Almanac Baseball: Aces High/Red Sox Fly

 

My last baseball post was on Mannymania – the signing of ageing superstar, Manny Ramirez, by the Sydney Blue Sox and the attendant hoopla. Turns out the hoopla was all we got. Manny never took the field for a single game so fans had to do with another Manny R (Rodriguez) over the course of the ABL season. He turned out to be a solid enough player but he isn’t a World Series MVP.

 

The season had all the travails of any sporting competition in the last year. Games were cancelled and rescheduled due to various lockdowns. The season was far shorter than normal and the postseason was done in a hub in Melbourne. Instead of four days of finals we just got the two.

 

At the end of the regular season the Melbourne Aces, Perth Heat and Adelaide Giants finished in that order to qualify for the postseason. A wildcard game won by the Canberra Cavalry over the Blue Sox got them the final spot. On the first day of the playoffs the Heat smashed the Giants 26 – 6 and the Aces also did a number on the Cavs 19 -4. By the second day, the situation in Melbourne was getting precarious so the ABL decided that the two Friday games would be a third place play off between the Giants and the Cavs and the other game would be the championship decider.

 

So on the night of Friday, February 12th, the Heat and the Aces stepped out onto Melbourne Ballpark to decide who would be Claxton Shield champions. The Aces blew the game open in the 6th inning with 7 runs. From there it was time for a victory lap through the last few frames. The pitcher of the year, Tyler Beardsley, got the win and the Aces went back to back.

 

The Aces have become the powerhouse of the competition in the last two years. A bit like Richmond, they put years of underachievement behind them as they recruited the talent to reach the top. While Delmon Young is as far from Dusty Martin as you could possibly get, his impact has been as immense. Supported by other offshore talent and some rising local stars, this roster has the look of sustained success.

 

Couple of weeks after the dramatic end to the ABL season, the MLB started Spring Training. From a Red Sox perspective, the return of Alex Cora as manager and the loss of key players Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr were the key talking points. While the Sox performed well enough in the warmups the chatter was relentless about holes in the roster being found it in the regular season.

 

Well the holes seemed to appear instantly. A three game home stand against perennial easy-beats, the Orioles, turned into a fiasco. The Sox were swept and the baying for blood was a little too OTT for my liking. The Rays came to town next and the turnaround since then has been stunning.

 

The Red Sox have won seven straight. They swept the Rays and then the Orioles at Camden Yards and have just beaten the Twins. It is the first time in 30 years that a team has given up the first 3 games of the season and win the next seven. The heart of the offense, JD Martinez and Rafael Devers, have been posting insane numbers. Raffy joins Babe Ruth and Ted Williams as the only Red Sox players to hit homers in four straight games before turning 25. Even those not overly familiar with baseball may recognise those other names, men often considered the two greatest hitters Boston has ever seen. The pudgy chap from the Dominican Republic is in rarefied air.

 

The pitchers too have lifted. Eduardo Rodriguez is back in the rotation and throwing great. Garrett Whitlock debuted in relief on Opening Day and looked like he was born to be on the mound at Fenway. All the starters are getting it done but the bullpen has been magnificent and with all the hitters getting into stride I am so excited about the season ahead now.

 

With the Kangas becoming the new doormat of the AFL and the Rebels still in second gear on Super Rugby AU, seeing the Sox soar has been a delight. Combined with that great Aces victory, watching baseball has been a joy in Covid world. Take me out to the ballpark? Oh yeah.

 

 

 

 

For more from Brian, click HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

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About

Grew up playing the rugby codes in suburban Sydney. Moved to Melbourne during the Carey era so becoming a Shinboner was the natural call. Still love the game they play in heaven. Took an interest in MLB a few years back and have become infatuated with America's pastime.

Comments

  1. Kevin Densley says

    Great to see baseball – both Australian and MLB – on the Almanac site.

    Your piece has reminded me that I should renew my MLB audio subscription – via computer, one has the opportunity to listen to the American radio commentary of any MLB game one likes, often with a choice of broadcasters. It’s great value, and the local flavour of broadcasts typically provides an interesting and enjoyable dimension.

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