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New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Monday Morning Brushback: We’re Just Normal Men

The Red Sox week in review dives into Garrett Whitlock, Justin Turner, and a Father’s Day story of tragedy and triumph.

It’s become more and more clear what the 2023 Red Sox are.

The Red Sox started this past week after a slate that saw them drop a series to a sub-.500 club and win a series against their most bitter rivals. They ended this past week after a slate that saw them...well, drop a series to a sub-.500 club and win a series against their most bitter rivals.

Wally’s Third Law dictates that for every action in baseball, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Baseball’s weird—and the Red Sox this year are weird, too. Their perpetual state of flux in 2023 has almost become fitting of how silly this sport can be.

Once you think you have this team figured out, they flip your expectations around. They make silly mistakes against inferior teams only to go out and win a series against a team with playoff aspirations and follow that up with another face plant. Rinse and repeat. You think they’re out of the playoff race until you see that they’re just a pair of games out of a wild card spot, granting them a chance to play in a system that lends itself to madness. You get your hopes up with that prospect only to realize that the team is consistently just treading water—hovering just above, just below, or even at the .500 mark while almost leveling out to Even Stevens when it comes to run differential (15 runs against the Yankees on Friday night helped that cause just a wee bit). Up, down, up, down.

That’s the logic of this sport we all love: sometimes, there is no logic. Mix it all together and you know that it’s the best of both worlds what you’ve got with this team:

The 2023 Red Sox are just normal men. They’re just innocent men.

It’s nice that the team is still somewhat in the mix as they now face a road trip against mediocre-at-best teams. Knowing what we’ve seen up to this point, though, I wouldn’t expect anything one way or the other. Just let it all happen, baby.

But enough of my wishy washy ramblings. Let’s get into some specifics.

It’s Monday Morning Brushback time, y’all.

Whit-Locking It Down

Colorado Rockies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Paul Rutherford/Getty Images

It’s no secret that Garrett Whitlock had a rough start to the campaign. Two of his first three starts resulted in five earned runs being surrendered, and he spent about a month on the injured list due to an elbow issue. I’m sure those concerning traits led to some asking if he was truly destined to be a starting pitcher full-time, instead of the highly effective fireman he was out of the bullpen when he first emerged for the Sox back in 2021.

Since his return, though, Whit’s been pretty dang good: try a 3.13 ERA with 22 punch outs over 23 innings on for size. That solid ERA mark takes his hiccup against the swingin’ Rays earlier this month into account, too. He’s surrendered just a pair of home runs in those post-IL starts; in comparison, he coughed up four round trippers in seven fewer innings prior to his injury.

The momentum he generated against the Bronx Bombers on June 9 carried into his outing against Colorado this past Wednesday, where he earned a well-deserved dubya after tossing seven strong frames of two-run ball. Manifique, as the French would say...or at least I think that’s what they say—if any of you speak French, feel free to check me on that. Bonjour to you and yours, too.

Considering he offers up his sinker almost exactly half of the time to hitters, it’s encouraging to see that velocity back up to about 94 MPH on average while flirting with 96 MPH. That primary pitch was sitting about a tick lower during his blowup starts against Tampa and the Brew Crew back in April before he was shelved; that may not sound like a big difference, but all of the margins matter in This League™.

Garrett has also been locating his secondary pitches well, while he still continues to limit the number of free passes he issues and initiates quite a few swings-and-misses (97th percentile in Chase Rate as I’m writing this, according to—you guessed it—Baseball Savant). If Whitlock can keep the ball in the yard and maintain a relatively clean bill of health, we might finally be able to lock him in to a rotation spot for the foreseeable future.

Tormund Wildlin’ Out

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Say what you want about Chaim Bloom—and buddy, I did so last week—but Justin Turner has turned out to be a nice addition to the squad. He’s been a consistent producer as of late, during a period where Boston’s offense has struggled to find its footing.

Tormund led the charge at the plate against the Army of the Dead in Friday night, knocking a pair of homers—including a grand slam—north of The Wall in a six RBI performance that would inspire many-a poets in Westeros to write songs immortalizing it. That was the highlight of an impressive stretch on offense for the corner infielder, as he’s now knocked multiple hits in six games since the start of the first Yankees series in New York. Since June 9—the start of that series at Yankee Stadium—Turner’s hit .405. Outstanding stuff as of late, even with Sunday night’s 0-fer in mind.

He might be 38, but Turner’s swinging the stick like he’s 28. He’s certainly pulling it more often than not—as a righty playing most games at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, it would obviously behoove him to do so—but he’s also doing a nice job of slapping the ball up the middle or to the opposite power alley if need be.

I appreciate that Turner doesn’t seem to be doing too much when he steps into the box. He’ll work the count and draw a walk if he has to. Rarely does he put up a bad AB, which has been a breath of fresh air since we’ve unfortunately seen to many of those as of late.

Whether or not JT’s around to exercise his player option for 2024 remains to be seen, but I feel like the team could do far worse than having a steady Eddy like him in the lineup. I like what I’ve seen from him!

The Great Fenway Foul Ball Caper of ‘23

Colorado Rockies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Family matters can be complicated. The ups, the downs, the in-fighting, the love that persists at the end of the day.

All of that was encapsulated at Fenway Park on Father’s Day in a matter of moments.

Let’s set the stage: a family of four makes their way to the park to celebrate Dad on a beautiful June afternoon. Nothing like a Kaleb Ort start to ring Sunday Funday in the right way.

Tell me, dear reader: what was the one thing you would’ve killed for as a kid at the ball yard? I’m sure the father in this situation himself would agree: it was to have a foul ball end up in your hands by day’s end. It’s an obsession that keeps kids—and even some more embarrassing adults—on their toes during all nine innings.

Father’s Day, beautiful weather, Sox-Yankees: the perfect storm for wonderful family memories to be made.

So imagine the excitement that our protagonists felt when one generous fan handed a foul ball to a young kid. Should be a picture perfect moment, no? The folks over at the Hallmark Channel; couldn’t come up with something more heartwarming even if they were fueled by all the hot cocoa that they could drink.

But my friends, this is where our story takes a horrible turn. Let the tape speak for itself:

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!”—Leroy Jenkins’ brother watching him yeet a free souvenir into the left field power alley in slow motion, probably.

Tragic. No other way to describe it. That’s just tragic. Nice move by the guy to offer up the ball to a kid, only for him to do his best JBJ impression. Poor Dad is trying to keep the peace, but we can all see that that’s just a fleeting effort. Big Bro is Big Mad, and it’s hard to blame him!!!!!

But I am also of the belief that funny is always funny, and a kid sending a freebie to the Seaport is simply hilarious.

After Mom checks into the picture with a pair of adult sodas, things go from worse to worser. The situation turns into a Scar v. Mufasa one.


Poor baby bro just wanted to show off the arm—maybe earn himself a contract—only for his sibling to condemn him. I understand why both parties got upset...and I felt the worst for poor Dad who had to deal with this malarkey on his day off of work. The joys of parenting, I suppose.

With our heroes at an all-time low, a big sea change would have to present itself to lift everyone’s spirits. But thanks to the Red Sox’s staff behind the scenes, that’s exactly what happened.

A signed Kenley Jansen jersey to go with a couple of signed baseballs? Hey, not a bad haul there kids!!!! Everyone—Dad, Mom, and the kids—goes home happy with an unforgettable memory that will probably be recounted for years. As someone with a younger sibling who I consider one of my very best friends on the planet, I can promise you that Big Bro will hold that over Little Bro’s head forever and ever!

From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs for the group. Shout out to this family.

Side note: if anyone with the Red Sox is reading this, just know that all I need in negotiations for a ball like this is for my beer sales to be covered for the night. No fancy dancy demands—if you’re offering signed swag up then I won’t say no, though—just make sure I have some brewskis on the house.

Song Of The Week: “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” by Chuck Berry (Covered by Paul McCartney)

In honor of Father’s Day, I gave the SOTY honors this week to my dad—who’s probably the biggest Beatles fan that has ever lived. Considering Sunday was also Macca’s birthday, he went with this cover of a Chuck Berry classic. Sit back and enjoy Sir Paul being Sir Paul.

Until next week, my friends! Go Sox.

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