Sox Week: A Red Sox-Orioles rivalry is good for everyone

  • Boston Red Sox's Marco Hernandez, second from left, is tended to after being hit by a pitch from relief pitcher Donnie Hart in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Saturday, April 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky

  • Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell walks off the field after checking on Marco Hernandez after Hernandez was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, Saturday, April 22, 2017. Baltimore won 4-2. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky

  • Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter stands in the dugout before a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Baltimore, Saturday, April 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky

  • Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia stands in the dugout during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, Saturday, April 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky

  • Boston Red Sox's Marco Hernandez, left, falls in front of Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph after being hit by a pitch from relief pitcher Donnie Hart in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Saturday, April 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky

  • Hanley Ramirez hasn’t had the April he was hoping for in his first season as a full-time designated hitter. AP

  • Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado walks on the field during a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Baltimore, Saturday, April 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky

Monitor staff
Published: 4/30/2017 12:03:48 AM

Matt Barnes should never have thrown a baseball anywhere near Manny Machado’s head. He paid the price for that, serving the four-game suspension handed down by Major League Baseball. He was also embarrassed by his teammate and leader on TV – and then over and over again in every newspaper and on every website in Boston for two days.

So, when Dustin Pedroia and Red Sox Manager John Farrell came out Tuesday saying the team was ready to move on, you’d have to think Barnes supported that sentiment.

It is time to move on, but before we do, let’s take a look at the one positive that can be found in last weekend’s incident in Baltimore.

Rivalries are good for sports, especially baseball. And especially when the opposing team is the Baltimore Orioles, a team that you’ll play eight more times this year – starting with a four-game series that opens Monday at Fenway Park.

Baseball is constantly labeled the most boring of the major sports and those in the league offices are always looking for ways to increase viewership and excitement.

This is how it’s going to happen. Not by changing the rules or adding a pitch clock. Natural rivalries based on location or divisional alignment are the things that are going to keep this game alive and thriving.

Let’s face it, the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox is dormant. The best thing about that historic hatred is that it could spark again at any given moment, but for now, it’s just not what it used to be.

The Orioles are now Public Enemy No. 1 and Manny Machado is their leader.

That’s probably why ESPN dropped Monday’s Detroit-Cleveland matchup from its schedule and picked up the series opener between Boston and Baltimore instead.

The Worldwide Leader, like the rest of us, is expecting fireworks Monday night at Fenway Park and that’s okay with me.

And it’s okay with Baltimore Manager Buck Showalter as well, I assume. He’s been stirring the pot for years now, right?

The “everyone’s got” the flu and we’re “not broadcasting it to the world” comments at the beginning of the year are just the latest example.

When asked if he was surprised about Showalter’s unforgiving opinion on the Red Sox’ situation to open the season, Farrell simply said “no.” That’s it, nothing more.

That’s because Showalter has played this song before. He’s condemned the Red Sox quietly and blamed it on the media for stirring up issues that didn’t exist.

In 2011, Showalter’s first season in Baltimore, he took his first rip at the Red Sox, criticizing then-GM Theo Esptein, The Breaker Of Curses.

“I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay (Rays) payroll,” Showalter said according to Fox Sports when discussing Boston’s signing of Carl Crawford. “You got Crawford cause you paid more than anyone else, and that makes you smarter? That’s why I like whipping their butt.”

A few days later, Showalter said his comments were taken out of context by Men’s Journal, where they were originally published.

“I didn’t really say it in that (context). I was talking to a guy, like most people just joking around,” the manager said then, adding, “Maybe it’s envy or something on my part.”

Maybe Showalter’s envy has spread to the guys in his clubhouse and created a sour taste in their mouths, too.

You’d think the success the Red Sox have had over the last two decades would make anyone in baseball a little jealous, especially considering the Orioles have advanced to the ALCS just twice in that same time frame, losing both times. Baltimore has finished in fourth or fifth place in the AL East 13 times in 20 years.

But the Orioles are on the upswing. They finished last season one bad Buck Showalter decision short of a divisional series. Baltimore won the AL East in 2014 and they currently have the best record in the league.

It benefits this youthful Red Sox team to have a high-caliber rival like Baltimore. It benefits the game to have a young superstar (and future MVP) like Machado serving as an ambassador to the bad blood along with a veteran mainstay (and former MVP) like Dustin Pedroia – even if he wants nothing to do with it.

Where is Hanley?

Hanley Ramirez is not David Ortiz.

He may play Big Papi’s old position. He may occupy Ortiz’s old locker. But that’s where the similarities end.

Ramirez can’t spend too much time trying to do even half of what Ortiz did for the Red Sox. He’s at his best when he’s Hanley Being Hanley, not Hanley Trying To Be David.

Ramirez has sputtered to start the season, hitting just .250 with two home runs and nine RBI out of the No. 4 spot.

He’s had just four multi-hit efforts in 19 games, and three multi-strikeout performances. Injuries in both shoulders have also kept Ramirez from doing anything more than take grounders at first base in practice, despite playing 134 games there last year.

If his rehab continues at this pace, it would be hard to imagine him playing first when the Sox visit Milwaukee for three games in early May.

“It’s the first time I’m doing it full time,” Ramirez said last week about his new role as DH, according to Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. “It’s not going to be good from the beginning. You have to adjust to the little things that I’ve been able to get used to.”

The month of April is always a roller-coaster ride for Ramirez, so he’s probably used to it. Two years ago, he clocked 10 home runs and collected 22 RBI in 21 games in April, but finished the season with just 19 home runs, 53 RBI and the worst WAR (-1.3) of his career.

Ramirez hit just one home run with 13 RBI and seven extra-base hits in April last season. It ended up being arguably the best offensive year of his career as he finished with 30 home runs and 111 RBI.

It’s okay to expect more from him. He will most likely meet those expectations. But if he doesn’t, Farrell can’t hesitate to give someone else a chance to be productive in the cleanup spot.




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