The cab driver who hauled me to my luxury hotel outside of downtown Monday night gave a grim warning about what could happen Wednesday night:
If the Boston Bruins clinch the Stanley Cup at home in Game 7, fans are going to tear up the season.
It’s understandable. The long-suffering Boston sports fans have gone months with out a championship to celebrate. Before the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, the same fans had waited months since the Boston Red Sox won the World Series.
How frustrating. Our hearts go out to each and every title-starved Boston-area sports fans.
Oh, a gentle reminder that the Texas Rangers-Red Sox game Wednesday begins at 3:05 p.m. CDT so that baseball fans, the teams and the media can barricade themselves.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 9-5 victory and other news on a busy day at Fenway Park.
1. The question of the night: Why does Angel Hernandez still have a job as an MLB umpire?
He is the acting crew chief this series and was behind the plate doing his usual lousy job when thumbs started flying in the fifth inning.
Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was displeased with an Hernandez call and believed it was the culprit for an at-bat that ended in a groundout. While heading back to the dugout, he started to curse and first-base ump Vic Carapazza, another doozy, ejected him.
Boston manager Alex Cora came from the dugout wondering what had just happened, Hernandez joined the dust-up, and Carapazza tossed Cora, too.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward was the next to go, in the sixth. Second-base umpire Jordan Baker initially called Asdrubal Cabrera safe at second as he tried to leg out a double, only to then signal out.
The Rangers immediately indicated they wanted time to determine if they would ask for a replay, and Hernandez cut them off during their 30-second window to decide.
That sent Woodward charging from the dugout. He felt burned by a similar issue in April at Oakland, and pledged that night to make sure the umpires saw him indicate that the Rangers might want to challenge.
“I had the hand up,” Woodward said. “I didn’t know where we were as far as the 30 seconds go. I just know that most umpires come over and give me the ultimatum, yes or no. That didn’t happen. When that didn’t I happen I felt like, ‘Every other umpire does that. Why wouldn’t you do that?’”
Hernandez didn’t wait long before giving Woodward his first ejection as a manager.
“Time expired,” Hernandez told a pool reporter after the game. “We were not going to review the play once time expired. These are rules. It’s my job to enforce them.”
Hernandez claimed that Woodward was not looking at him as he awaited Woodward’s final decision.
“He basically had his back towards me,” Hernandez said. “There was no way to get my attention. When he turned around, we were out of time. He had his back to me. I guess he thought he was still in the timeframe.”
Hernandez is universally regarded as the worst umpire in baseball. He has competition, but he outpaces all others. The Cuba-born Hernandez also filed a lawsuit against MLB in 2017 claiming racial discrimination, and the suit is still pending.
He claims that MLB does not treat minority umpires the same as white umpires and have passed him over for “less qualified, white individuals.”
The only less qualified individuals, white or any other race, than Hernandez are the blind. Robots are far more qualified than he is.
His most recent action in court sought permission for him him to speak about his allegations “without fear of employment retaliation.”
Ah ha! Hernandez isn’t going anywhere, folks.
The Ump Show will roll on, even if it overshadows things like another quality start by Ariel Jurado, his fourth in a row; an inside-the-park homer by Hunter Pence, the first of his career; and a patient day at the plate paying dividends for the Rangers.
2. The bullpen hasn’t had an official closer since Jose Leclerc was removed from the job in April. The label was never handed to Shawn Kelley, even though it stuck as he continued appearing in the ninth inning with a lead.
Woodward, though, made it official Tuesday that no one is the closer and that any of four relievers could close in any game. Kelley is likely to remain the preferred choice, but not the only choice.
Leclerc, Jesse Chavez and Chris Martin, who picked up the save Monday after Kelley blew one earlier, are all candidates.
Here’s another coming soon: Matt Bush.
The right-hander could join the bullpen before the end of the month after surgery late last season for an elbow injury. He completed his recovery in Arizona and is pitching for Double A Frisco.
“He’s going to be soon,” Woodward said. “He’s not that far away. It’s two or three weeks.”
Bush won’t solve all the ninth-inning woes, but he will be another arm Woodward can trust late in games. That will help give the others a breather after piling up some heavy workloads of late while the Rangers keep piling up wins.
Woodward might be more apt to use a closer with a fifth late-inning arm available, leaving four in reserve for late in the game.
Bush has been prone to injury since his rookie season in 2016 after serving prison sentence for a drunk-driving incident that nearly killed a motorcyclist. He was given a chance to close games in 2017 but didn’t have much success, in part because of a shoulder injury that required off-season surgery.
The Rangers gave Bush a chance to work as a starter at spring training in 2018, and he said that the injury was not related to being stretched out.
Solving the ninth inning is a front-burner issue, arguably a bigger deal than what to do with Drew Smyly’s rotation turn. If the Rangers are going to remain in playoff contention, both need to be addressed.
3. The Rangers are above .500 and playing like a contending team. They seem to be in most games, even when they fall behind early.
But there will continue to be a focus on developing young players, general manager Jon Daniels said, even though the Rangers look to have moved further away from being a rebuilding team.
If another reliever like Pete Fairbanks earns a shot, he’ll get a shot. If another starter like Joe Palumbo is needed to fill in a hole in the rotation, he’ll be summoned from the minors.
Joe Barlow, Demarcus Evans and Jonathan Hernandez, all at Double A Frisco, could be candidates for a promotion.
The grand plan for the franchise continues to be building for sustained success, and that means developing young players. Daniels is trying to strike the balance between keeping the current success going while grooming prospects.
There aren’t many prospects to groom this season, though. Most of the Rangers’ top prospects are deep in the minors. The majority of the best of the best won’t see Frisco until next season.
So the 2020 Rangers might not be a group of exciting rookies, either. They could look a lot like this season’s team, with veterans like Pence and Danny Santana contributing more than, say, Leody Taveras and Julio Pablo Martinez.
Daniels said that the Rangers could go get veteran help if they want it. He would owe it to the players if they were in contention at the trade deadline, and maybe he finds the right deal for a controllable piece or two beyond next season.
That Cole Hamels trade worked out pretty well, and it was struck with the Rangers below .500.
Daniels said one thing repeatedly: It’s June. It’s early and much can happen good or bad the next six weeks to determine how he approaches the July 31 trade deadline.
Help might end up coming from developing players within the organization.