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Tuesday, 04 June 2019 16:01

Red Sox Report Card - May 2019

All in all, not a terrible month. Not a great month, but not a terrible month.

The Red Sox went 16-11 in the month of May, fighting their way back to the right side of .500. However, that’s not nearly enough in the grand scheme of things – they aren’t in fourth place anymore, having climbed up to third, but it’s a distant third … and it’s getting more distant by the day.

It’s not the fault of the Red Sox on the field, necessarily – we saw a fair amount of strong performances out of the team over the course of the month – but five games over .500 isn’t going to cut it when you have a Yankees team hitting its stride (and due to return some injured talent) and a Rays team that is proving surprisingly resilient.

Still, it beats the hell out of the trash fire that was April. And the team is still very much in playoff contention. Here’s hoping that Boston can make the same kind of leap in June that it did in May; we’ll really have something then.

On to the Report Card.

Published in Sports

Welcome to another season of Clubhouse Leaders!

Major League Baseball has by far the longest season in all of North American professional sports. MLB teams play 162 games over the course of six months before landing in October and the postseason. That lengthy stretch leaves room for a lot to happen – and a lot of changes.

We’ve hit the one-quarter mark of the 2019 season. Every team has 40 games or more in the rearview. That’s a significant chunk of baseball – enough for us to start looking at who the highest individual achievers for the season might be. Again, there’s a lot of baseball still to be played – 120 games worth, in fact – but we’ve got enough of a sample size to start thinking about which players might be in line to win MLB’s most prestigious individual awards.

Published in Sports

No American sport is as enamored of its own history quite like baseball. Even as today’s players take the field, the shadows of those who came before are omnipresent. Baseball is as much about what was as it is about what is.

But there are some moments that transcend even the game’s historical affection. These are the times that make the leap from history to legend, the instances and accomplishments that are the foundation of baseball’s long and intricate mythology.

Kevin Cook’s “Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink” (Henry Holt and Co., $28) is a thorough exploration of one such instance, a single game in 1979 that wound up as one of the greatest offensive explosions in the history of Major League Baseball. That game – a May 17 contest that saw the Chicago Cubs play host to the Philadelphia Phillies – ultimately went 10 innings, with a final score of Phillies 23, Cubs 22; it was the highest scoring game of the modern era.

(It was second only in MLB history to a 1922 game that, funnily enough, featured these same teams; the Cubs triumphed in that one, with a score of 26-23.)

Through a combination of personal interviews and meticulous research, Cook gives an inning-by-inning rendering of the game (known to many as simply “The Game”), breaking down every on-field moment while also delving into some off-the-field exploration into the lives of some of the major players. An historic and iconic MLB moment, the picture painted of a generational contest.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 01 May 2019 10:20

Red Sox Report Card - April 2019

Not exactly the start that Red Sox fans were hoping for.

In a season where they were expected to be among the league’s best, Boston has instead spent the entire month of April below the .500 mark; they’re currently sitting in fourth place in the division, behind the Rays, Yankees and Blue Jays and ahead of only the lowly Orioles.

It’s not ideal to see a team stumble out of the gate like this – particularly one coming off a World Series championship season and that was projected to contend for another this year – but fans have to remain calm. It’s early yet, and there’s a lot of baseball left to be played.

That said, the baseball that HAS been played hasn’t been … good. The 2019 Red Sox have struggled for stretches in all facets of the game, though they have looked better after an utterly abysmal start to the season. We’re here to talk about what has been, not what we hope is to come.

On to the Report Card.

Published in Sports

Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is defined by its stories.

None of our American pro sports leagues have the same lengthy history within the culture. Nor do they have the same reverence for that history. Baseball is about narrative, a constant tale-telling that is built around connecting the present to the past.

Ron Darling’s new book “108 Stitches: Loose Thread, Ripping Yarns, and the Darnedest Characters from My Time in the Game” (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) is about telling those stories, all through the lens of his own experience in the game. And he’s got plenty of experiences to talk about – a 13-year major league career where he won 136 games as a starting pitcher and two decades in the broadcast booth.

Darling’s conceit is a simple one: A series of stories about the various figures with whom he crossed paths over the course of nearly four decades in professional baseball. All told, there are 108 tales – just like there are 108 stitches on a baseball.

Published in Sports

Baseball is a team game made up of individual battles, a series of one-on-one confrontations where one man throws a ball and the other attempts to hit it. Yes, the action evolves after that, but at its heart, baseball is about pitcher versus hitter.

The man at the plate has a weapon – his bat – and protection in the form of gloves, a helmet, perhaps some armor in the form of an arm guard or shin guard. The man on the mound has none of that. But he is not unarmed – he has the ball. And the ball can be a formidable weapon indeed.

That weapon is the focus of Tyler Kepner’s new book “K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches” (Doubleday, $28.95). In it, the New York Times baseball writer digs deep into the myriad ways that players have tried to put the ball over the plate over the course of the game’s long history. It’s an exploration of one-half of that ever-present central conceit of hurler against striker.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 03 April 2019 13:06

Possible MLB milestones coming in 2019

Baseball is a game that has always held its own history in high regard. And one of the best ways to keep track of that history has been through statistical milestones, numbers that have come to act as a sort of distillation of greatness. Round numbers that represent on-field brilliance in an easy-to-understand way.

Granted, changes in the game are in turn changing these milestones. The way the game is played and the meaning of the numbers being tallied isn’t what it once was; the sabermetric revolution has altered how we look at these statistics. Still, there’s something undeniably special about those iconic career marks. While their relevance may fade someday, we’re not there yet.

Here are a few milestones that might be reached in 2018:

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 20 March 2019 12:27

Play ball! A 2019 MLB Preview

It might be hard to believe, considering how much snow we’ve seen recently, but spring is here. Whatever the weather says, the truth is that baseball season is just around the corner! Spring training is coming to a conclusion – we’re on the verge of seeing games that count!

There’s plenty to be excited about in 2019. The biggest contracts in the history of the game have been signed. The stars are poised to pick up where they left off; reigning MVPs (Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich) and Cy Young winners (Blake Snell and Jacob deGrom) and Rookies of the Year (Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto) are all ready to get back to work. Meanwhile, new faces like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez are almost here. Plus, there are the names that we don’t know well (or at all) yet, but who will capture our attention before the season is through.

There are going to be a lot of home runs and a lot of strikeouts. There will be stars who perform to expectations and unknowns who shock the world. There will be delightful highs and unfortunate lows. There’s no way to say for certain what will go down on the field in 2019.

But let’s give it a go anyway.

Published in Cover Story

The times have changed with regards to major league baseball and free agency. The last couple of years have seen a drastic alteration in how owners have approached the business. Teams are far more reluctant to offer up the big-money deals that once ruled the landscape; even the best players are getting waited out.

However, we could feel relatively confident that we wouldn’t get TOO deep into spring training before the market’s two shiniest stars – Manny Machado and Bryce Harper – would be signed to deals at or near the level they sought. In a game of contract chicken that was the biggest talking point of the entire offseason, both men held out for what they believed themselves to be worth.

Eventually, they found teams that shared that belief.

Published in Sports

Another year, another big class voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooperstown’s Class of 2019 features four inductees voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) – including the first-ever unanimous Hall of Famer.

Longtime Yankees closer Mariano Rivera became the first player to be named on every single ballot, breaking the percentage record of 99.3 set three years ago by Ken Griffey Jr. Rivera is joined by the late Roy Halladay – also in his first year on the ballot – as well as career Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez in his last year of eligibility and longtime starting pitcher Mike Mussina.

Published in Sports
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