to that, McCourt had taken over several acres of land in South Boston, or more specifically, the Seaport District, that had once been an abandoned waterfront rail-yard and converted that land into parking lots.

With that property, McCourt envisioned a new ballpark for the Red Sox had he successfully come out on top in the bidding war.

“Great site for a ballpark,” McCourt told the late, great Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe in 2004. “We thought so. HOK [Sport in Kansas City, which builds ballparks] told me it was the single best ballpark site in America. And they designed Pac Bell (Oracle Park in San Francisco). We believed it was a great site, but not everyone agreed.”

Thanks to a rendering from StadiumPage.com, we can see what a major-league ballpark in the Seaport District would potentially look like.

At the time, McCourt owned approximately 25 acres of land in the area, and he intended on using 10 of them for the ballpark.

“It’s a prime piece of real estate, and we have an idea about how it could be used to anchor the team in Boston,” McCourt said in 2001. ”It’s snug, but it fits.”

The lot was also conveniently within close proximity of several transportation hubs in the city, including South Station and the Massachusetts Turnpike. That is something McCourt and his aides made sure to point out to local government and business officials as well as reporters.

A las, then-Boston mayor Thomas Menino and then-Red Sox CEO John Harrington never publicly backed McCourt’s ballpark proposal. In fact, at least two of the seven bidding groups had looked into ballpark sites in the South Boston area, according to The Boston Globe’s Meg Vaillancourt.

As it turns out, McCourt was really no where close to successfully winning the bid for the Red Sox, as the club, as well as Fenway Park and New England Sports Network, were sold to a group consisting of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino for a whopping $700 million in December 2001.

The value of the Red Sox has only skyrocketed since Henry and Co. took over nearly 19 years ago, while McCourt went on to use the Seaport land he owned as collateral to help finance his $430 million purchase of the Dodgers from News Corp.’s Fox Entertainment Group in January 2004.

Despite decent on-the-field success, McCourt’s tenure as Dodgers owner was rather tumultuous. So much so that the Dodgers had to file for bankruptcy in June 2011 before McCourt agreed to sell the club for more than a record-setting $2 billion to a group consisting of the Guggenheim Partners, former Lakers star Magic Johnson, and former Braves and Nationals president Stan Kasten among the others the following March.

McCourt still has a vesting interest in professional sports, as he purchased French soccer club Olympique de Marsielle for about $45 million in 2016.

Per Forbes’ latest MLB valuations from earlier this month, the Dodgers and Red Sox today are the second and third-most valuable franchises in baseball behind only the New York Yankees. It would be interesting to see what those valuations would look like had McCourt been successful in purchasing the Red Sox rather than the Dodgers.

If he had been successful in purchasing the Red Sox, it also would have been fascinating to see what McCourt’s Seaport ballpark proposal would look like in real time.

The thought of the Red Sox calling a ballpark outside of Fenway Park home is odd, to say the least. There have been times where I wished the Sox played in a modern, more comfortable stadium, but at the same time, I understand the desire to keep the team at Fenway. It’s a historic relic at this point that deserves to be preserved.

Still, the allure of the Red Sox playing in a location that could offer great skyline views of the city from a different vantage point is certainly something to ponder, especially since the land in South Boston once owned by McCourt and now owned by developer John B. Hynes and Morgan Stanley remains mostly untouched.

 

 

 

Red Sox to Remove ‘Interim’ Tag From Ron Roenicke’s Title, Name Him Manager for 2020 Season

The Red Sox have removed the ‘interim’ tag from Ron Roenicke’s title, making him just the manager now, according to team chairman Tom Werner.

Roenicke, 63, was named interim manager of the Red Sox by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom back on February 11th, when Boston was still under investigation by Major League Baseball for stealing signs electronically in 2018.

At the time, the ‘interim’ tag was given to Roenicke so that the Red Sox could “respect the [league’s] ongoing investigation,” meaning that permanency would not be addressed until the findings were revealed.

A little more than two months after Bloom said that to the media, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s findings have been released, and while the Sox were handed down some punishment for what they did in 2018, Roenicke was exonerated, hence the move to officially name him manager on Wednesday.

Roenicke had served as Alex Cora’s bench coach the previous two seasons with the Red Sox. He has previous big-league managerial experience with the Brewers, where he went 342-311 (.508%) over a five-year tenure from 2011 until May 2015 that included a National League Central title the first season he was at the helm.

Although Roenicke has officially been named the 48th manager in Red Sox history, the possibility remains that Cora, who was cleared of any wrongdoing while manager of the Red Sox, could return to Boston in 2021 after he was handed down a one-year ban by the commissioner on Wednesday.

That remains speculative, though. For now, I just want to see Roenicke have actual baseball games to manage this year, whether it be in Boston, Arizona, Florida, or Texas. Let’s just get baseball back.

As Opt-Out Decision Looms, J.D. Martinez Is Officially on the Clock

Even though there is still one game remaining in this year’s installent of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros on Wednesday night, a former Astro in J.D. Martinez is on the clock.

Yes, the 32-year-old now has until 5 PM eastern time next Monday to decide whether or not he will opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract and become a free agent.

Martinez originally inked a five-year, $110 million deal with Boston back in February 2018. A deal that included built in opt-outs after the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons.

In the two seasons he has spent with the Sox to this point, the Florida native ranks second among qualified American League hitters in home runs (79), first in RBI (235), sixth in runs scored (209), and second in slugging percentage (.593).

While introducing new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on Monday, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said that he does not know what Martinez’s decision will be and that, “We’ll find out very soon.”

A client of super agent Scott Boras, Martinez may be enticed to enter free agency once again, as at 32, he may only have one last chance to earn a sizable contract in terms of both length and dollar figures.

In the following days leading into Monday evening, the Red Sox will have exclusive negotiating rights with their two-time All-Star slugger, as well as their other free agents. Martinez could reach a decision as early as 9 AM on Thursday, per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

If Martinez were to opt out of his contract, the Sox would owe him a buyout in the form of $2.5 million. They would also more than likely extend him a qualifying offer in this scenario, which will be worth $17.8 million this offseason. That way, any club that signed Martinez would also owe Boston a compensatory draft pick, one that would fall after the fourth round of the 2020 amateur draft.

Given how Henry and chairman Tom Werner have essentially made it clear that they would like to cut down on payroll this winter, it should be interesting to see how serious the club is about bringing Martinez back if he does indeed opt out.

Red Sox Formally Introduce Chaim Bloom as Their New Chief Baseball Officer

The Red Sox officially named Chaim Bloom as their new chief baseball officer on Monday afternoon through a press conference that featured Bloom himself, principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and team president Sam Kennedy. Brian O’Halloran was also formally promoted to general manager, marking the first time Boston has had a GM since 2016.

“We’ve tried to keep up with the change in nature of the baseball operations landscape,” Kennedy said of Bloom’s new title. “We value the collaboration and brainpower and institutional knowledge that our incredible team of baseball operations folks have.”

In his new role with his new organization, Bloom, who is coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays after 15 seasons working various roles, most recently as senior vice president of baseball operations, will have plenty of tough decisions to make right from the jump.

The futures of two Red Sox All-Stars, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, are among those, with Betts having one year remaining in arbitration before reaching free agency for the first time next winter, and Martinez having five days to decide whether or not to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million on his current contract once the World Series comes to a close later this week.

“Our top priority is sustainability and competitiveness over the long term,” Bloom said when asked about Betts and Martinez. “That can take many forms but that’s really going to be the top priority. There’s a lot I don’t know. I’m just coming in here. So I’m looking forward to building relationships with them.”

The theories surrounding what the Sox plan to do with Betts has been a hot topic since the club’s 2019 season ended last month. So much so that Henry discussed it, as well as Martinez’s situation, when describing what the interview process with Bloom was like.

“We talked about that there are a lot of tough decisions to make during this offseason. That’s not uncommon,” Henry said. “We talked about Mookie, J.D. other issues, but we didn’t focus on what should we do.”

As has already been indicated by Red Sox ownership, it is a goal, not a mandate, to get the team’s 2020 payroll under the $208 million luxury tax threshold. Betts, who is projected to earn $27.7 million in his final year of salary arbitration, and Martinez, who would earn $23.75 million next year if he opts in, would account for approximately 24.7% of that $208 million.

“You’re going to look at a number of factors,” said Henry. “Including where Mookie wants to play in the long-term.”

If the Red Sox were to offer Betts a contract extension and the 27-year-old were to turn it down, a trade would not be out of the question. Bloom did discuss how integral a quality farm system is for a team’s long-term success. Even with one year left of team control, Betts still could garner a hefty return in terms of prospects in a potential trade.

How Bloom makes his mark in his tenure with the Red Sox will be something to pay attention to for the foreseeable future. Someone who came up in a club with limited financial resources now has a great deal more to work with. How he utilizes those will be worth monitoring as Boston heads towards an offseason full of uncertainties.

Red Sox Officially Part Ways with Dave Dombrowski Less Than a Year After Winning World Series

In case you somehow missed it, the Red Sox officially parted ways with now former president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski on Monday morning after the news was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan late Sunday night.

This comes on the same night that the Red Sox fell to the New York Yankees by a final score of 10-5 to fall back to 76-67 on the season and a full eight games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second American League Wild Card Spot, all but snuffing out any hope of making a late push for October baseball.

Dombrowski, 63, had one year remaining on his contract that ran through the end of the 2020 season, and is less than a full year removed from constructing a Red Sox team that won a franchise-record 108 games en route to a historic World Series title this past October.

The ex-Detroit Tigers general manager was hired by the Sox in August of 2015, inheriting a club from Ben Cherington that was on its way to its third last place finish in the American League East since 2012.

In the three full seasons he was at the helm in Boston, Dombrowski won three consecutive division titles, the first time that had ever been accomplished in Red Sox history, and of course capped it off with the World Series win last year.

Per the Sox’ official release that you can visit above, Dombrowski was informed of this decision by principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and president & CEO Sam Kennedy.

“We were extraordinarily fortunate to be able to bring Dave in to lead baseball operations,” said Henry. “With a World Series Championship and three consecutive American League East titles, he has cemented what was already a Hall of Fame career.”

While the club begins the pursuit to find its next head of baseball operations, assistant general managers Eddie Romero, Brian O’Halloran and Zack Scott will take over those duties for the remainder of the 2019 season.

#RedSox Engaged in Extension Talks with Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts

When speaking with the media at JetBlue Park on Monday, Red Sox principal owner John Henry and team chairman Tom Werner made it clear that the club is engaged in contract extension talks with at least two players who are set to become free agent following the 2019 season in Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts.

Although neither Henry nor Werner gave any specific details about where the extension talks were at, both Sale and Bogaerts have stated that they are open to remaining in Boston for the forseeable future this past week.

Regarding Sale, Henry said that, “we would love to be able to sign him. I think he would like to as well. But there are the realities of the marketplace and budgets. This is his opportunity to be a free agent, potentially. Which we’d like to avoid, and I think he would as well. So something could happen.”

Sale dealt with issues in his throwing shoulder in 2018, which could somewhat diminish the value, but Henry believes the Red Sox ace brings much more to the table than what he does on the pitching mound every five days, specifically citing his fiery speech in the dugout during Game 4 of the World Series.

Another thing that could warrant an extension with Sale is what went down between the Red Sox and another big left-hander in Jon Lester five years ago. Like Sale, Lester was entering the final year of his contract with Boston and talks regarding an extension opened up during spring training of 2014. Ultimately, the Red Sox failed to reach an agreement and later traded Lester to the Oakland Athletics that July. Lester would then go on to sign a six-year, $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs that winter.

“I think we blew the signing (of Jon Lester) in spring training,” Henry said. Perhaps some lessons learned from that ordeal can be applied now.

Sale, set to turn 30 in march, posted a 2.11 ERA and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 27 games started last season. He finished fourth in American League Cy Young voting and 22nd in MVP voting.

As for Bogaerts, the 26-year-old shortstop told reporters on Friday, “I enjoy my time here. Obviously we’ve had something special going on for the last couple of years now. I think I’ve been a part of it since it pretty much started.”

Bogaerts also noted that, “the Red Sox have treated me and my family amazingly so far. So we’ll see what happens.”

A client of Scott Boras, it is understandable why Bogaerts may want to avoid free agency next winter given the circumstances right now with two of the best players in the game in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still unsigned with just over a month until Opening Day.

In 2018, Bogaerts slashed .288/.360/.522 with a career best 23 home runs and 103 runs driven in. He finished 13th in American League MVP voting.