…a month ago. The Boston Red Sox should have sold at the trading deadline. Even spelled out specific names that should go.
That 5-2 run in that first half of the 14 game stretch against the Tampa Bay Rays & New York Yankees that wrapped around the deadline? Had a lot of people jumping back on board. Not me. But I admit, I was teetering. And I wrote about that too. Based on the talent factor of this team, perhaps a few bullpen moves at the deadline would springboard this team going forward?
Listen, the Sox are my team. As much as they had underachieved from the beginning of the season until the trade deadline, I truly did not want them to sell off parts and kind of give up on the season. I mean, I want this team competing for a World Series every single year. They have the resources (and allegedly the front office and coaching talent) to put together a great team every year. And they actually SHOULD have a great team this year, closer or no closer.
Watching them play listlessly from April through June led me to believe the best business decision would be to sell at the deadline. In my head, I still felt that was the best move at the end of July. But my heart had me holding onto hope after that 5-2 run (of course this was right after losing 2 of 3 to the wretched Baltimore Orioles, so how rational was even I at that point?).
Boy were all the optimists wrong. And the semi-optimists like myself were also wrong. This team simply quit after the deadline. 0-7 in the last seven against the Rays and Yanks. Even had trouble hanging on in the first game last night against the pathetic Kansas City Royals.
Popular opinion seems to be that the team has kind of quit because the front office kind of quit by not acquiring help at the deadline.
True, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski did zero on July 31st. He only added Andrew Cashner beforehand.
But honestly, do you blame him??
Realistically, Dombrowski should have sold off the parts at the deadline. Mitch Moreland, Steve Pearce, Rick Porcello, perhaps even Brock Holt are going to be free agents after the season and I would say are unlikely to be back. Jackie Bradley Jr. stinks but will still get over 10 mil in arbitration next year. No one thinks Mookie Betts wants to be here after 2020, so perhaps he could get a haul. J.D. Martinez may opt-out after 2019 (though his numbers are down and injuries are up, so maybe not?). The minor league system is bare. The bullpen is putrid, would an arm or two really help?
As bad as the bullpen has been, the gazillion dollar rotation has been just short of a disaster. Chris Sale has been a colossal disappointment. David Price had pitched well for most of the season, but ever since he went after announcer and former Red Sox Dennis Eckersley kind of needlessly, he has gone in the tank. Nathan Eovaldi has been hurt and now is in the bullpen. Porcello has been atrocious. Eduardo Rodriguez has been pretty good for a while, but he also started out bad.
Maybe the bullpen would be better if the starters could go more than 4-5 innings a game? And we wouldn’t have had to see Colton Brewer, Josh A. Smith, Ryan Weber, Mike Shawaryn, et al, as much as we have?
It’s hard to repeat. And this team did not have “IT” this year for whatever reason. Blame Cora and his approach this spring. Blame Dombrowski for not getting a closer. Blame the players’ attitudes. Blame the schedule…no, not that…nor the umps. And don’t blame John Henry, believe it or not. He spent plenty of money on this team. I don’t blame him for not wanting to go over the luxury tax either. In other years, I may have blamed him. Not this year.
Also, look at the landscape. The Yankees have 100 guys on the DL, yet they still keep trucking along. Need to look no further than Sunday night when they rolled out their AAA lineup and still pummeled Price and the Sox. The Houston Astros are a juggernaut. The Minnesota Twins are having a great year and Tampa and Oakland are up there as well. People are waiting for all three to go away. But they aren’t. Not to mention the Cleveland Indians have heated up and are squarely in the mix.
Based on all of the above, if you were Henry or Dombrowski, would you have emptied the cupboard for an arm or two or some other “help”?
Dombrowski’s press conference may have rankled some fans. But the more I thought about it, the more I was on board with him.
He said stuff like “if we were better in the standings, we would have been more aggressive”. “We like the guys we have”. “This team should be better”. Paraphrasing, but I think we all got the gist.
The Sox are on target to play in the one game wild card tilt if of course they even get there. When your starters have been so bad, what if they get to that game and one of them gets shelled and then the team is done? Was it worth making trades at the deadline?
Most would say “yes”. I may even say “yes” in most years.
But not this year. It’s just a different feel.
I do understand completely also how the team didn’t sell off parts at the deadline as well. Dombrowski and Henry would have been SKEWERED by the fans if they had done so. Plus, this team should be in the mix as currently constructed, closer or no closer.
The offense has a ton of talent, even with Betts, J.D. and Andrew Benintendi slightly underachieving. Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez have blossomed. Brock Holt is capable at 2nd. Michael Chavis has emerged. You can live with Bradley if all these guys are going.
The rotation should be one of the better ones around. Contrary to popular belief, there are a few useful arms in that bullpen.
This team should have still been able to make some noise, even without any additions at the deadline.
Dombrowski was in a little bit of a tough spot.
I know I wasn’t in love with the available closer options. Does anyone think that journeyman Shane Greene is really any better than, say, Brandon Workman? I personally don’t think so. But emptying the farm for Greene or Kirby Yates or Kenny Giles? I am ok with not doing that.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, maybe they should have re-signed Craig Kimbrel last offseason. Even though he was shaky in the postseason, he’s still elite in the regular season. His contract demands were insane though. Of course, they could have spent other peoples money (Pearce, Eovaldi, others) on Kimbrel. But then again, NO ONE gave Kimbrel what he wanted. Initially anyway. So who knows?
One thing we do know, the Sox will get hot again against some weaker competition in the next few weeks. With this team, you can almost set your watch to it.
Does that mean they will be back in the race? Well, they are only 5.5 games out of the wild card, so I guess we can’t rule that out. There are 47 games left after all.
And yes, I do expect them to tease us once again.
But I am not expecting much more than that. A tease.
I think it’s actually time to get ready for the “Dustin Pedroia Farewell Tour” when rosters expand in September. Sad to say…not that I will be looking forward to it. But Sox fans will eat that up, guaranteed…and it’s sure to sell some tickets anyway…
…picking up where we left off…and with PERFECT timing!
My next topic was the bullpen. Just…wow…another meltdown Wednesday afternoon.
I know, Chris Sale didn’t exactly pitch that well. But at least he left the bullpen with only three innings to give.
Problem is that this bullpen sucks so bad, no one can trust them getting even nine outs in any game.
Why does the bullpen suck so bad? Welp, for starters, they are filled with a bunch of 6th/7th inning guys and have paraded several fringe major leaguers through there all year as well.
The Sox have had 17 guys throw bullpen innings for them thus far this season. And I’m not counting an 18th, Eduardo Nunez, who threw an inning in a lopsided game earlier this year. Truth be told, his stuff may be better than half the stiffs they have thrown out there.
In any event, a couple of these guys may be ok in the 8th inning. But NONE of them belong in the ninth, even with a significant lead.
That’s where we go into the departure of the closer for the last three years: Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel sure as heck had his flaws. And he was delusional about what he wanted for a contract this past offseason. But, by and large, he got the job done over his tenure. He also was borderline unhittable at times…like all of 2017, for instance.
In any event, he knew how to handle the 9th. Sure, he did not pitch well in the 2018 postseason. And I was completely ok with letting him go, especially with the ridiculous contract demands he had.
But then they didn’t go out and get SOMEONE else??!
I fully expected them to go out and get a Fernando Rodney type…some dude who would have been cheap enough, but had experience in the ninth closing games. Now, Rodney has been terrible this year himself, but you get the idea.
We all knew Matt Barnes was not a closer. Every time they tried to have him sub in for Kimbrel when Craig needed a blow, he was at least shaky. And most of the time (it seems), he didn’t get the job done.
Didn’t the Sox brass know this?
Ryan Brasier was a nice story last year. But there is a reason one spends 10 years or so in the minor leagues (and some in the Japanese League minor leagues as well…chew on that for a second). He threw 33 2/3 nice innings in 2018 but most forget that a great deal of them, especially early on, were mop-up, low leverage spots.
And they expected Barnes and Brasier to all of a sudden hold down the fort late this year??!
It’s easy to blame President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski. And we should heavily blame him. After all, he’s pretty much never been able to put together a decent bullpen. If he had been able to, we’d probably be talking about the 2013 World Series Champion Detroit Tigers instead of the ragtag bunch of Red Sox that ended up winning it all.
We also have to blame the Red Sox owners, John Henry and Tom Werner. It’s amazing how unpopular these guys are even after bringing 4 World Series victories to Boston since they have bought the team.
But they are.
They refused to go over the luxury tax to re-sign Kimbrel…or any other decent bullpen arm.
So they will spend a gazillion dollars on all the other players. But when it comes to that last key piece…nah. We will just throw a bunch of crap against the wall and see what sticks. They apparently loved the idea of the above scenario, along with seeing guys like Colton Brewer in the eighth inning and journeyman (to be kind) Josh A. Smith actually closing games.
That all being said, you know who else deserves some blame?
Manager Alex Cora.
I’m still ok with Cora overall, though he has had some head-scratchers this year (more on that later). After all, we always end up hating every Red Sox manager in the end, right? Well, not Tito Francona. LOVE that guy. And HATE the way he was driven out of town. But I digress…
Anyway, Cora has admittedly done the best he could with this collection of flotsam and jetsam. He mixes and matches depending on who is coming up in the lineup for the opposition. And when Barnes pitches against the best part of the lineup in the 7th inning, it seems he has done ok.
But sometimes Cora gets TOO fine. “Painting by Numbers” with the bullpen-fine. And then when it doesn’t work out he is left with some stiff at the end of the game that coughs it up. An extreme example was Brian Johnson in the 17th against the Twins. Johnson stinks. But he is slightly better when he is a starter. But never throw this guy in extra innings. I’d like to see the numbers, but my sense is every time I see him out there in extra innings he loses the game. My opinion, but I think it is closer to fact.
Again, that was extreme, but that’s also what you get when you throw all your best guys one inning…then the game gets tied and you have no one left.
But the one I liked from Wednesday was even pitching Barnes. I heard a stat on the radio after the game where Barnes has close to a 10.00 era when he gets zero rest and close to a 2.00 era when he gets at least a day of rest. He pitched Tuesday. So why was he in there Wednesday? With all the analytics these guys use these days, didn’t the team (and Cora) know this?
Yes, I understand that a guy like Brandon Workman had already pitched two days in a row. And options are obviously limited, as we have outlined.
But Steven Wright pitched the eighth. Yup, Wright is back after being suspended for the first 80 games.
Listen, Steven Wright is certainly no savior. But he is certainly fresh. The Chicago White Sox are not world beaters. He pitched well in rehab leading up to his activation. He pitched well in relief last year and the team dabbled with him in the late innings.
Why couldn’t he go two innings?
He is a starter by trade so should be able to give some length. Not to mention that he is a knuckleballer. It’s not like he’d be stressed by going the second inning.
Lookie here, I’ve spent my “allotted time” on the whole bullpen disaster. Go figure.
As referenced above, a couple more things on Cora. Please stop blaming the schedule for some of your woes. Everyone plays 162 games and has at least some portion of it that is not ideal. (Visions of Josh Beckett bitching about having only a handful of days off during the year…).
If the players don’t like the 162 games, do something about it. Sure, the owners want the gates and are likely the driving force behind all of the games. But factor this into the next Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations then. I have never heard of this being a topic…but maybe it is…I don’t really pay much attention to the labor part of the game. If this has been brought up by the players previously, I apologize profusely. But still…stop whining about the schedule. The general public never likes to hear rich people bitching about…anything. Especially about playing a game…a game that most families cannot even afford to go to.
Well, you can complain about the schedule, but do it privately. We don’t want to hear the manager whining about it either. Cora is probably trying to protect his players, but still…
Let’s move on.
How about some overmanaging folks?! Taking Brewer out with a 3-2 count on a batter? I guess you have to do it if you have someone like Josh Taylor ready to go. Ha! Brewer is a right-hander and Taylor is a left-hander. The batter, Jon Jay bats from the left side. Why wouldn’t Cora bring Taylor in from the start? He said something about if the previous batter had gotten a double instead of a single, he would have brought Taylor in at the beginning of the at-bat. But he got a single…but then stole second, so THEN he wanted Taylor…blah, blah, blah…
Brewer,, Taylor, whatever…they probably are the same guy, somewhere between the 12th/13th pitcher on a major league staff and a decent minor league pitcher. The jury is probably still out on both, but they are both beyond prospect status, so they are likely AAAA depth. Except they throw with different arms. I’m just not sure the move was anywhere near necessary. Why bother??
I guess the only other thing I wanted to say about Cora was that it kills me how he often gives the teams’ top players “maintenance days” against good teams when that particular series is sandwiched in-between series’ against putrid teams. Why wouldn’t he rest them against the bum teams? No idea.
And just Tuesday, he played J.D. Martinez, a DH with a bad back, in the field in soggy conditions and gave Andrew Benintendi a day off. Seemed silly, what with several days off upcoming due to the trip to London. At that point, I did not know that Benny had “leg fatigue” and was going to miss Wednesday’s game as well.
But still, there wasn’t another option to play the outfield? Brock Holt is banged up yes. But again, that’s what happens when you have to carry more stiff pitchers than you want at the expense of bench players.
There it is, the bullpen screwing things up again…