David Ortiz, who knows a few things about baseball miracles, hasn’t lost faith in the Red Sox.
“The good thing that is happening to them is that some guys have come back [from the injured list]. That’s the right timing. Now they have a few weeks to figure it out,” Ortiz said.
“They need to regroup. They have the talent. They have [Chris] Sale back and [Brayan] Bello can take the pressure off him. I think that’s a good thing.”
Ortiz is listed as a “special assistant” in the Red Sox front office directory, but he has not spent much time around the team this season.
His weekend television duties with Fox occupy a few days and Ortiz also spends more of his time in the Dominican Republic with his father, Leo, who is dealing with some health issues.
Ortiz said he is available to any Red Sox player who wants to talk. But the only player who has taken him up on it on a regular basis is Triple A infielder Bobby Dalbec.
“Guys from a lot of different teams call me,” Ortiz said. “Not from [the Red Sox] very much. Dalbec sends me videos and wants to have conversations about his swing. I like that.”
Ortiz also is working with his son, D’Angelo, who is preparing for his second junior college season at Miami Dade College.
In July, Ortiz attended the Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown and thoroughly enjoyed not being the center of attention after being enshrined last year.
“Just chilling,” he said. “I had the time of my life. There was no rush, everybody was cool. I loved it. I talked to a lot of the other [Hall of Famers]. It was just a nice weekend to enjoy myself.”
Ortiz has gotten to know Derek Jeter much better than he did during their careers. In addition to their work at Fox, they hung out together in Cooperstown.
“He’s a Class A guy,” Ortiz said. “He’s a normal guy, a great husband, great father. He loves being with his kids. He just wants to be part of the pack. He’s happy with his life.”
Ortiz was in Boston this past week for the annual Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon and to spend time working with Massachusetts-based eternalHealth on a program to honor area providers who go beyond the scope of their jobs to aid older people.
Here’s Ortiz on a few other topics:
The new rules in baseball: “I think it’s perfect. There are things that feel weird still, but you get used to it. The pace of the game right now is pretty good. As players, you find a way.
“At the beginning you wondered how it was going to work out. But human beings can adjust. Now you can engage more young people in the game because they won’t have to sit around for four hours to watch the result.
“Whatever you have to do in a day that is longer than two hours is boring. I don’t care what it is, especially for a new generation that wants everything to happen fast.”
What would he have hit without the shift? “You tell me. Probably a lot better. But what really hurt me was the pitcher and the catcher having a conversation every time I came up. They took their time with every pitch. Now they can’t do that.”
Does Ortiz think Rafael Devers is feeling the pressure of his contract? “I think he’s having a good season. But there’s not another hitter like him in the lineup. JT [Justin Turner] is doing great. [Alex] Verdugo has been good. But Raffy, he’s the guy, the other team doesn’t want him to beat them.
“People around here need to know putting pressure on him won’t take us anywhere. He’s talented and we know what he’s capable of. He needs somebody behind him in the lineup to help him.
“When the time comes whether to pitch to him or not, you know what will happen. People need to understand that is real in baseball.”
Can Bello be their ace? “At some point, yes. He will be. I want him to focus on knowing himself. Who is No. 1 matters but it doesn’t matter, you know what I mean? You need a good rotation with four or five guys.”
The news that Terry Francona may retire: “It’s not easy, even for a manager. The schedule and all the things you have to do. The traveling and the late nights, that is hard on your body when you’re young, never mind his age.
“Tito is a great manager. He’s one of the best ever. He built my confidence up so much. That’s the manager you want. Those old-school managers, they’re so great for the game.
“He got it done historically here. He should be in the Hall of Fame.”
Sox missed chance to trade Paxton
The Red Sox took a gamble on James Paxton in 2021, signing him to a contract that guaranteed him $6 million in 2022 in the hopes he would recover from Tommy John surgery.
Paxton never pitched that season because of a series of setbacks, and he picked up his $4 million player option. Then he became nearly a bargain, going 6-2 with a 3.34 earned run average through 13 starts.
But it has flipped again. Paxton is 1-3 with a 7.62 ERA in his last six starts, allowing 38 hits and 13 walks over 26 innings. He had one of the worst starts of his career on Friday night in Kansas City, giving up six runs in 1⅓ innings.
Paxton, who turns 35 in November, has clearly worn down after pitching just 21⅔ innings from 2020-22. He will be a free agent after the season.
The Sox should have cashed in on whatever value Paxton had at the trade deadline and picked up a prospect. They are 2-4 in his starts since.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ Ceddanne Rafaela played only center field and shortstop in the minor leagues this season (along with eight games as the designated hitter) before he was called up this past week. He played two innings in center and nine at shortstop in his first two games.
Plenty of utility players have had those positions in their portfolio over the years. But playing primarily those two positions is unusual.
Hall of Famer Robin Yount came up as a shortstop then played mostly center field the final eight years of his career. He was an MVP at both positions.
Mickey Stanley of the Tigers was a center fielder who started all seven games of the 1968 World Series at shortstop.
Chris Taylor of the Dodgers adeptly plays both positions, among others. Kiké Hernández can play both spots but has not been a particularly good shortstop.
Former Red Sox prospect Mauricio Dubón, now with the Astros, has both positions in his toolbox. So does Tommy Edman of the Cardinals.
“I like [Rafaela] as a center fielder. He’s a game-changer out there,” said a scout who saw him play for Double A Portland. “But he certainly doesn’t hurt you at shortstop. He’s an interesting guy.”
▪ Rafael Devers, at 26, is 12th among active players in errors with 127. Not that you need evidence he needs to improve defensively, but that is alarming.
▪ There have been a few series this season when the cheering at Fenway Park was almost as loud for the opposition as it was for the Red Sox.
The Astros, Blue Jays, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Mets in particular have had their fan bases turn out in force.
“It’s Fenway Park, you know?” Sox manager Alex Cora said. “If I’m a fan of the Astros and I want to go to a great place to watch a great baseball game and the kids are out of school, this is the place you go.
“It doesn’t have to do with our fan base. People just enjoy coming here. I mean, who doesn’t want to come here and watch a baseball game? That’s the way I see it.”
Cora is being diplomatic. Until the last few seasons it was rare to have opposing fans turn out in force at Fenway because Red Sox fans packed the place.
But Pantone 294, a Dodgers fan club, actually selected Fenway Park for a “takeover” event with tickets available in bulk in right field. (Pantone 294 is the paint code for Dodger Blue, by the way.) A Mets fan club did the same thing.
That Fenway Park is now a place where visiting fans feel they have a good chance to score tickets speaks to the diminishing interest locally.
Excluding the 2020 season, the Sox are only 20 games over .500 at Fenway since 2019. Home-field advantage has vanished as opposing fans pour in.
But at least those ballpark tours, which run from $15 to $40, are raking in the dough.
▪ Jonny Miller of WBZ Radio made a $23,000 contribution to The Jimmy Fund, falling just short of winning a bid to have a group of friends face Roger Clemens in batting practice.
Maybe the Rocket can invite Jonny over to ask him a question about his outing like the old days.
Angels having devil of a time
For all the wrong reasons, the Angels have had quite the last few weeks. Historic, really.
It started when they traded five prospects to obtain C.J. Cron, Lucas Giolito, Randal Grichuk, Dominic Leone, and Reynaldo López before the trade deadline.
The two players they sent to the White Sox for Giolito and López — 23-year-old lefthander Ky Bush and 20-year-old catcher Edgar Quero — were ranked among their top five prospects.
The deals were made in the hopes that a playoff berth would help convince Shohei Ohtani to remain with the organization instead of leaving as a free agent.
The Angels promptly lost seven games in a row to start August, part of an 8-19 month that took them out of contention. Giolito, their big acquisition, was 1-5 with a 6.89 ERA in his first six starts.
Along the way, Ohtani was found to have a torn elbow ligament and was shut down from pitching. Mike Trout returned to the lineup after missing 39 games with a broken hamate bone and went back on the injured list the next day.
Then the Angels placed six players on waivers — Giolito, Grichuk, Leone, and López among them. Giolito and López went to the Guardians along with lefthanded reliever Matt Moore. Leone went to the Mariners.
The Reds claimed Hunter Renfroe along with Harrison Bader from the Yankees. Grichuk cleared waivers and will remain with the Angels.
The Angels were not able to dip below the luxury tax threshold despite dropping $5.7 million from their payroll. That means they will receive a compensatory draft pick after the fourth round if Ohtani leaves via free agency. It would have been before the third round had they been able to get under the limit.
Payroll machinations aside, the Angels still gave away two good prospects for nothing. Meanwhile Los Angeles is buried in fourth place, headed for what would be an eighth consecutive losing season.
It’s hard to predict what Ohtani will do. But wouldn’t he want a team better positioned for long-term success?
It would be wrong to pin this on general manager Perry Minasian, who is beholden to the whims of owner Arte Moreno.
Barring an adjustment to the collective bargaining agreement, the Angels could set a trend of noncontenders shedding salary via waivers. It’s a loophole in the rules that established one hard-and-fast trade deadline.
It also raised questions about competitive integrity. The Angels giving away players with a month left to play will have implications on the pennant race.
Their remaining schedule includes six series against contenders, 19 games in all.
Kudos to the Guardians for adding Giolito, López, and Moore. They were 64-70 at the time, five games behind the Twins. If this indeed is the final season for Terry Francona, perhaps the boost could send him off with a winning record and maybe even a playoff berth.
That would be fitting.
The Braves-Dodgers series this weekend is more than a matchup of the two best teams in the National League. It’s also a chance to see MVP candidates Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman on the same field. Acuña appeared to be running away with it before Betts hit .455 in August with a 1.355 OPS and 35 runs scored in 28 games. Freeman (.365/.434/.617) also had a ridiculous month. Acuña made news off the field on Thursday when he got married in the Los Angeles area before the game, then went 3 for 4 with a grand slam in an 8-7 victory against the Dodgers . . . Speaking of Acuña, that two fans were able to leap on him at Coors Field on Monday was something the league needs to address. The first fan grabbed Acuña around the waist before a second ran in and knocked him over. The Braves star wasn’t injured, but it took far too long for security to intervene. For players, there’s nothing amusing about somebody running onto the field. The Players Association rightfully asked for a review of security procedures . . . When Jose Altuve hit for the cycle at Fenway Park on Monday night, he was the first visiting player to accomplish that since Bengie Molina of the Rangers in 2010. Molina, who retired after the season, was 35 at the time and one of the slowest players in the game. He finished the cycle with a triple to center field in the eighth inning and came out for a pinch runner . . . The White Sox elevating Chris Getz to general manager feels much like when the Rockies promoted Bill Schmidt to replace Jeff Bridich as GM in 2021. How much is really going to change? At some point, a stagnating organization needs to bring in somebody from the outside to change how things work . . . There was one lefthanded reliever in the two bullpens when the Red Sox and Astros played three games at Fenway Park this past week. That was Joe Jacques for two games with the Sox. The three-batter rule hasn’t quite killed off the lefty specialist, but it’s close . . . Happy birthday to Chad Fox, who is 53. The righthanded reliever had a 10-year career in the majors that included 17 games for the 2003 Red Sox. Fox was signed as a free agent before the season and spent May and June on the injured list. He returned in July and pitched in seven games before being released to open a spot for Scott Williamson, who had been acquired from the Reds. It proved fortuitous for Fox, who landed with the Marlins and made their playoff roster. He appeared in nine of the team’s 17 postseason games and won Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, the infamous Steve Bartman game at Wrigley Field.