Jackie Bradley Jr. says he’d go to the White House if Red Sox won World Series

There’s been a lot of discussion about how at least six members of the New England Patriots have said they won’t be going to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. Since the Red Sox are among the favorites to win the World Series this year, it shouldn’t be too surprising that this story has crept over to Spring Training. According to Rob Bradford of WEEI, Jackie Bradley Jr. says he’s going to the White House if Boston is invited.

“If my team is going, yes, I’m going,” he said. […]

“The reason why we’re going there is because we did something together as a team. The White House is cool,” he said. “I’m with my team.”

As many of you know, my day job is as a community organizer with a progressive organization. I didn’t support Donald Trump during the election and haven’t supported many of the policies that he’s implemented since being sworn in. With that being said, I would tune in to watch members of the Red Sox meet with President Trump.

Like Bradley said, getting invited is about what they’ve done as a team and celebrating an amazing season. If you are a political person, it also gives you access to an extremely large platform to say something. Boycotting the visit certainly does get you some media attention, but I think it actually takes more courage to show up and express your discontent on some of the most political territory on earth.

On top of that, anyone who’s been paying attention to the news knows that Donald Trump likes to dismiss any potential controversy and declare it “fake news.” It’d be a lot harder for him to declare a player’s discontent “fake news” if the player is at the White House speaking directly to the assembled press.

I therefore believe it would actually be more productive for a player to visit the White House, even if he doesn’t support the President.

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Would changing commercial breaks be worthwhile in baseball?

This offseason has seen several different options put forward to help quicken the pace of play in baseball. While I tend to think these are solutions in search of a problem, the latest solution would be to change the ways commercial breaks happen during baseball games.

Apparently there were some changes to the way commercial breaks were taken during football games this past season and people were generally happy with the result. Changing commercials doesn’t necessarily translate to baseball however.

During football games, they actually have to stop play in order to take a commercial break. In baseball, however, there’s already a natural break that happens in between innings — when the teams are taking the field and pitchers are taking their eight warm up pitches. Unless you’re going to change the warm up process for pitchers, you’re either going to have a commercial break there or networks will simply show the pitchers warming up.

Nonetheless, there are apparently some folks who wouldn’t mind investigating ways to potentially change the commercial breaks. Red Sox chairman Tom Werner is one executive who said he’d be on board with fewer breaks.

“I can just speak for myself,” Werner said according to Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald. “I think that is a good idea.”

So there are two questions that would obviously come up: Would taking fewer commercial breaks actually have any impact on pace of play? I doubt it. And what type of coverage would fill the gaps between innings?

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Aaron Hill signs minor league deal with Giants

According to multiple reports, former Red Sox infielder Aaron Hill has signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants.

Hill only appeared in 47 games for the Red Sox last year after spending most of the year with Milwaukee, but he gained some appreciation from fans for his defensive contributions to the club. His offense numbers, however, weren’t great as he had a .218/.287/.290 battling line while with Boston.

While the Red Sox decided not bring the 12 year veteran back, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Giants are willing to bring him on board with a minor league contract. He also does have a career batting line of .267/.324/.420 and could potentially serve as a good insurance policy in case someone in the infield gets hurt.

Hill will receive an invitation to big league camp and will make $2 million if he makes the Opening Day roster. Depending on how well he plays, he could potentially earn another $1.425 million. The contract also includes an opt-out clause that would allow him to become a free agent late in Spring Training if he’s not projected to make the Opening Day roster.

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Eduardo Rodriguez throws first bullpen session

Eduardo Rodriguez suffered a minor knee injury during winter ball that has put him a little behind, but he was cleared for his first bullpen session yesterday.

The 24 year old hadn’t even participated in fielding drills with his teammates yet, though he had done some agility drills, before throwing 40 pitches during his session today.  One of the main reasons he’d been holding back is there was some concern about the injured knee being the same one he’d hurt last season.

The session wasn’t anything spectacular according to team officials, but it was “a step in the right direction.” Since this was his first time on a mound since he tweaked his knee, that type of response suggests everyone was simply hoping he’d make it through the session without incident. When he throws his second bullpen session on Friday, however, they’ll probably be looking for some progress.

Rodriguez’s recovery is being watched rather closely for several reasons. Perhaps the most urgent in timing is the fact that he’s in the designated pool of pitchers for Venezuela and he apparently really wants to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic. If he’s not well on his way to peak form, however, it’s unlikely he’ll make the trip.

There’s also the fact that he’s competing with Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright for the two spots in Boston’s rotation. Wright is also recovering from an injury (shoulder), so Rodriguez isn’t the only one who’s playing catch up at the start of spring training.

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Red Sox will bunt more against the shift

The defensive shift has become on of the more popular ways to combat power hitters who like to pull the ball. But it’s not just the big hitters like David Ortiz who have had to face the shift as players like Jackie Bradley Jr. have also seen the tactic utilized against them.

The Red Sox have seen it used against them at an especially high rate. According to Baseball Info Solutions, about 22 percent of the time (or 1,364 plate appearances) were faced against the shift. 408 times, it was Ortiz who faced the shift, but even Jackie Bradley Jr. faced it 224 times.

With this in mind, manager John Farrell obviously wants to figure out a way to combat the shift. One way of doing so would be to utilize bunting more.

“One of the things that we’ve really seen is that even with guys coming in the first part of their career, guys are really starting to get shifted against when we’re on offense,” Farrell said. “We’ve got some things that we’ll look to do to hopefully take back some of those lanes that are otherwise shifted away from. That’s just becoming more prevalent around the game. The bat-handlers that can work the ball the other way, or who are the guys that can more readily drop a bunt down to take advantage of that shift, that’s one thing that we’ll look to do more of.”

Now it’s important to note that Farrell isn’t talking about sacrifice bunting. He’s talking about bunting for a hit. The Red Sox have only averaged about 20 sacrifice bunts since Farrell took over as manager and last year they only took advantage of the sacrifice eight times. This move doesn’t suggest that will change.

If the game situation doesn’t require an extra base hit and the defense is giving up the entire left side of the field, however, Farrell believes the Red Sox should take advantage of it.

“The opposition may say, ‘Well, we’re fortunate we got a bunt so it’s working and we’re taking him out of his power swing,’” Farrell said. “But we’re seeing teams shift on guys that aren’t your prototypical power hitters. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit 25 [homers], but that’s kind of a breakthrough year for him. He’s a guy that, to me, we can look to take advantage of and work against the shift to hopefully open things back up for him.

“You’re seeing the shift on the bottom third of the order type hitters as well. So when it makes most sense, leading off an inning, late in a game when we’ve got to get something started, that’s the opportune time.”

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Hanley Ramirez reports to Spring Training

Manager John Farrell told reporters yesterday that Hanley Ramirez would be taking over a large portion of the DH at bats this year and the slugger seems to have responded in a way. Several people have been tweeting about how he showed up to camp today wearing a David Ortiz t-shirt.

It was very noticeable that Hanley appeared to be excited about reporting to camp this year and will be speaking with members of the press this morning.

Pablo Sandoval also reported today — though he had already been in Fort Meyers and made a big splash by showing off his new and improved fitness level. He’ll apparently be speaking with the press after this morning’s workout as well.

It’s a good sign that both of these players have made their way to Fort Meyers before the first official workout for position players tomorrow. While Pablo is in a competition for the starting gig at third base and needs to improve over his 2015 numbers, Hanley will also need to have a good year since David Ortiz isn’t there to supply huge power numbers.

UPDATE: Here is audio of Hanley’s press conference courtesy of the Boston Globe.

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Hanley Ramirez to DH against right handers

hanley-ramirezWith David Ortiz’s retirement at the end of last season, there’s a lot of discussion about who will step up to fill his shoes. While most officials are saying that it’s going to be a team effort, there does need to be someone who takes on the designated hitter role. On at least some occasions, it appears that will be Hanley Ramirez.

According to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, John Farrell announced that Hanley will DH “against every righthanded pitcher.”

There wasn’t really anything too surprising about this move. Hanley had a .286/.361/.505 batting line last season with 30 homeruns and 111 RBI’s. That’s not quite the 38 homers and 127 RBI that David Ortiz had last season, but it’s still good production and worthy of the DH role

Since Hanley won’t be playing defense while DH’ing, it’s likely that Mitch Moreland will be seeing a significant amount of time at first base against right-handers. Hanley would then move over to first against lefties with Chris Young and others seeing at bats in the DH role.

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