Start spreading the news: I’m happy today.
This past weekend was fun, huh? Certainly takes at least some of the sting away following the series in DC. No matter where the Red Sox stand in the grand scheme of this silly little sport that we love, you’ve always got to appreciate the times we can stick it to those doofuses (doofusi? What’s the plural of “doofus” anyways?) in New York—hell, we here at OTM just posted an article on that exercise in schadenfreude!
Sure, the New York Yankees have had their patches of success against Boston in recent years, including in 2022. But the fact of the matter is that since Aaron Boone mashed that knuckleball that didn’t quite knuckle in 2003 (which was the subject of another OTM article this past week—I promise SB Nation doesn’t pay me for these plugs, but maybe they should), the Red Sox have had the Bronx Bombers’ number. It’s as if a hex has been placed upon those who don the iconic pinstripes. Not like this rivalry has a history of curses or anything like that.
The New York Yankees were once a proud institution, a staple of American culture. You could go to any random country and see that NY hat.— Fitzy Mo Peña (@FitzyMoPena) August 20, 2023
Now look at them: wishing on “Ben Rortvedt” as their last chance to avoid being swept at home to their biggest rival. pic.twitter.com/eQTdsxI1Wr
And y’know what’s arguably the best part of it all? Things are looking bleak for the Yankees’ future. Their prized, nine-figure off-season acquisition of Carlos Rodon has logged just 27 innings in his first season New York to the tune of an ERA north of 7. Their farm system was ranked 21st in the league in MLB Pipeline’s midseason update, for what it’s worth. They’ve got $138 million combined tied up in 33-year-old Giancarlo Stanton and 35-year-old DJ LeMahieu through 2026—Stanton’s still on the books through 2027 at the same $27M rate. They have to pay him that amount even if he does a bad job.
Long story short: everything is just ducky at the house that Steinbrenner built!
In the meantime, the Red Sox remain a few games back of a playoff spot—same as it ever was. But, more on that later.
It’s Monday Morning Brushback time, y’all.
Luis Luis, Oh, Oh, Me Gotta Go
Luis Urias’ Red Sox tenure has been short, but he sure has made his mark already.
I guess two grand slams in the span of a week will do that. Sure, one of them came in a comeback attempt against the Washington Nationals that eventually fell short, but doing it again against Gerrit Cole—the presumptive AL Cy Young Award winner—makes up for that just a bit, doesn’t it? Two consecutive swings of the bat resulting in eight RBI is one hell of a pace!
Urias’ 2023 campaign has been one marred by an injury and an option to the minors. The first few games of his time in a Boston uniform were unremarkable at the dish, but he had the big daddy hacks in action this past week.
My point on this is not so much about what he has done this season—it’s about what we can do going forward.
Urias has demonstrated at least something resembling some defensive competence—he posted four outs above average at second base last season, per Savant, which is nice—and posted a 111 OPS+ across just over 500 plate appearances in 2021 and 2022, the last (and to this point only) two seasons where he appeared in over 100 games. He’s arbitration eligible through 2025, meaning he isn’t gonna be breaking the bank unless John Henry owes him money and we don’t know about it.
Urias could very well be the primary second base option for the Red Sox sooner rather than later. Even if he isn’t, he could be a quality depth option.
Big Red’s Big Weekend
Injury issues be damned, Justin Turner kept chuggin’ along this weekend at Yankee Stadium.
Tormund was good for five hits over the weekend, which included a three-run ding-dong and a go-ahead double on Sunday.
JUSTIN TURNER ON ONE DAMN FOOT A THREE RUN BOMB AND THE RED SOX RETAKE THE LEAD!!! pic.twitter.com/YAcbnfk5n4— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) August 20, 2023
JUSTIN TURNER HAS PUT THE RED SOX ON HIS DAMN BACK!! pic.twitter.com/thumN7Jf5L— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) August 20, 2023
The 38-year-old has been a consistent and steady presence in a lineup that has been anything but over the course of 2023. Just about everything under the hood for him—hard hit rate, expected slugging percentage, OPS+, you name it—has been in line with what he’s demonstrated in yesteryear. That right-handed profile at Fenway Park is certainly a delight, ain’t it?
Turner’s got a 2024 player option for just over $13M. I sure hope he takes that, man. As Xander Bogaerts and the Padres proved to us this past winter: all it takes is one team to throw plans into a frizzy.
I’m not saying JT will have a...out of respect for X and his contributions to the Sox...underwhelming season. All I’m saying is that maybe he gets one more bite at the apple when it comes to contract negotiations in the off-season.
If he does decide to opt-in with the Red Sox in 2024, or if the Red Sox do bring him back after he elects to be a free agent (for the right price—your mileage may vary), then I’d be one happy boy.
Where The Rubber Meets The Road
The Red Sox will begin their next week in the Lone Star State. Monday will also represent the start of the gauntlet that is the final leg of the regular season. From here on out, we are firmly in “Hold Onto Your Butt” territory.
There’s no secret here, folks. Here are, in no particular order, the highlights of Boston’s schedule through the final day of the regular season:
-Seven games against the Astros (y’know, the defending champions?)
-Three games against the Dodgers (second-best winning percentage in the majors at the time of publication)
-Seven games against the Orioles (the best winning percentage in the American League at the time of publication)
-Five games against the Rays (second-best winning percentage in the American League at the time of publication)
-Three games against the Rangers (potentially direct competition for the wild card)
-Three games against the Blue Jays (certainly direct competition for the wild card)
-Four games against the Yankees (eh.............they’re kinda dogshit aren’t they?)
Daunting, isn’t it?
The benefit of facing this roughly month-long test is that we will find out who the 2023 Red Sox are very, very, VERY quickly. Are they a team that can put up a fight against the biggest of dogs, or are they a good-not-great team that cannot sustain much more than a flash in the pan?
We’ve been asking ourselves these questions for a few months now. All camps in the conversation have fair points. The beauty of this stretch is that all of the discourse, all of the speculation, and all of the assumptions will be either confirmed or denied in due time. We’re all gonna learn the result simultaneously.
If Boston fails to make the postseason by a slim margin, maybe we can chalk it up to the absolute bar fight that is the American League landscape and focus on making a huge push in 2024. If Boston fails to make the postseason while simultaneously shitting themselves in the process, maybe there are big shakeups within the organization.
But if Boston qualifies for postseason play, one thing is for sure: they’ll have fucking earned it, given this schedule that they’re facing.
Let’s find out what happens together.
Song Of The Week: “Say Anything (Else)” by Cartel
I succumbed to my worst impulses this past weekend and purchased the most recent edition of Madden NFL for my PS5. The franchise mode boosts sold me, I don’t know what to tell ya. It’s my first Madden in about a decade, after basically making it a yearly necessity since I was but a wee lad.
The new Madden soundtrack is dogshit. No way to polish that turd. So, I’ve been playing music from the Madden games of my youth, which includes this gem from Cartel. Enjoy.
Same time same place next weekend, friends! Go Sox.