April 24, 2018
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Former baseball star, Red Sox analyst Matt Stairs leaving Bangor

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Bapst Memorial High School assistant coach Matt Stairs (center) takes control of the puck during a team practice at Bangor’s Sawyer Arena in 2009. Stairs, a former major league baseball player who has lived in Bangor for the last 12 years, is moving back to his native New Brunswick.
By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

Former major leaguer Matt Stairs is going home.

The longtime Bangor resident said he, wife Lisa and daughters Nicole, Alicia and Chandler are returning to their native Fredericton, New Brunswick, in the near future.

He said they have discussed the move for years and a recent house burglary expedited the move. Jewelry was stolen from his home, including his National League and American League championship rings, a National League championship pendant belonging to his wife and some watches.

Stairs bought a house in Bangor in November of 2000, the same day he was traded by the Oakland Athletics to the Chicago Cubs.

Stairs said even after his family moves back to New Brunswick, he intends to continue as a part-time studio analyst for Boston Red Sox games with the New England Sports Network. He is in his first year with NESN.

“It’s going well. I’m enjoying it a lot,” said Stairs, an assistant coach for the Bangor High School hockey team in the winter. “I had watched the show before and it’s pretty much what I had expected.”

He said studio host Tom Caron has made the transition “very easy” for him.

“[Caron] is very good at what he does,” said the 44-year-old Stairs, who set the major league record for pinch-hit homers (23) during a 19-year, 12-team career in which he hit .262 with 265 homers and 899 runs batted in.

Caron said Stairs has been “great.”

“He is a student of the game and he is very likeable. If he wants to, he can do this for a very long time,” said Caron. “He has great insight, he’s very knowledgeable. He thinks like a manager.”

He said Stairs’ role late in his career as a pinch-hitter required him to observe the game in preparation for his pinch-hitting role and that gave him valuable background knowledge. The fact he played with so many teams and so many players also has been beneficial.

Stairs said don’t count the Red Sox out of the playoff hunt just yet.

A second wild-card team has been added in each league this season and the Red Sox, 43-43 at the All-Star break, are 2½ games out of the second wild-card spot.

The Red Sox have had 20 players on the disabled list and should get some of them back after the All-Star break, including center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and left fielder Carl Crawford, two of baseball’s best base stealers. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia should be back within three weeks.

Ellsbury played in just seven games and Crawford hasn’t played yet this season. Both are in extensive rehab stints.

“I know they’re not happy to be .500 at the All-Star break but with all the injuries they’ve had, I think .500 is good. They’re only 2½ games out of the [second] wild card spot. They’re still in pretty good position,” said Stairs. “Once they get all the big boys back, they could go on a pretty good run.”

Stairs said the young players who have been called up have done a nice job filling in for the regulars.

Headlining that list are third baseman Will Middlebrooks (.298, 10 homers, 37 RBIs), outfielder Daniel Nava (.275-3-26) and recent call-ups Mauro Gomez (8-for-22, .364) and Pedro Ciriaco (7-for-13, .538).

Gomez has been playing third for the injured Middlebrooks (hamstring) and Ciriaco has taken Pedroia’s place at second. Pedroia is out with a thumb injury.

But Stairs said it will be up to the top three starters in the rotation — Josh Beckett (4-7, 4.43 earned run average), Jon Lester (5-6, 4.49) and Clay Buchholz (8-2, 5.53) — to pitch with more consistency if the Sox are going to make the playoffs. Felix Doubront (9-4, 4.41), reliever-turned-starter Franklin Morales (1-2, 3.50) and Aaron Cook (2-2, 4.37) have pitched well out of the rotation, he said.

Stairs said when Beckett, Lester and Buchholz pitch up to their potential, “they give the team the opportunity to win every time they’re on the field. But they haven’t done it [consistently] so far.

“This will give them a good mental break and we’ll see what happens after the break,” said Stairs. “The bullpen has done a good job but they’re overworked. The big thing about the bullpen is all of them know their roles now and getting [Andrew] Bailey back will help.”

Bailey hasn’t pitched for the Red Sox yet because of thumb surgery.

The Red Sox team ERA of 4.22 is 10th among 14 American League teams and they are tied for eighth in quality starts with 41.

A quality start is when a starting pitcher goes at least six innings and gives up three earned runs or less.

Only three teams have allowed more earned runs than the Red Sox (364).

Offensively, despite the injuries, the Red Sox are second in runs scored (432) and fourth in batting average (.268).

The Red Sox trade of veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox for utility man Brent Lillibridge and pitcher Zach Stewart was an “unfortunate situation” according to Stairs.

“I hated to see him go. He can still play. He still has four or five more years. But it was one of those things where it was best for him and for the organization. And the Red Sox were able to free up some money [$2 million] which they can use to make a trade,” said Stairs, noting that Middlebrooks’ impressive play warranted the trade.

He expects Ellsbury, Crawford and Cody Ross to be the starting outfield when Ellsbury and Crawford return and Nava to serve as the fourth outfielder.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to trade [Ryan] Sweeney,” he said.

Stairs will do 13 more games for NESN this season.

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