Drew Fairservice

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Chicago White Sox

One prevailing mythology regarding the 2013 Boston Red Sox runs along the lines of “everything went right.” It is true that they hit on a high number of their free agent signings and received bounce-back seasons from John Lackey and others, but the injury bug bit the Sox as hard as anyone last season.

Of their position players, only Dustin Pedroia managed to play in 150 games or more, even though he did so with a ligament injury in this thumb, a wound that required off-season surgery.

The Red Sox battled injuries like any other team last year. They benefited from role players stepping up in the absence of the starters, getting off to a hot start and never missing a beat.

The 2014 Red Sox aren’t off to quite as hot a start and their ability to rely on depth players is about to be tested once again, as they’re dealing with injuries in bunches while kicking off their title defense.

Yesterday it was Mike Napoli who joined the ranks of the walking wounded. The Sox slugging first baseman dislocated a finger sliding into second base, though he isn’t expected to hit the disabled list. Closer Koji Uehara received a similar piece of news over the weekend as his shoulder tightness is not thought to be serious.

Pedroia played much of last year in pain and now it appears he’ll do the same in 2014, battling a wrist injury and requiring a cortisone shot to avoid the DL. The injuries are relatively minor, but when added together they test the Red Sox championship calibre depth at multiple positions.

Even with Napoli on the shelf for a few days, it forces Mike Carp into an everyday role at first base. Carp is a valuable member of the Sox bench corps as he can play multiple positions and represents a good bench bat at the ready. Carp even played a few innings at third base the other night, as Will Middlebrooks is on the DL and his replacement, Ryan Roberts, is not a viable option on an everyday basis.

With Pedroia ailing and the Middlebrooks out, the Sox rely on defense-first bit players like Jonathan Herrera and waiver-wire claims like Roberts to paper over their problems. On a short term basis it can work, but over 162 games?

The Sox are an aging team that handled last year’s adversity with great performances from part time players. In the early days of 2014, essential contributors like Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, and Carp aren’t producing as they did. Given the careful workload of Grady Sizemore and the limited role or David Ortiz, any failings on the part of these fill-ins will create huge holes in the lineup.

The Red Sox are in fine shape, all things being equal. Sizemore looks great and the Sox are keeping pace in the tightly-packed AL East. The same talent that won 97 games and a World Series title remains in place, one year older and a little worse for wear but still a championship squad when evaluated objectively.

The Sox have the talent but they will put their industry-leading health professionals to the test with their wizened bunch. Can the Sox keep their talented core on the field long enough to mount a spirited title defense? Though they deserve the benefit of the doubt, I can’t shake this nagging feeling that their nagging injuries might cascade all season long.

Padres' Gyorko strikes out in the top of the sixth inning against the Rockies in the National League MLB game home opener in Denver

There is no risk in ripping the San Diego Padres. They’re a franchise bobbing in a vast sea of Dodger blue and Angels red, fighting for their sliver of market share with an underwhelming roster. I wouldn’t say their fanbase is disengaged but ripping the Padres doesn’t make many waves.

That goes double when the topic at hand is a cheap pre-arbitration contract for an unsexy player. There is nothing really to gain. But the deal is worth mentioning, because it says a lot about the future.

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San Diego Padres players wearing jerseys with the number 42 in honor of the late player Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier, listen to God Bless America  during their MLB National League baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los

Tuesday is an important day on the Major League Baseball schedule. Jackie Robinson Day honors one of the most compelling men to ever play the game, a man who taught baseball lessons it consistently fails to heed, even some 65 years later.

Jackie Robinson is lauded for his bravery, his perseverance, and his humanity as he travelled a nearly impossible road to the big leagues, riding superstar talent and character to become a starter for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Tuesday is a day that all major-league players don the number 42, to pay tribute to the man and one of his most famous quotations, a sign of solidarity and togetherness not often seen in our world. Moreover, the battles fought during Jackie Robinson’s journey to the big leagues are still being waged today – on another front.

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees

Write out a list of the best outfielders of the past 30 years. How many names do you scribble down before you get to Carlos Beltran? In all likelihood, most of those players haven’t produced more than Beltran has since the turn of the century. In the expansion era, very few outfielders have put up numbers like Beltran. Among center fielders, the list shrinks even more.

Carlos Beltran is one of the most talented baseball players in recent memory, a true five-tool all star putting the finishing touches on a brilliant career. At 36, Beltran might not be the power/speed wunderkind that from his days in New York and Kansas City, but he’s still hitting.

He keeps hitting as his body changes and his role transitions to one suitable for his current skill set. I spoke with Carlos Beltran about reintegrating himself into the American League and the adjustments of 21st century baseball.

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers

It’s simple. The Brewers have the best record in baseball for three very obvious reasons, unrelated to the fact that we’re 12 games into the season.

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Twins' Mauer reacts to striking out against the  Blue Jays during their MLB baseball game in Toronto

Joe Mauer is one of the best players in Minnesota Twins’ history. By Wins Above Replacement, he is either in the top six now or will be by the end of an average Joe Mauer season.

He won the American League MVP in 2009, claimed the AL batting crown three times, and led the Twins to the playoffs in three of his 11 big league seasons.

And Twins fans seem to hate him. Maybe not hate, but they expect more of Mauer. They constantly express disappointment in Mauer. Blame his contract or his move to first base or the sudden downturn in Twinkie fortunes but there is a growing tide of resentment against Joe Mauer in the Twin Cities. Blame the local media or blame Mauer’s particular shortcomings as a player but, right now, it is getting tense for Mauer in Minnesota.

This isn’t fair, not to the rebuilding Twins or the face of their franchise. With the Twins window for contention not likely to crack within the next two years (at which point Mauer will be 33), the time is now to deal. Get his huge contract off the books and the weight of the world off his shoulders. It’s win/win.

But where will Joe Mauer land? Here are seven suitable landing spots for the former catcher and former MVP and future franchise cornerstone.

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees

Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees pitched very well last night, contributing six innings and seven strikeouts to a 4-1 win over the world champion Red Sox. For the first four innings or so, he pitched with something stuck to his right hand. Something that didn’t belong there. Something that looked an awful lot like pine tar.

Pine tar has its uses, but when we see it on the pitching hand of a big league starter, it’s hard to think of a viable application for the product in a “game action” context. Why would a big league pitcher need pine tar, on his throwing arm, on the hill? Gripping the baseball is important, thus the presence of a rosin bag on every mound in baseball. But pine tar? For no reason outside conventional wisdom, pine tar has a more sinister connotation.

With a dozen HD cameras pointed at each and every baseball game, stuff like this doesn’t elude the unblinking eye for long. Broadcast picks up “evidence”, viewers (and announcers, typically) freak out, player is a cheater and reviled by the rival supporters. The team on the receiving end of these clearly doctored baseballs? They don’t make a big deal about it.

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