Sign up to get email alerts for each new posts

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why the Drew Pomeranz for Anderson Espinoza trade is absolutely right for the Red Sox

Worth the risk.

There are two big reasons that Red Sox fans should be applauding Dave Dombrowski for yesterday's move to trade top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza for Padres All-Star lefty Drew Pomeranz.

First off, as many others have noted, top pitching prospects seldom meet expectations -- and the younger they are, the riskier they are. The minor leagues and high school athletic departments are filled with can't-miss guys who did. 

Remember Casey Kelly? Boston's top pick from the 2008 draft had a 2.08 ERA in the minors as a 19-year-old, but in the MLB he's just 2-8 lifetime with a 6.39 ERA. What a waste of a perfect Boston baseball name. 

Casey Kelly? Great name, lame game.


How about Craig Hansen, the Sox' first-round pick in 2005? He was supposed to take over as closer, but turned in a 6.15 ERA in parts of three seasons with Boston -- and was out of the majors by 2009.

Yes, Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon were prospects that turned out fine, but don't forget that neither was originally a first-round pick. Pap, in fact, was a fourth-rounder. And for every one of those guys, there are dozens more stocking the shelves at Staples.

So whatever Baseball America says about Espinoza, this is a deal worth making. In fact, even if Espiona DOES turn out to be terrific, it's worth it. 

How come?

If Espinoza is the next Pedro, so be it.

Picture the scene: the Red Sox are playing the Giants at Fenway Park in late October, a rematch of the 1912 World Series. David Ortiz, after smashing 42 home runs in his final season, caps his Red Sox career with one more chance to deliver in the clutch for Boston.

If the Red Sox hang onto Espinoza, the chances are very good that the last game Ortiz will play for the Red Sox is on Oct. 2 against the Blue Jays. Those of us who were there will always fondly recall Carl Yastrzemski's last game in 1983, but we would have gladly swapped it for a chance to see Captain Carl go out in a contest that mattered -- not on a last-place club.

Ted Williams homered in his final MLB at-bat for the 65-89 Red Sox of 1960. Think he would have traded it for a chance to face the Pirates in the World Series? You better believe it.

Unless Big Papi changes his mind, this is his last go-around. The Red Sox have a lineup that can compete with any team in baseball, and in David Price, Steven Wright, and Rick Porcello have three starting pitchers who they should be able to count on in the second half. They need a fourth, however, to have a chance at the postseason. 

Pomeranz gives them that chance. Espinoza may be the bigger winner in the long run, but if the Red Sox want a chance to help their greatest clutch hitter finish his career in Bill Russell, Ray Bourque, or John Elway championship style, they needed to make this move.

Ortiz deserves one last shot -- and so do the fans.






Friday, July 8, 2016

Why David Ortiz has more in common with Sandy Koufax than Ted Williams


What's this .097 hitter have in common with Ortiz?

He's not a pitcher, he's not a Dodger, but the final months of David Ortiz's career are more closely mirroring those of Sandy Koufax than Ted Williams.

Long before Ortiz hit his 522nd lifetime home run on July 1 to pass the total hit by Williams, people were linking the two Red Sox icons. No less an authority than Carl Yastrzemski has called them the two greatest players in franchise history, and all but die-hard Yaz fans would agree.

When it comes to swan songs, however, the comparisons don't measure up. Ted played his final year for a moribund Red Sox team that finished 7th in the American League, and his 29 homers and .316 average meant nothing beyond padding his Hall of Fame statistics. He gave fans some final thrills at age 42 -- including, famously, a bullpen blast in his last at-bat -- but the Fenway stands that day and many others were largely empty.

Pressure? For Williams, in 1960, there was none.

Less than 11,000 saw Ted's last HR live.

Ortiz is playing under far different circumstances. The Red Sox near the All-Star break in the thick of the AL East and Wild Card races, meaning each Big Papi hit -- even, in one memorable case, a game-saving triple -- has far more importance. On a team filled with budding superstars, it is still Ortiz opposing pitchers fear most in crunch time. Fenway is regularly jammed to capacity with demanding Boston fans.

Whereas Williams was truly a lion in winter during his final season, emerging from hibernation to accumulate just 310 at-bats, Ortiz is playing nearly every day and leads the AL in OPS. True, he has yet to take the field on defense, but what he's doing at the plate is still remarkable for a 40-year-old. One could make a strong argument that Big Papi has been the league MVP over the first half-sesaon, and he is slated to start at DH for the AL in next week's All-Star Game.



It's enough to make a guy change his mind about retirement, but Ortiz insists that won't be the case. He is too proud and too smart to chance playing one year too long and leaving fans with a less-then-flattering image of a .220, 12-homer campaign. Plus, in addition to the normal aches that can hamper a ballplayer of his age and size, he has severe pain in his feet  that clubhouse onlookers confirm he hides behind his gregarious persona.

Here's where Koufax comes in.

Fifty years ago, the Dodgers hurler dubbed "The Left Hand of God" faced his own physical challenges. Although the he was just 30 in 1966, Koufax's arthritic left elbow caused him constant pain on and off the mound. His arm remained bent at a 22.5-degree angle between starts, and he had suits specially tailored to hide the deformity, Doctors warned him that he could permanently damage his arm by continuing to hurl 300 innings a year.

Koufax on ice -- a common occurrence in '66. 

But, like this year's Red Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers of '66 were a contending team -- in fact, the defending World Series champs -- in a tight pennant race. There were other strong players on the club, and two future Hall of Fame pitchers in Don Drysdale and rookie Don Sutton behind him in the rotation, but Sandy was clearly the star. As with Ortiz, nobody performed better when the pressure was greatest.

This stayed true down the stretch in '66. The pain never lessened, but Koufax kept winning -- going 8-2 with an 1.78 ERA and 8 complete games in his final 11 starts. On the last day of the season, with the National League championship on the line, he beat Phillies ace Jim Bunning with a 10-strikeout performance on two days rest.

In addition to helping the Dodgers to the World Series, where they lost to Baltimore, Koufax led the league in wins (at 27-9), ERA (1.73), strikeouts (317), Bar Mitzvah invitations, and marriage proposals. He won his third Cy Young Award in four years, and only a career season from Roberto Clemente denied Sandy NL MVP honors as well.

Then, shocking the sports world, Koufax walked away. In a hastily called press conference, he stated that "I've got a lot of years to live after baseball and I would like to live them with the complete use of my body."

There will be no such surprise announcement from Ortiz. Everybody knows he is retiring. But, like Koufax, and unlike Williams, Big Papi is doing so on a team that could very well be playing important games in September -- and maybe October.

In the end, that's far more important than any home run.

Will Ortiz's last season also end with bunting?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

David Price chases history and the Ghost of Earl Wilson

Price's start has baffled the experts. (AP)

When he takes the mound tonight at Fenway Park,  David Price will be doing more than trying to turn around his season.

There is a fact that you won't find mentioned in his long Red Sox media guide entry, or anywhere else. In many respects that's a good thing -- a sign of progress. Even he likely doesn't know about it,

As history, however, it is worth acknowledging.

When the Red Sox signed Price to a seven-year, $217-million contract last December, they did more than make him the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history. The move meant that, barring injury, the team's No. 1 starter entering the 2016 season would be African-American -- a first for a franchise that dates to 1901.

The Price was right in December. (AP)

Even at a position where there has traditionally not been a tremendous amount of racial diversity at the MLB level, this is surprising for such a storied organization. And while it can't be linked entirely to the team's dubious racial past, this does play a part.

There have, of course, been men of color atop the Boston rotation. Pedro Martinez is the best pitcher most of us will ever see, and the pride of the Dominican Republic. Luis Tiant, the big-game king of the 1975 American League champions, was as famous for his long exile from Castro's Cuba as for his topsy-turvy delivery and victory cigars. Both Pedro and El Tiante were beloved, charismatic winners, but neither was African-American.

Oil Can Boyd, the Mississippi-bred son of a Negro League player, went 15-13 with 3 shutouts for a mediocre Boston club in 1985. He seemed on the verge of No. 1 status, until Roger Clemens' rapid ascent in '86, coupled with Boyd's injuries and off-field problems, kept him from achieving it.

Boyd claims racism was also a factor. This can't be proven, but the other pitcher with perhaps the most legitimate chance to be Boston's first African-American ace was undeniably denied that shot by one of the ugliest injustices in team history -- which happened 50 years ago.

Earl Wilson was called up to the Red Sox in 1959, just a few weeks after infielder Pumpsie Green's promotion made Boston the last of the sixteen original MLB clubs to break the color line. During the next several seasons, the right-hander established himself as a very good pitcher on a very bad team. Twenty-game winner Bill Monbouquette was undeniably Boston's ace, but Wilson was a rising star who pitched a 1962 no-hitter at Fenway Park in which he also homered.

Wilson's no-hitter earned him a $1,000 bonus. (AP)

A down year by Monbouquette prompted his trade after the 1965 season, opening the door for Wilson to step into the No. 1 role. He had poise, experience, and confidence -- all the makings of a star.

Then came spring training of '66, which the Red Sox spent in the still-segregated Deep South. Wilson stepped into the Cloud Nine bar one hot night in Lakeland, Florida, with white teammates Dennis Bennett and Dave Morehead.

After taking drink orders from Bennett and Morehead, the bartender reportedly looked at Wilson and said, "We don't serve niggers here."

A Louisiana native, Wilson was not surprised -- but still angry. He went to team management, and was told to forget about the incident. He later said he thought long and hard about doing just that, knowing the club's dubious reputation in racial matters. In the end, however, he felt he could not remain silent and went to the press.

Even a great power stroke couldn't save Earl.

A few stories appeared in the newspapers, and the front office failed to condemn the incident or back its ballplayer. From that point on, it was only a matter of time.

On June 17, despite a fine 3.84 ERA for a last-place club, Wilson was traded to the Detroit Tigers in a terrible one-sided deal involving otherwise nondescript players. By stirring the pot, Wilson and others close to the situation believed, he had sealed his fate.

It can be argued that Wilson had the last word. He won a combined 18 games (mostly for Detroit) that summer, and then upped his record to 22-11 for the Tigers in 1967. The '68 season ended with a World Series championship, and Wilson -- still a stalwart in the Detroit starting rotation -- was celebrated as a key man in the title run.

Wilson won big in Detroit.

He settled in Michigan and went on to a successful business career after baseball, but the pain of what happened to him in Boston remained with Wilson until his 2005 death. The sting of injustice, and of being left out to dry by an organization to which he had given so much, was "the most humiliating experience of my life."

Now the Red Sox are one of the most racially diverse teams in baseball, and David Price has a chance to avenge this proud, personable man and knock down the final racial wall of Boston baseball. Price may never have heard of Earl Wilson and the Cloud Nine bar, but it's one more reason to root for the would-be ace.

Price ponders -- and hopes for better days.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The 1975 Red Sox helped save baseball -- and my childhood


Forty years ago tonight the Red Sox and Reds played what is routinely cited as one of the greatest games in sports history. Filled with high drama and compelling characters, Game 6 of the 1975 World Series set TV viewership records and jump-started baseball's popularity -- which had waned with the rise of the NFL and Monday Night Football.

Some say Game 6 saved the National Pastime. It definitely helped save me.

I was in the stands at Fenway that cold October evening, and wish I remembered it better. It was well past an 8-year-old's bedtime, and most of my recollections of the evening revolve around the pregame -- when I joined the multitudes shouting "Looie! Looie!" into cardboard megaphones as we watched ace Luis Tiant warm up in the Boston bullpen -- and the climax -- lots of screaming, hugging, and organ playing after Carlton Fisk's shot to left field banged off the foul pole for a game-winning homer.


The 7-6 Red Sox win only temporarily staved off a Cincinnati celebration the next night in Game 7 , but the feats of Pudge, El Tiante, and their teammates during that season and beyond had a lasting impact on me -- providing a way to survive and then escape from the darkest force of my childhood.

Before '75, the Red Sox were not on my radar screen. My big brother Adam played in the Newton Central Little League, and I went to his games, but my father was an MIT-educated engineer who liked to joke that he "wasn't created with a sports gene." Dad could build or fix anything but looked like Felix Unger when throwing a ball.  

Baseball was never on the radio or the TV, and I connected with my father by building plastic model cars in his basement workshop. I'm not sure I even knew who Carlton Fisk was then, but I could tell any two Ford Thunderbirds apart by studying the taillights of my AMI replicas. At the time that was good enough.


Pre-Sox stats: A full-length taillight on the '66.

Then, on Friday the 13th of January, 1975, my parents sat me and Adam down on his bed to tell us they were splitting up after 13 years of marriage. My mother claims I said something mature like "Well, if you don't get along well together, at least this way you can stay friends," but at age 7 I certainly couldn't grasp the seriousness of what was going on. 

Dad moved the next day from our house in leafy Newton to an apartment abutting Routh 95 in Burlington, where the three of us hanged out every weekend watching late-night TV and eating burgers and creamed corn. Adam and I slept head-to-toe on a living room couch, like Richie's big brother Chuck and his college roommates on "Happy Days." 

For Adam, then nearly 11, it must have been scary and sad to see our father starting his life over. For me it felt like an adventure.


Beacon Village: Fun far from Fenway.

We didn't listen or watch baseball at "dad's house," but by the time the Red Sox clinched the American League East that September the games started appearing on the big Zenith in our den. Mom had a boyfriend, and he had plenty of sports genes.

Jack was big and strong, a jock-turned-lawyer and a rabid Sox fan. He had the games on no matter what he was doing; he even had a huge set of headphones with a built-in radio that he wore while mowing the lawn. I still made Rydell models in the shop, but Jack never went down there. To connect with the new man in the house, I had to watch the games too.

So I did -- and got hooked.

While my own baseball skills were and remained mediocre at best, I found I had a natural affinity for understanding the game and its history. Jack, who had played in high school and beyond, explained some of the finer points, and I began listening to the Sox on my clock radio as I fell asleep and then poring through boxscores in the next morning's Globe. Tiant, Fisk, Rice, Lynn, Yastrzemski -- these heroes provided the language I figured would win Jack over. 

"Hey, Looie got the win last night," I'd say to Jack as we passed heading to and from the bathroom, and I'd feel, briefly, like his equal.


When Luis was winning, life was easier.

Dad briefly took over as the baseball man in the family that October, when a friend of a friend hooked him up with tickets to all four home games in the Red Sox-Reds World Series. These were, I believe, my first visits to Fenway Park, but it was not the start of a trend; once the series and season were over we rarely went back.

A clear dichotomy formed in the years that followed. Weekends at dad's house from spring through early fall were fun-filled with mini-bikes and James Bond movies and burgers, while the weekdays back in Newton were for baseball. Dad married his girlfriend Judy, who was and is a great stepmom but also lacks a sports gene. Mom married Jack, assuring that the Red Sox would always be on at her house.


Hoping for the best, fearing the worst.

As I got older and began to understand a little how the real world worked, I learned one had to be careful when watching and listening to games with Jack. 

If the Red Sox were winning, he smiled and laughed and was your buddy; if they were losing the smile disappeared and he filled up his big glass from the liquor cabinet more often. He never took me and Adam to games or even played catch with us -- those honors were reserved for his own son -- so this hit-or-miss bonding was the best I was going to get.

Sprawled out on the shag carpet in front of the TV, with Jack in the dark leather recliner behind me, I prayed for wins. After Bucky Dent in '78 and the dismantling of the club that soon followed, the drunk, angry moods became more common. It wasn't just the slumping Sox, I learned later; Jack's once flourishing law career was also on a downward trend. 


Time for another drink.

It was best just to stay away, and I found I could momentarily forget about him and the scare he put into me by listening to Ken Coleman call the Sox games on WHDH -- "850 on your AM dial." If there was no game on, I could sing along to Jim Croche or Don MacLean albums with my mom. She made sure I felt loved, and when Jack was in one of his dark moods I guess I did the same for her.

By the early '80s, when Yastrzemski was winding down, I had given up any chance of bonding with the big guy across the hall. I still loved baseball, and began taking the Green Line from Boston College to Kenmore Square with friends in a rite of passage that allowed me to escape the tension at home by making a new home at Fenway. Occasionally dad got there with me -- one game he took me and 10 buddies to right after my Bar Mitzvah remains a great memory -- but the Red Sox were mostly "my" thing. That was fine.

Yaz retired in October 1983, but the last links to the '75 team, Dwight Evans and Jim Rice, were still going strong when I left for college a couple years later. The next summer I returned just as the Red Sox and young pitching phenom Roger Clemens were heating up. 

It was the type of club that even Jack and I might have enjoyed together, but by this point Mom had finally endured enough. He was on the way out, and when he meekly offered me great tickets to a few games that August -- not to go with him, just free seats -- I politely refused. I'd rather grab a standing-room spot balanced atop the guardrails behind the last row of Section 25 with my friends than take his weak-ass handouts.


By '86, I'd rather hang here than with him.

I have no idea where Jack is now; the last I heard about him, he had done some time in jail and been disbarred for stealing money from clients. I occasionally Google him but nothing comes up other than a few short stories and court documents describing his incarceration. I know people who know one of his other ex-wives, and a few calls would likely unearth his whereabouts. But I don't make them.

Mom found a guy worthy of her love -- and ours -- and they had a great decade together before he died of cancer. She and dad did indeed stay friendly and still get together with Adam and my families often. Ballgames are usually on in the background; Dad and Judy still have not developed sports genes, but they'll go to their grandkids' games.

Jack is about 80 now; I imagine the next time I read his name -- if I ever do -- will be in an obituary. Forty years after he entered my life, and nearly 30 years after he left it, the fear and anger are long gone. What's left are the memories of a great team, and a love for the game that I developed in 1975 out of desperation -- but has remained far beyond its original intent.

Maybe Jack never took me to Fenway, but now I can go whenever I want. I tend to look at it not as revenge, but it feels sweet just the same. 

Like a fly ball heading deep to left, staying fair, and making us believe anything is possible. 







  


  
    

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Here's how Dave Dombrowski can solve the Farrell-Lovullo Red Sox managerial dilemma

Have we seen the last of this? 

The rumors out of Yawkey Way are that John Farrell will be back as Red Sox manager for the 2016 season, provided he is healthy after treatment for Stage 1 lymphoma. This would be a mistake.

As much as I wish Farrell well in his cancer battle and respect him for his 2013 World Series success and classy demeanor, this has been a different team since his bench coach Torey Lovullo took over as acting manager. The Red Sox have played with more energy, heart, and success since the switch, with numerous late-inning comebacks -- which was not the case earlier in the season.

Lovullo is now a hot commodity, and Boston stands to lose him as other teams seek to make managerial changes this offseasonConfounding the problem is that Lovullo has already said he will not take the Boston job if his friend Farrell -- who he served as a coach in both Boston and Toronto -- is fired or kicked upstairs to a desk job.

There is a solution, however, that might satisfy both men.

Your move, Dave. (www.csnne.com)

Monday morning, new Boston baseball czar Dave Dombrowski could invite them into his office and praise them for making the most of a tough situation. Since it was by working together that they were able to turn this hopeless year into a respectable one, he could explain, he doesn't want to break up that partnership. 

He just wants to reverse it.

Imagine a 2016 Red Sox team with Lovullo as manager and Farrell as his bench coach. It would be the best of both worlds.  The grizzled veteran providing wise counsel to a protege-turned-colleague out to match his past success.

Young players like Travis Shaw, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Blake Swihart who blossomed under Lovullo this late summer would not feel abandoned, nor would veterans like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Xander Bogaerts who went through the 2013 wars with Farrell. 

Lovullo has connected with players in 2015...


...as Farrell did before him. (Boston Globe)

Look at the Yankees dynasty of recent vintage. Any time he wanted in-game consultation from 1996-2003, manager Joe Torre could turn to his side and ask bench coach Don Zimmer -- a veteran of 1,744 games as a manager. The godfather-consigliere arrangement resulted in six AL pennants and four World Series titles.

Zimmer was no doubt frustrated he never won it all as manager, but he could seek solace in the fact his insights were beneficial to Torre's success -- and recognized as such. Zim didn't let his ego get in the way of a good gig.

Zim and Torre made it work. (Sports Illustrated)

Farrell doesn't quite have Zimmer's MLB tenure -- he's managed less than 800 games -- but he has won championships in the Boston pressure cooker as both a manager and pitching coach (under Terry Francona in 2007). Since pitching is the biggest fix now needed here, Farrell's expertise before, after, and during games would be invaluable.   

Both Farrell and Lovullo are proud men, but also smart enough and close enough to see that this could work. 

Even if he recovers fully, Farrell could probably benefit from being in a job with less stress and media demands. He could head home earlier after games, get more rest, and still be near the world's best medical care. 

Farrell can also look to his track record. Sure, he was at the helm for the 2013 champs, but he's also finished last 3 of his 4 years in Boston (the club was 50-64 when he stepped down this year). In six years as a manager, including 2011-12 in Toronto, he's finished over .500 once. Maybe he's a great baseball man but not cut out to lead.

Could they handle a role reversal?

Then there is Lovullo. As well as he has done in his first two months as an MLB manager, he is still largely unproven. He knew the players on this team well when he took over in August, and they responded beautifully to him. If he stayed he could help them take the next step; in another city he would be starting from scratch -- and without a close friend by his side. 

Why not give it a shot? Farrell has a guaranteed contract from the Red Sox through 2017, with a club option for 2018, so John Henry will be paying him regardless. If it doesn't work, Dombrowski would still have the option of offering Farrell another position in the organization and/or firing Lovullo. 

Dombrowski and Lovullo: still a chance. (Getty Images

Firing Farrell and/or losing Lovullo to Washington or another team would be a public relations nightmare. Flipping their roles would be a wonderful feel-good story, providing it is spun as a decision made by the two men involved. Farrell has already won it all, so maybe he would enjoy helping his friend do the same.

There is one more reason Dombrowski should make this move: He knows it was not Farrell who assembled the train wreck of a roster Boston had entering 2015. Farrell didn't let Jon Lester go and fail to sign a true No. 1 starter. He didn't bring in Hanley Ramirez and his crappy attitude to play left field, or overpay for Pablo Sandoval because he had a cute nickname and gaudy World Series stats.

That was Ben Cherington and John Henry's team. The 2016 Red Sox will be all Dombrowski's, and John Farrell and Torey Lovullo should both be given a chance to lead them -- together.





    

Monday, September 21, 2015

On Big Papi's big night, a new Red Sox hero continues his rise

What Papi saw: Bogaerts celebrates at home.

During pregame ceremonies at Fenway Park honoring his 500th home run, David Ortiz punctuated his short speech by telling fans, "Let's hit some more bombs!" 

A few hours later, as Ortiz watched on deck, Xander Bogaerts took Big Papi up on his offer.

Bogaerts, who continues to emerge as the leader of the next generation of Red Sox players, hit a slider from Brandon Gomes for a grand slam in the eighth inning as Boston continued its string of strong play with an 8-7 win over Tampa Bay. As if to further emphasize Bogaerts' ascendance, his shot cleared the Green Monster in left field just a few feet to the left of the big "501" cards held up by fans to note Ortiz's current home run total.


Pedro and Papi had fun during the pre-game

Coupled with a run-scoring double high off the Monster in his previous at-bat in the seventh, Bogaerts had a 2-for-5 night with a career-high 5 RBI. The 22-year-old shortstop is now hitting .323 as he continues a late-season quest to overtake Detroit's Miguel Cabrera in the American League batting race. Cabrera, who went 1-for-4 in a 3-2 Detroit loss to the Chicago White Sox, is at .337.

An inning after his hitting heroics, Bogaerts showed another facet of his five-tool skills -- diving into the hole at short to grab a hard grounder off the bat of Tim Beckham and then spinning his body and throwing a perfect strike to first to help thwart Tampa Bay's final rally.

Will Bogaerts hit 500 home runs in his career? That remains to be seen. But in pushing the Red Sox out of last place for the first time since June 2 -- and to a 20-11 record over the past five weeks -- he is giving Fenway fans a glimpse at what might be his own long career of big hits.   



Friday, September 18, 2015

Xander Bogaerts could go from All-Star snub to batting champ

Miggy -- I want YOU! (Getty Images)

Look out, Miguel Cabrera, someone is gaining on you.

On Sept. 1, Xander Bogaerts was batting .316 after a 2-hit game against the Yankees. Cabrera, Detroit's dynamic first baseman, was at .359 after 2 hits of his own against the Royals -- and seemingly a lock for his fourth AL batting title.

In the three weeks since, while most New England sports fans focused on David Ortiz's quest for 500 home runs and the start of the Patriots season, Bogaerts has continued his season-long consistency at the plate. A slumping Cabrera, meanwhile, has seen his average hit a free-fall. 

Entering play tonight, Cabrera -- 1-for-21 in his last six games -- is at .335. While this mark still leads the league, Bogaerts has hit .375 for the month to make what was once thought a runaway into a race.

Miguel is mystified. (Getty Images)

The way both players are trending, Bogaerts has a real chance of wiping out the 14-point gap between them. After a .240 rookie season last year, Bogaerts has been one of the game's most consistent hitters all of 2015. He has batted .312 or better each of the past four months and his .345 mark since May 31 leads all of MLB.

Cabrera is headed in the opposite direction. Since a ground-ball single against the Royals his first time up on Sept. 10, he has gone hitless in 20 straight official at-bats (plus three walks). He hasn't homered in 18 games, and while he claims he's not injured -- he missed more than a month mid-season with a strained calf -- clearly something is not right.

Further working against Cabrera is the state of the two teams. Neither the Tigers or Red Sox is playing for the postseason, but while Boston has injected life into its late summer with a dynamic young nucleus including Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr., Detroit is essentially playing out the string with a lackluster lineup that offers their two-time MVP little protection.  


Young Guns are shining for Boston.

Just 17 games are left in Boston's season, so Bogaerts can't afford many off-days and nights if he's going to have a shot to overtake Cabrera. The way he's hit all year, however, it doesn't appear a slump is likely. 

Whatever happens, it will make for a fun few weeks of box-score glancing.