The NFL Draft Prospect You Wish You Knew, Were

There are can’t-miss prospects, and then there are prospects who are all miss.

Shaquille Green-Thompson was both at different points in his life. The linebacker out of Washington is a near-lock to be drafted in the first-round  of the NFL Draft this year, but there was a time he couldn’t hit.

In 2012, as an 18-year-old playing for the Boston Red Sox in the Gulf Coast League, he registered 39 bats and struck-out 37 times. (To his credit, he also earned eight walks.)

The Red Sox had took the 6-foot-2, 220-pound hyper-athletic prospect in the 18th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft based on defense alone. He played 13 games. Deadspin chronicled his mis-adventures throughout the summer and Green-Thompson became a hackneyed punchline on the Internet.

Mercifully, his season ended early because Green-Thompson decided to honor his commitment to Washington as one of the top safety recruits in the country. He shipped off to Washington, started going by the simpler Shaq Thompson and never returned.

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Notes: Part of me wants to laugh at Thompson because he played baseball and was really bad at it, but a few things stop me:
1. He played pro baseball and I never will.
2. He proactively took at-bats from other prospects my favorite team could’ve been developing.
3. Thompson’s plan was my plan. When I was seven-years-old and the best at every sport I played, I knew that someday I’d be drafted by the Red Sox and play for them. I never got nervous either, because if that didn’t work out I could be drafted by the NFL’s New England Patriots and play for them.
3.5. That was my plan, but this guy IS ACTUALLY DOING IT.  I’m super jealous.
4. He could probably definitely beat me up.

Sam Fortier recommends this more in-depth piece by Emily Kaplan of Monday Morning Quarterback for more information on Shaq Thompson. He also wants Shaq to know, if he reads this, Sam’s only slightly mad that Thompson denied his interview request. It’s OK, he guesses. You can read Sam here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

Red Sox Wrap-Up

The second week of Boston Red Sox baseball quickly applied the brakes of some zealous Sox fans who forecasted 100 wins after a nice opening week for Boston.

While the team won a sloppy, wet Marathon Monday early start game Monday, it has had a mixed week.

The Sox took two of three from the visiting Washington Nationals and split a four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles, but there were concerning points throughout.

First there is the ongoing debacle with on-again-off-again ace Clay Buchholz. Against Baltimore, he allowed two runs over six innings of work – pretty good stuff from what management hoped would be a number-one guy heading into the season. But Buchholz allowed 11 hits. He pitched around it with seven strikeouts, but Buchholz gave up 10 runs in the Yankees game from two weeks ago while allowing fewer hits and only issuing one more walk. The varying Buchholz results make him unreliable, and the Buster Olney report that he “quit” and scouts hated his body language during the Yankees game is even more cause for worry.

The worry extends beyond Buchholz and to the rest of the rotation. As of Monday, Boston owns Major League Baseball’s worst starting pitcher Earned Run Average (6.24) – nearly a half-run higher than the second-place Milwaukee Brewers.

The pitchers aren’t going deep into games, either. The 66.1 innings hurled by starters is good for 10th-worst among all team’s starters; the Sox hold the same rank for walks allowed (24).

There are positives, though.

Boston sits around the middle of the pack when it comes to batting average against (.262) which, when combined with the gaudy runs figure, means that luck may just be against Sox starting pitching at the moment.

Another positive is that, even with the pitching struggles, Boston went 4-3 on the week. The team raked, scoring seven or more runs in five of the seven games.

If Boston built a team to be mediocre on the mound and dominant offensively to out-slug teams when a starter isn’t “on” then it appears the strategy might work.

The team is tied (with Toronto) for the highest-scoring offense in the Majors (70 runs) and is drawing walks at a higher rate than anyone else in the league. The team has drawn 61 walks on the year – nine more than the second-place Tampa Bay Rays. Though the pop hasn’t been in the Sox lineup – smack-dab in the middle of the league in average, on-base, on-base plus slugging, home-runs, total bases – they’ve still managed to score. That’s a positive for the team moving forward.

Surprising contributions have also come from Justin Masterson (2-0) which was regarded by some (myself included) as the worst acquisition of free agency. Yes, Masterson gave up seven runs to Washington over 4.2 innings, but he pitched well against Baltimore Monday, surrendering just one run on three hits over five innings.

It seems as if every Red Sox pitcher is “OK. Not great, pretty inconsistent,” but it seems as if Masterson has some upside.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Red Sox Rapid Reactions

With seven days of Red Sox baseball by, here’s what we know:

We know nothing about Clay Buchholz:

The righty can take the ball on a big day and mix speeds, change locations and keep the ball from sailing. He can pitch like he did on Opening Day in Philadelphia, allow four base-runners over seven innings pitched and strike-out nine.

The righty can take the ball on a big day and suddenly lack the ability to hit his spots. He won’t be able to change the hitter’s eye-level and the ball will sail. Buchholz can pitch like he did in the series finale in New York, getting rocked for seven runs in the first frame. The only reason he pitched into the fourth inning is because of the 19-inning game earlier in the season.

(Still, his day one performance saw him rocket up ESPN’s most-popular fantasy players to add. And then – if you watch the Sox regularly – predictable regression.)

Mookie Betts is awesome:

He hit this home-run on Opening Day. He made this catch Monday, then hit another home-run and stole two bases…in an inning and a half.

The kid is 22-years-old, 5-foot-9 and weighs 180-pounds. He’s charismatic, fun to watch and I can look at him without thinking, “There’s NO way I could ever be him.” With Mookie, I still think the same thing, but without the ‘no’ in caps. Also, he’s a first-name kind of guy.

I also wrote about him in Double-A Portland last year. Check it out here.

Mike Napoli loves the “strikeouts are ruining baseball” narrative:

He began the year going 0-for-17 with five strike-outs. In the 19-inning game against New York, he went 0-for-8 and half of his outs were punch-outs at the plate.

You hate to see that.

There’s an awesome knuckle-baller in the bullpen: 

Well, there used to be. The team sent him down Saturday when it activated Joe Kelly.

Steven Wright pitched the final five frames in the 19-inning affair I keep mentioning.

Those types of games are to pitchers like trampolines to The Simpsons:

Except knucklers, who are immune to arm tiredness and general pitching maladies.

Yes, he gave up a home-run on a knuckle-ball to a righty batter that went deep and almost down the line in left field in extra-innings in Yankee Stadium. And yes, I saw Aaron Boone’s home-run flash before my eyes as Teixeira’s bomb sailed out. (I won’t link that, too soon.)

But really, to see a Red Sox pitcher throw a knuckle and hold his own for five innings, and to see him throw that pitch with a runner on third and the game hinging on that runner, was gutsy because of the increased likelihood of a passed ball. It was gutsy. I liked it.

Edward Mujica is still far inferior to Koji Uehara, is the worst:

The guy let Chase Headley blast a two-out homer into the right field Yankee Stadium bleachers in the bottom of the ninth.

It is Mujica’s fault that Red Sox pitchers and New Englanders alike couldn’t properly enjoy their Saturday because we all had to be up watching the game-that-wouldn’t-end until nearly 3 a.m.

As one scout put it in a Gordon Edes column: “Why did he throw 10 straight sinkers to the same spot? He didn’t throw a split until after the home run.”

Translation from baseball speak: He made an ignoramus move. He only stopped doing so after he’d been properly reminded that Major League Baseball is not high school.

Tom Brady chose the right career:

The Montreal Expos picked Brady in the 18th-round of the 1995 MLB Draft. The Boston Red Sox picked Brady to throw out the first pitch of the Sox home opener Monday. It went like this; better than 50 Cent and Carlie Rae Jepsen, but nowhere near Colin Kaepernick, another MLB-draftee.

Patriots fans and Bündchen’s everywhere thank Brady for not going to Montreal.

Plus, as furious a competitor as Brady is, saving the Expos may have been an ask too big for him to deliver on.

But, to be honest, part of me really wants to see 1999 Pedro Martinez pitch to hypothetical Tom Brady. Such a strange, wonderful thought.

It’s still fun to cheer against A-Rod:

No explanation needed. It just frustrates me that A-Rod is arguably the Yankees best hitter right now.

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of purposefully misspelt business names (“Kathy’s Kut & Kurl”) or grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

Summer News

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Hey y’all, in lieu of a real post on this blog (though the Red Sox won in a big way today!), I wanted to let everyone know what’s going on with me this upcoming summer.

I found out last Saturday that I will be working in New York City as an intern for Esquire Magazine.

The guy I’m working with has not provided specifics on start and end dates, but I do know the program is 12 weeks. It is my hope that I will come home for roughly 10 days after school ends (May 4) and return 10 days before school begins (August 30). Though, I am skeptical.

I’m excited to work for Esquire – its 725,000 subscribers means it’s slightly larger than this site – but possibly even more thrilling, I’ll be in close proximity to Coney Island this July 4 in order to see arguably America’s greatest sporting event, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. (Though Joey Chestnut slacked last year. Only 61 dogs? C’mon, man!)

But really, I’m ecstatic to be working at Esquire. It’s significant to me.

The first time I ever read Esquire, my grandfather’s profile was in there.image1 (2)

I had never heard of the publication until then, but I remember my parents buying almost a dozen copies in a Maine mall one night after an extended family gathering.

Seeing my Papa carry it around everywhere, how much he loved it and what something like that meant to him…That’s something I’ll never forget. The fact that he had a bigger picture than Quincy Jones and many others in that magazine and how proud he was of it…seeing the effect of an article on a subject is one aspect which makes me love writing. The spread still sits on the shelving above my bed.

Esquire also published two of my three favorite sports articles of all-time. One about Joe DiMaggio in retirement and another about a crotchety old man named Ted Williams.

Logistically, it will be a challenge. The cost of living in N.Y.C. is bonkers, but I have a plan. I will live at an Uncle’s house, about a 30-minute bus ride from downtown. I’ll also be able to store LaVern, my car, there. A few friends live in the city, so I might be able to stay with them infrequently too, if only to spell my Uncle.

I have also pre-ordered 15 pallets of Ramen.

OK, that’s not true, but I have a few packages and am prepared to live a bare-bones lifestyle in order to make the internship work.

Moving from Strafford, New Hampshire, a town of 3000 people and zero stoplights, to the largest city in America in 12 months is a huge jump for me.

I’m a little nervous. It’s a big change. But here’s to hoping it goes well.

Cheers.

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of purposefully misspelt business names (“Kathy’s Kut & Kurl”) or grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com.