Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Tag: aroldis chapman

2019 is Critical for Rafael Devers

AP Photo/John Minchillo

The 2018 season was amazing for the Boston Red Sox. A franchise record 108 regular-season wins, wins against the 100+ win New York Yankees and Houston Astros in the ALDS and ALCS respectively, and a convincing World Series victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 5 games. Everyone associated with the team felt great rolling into the off-season, but it’s now mid-December and 2019 has started to come into focus. The core components of the team are mostly returning with visions of back-to-back titles, but some questions still remain. One of the biggest questions is what to expect from the 3rd base spot.

After a breakout showing during the 2nd half of 2017, Rafael Devers appeared to be the next up-and-coming young star in the Red Sox lineup. His much talked about HR off of Aroldis Chapman on August 13, 2017 brought national attention to the young 3rd baseman. He showed his tremendous power and clutch gene by hitting a 103-mph pitch for an opposite-field, game-tying HR. The raw power and talent was apparent and most, myself included, figured his early success showed he was only scratching the surface of what he could really accomplish. Many figured that after a full spring training and a spot on the opening day roster in 2018, Devers would come into the year confident and ready to roll. He started the year off strong, but then struggled to maintain success as pitchers figured him out.

On April 19th, 17 games into the season, Devers was hitting an even .300 with 3 HRs and 17 RBIs. Pretty damn good for a 21-year old who hadn’t even reached 300 career plate appearances yet. Unfortunately, things began to unravel after that point. He hit just .171 during the remainder of April with 1 HR and followed it up with a .212 May with 5 HRs and just 7 RBIs. From May 15th through the end of the regular season, Devers appeared in 81 games and hit just .231. He had 3 stints on the DL with shoulder and hamstring issues which certainly slowed him down, but even when healthy, he looked over-matched and confused much of the time at the plate and in the field. All young players struggle at times, but this was a prolonged streak of mediocrity that was concerning.

Devers rebounded a bit in the postseason, hitting .294 in 11 games, but his power was mostly absent (1 HR). Instead of being a feared middle-of-the-lineup hitter, he was a decent bottom 3rd type of player with the ability to get on base occasionally (he hit 5th in the first 2 games of the postseason, then 6th, 7th, or 8th in the other 9 games). It was clear his stock had fallen and his defensive struggles were even more amplified with his cold bat. He suddenly became more of a platoon player than an everyday lineup mainstay.


After a challenging season, 2019 is a make-or-break year for the young 3rd baseman. If he struggles for a 2nd year in a row, the Red Sox may need to consider moving on from the young star and trying to find stability with someone else. The good news: Devers appears to understand the situation he’s in and has re-committed himself early in the offseason to be in better shape and ready for opening day. 

On Wednesday, many reports out of the winter meetings were that Devers had hired a nutritionist and personal trainer this offseason to improve his conditioning in the Dominican Republic. This is great news, because the 237lb 3rd baseman looked out of shape at times in 2018 and had multiple injury-related issues. Alex Cora told the media that Assistant GM Eddie Romero went to visit Devers in the Dominican and he looked great. While you can never really believe what the manager says about a player, the fact that Devers hired professionals to help him get in shape this early in the offseason is a great sign.

I still believe Devers is the Red Sox 3rd baseman of the future and a potentially scary middle-of-the-lineup bat going forward, but am a bit more cautious than a year ago. Will 2019 be a breakout season for the 22-year old they call “carita” (babyface)? Let’s hope so.

A World Series for the Ages

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

Leading up to game 1, this year’s World Series matchup had the potential to be great. Two long-suffering franchises with a combined 176 years without a championship vying for the trophy. The Cleveland Indians without a win since 1948 and the well documented 108-year heartbreak of the Chicago Cubs. Both teams loaded with young talent, balanced with veteran leadership, and led by top-tier managers in Terry Francona and Joe Maddon. Thankfully, for baseball fans everywhere (except maybe Cleveland), the series was even better great and both teams stretched it to the limit.

The Cubs were on the brink of heartbreak after 4 games, down 3-1, and it looked as though 109-years would be the new mantra. Terry Francona was pulling all the right strings and had his team poised to end their streak of mediocrity. Then, in impressive fashion, the Cubbies stormed back to force a game 7 in Cleveland for all the marbles. Ticket sales were through the roof insane, but if you were there to witness game 7 in person, it was the memory of a lifetime. The game had everything but great defense and proved to be the most watched baseball game since 1991 and according to Nate Silver at 538, had 49.9 million viewers at it’s peak going into the 9th inning.

The Cubs jumped out to an early lead and it looked as though Cleveland would wither away, but not this team. With 1 man on and 2 outs in the 5th inning, Joe Maddon inexplicably brought in Jon Lester. After a swinging bunt and throwing error by David Ross, the Cubs 5-1 lead was in jeopardy. With runners on 2nd and 3rd a bad wild pitch and a Ross stumble led to both runners scoring to shrink the Cubs lead to just 2 runs, 5-3. Ross redeemed himself in the top of the 6th with a HR to center field to extend the lead back to 3 runs, 6-3.

As most Cubs fans (and older Red Sox fans) would know, it felt like there was still too much time for the lead to evaporate and heartbreak to ensue. Sure enough, in the 8th inning, exhausted Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman stumbled in a big way. With 2 outs in the 8th, Lester allowed a single that deflected off of Cubs SS Addison Russell‘s glove and opened the door to bring in Chapman, who had already be heavily over-worked in the series. The first batter he faced, Brandon Guyer, ripped a line drive double into the outfield allowing Jose Ramirez to score. All of a sudden, it was a 2-run game with the tying run in the batter’s box.

With a 2-2 count on Rajai Davis, the UConn product*, Chapman tried to throw a 97 MPH fastball by him and failed. Davis crushed the pitch for a massive, game-tying 2-run HR. Even a 1,000 miles away in Boston you could feel the life being sucked out of Cubs fans and the phrase “not again” being muttered. The 9th was filled with some drama for the Cubs, including a challenge for slide interference and an inexplicable foul bunt K, but the game would move into extras. To add another layer of drama to the already crazy game, the tarp was unfolded after the 9th inning to prepare for an impending downpour that never really came. As it turns out, that 17 min rain delay was a blessing for the Cubs. They had a team meeting and regrouped, leading to 2 runs in the top of the 10th inning thanks to a Ben Zobrist double and a Miguel Montero single.

The bottom of the 10th began with a K to Napoli and a ground out for Jose Ramirez leaving the Cubs 1-out away…but Cubs fans gut-wrenching pain was not over yet. Brandon Guyer walked and Rajai Davis singled to drive him in, making it an 8-7 game with the winning run in the batter’s box and the tying run on base. Michael Martinez had the chance to destroy Cubs fans with an even more epic loss than anything previous, but a slow grounder to 3rd baseman Kris Bryant and an off-balance throw to 1st baseman Anthony Rizzo stranded the runner and gave the Cubbies the victory. One championship drought over, the other on-going.


This series, and in particular game 7, was incredible to watch for any fan of baseball. The big hits, dramatic catches, and unusual use of pitching staffs made for excellent entertainment. For those in Boston, there were countless storylines around former Red Sox managers, executives, and players. It was a battle of Cleveland manager Terry Francona against his former boss Theo Epstein for the Cubs. On the field there were 4 former Red Sox players or prospects on the Cubs roster (Jon Lester, John Lackey, David Ross, and Anthony Rizzo) and 4 on the Cleveland roster (Mike Napoli, Coco Crisp, Andrew Miller, and Michael Martinez), which only added to the interest from across New England.

Overall, this was the best world series of my lifetime outside of the Red Sox title runs. It’s the first world series, not involving the Red Sox, that brought me a similar level of rollercoaster emotions and an insane level of intensity. If baseball can figure out how to bring a similar level of intrigue on a more regular basis, then new fans would flock to the the sport and the MLB would grow to new heights. As is, more casual fans watched game 7 then practically ever before, so now is the time to grow the sport.

Finally, I just want to say thank you to the Indians and Cubs for putting on a show for the ages and delaying my offseason sadness. This is a series I will not soon forget.

*UConn Avery Point Campus

Unlikely Trade Partners: Red Sox and Yankees

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Only once since 1997 have the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees been trade partners. That one deal: Stephen Drew was traded to the Yankees for infielder Kelly Johnson and $500K in 2014. The AL East rivals have not been trade bedfellows often over the last few decades, but could this year be the exception? The Red Sox need late-inning relief and the Yankees certainly have some to spare.

When looking back at the history of trading between these two clubs, it’s rare because both teams have to be going in opposite directions to make it work. When both teams are buyers, no one has anything to sell the other and visa versa. The only way a trade would even be discussed between the rivals is if one team was out of contention at the deadline and the other had a legitimate shot at the postseason. This year has the potential to fit that mold.

The Yankees are 38-39 on the season, 9 games back in the division (4th place) and 3.5 games back in the AL Wild Card. If they continue to struggle and a month from now are even further back, they could easily become sellers. The Yankees farm system is ok, but not great, so they could choose to move a bullpen piece like Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller for a top tier prospect like Andrew Benintendi or Yoan Moncada. Chapman is a free agent at the end of the season (making $11+ million this year), so might command less via trade, while Miller is locked up through 2018 at $9 million per year.

A fly in the ointment of this situation is that the Red Sox would need to remain atop the AL Wild Card or near the top of the AL East to be buyers and make a push (and be willing to part with a top prospect). If both of those things align naturally, the situation could result in a trade between AL East rivals. I have a hard time believing it will happen, but stranger things have happened!