So, that London series was fun, eh?!
29 runs given up, 21 by that vaunted bullpen that we’ve already covered ad nauseam…sweet. Well, the Boston Red Sox DID score 21 themselves. Of course, after they got down big in both games. Then couldn’t get a key hit to actually come all the way back in either.
Where does this leave the team? I say it’s time to sell off parts.
84 games in and now 11 games behind the division leading New York Yankees. Sure, they are only 2 games out of the second wild card (4 out of the top spot). But does this feel like a team that can make some noise come playoff time?
No F’n way. Not to me anyway. And I think to most of us.
We are not even at the All-Star break quite yet, why am I so ready to throw in the towel?
It’s pretty easy to understand actually. I mean, you have seen how listless they have appeared for most of the year, right?
The players (and the manager, and the front office, and the rest of the organization…) will undoubtedly blame the long 2018 season for the way they came out of the gate for this current season…and how they have kind of sleepwalked since then. And maybe that is a factor…though it really should be a small one.
The Red Sox brought 21 of the 25 guys back who were on the World Series roster last season. And one of the departed, Drew Pomeranz, doesn’t even count since he didn’t even pitch for several weeks down the stretch, including the playoffs. Ian Kinsler, Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel were essentially the only departures. Most of the guys on the current roster were here last year as well, although not active for the World Series, or the playoffs for that matter. But here nonetheless.
Really, when you think about it, the only two players that have played more than a minor role on this years’ team that was not involved in any way last year at all are Michael Chavis and Colton Brewer. I’ll give you Marcus Walden too if you like. Since he pitched a few innings early in the year and then was never to be heard from again.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: that is not enough player turnover. You need new blood every year, but especially after winning it all. Keeps the fire burning and everyone is presumably still hungry.
Add this to the fact that Manager Alex Cora simply did not have the team ready to go right out of Spring Training, another colossal mistake. “We did the same thing last year…” he liked to say in April. Welp, every year is different, so they need to be treated differently. Even I know that.
With this, the wretched bullpen that is like FOUR arms away from being useful, four arms that aren’t anywhere near the organization at this time and everything else, my recommendation is that they make some deals at the trade deadline. Sending guys out that is.
The team has already made it clear that they do not want to go over the luxury tax limit. So where are they going to acquire good bullpen arms, to start? They have no real prospects to give up, ones that other teams want anyway. So how do they fix things?
Since the farm system is so barren, maybe it’s time to see what some of these players can get you? Granted, most of these guys won’t fetch much. But you never know.
There is one trade deadline this year, on July 31st. No more “waiver” deadline on August 31st. Is this a good thing? I don’t know. At first blush, I say no. Some decent deals can happen in August. There are two full months to go after the deadline as it stands this year. That is a long time. Still a lot of clubs that think they have a chance. That number dwindles in August and makes things ripe for more deals. I don’t think I like it, but let’s see how it plays out this first year in existence.
So if the Sox are going to make moves, they have to happen sooner rather than later. And, as stated above, how can one be confident in this team as currently constituted going forward?
Not to mention that stretch in late July/early August with the 14 games in 15 days against only the Yanks and Tampa Bay. 8 of them against the Yankees, what is that 2-6 maybe?
So this will never happen at all, I will guarantee it. The Sox have spent too much money and there is too much talent on the roster for the organization to wave the white flag. They all will think they can turn that proverbial switch when it matters too. But let’s take a quick look below at specific things I would do, or at least consider doing, before July 31st, by positional group:
Catcher: No need to do anything here. Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon are good enough. But maybe they can get Blake Swihart back? (I may never give this up!). Although Blake has been even more atrocious in Arizona than he was in Boston. That’s what happens when you play once every 10-15 days or so I guess.
Infield: Mitch Moreland and Steven Pearce seemed like a GREAT idea to platoon at first base for the 2019 season when it started. Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way. Both of these contracts will expire at seasons end and it seems that Chavis has kind of locked in that first base role at this point anyway. If healthy, both Moreland and Pearce can provide some value to a (real) contending team. They won’t fetch a ton, but it should be considered.
Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez also are up at the end of the season. These guys won’t get you anything so I guess I probably wouldn’t bother. I don’t think I don’t want either of these dudes back next year, so maybe they can explore it. I’d actually take Holt back, but he may be up for a decent raise…and he can never stay healthy either. And I don’t want to see him every day at second base next year anyway.
Outfield: Here’s the big one. To start, let’s ship Jackie Bradley Jr. out of town as soon as possible. He hit .315 with 5 homers and 14 RBIs in June. .992 OPS. There is his hot month. He is making 8.5 mil this year, with one more year of arbitration next year. Probably get 10-12 mil or so. For 5 bad months and one good one. Let’s sell high now and hope some team is dumb enough to give them something good for him.
The elephant in the room? Mookie Betts. I am not in favor of moving him just to move him. But if he is really not going to sign here long term, then the reality is the Sox need to shop him. I have no idea if he wants to re-sign here. But it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it. And that is the popular opinion. The Red Sox HAVE to know how he feels, way better then Joe Fan does. If he is truly a flight risk, the Sox need to take action. Don’t be rash, but it has to be a real option. Although I will take a proven Major League player over prospects 100 times out of a 100, this may be an opportunity to do some replenishing on the farm.
J.D. Martinez has to be a consideration to move too. I believe there is a pretty good chance he opts out after this year and tries to secure that one last guaranteed contract…for more than he is supposed to get the next three years. Again, the team has to have a better idea of his feelings on opting in or out after the season. If the sense is that he will opt out, trades would have to be explored here.
Pitching staff: I don’t have the stomach to split out the bullpen and no one wants any of those guys anyway. The one starter that should have some value is Rick Porcello. Seeing he’s up after this year and the signing of Nathan Eovaldi basically ensured the Sox wouldn’t re-sign him, Porcello should be shopped. Sure, he’s not the “Cy Young Rick Porcello” this season, but he can eat innings and contribute to a contender. No doubt about it.
Once again, none of this will happen. Then the Sox will squeak into the playoffs and lose in the first round.
But think about it, even if the Sox were able to unload most of the players with expiring contracts (or close to it) talked about above, they would still have a nice core of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Chris Sale, David Price, Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez (I guess), Vazquez, Chavis and I suppose a couple of bullpen arms that can work the 6th and 7th. Maybe some decent major league players coming back in trades. Perhaps a top (real) prospect or three. And all of a sudden some money to spend, being not right up against the luxury tax anyway.
A World Series winning team? Unlikely. But making the best of a bad situation? Perhaps…It COULD be an interesting few weeks for the Red Sox. If they want it to be…
…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…
…moving on from the Celtics to the Red Sox, as we still struggle with accepting the Bruins’ Game 7 Stanley Cup Final loss. We will at some point and of course have plenty to say when we get there.
But for now, let’s start a running tally of random Sox thoughts that have been bouncing around the old noggin’ for a few weeks now. Some of them are perhaps outdated. But so be it. Again, in no particular order.
*I’m still OUT. Exactly halfway through the season, the Red Sox lie at 44-37. Third place in the American League East, 8 games behind their archrival, the New York Yankees, but still in the wild card mix.
Sure, a season after winning the World Series should we really complain?
Damn right we should! From a team with the highest payroll and full of All-Stars? Absolutely.
Most of the guys look fairly uninterested. Maybe it’s me. But it sure seems like it. We will talk more about specific players later. But we will also look at the manager. I wouldn’t say Alex Cora is disinterested. But there are more head-scratchers this year than last, I can tell you that much.
In any event, I certainly didn’t get excited about the team recently taking 2 out of 3 from the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins. Because they then lost 2 out of 3 to the rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays. And haven’t exactly put away the very average Chicago White Sox over the last 2 games.
So the question is, when will I buy in? I would guess it won’t be on or about 8/4. The Sox play 14 games in 15 days. ONLY against the Yankees (8) and the Tampa Bay Rays (6). The trading deadline is right in the middle of that, on July 31st.
Ask me where I stand on August 5th.
*Speaking of the Rays, Major League Baseball has given the organization permission to investigate playing some of their home games in future seasons in Tampa and some in…Montreal?
What kind of nonsense is this?
No one goes to games in Tampa…besides opposing teams’ fans, that is. And baseball left Montreal in 2004 because of, well, they couldn’t build a new ballpark in the city, for one. But after revisiting the specifics of that whole fiasco, there were all sorts of other stuff going on…too much to recount here.
But one thing we did not remember was in the last couple of years, the Expos played some games in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
So that worked out well, no?
Seems like the Montreal/Tampa Bay thing should too, right?
*Don’t even get me started on the Sox and Yanks actually traveling to play in London this weekend.
Honestly, what is the point? To satisfy owner John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group? Ugh…
*Crickets on the David Ortiz “investigation” these days, eh?
It sucks that Big Papi got shot, no doubt about it. How can this happen to a legend in his own country? Well, I suppose it can happen anywhere.
It would suck even more if Ortiz was actually involved in some nefarious activities. It doesn’t sound like he was, just some bad judgment if you believe the rumors.
But the legal process? Certainly laughable. First, it was an assassination attempt. Then it was mistaken identity? I don’t think so.
Payoffs are happening for sure. What if Ortiz is part of that machine, covering up whatever he needs to be covering up to save his reputation?
Far fetched? Perhaps. But how can we rule anything out? Especially when it doesn’t seem anyone is really chasing the truth…in the Dominican…or the United States.
*As opposed to the silence on Ortiz, I think we can all be thankful about the recent silence surrounding Dustin Pedroia. The day to day updates on Pedey trying to come back from his knee injury. The continuous setbacks. Basically, everyone dancing around the fact that he is done. Including Pedroia himself.
If the knee problems truly started when he was slid into by Manny Machado a few years back, then sure, that isn’t great. But let’s face it, Pedroia had that kind of frame where he was bound to flame out quickly as he got older. While his “leadership” left a lot to be desired (except for when you ask him and other Red Sox apologists), he did play the game with reckless abandon. There was a pretty good chance he was going to break down a lot earlier than other players.
So Pedroia has stepped away from the club to ponder his future. You would have to think that he knows this is the end of the line. He always played hard, so I will celebrate his play on the field when the time officially comes. I’ll try to forget some of the ridiculous words and actions that came from him over the past few years as well.
I will also guarantee you this: He will be activated in September when rosters expand. Probably DH once or twice (or however long it takes him to say goodbye with a hit). Hell, the Sox may be out of it then, so they can do that for sure. Will he be eating up a 40-man roster spot in place of someone else that could be useful for a playoff push? Or a young kid they need to keep but isn’t ready for the majors? Unlikely, as I can list of about 8-10 guys on the 40-man that are borderline useless now.
So he will get one more MLB at-bat, maybe more, to get that last hit. Probably in a home game. Then he can get pinch run for and leave the field to a standing O.
I can live with that.
*The Yankees picked up slugger Edwin Encarnacion recently for…nothing? Just what they need, another big bat. Sure, their starting pitching has been questionable. But who doesn’t think that they make a huge move for a starter or two before the trade deadline? They have plenty of young talent. They have plenty of money…well, they always have plenty of money, but their payroll is even more flexible these days.
Get ready for that to happen. And then any moves they make there will probably put the division out of reach. Guess that’s why you play the games though…
To be continued…