It’s mercifully over…

…the 2015 Red Sox season, that is.  Actually, there were some positive developments down the stretch.  But maybe that’s just because the pressure was off and no one was really watching.  Or maybe it’s because I am such a positive person that I try to find the silver lining in every situation.  Wait, that’s not it…I am a totally negative person.  In any case…

Some may have noticed over the months that I seem to delay in responding to “breaking local sports news”.  Time constraints can be a factor.  Admittedly, part of it is pure laziness.  But maybe the biggest reason is that my delayed opinion can be far different from my initial reaction.  Once I actually think about what the news actually means and put it in greater perspective, my thoughts sometimes appear more rational…to me anyway.

For instance, when Dave Dombrowski decided to name Mike Hazen his General Manager, I was initially pissed off about it.  Hazen has been with the organization for quite some time and I wanted DD to clean house.  If Hazen was a right-hand man to Ben Cherington and Bennie Boy was such a colossal failure, why did anyone want Hazen still around?  Reminded me of when Ben was promoted when Theo Epstein departed…just keep moving down the line and hiring the next “young whippersnapper” coming up through the system.  Though Theo obviously had some success, so that was somewhat different.  So it wasn’t an ideal hire to me.

Then I realized that Hazen isn’t making any real decisions…at least he shouldn’t be.  Dombrowski will be the final say.  Frank Wren was also hired as an additional outside voice.  A longtime baseball man who has no ties to the current Red Sox ownership as far as I can tell.  A positive move there, I say.  Also, Hazen knows every player in the organization, Dombrowski is presumably still gathering information about all of them.  Not that Hazen is right in his opinions on specific players.  But he knows them.  And as much as we bash Ben, he has had some success from the farm system.  A lot of his guys are still developing of course and may still have plenty of value.  For this alone, keeping Hazen and others that have been around in the organization for years seems to make a little sense.  But again, as long as Dombrowski just takes all opinions, combines them with his own and then makes the final decisions.  I can live with all that.

Another delayed reaction is to the whole Don Orsillo situation.  Initially, firing D.O. seemed abrupt, cold and unnecessary.  What with Jerry Remy still being around and me thinking he should be the first to go among all the broadcasters.  I don’t watch every inning of every game on NESN.  Often when I do watch the games I am half-listening since when Orsillo and Remy got in their little schoolgirl cackling mode, well, that act got a little tired for me.  But I am glad they were having fun.  But regardless, as a viewer, I personally saw no reason for a change with Orsillo at this time.  The fan uproar kind of confirmed that.  No one seemingly wanted to see D.O. go.

After letting time pass I then thought a little differently.  Orsillo seems like a nice guy and all that, but I don’t know him personally.  The bottom line is that he is only a broadcaster.  Any followers of the Red Sox shouldn’t really care about who calls the games.  Sure, a good broadcaster can make some difference in the way a game is portrayed that particular day…and even remembered down the road to some degree.  But to me, those guys are few and far between.  Especially nowadays.  There are so many jamokes out there calling games in every sport it’s not even funny.  And the fact that Orsillo is on TV…do we even need any announcers for TV anymore?  Thousands of camera angles cover every inch of the field and every replay so the picture kind of paints itself.  Ok. maybe that is for hardcore fans and the rest may need some “assistance”.  But still…announcers on the radio would seem to leave a more lasting impression on a fan.  Since those listening on that medium cannot actually see the action.

Most broadcasters these days also hang around waaaaaaay too long and what they sound like in later years kind of taints the memory of them from their heyday.  Look at Boston itself:  Johnny Most, Ken Coleman, Ned Martin, Joe Castiglione…if I thought more about it, I am sure I could come up with some more names.  These guys were (are) making mistakes left and right at the end of their careers.  It was (is) sad to see/hear.  I’m not saying Orsillo is one of those guys now of course, nor do I know if he will be down the road.  But what I am saying is that announcers can be severely overrated.  And I think the outcry for D.O. was a little over the top.  But probably made him feel good.  No one likes to lose their job…in any field.  But also let’s not cry for him.  He certainly landed on his feet in San Diego.  The way the Red Sox and Tom Werner handled the situation?  Well, that was poor, no doubt.  But…Don Orsillo/Dave O’Brien/Joe Blow…who cares? Let’s worry more about the product on the field…

…as for this, my final delayed reaction of the day.  One opinion I have NOT changed after further analysis.  John Farrell returning as manager.  Yuck.  Dislike.  Dislike immensely.  And then some.  Listen, I have said it before and will say it again:  No one wished cancer on Farrell.  Well, I didn’t anyway.  He shouldn’t lose his job because he got sick.  He should lose his job because he is not a good manager.  Because he sticks with mediocre veterans too long.  Because he can lose confidence in kids quickly and therefore bury them.  Because his in-game management is atrocious.  The list goes on.

The record speaks for itself.  5 years, 2 last place finishes, 2 2nd to last place finishes and somehow the other year was a World Series win.  Total aberration and it seems the Sox won despite Farrell’s managing.  Everything fell into place in 2013.  This is why he still has a job, as well as the public relations disaster the Sox will incur if they get rid of him while he is sick, but you knew that.  Tommy Werner certainly does.  But I think based on the record, you can throw all that out.  Take out the WS year and he is 303-345 (.468) in the other 4 years.  He lost the Toronto clubhouse after only 2 years and started losing the Sox’ in 2014, when stiffs like Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes were whining about playing time.  The lineup was terrible to start 2015, but the pitching was worse…and that is his forte.  The team played better when he left…though admittedly, that could be due to a variety of factors.  Man, even his record on challenges is 21-31, according to  All of these items should be enough to say goodbye.

I know Farrell has the contract for a couple more years.  I don’t know if Torey Lovullo is a good manager or not.  Despite the good showing down the stretch, hard to evaluate it based on all the circumstances.  But next year’s setup is a little mystifying.  Lovullo signed a 2 year extension as bench coach and in the process forfeited his right to interview for other managerial jobs.  Does this mean he is “next”?  Lovullo and Farrell are close, so much so that Lovullo would apparently not use Farrell’s office when he was officially the manager the end of 2015 due to loyalty.  How is Farrell going to feel that the next manager of the Sox is apparently his close friend and in the same clubhouse and probably one bad road trip in early 2016 from taking over?  I would have to assume that they probably discussed this privately before Lovullo signed on the dotted line.  And Farrell must have given his blessing.  Maybe Farrell knows he won’t be healthy enough to start the year?  Who knows?  But would seem a little uncomfortable to most, no?

I think a clean split, even with the potential PR nightmare, was the way to go.  It remains to be seen if this scenario is going to work.  Maybe Arnie Beyeler was the problem.  Seems to me that just firing the 1st base coach wasn’t enough.  The 1st base coach??  Really?  Although, I admit it may make me a little more comfortable, but for a separate reason.  The way Beyeler groped every player that got to first base after reaching base made me a little uneasy.  Maybe I was the only one that noticed, but the guy was all over the baserunner.  I’m all set with that kind of PDA.

So…time to look to 2016.  Cannot wait to see what happens over the winter.  Let’s just hope that Rich Hill’s dominance in September, Robbie Ross Jr’s competence in the closer role and Craig Breslow’s decent 2 turns in the rotation doesn’t find them in the same roles next year…or even necessarily on the major league team…

Observations from Week 3…and more…

The New England Patriots are 3-0.  Awesome.  But I agree with Bill Belichick when he said “big deal”.  They’ve played a team with no D (Pittsburgh), a team that is probably not as good as they appear so far (Buffalo) and a cream puff (Jacksonville).  Sure, the Pitt and Buffalo games both had close final scores, but anyone watching the games knew that those finals were misleading.  There was never any danger of losing those games.  So the record is nice, but there really hasn’t been any kind of test yet.

And of course that is ok.  September and October are usually a time for the team to mix and match and figure out where the pieces fit.  With all the shuffling in the game against Jacksonville, as well as the two trades this week where Jonathan Bostic and Akiem Nicks came in and the Hoo-man departed, this is apparently still the plan.  But with the soft schedule, it just doesn’t seem it.  Oh, just in case you were wondering, I am not counting the hundred or so practice squad transactions that are par for the course every year.

In any event, life is good, though I am not going to get completely giddy and all…yet.  Here are some more random thoughts, again in no particular order:

*Perfect season.  PLEASE STOP!  There’s only over 80% of the season left, so nothing like getting ahead of ourselves here.  Sure, the Dallas game looks different now that they are battling injuries to key players.  The Indy game looks different as well, since they have their own issues.  And the division could even be weaker than originally suspected.  But there is too much time left and too many things can happen…specifically injuries to Brady and/or Gronk.  Or other key players.  So let’s see if they can get to 10-0 or so and then we can start chatting about a perfect season.

*Secondary.  Speaking of seeing where the pieces fit.  Still ugly back here, and that is putting it kindly.  Malcolm Butler always seems to be around the ball, but hasn’t made a ton of plays.  Bradley Fletcher was benched after only 2 weeks.  Tarell Brown started the first 2 games, then didn’t appear in Game 3.  Logan Ryan got a start.  Justin Coleman and Jordan Richards got significant PT against the Jaguars, even before garbage time.  Yikes!  Keep the faith…keep the faith…

*Aaron Dobson.  I wanted so much to give this guy some time this year to see if he could finally put it all together.  Not only was he a 2nd round pick and you certainly do not want to give up on a high pick sooner than you want to.  But as a rookie he showed some promise.  And it just looks like he can play.  But maybe not.  He played most of the game Sunday and came up short…yet again.  A drop…another play where he drew pass interference, but still should’ve caught that ball as well.  Just a disappointment.  Not to mention that he has never been able to develop any chemistry with Brady.  Of course it doesn’t help that Brady throws mostly to Gronk, Edelman and Dion Lewis, but maybe there is a reason for that.  Then again, a guy they acquired like a week and a half before the Jags game, Keshawn Martin, caught 3 balls on 3 targets from Brady.  Seems to be another strike against Dobson.

*”Scorched Earth”.  Hey, no one loves a good blowout more than me.  But to leave guys like Brady and Gronk in late in games with like 30 point leads…I’m just not in favor of that.  I get how Brady is pissed at the league…and many players and coaches within it.  With the whole Deflategate saga and all the people in the league taking free shots at him, etc.  It makes sense that Brady wants to bury everyone.  And that the coaches and the team in general wants to as well.  But to risk injury to indispensable players, just seems counterproductive to me.  Also to risk games while trying to run up the score, as what almost happened against the Bills, is kind of inexcusable also.  Hopefully, the Bills “scare” kind of taught them a little bit of a lesson.  Though I admit, it’s nice to shut Rex up.  That guy is such a blowhard, but that’s a story for another day…

*Bye week.  Too early!  But maybe this is the early challenge the Pats need?  Certainly haven’t been any real challenges in the games thus far.  Of course, I would guess that most teams would like the bye later in the season, to kind of take a breath, rest up some banged up players, evaluate what has happened in the first part of the season and adjust going forward for the second part, etc.  Not an option for them here.  There is a long way to go.  Not having a bye late in the season is probably not the biggest deal in the world.  But something to consider down the stretch.

*AFC East.  Sorry.  Not buying the Bills or the Jets at all right now.  I was never buying the Dolphins, but many others were.  As for the Bills, beating the Dolphins and the Colts was not that impressive to me.  Coming back against the Pats was not either.  Rex has a nice D over there, but the vaunted D-line hasn’t seemed to really been the reason.  LeSean McCoy has been banged up.  Tyrod Taylor has played better than expected, but over the long haul?  Remains to be seen.  Just not buying the hype.  The J-E-T-S?  Well, Ryan Fitzpatrick is running the show there.  And we know what he is all about.  Chris Ivory was getting rave reviews in the preseason.  Talking about a huge breakout year for him.  But guess what?  Injured again.  The D may be headed back to the success they had during Rex’ good times.  But again, too early for me to be worried about that team.

*Dion Lewis/RB’s.  Where did this Lewis guy come from?  Better yet, how did he not have a job last year?  Understand he was hurt in 2013.  And didn’t play much in 2011-2012 with Philly.  But this dude has some serious “shake n’ bake”.  Surprised he didn’t get a sniff while off last year.  Maybe fumbling was a problem, I don’t know.  Not putting the guy in Canton by any means…or even Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.  But if he is the real deal, what a steal.  I’m not a LeGarrette Blount guy really, but if Lewis continues what he is doing and is a legitimate part of the backfield, I can live with what Blount brings to the table as part of a combo.  As long as Brandon Bolden stays far, far away from any part of the backfield.

That’s about all I got…

Winding down the disappointment…still…

…as promised (warned?), I wasn’t done from yesterday:

*Xander:  By all accounts, Xander Bogaerts has had an unbelievable season.  But has he?  Please let me preface this by saying the arrow is certainly pointed up.  And he turns just 23 in a couple of weeks.  So please do not take this as extreme criticism of the kid.  Just pointing out facts.

Before Friday’s action, he was hitting .321.  Very nice indeed.  Looks like he will compete for 2nd in batting in the AL.  Hell, Miguel Cabrera leads at .336, and currently qualifies with enough plate appearances.  But Miggy is 38 shy of the 502 necessary at season’s end and if the Tigers shut him down early, X can win it.  Ok, unlikely they will do that, but…anyway, the average is nice.

Only 25 walks puts his on-base percentage at .352.  Not horrible…still tied for 23rd in the AL.  And better than the .297 in 2014.  He’s cut down on his strikeouts from 138 to 85.  His OPS is up over a hundred points to .767.  But .767 for a #3 hitter?  That actually puts him at 38th in the AL.

The glaring thing for me is the FIVE home runs.  He even had 12 last year.  Jackie Bradley Jr. has 8.  Travis Shaw has 11.  Mookie Betts has 15.  The first two listed here have a third of X’s plate appearances.

The kid has had a nice year.  They put him back at shortstop from the start and he has responded.  The future looks very bright.  I’m a big fan.  All I am saying is let’s not get carried away like some of the local yahoo’s have and put him in Cooperstown yet.  There’s a lot more of the upside yet to be realized.  Let’s hope he realizes it before Scotty Boras shuffles him out of town in a few years.

*Fat Panda:  Having back issues.  What a big surprise.  I would love if Dave Dombrowski could unload this contract.  Fat chance of that happening, pun totally intended.

I will say, if somehow he gets in some sort of shape…I don’t have to tell you how big an “if” that is…maybe his second year in the AL goes better than the first.  If this lineup is what it should be, all he has to do is do what he did in San Francisco.  And then maybe they can unload him as the deal gets cheaper.

*Kids (offense):  Even though it may have seemed harsh above on Xander (age 22), he has taken a step up this year for sure.  Mookie (22) has as well.  JBJ (25) has shown some competence…more than previous years.  Blake Swihart (23) arrived earlier than expected and survived a rough start to get up around .275.  Rusney (28), though not as young as the rest, has flourished somewhat with regular playing time.  Shaw (25) has been a little bit of a find.  Christian Vazquez (25) missed the year of course, but in 2014 he obviously showed some promise for the future.

These are only the guys that are already here.  There are others like Manuel Margot, Rafael Devers, Yoan Moncada, et al, that may be here soon enough.  Those are the names you hear most, but according to “people who know”, there are other decent prospects in the lower levels too.

Some of the above will probably go in trades.  Can’t possibly keep them all.  But it is hard not to be excited about the talent we have already seen at the major league level.  Sprinkle in a few pieces here and there and the offense looks like the foundation is set.  Now, for the opposite…

*Rotation:  Thanks to Ben, it appears the 2016 starting rotation is just about set as well.  But ummmmm…this is not a good thing.  Rick Porcello’s 20-plus mil contract kicks in next year.  There is no way anyone is biting on that.  If someone does, Dombrowski deserves Executive of the Year in a landslide.  (How’s that Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson for Porcello trade looking as well, Ben?  Ugh…).  DD has already essentially acknowledged they will pick up Clay Buchholz’ option at 13 mil, “if he is healthy”.  That’s a huge stretch for Clay of course, but at that money and with his stuff, I suppose you kind of have to pick it up.  Despite the fact that he will never be a 200/220 inning guy with 16-20 wins, like his stuff often suggests.

Wade Miley is on the hook for about 15 mil over the next 2 years.  Sadly, he will end the year as the teams’ best starter.  For that price he won’t kill you.  But he also may be tradeable at that price.  I don’t see them doing that though.  DD has already floated that he expects Joe Kelly to be a starter.  Hopefully that was just lip service.  This guy has middle relief written all over him.  Fine one time through the order, but after?  All bets are off.  Throws 98 but doesn’t miss bats.  That’s a nice 10th pitcher on any staff I say.

But there are 4 of the “5 aces” Ben put together at the start of 2015.  Mercifully, Justin Masterson is long gone.  But the other 4 mediocre guys remain.  Throw in the kids that have thrown pretty decent this year, Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens, and one that supposedly has promise in Brian Johnson.  Now all of a sudden you have a crowded rotation…and possibly no room to get that one “ace” that you really need.

Thankfully, Dombrowski is no stranger to the trade market.  And I would guess any one of the above could be had for the right price.  Not that I would just give any of those guys away…other than Porcello.  But I believe that DD will indeed land a top-notch #1 over winter.  David Price would just cost money.  But there are always those studs on small market teams that are heading to arbitration or free agency and can be had for prospects.  Gotta believe he will land that #1 somehow.  I think that interview from earlier this week about “building up the pitching staff, starting from the bullpen” is somewhat of a smokescreen.  Though we’ll talk about the ‘pen later.

What I would do?  Glad you asked!  Go get a #1 for whatever it takes.  Slot Bucky, Porcello, Miley and E-Rod 2-5 (yikes!).  Kelly goes in long relief.  Steven Wright also in ‘pen.  There are your spot starters.  Acquire 87 stout bullpen arms.  If Owens and Johnson are still here in the spring, stash in Pawtucket for the time being.  If Bucky gets off to a hot start, immediately deal him and get a reliable #2.  Try to get a reliable #2 anyway, someone proven.  Something like that anyway.  Bottom line, if Bucky gets back to exhibiting ANY trade value whatsoever…TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!

With all the contracts and limited trade value of a lot of the guys here, that may be the best we can hope for.  It’s easy to say “go get 2 #1’s and a #2, then…”.  But not entirely realistic…no matter how much money you have.

*Bullpen:  What a colossal disaster.  Combination of washed up major leaguers, “not ready” minor leaguers and veteran AAAA guys right now.  And I am not even including Rich Hill, who somehow dominated a start last week.  Get ready for 3 1/3 IP & 7 runs if he gets another one.  Look at the names:  Breslow, Cook, Mendez, Machi, Layne, Hembree, Ogando, Aro, Barnes, Ross and some dude named “Noe”.  Of course Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa are their best 2 relievers.  But, predictably, Koji is hurt and Junichi’s arm actually fell off earlier this month.  Ben clearly missed the trade window on these guys…but they aren’t the first players he missed trade windows on, ssssooooo…it just sucks that a lot of us have been pining for the return of Edward Mujica.  Ok, maybe not…but the point has been made I believe.

Solution?  Keep Koji and Taz, but don’t warm them up 3 times a game every game through June whether or not they get into the actual game.  Think the trade value on them now is low, so there is not really much choice.  Sign/trade for 2 or 3 REAL relievers, preferably ones that throw hard.  Overpay if you have to…you can, you are the Red Sox!  Load up on 5 other decent guys and then see what falls out in March.  Stash a few in AAA if you can.  Tell Barnes he is either a starter or reliever and have him prepare accordingly over the winter.  Maybe he can be salvaged.  Bullpen arms are tricky.  Never know what you are going to get from year to year.  Just toss some dough at bunch of them…can’t really give you anything more scientific than that, unfortunately.

*Kids (pitching):  At various points in 2014, think of all the young arms the organization was touting:  Owens, Barnes, Rodriguez, Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Johnson, maybe even Drake Britton or Eduardo Escobar…maybe more.

Well, like a year later, where do these guys stand?  Not necessarily pretty.  de la Rosa was fairly decent last year.  Webster was not anywhere near that.  They both were dispatched for an average Miley.  And those 2 remain about the same in AZ.  Ranaudo was sent straight up for Robbie Ross Jr.  That should tell you all you need to know.  And Ranaudo has been shelled in TX when up this year for good measure.  Britton was terrible in Pawtucket last year in the bullpen, and was busy getting blasted in the Cubs farm system this year as well, both starting and relieving.  Escobar was hurt essentially all year.  Johnson got hurt in the 2nd half.  Though Owens has pitched ok this year overall, his stock has fallen in the past couple of years.  Barnes wasn’t very good as a starter or reliever.  The only one that came close to matching all the hype was Rodriguez.

As opposed to the kids coming up through the system as every day players, the ground has not been as fertile for the young pitchers rising up.  All the more important for DD to make the right decisions here over the winter and through into next season…guess that goes without saying…






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