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Chris Sale…

…simple as that.

If the All-Star Chris Sale shows up for the Red Sox/Yankees series starting tonight, then I likely give the edge to the Sox.  If not, I probably go with the Yankees.

How’s that for an observation?  Obvious, I know.

But the fact of the matter is it hits the nail right on the head.  If Sale is throwing 89 mph and firing 104 pitches in three and a third in Game 1, welp, see ya.  Cuz who thinks David Price is going to win Game 2?  I thought so.

Sox manager Alex Cora says Sale is ready to go.  Full tilt, he says.

Hard to believe.

I think I heard this week that Sale has pitched 17 innings since the end of July.  I knew it wasn’t a lot, but even that number seems disturbingly low.  A couple of DL stints.  A shoulder that I would bet is still not quite right.  And decreased velocity along the way.

How is all that giving anyone comfort that he is “ready to go”?  Not me.  Not even close.  Could the Sox have just been being delicate with him…TOO delicate…so that he would be ready for the postseason?  Doubtful.  If they were, they would have still gotten him his 162 innings this year (he fell 4 innings shy), so he would qualify for ERA (though he likely would’ve ended up second to Blake Snell, after leading the category for much of the year) and presumably boost his Cy Young chances.  Teams/managers don’t care about individual awards/stats, you may say.  They are just trying to win the World Series, you may say.  I beg to differ.  Cora spoke openly the last couple of weeks of the regular season talking about Mookie going 30/30 and Xander getting to 100 RBI among other individual things.  But I digress…

So although of course we are stating the obvious here, Sale’s performance is really almost all that matters.

If he pitches well and the Sox take Game 1, maybe Price feels less pressure and finally does something in the playoffs.  Same could be said for Rick Porcello.  If he gets blasted and the Sox lose and the bullpen throws a ton to boot, then all the pressure is on Price.  We know how that usually goes.

I know, I know, I know…there is the issue of the bullpen.  If Sale goes 7 and leaves with the lead and the bullpen blows it, then maybe Sale isn’t the key.  We know he isn’t going 9.  At best, Sale probably goes 6.  That gives the bullpen 9 outs to blow the game if they are in that position.

Fair point.

But didn’t we know that already?

We have no idea what Sale is going to give the team.  Still making him the most important story.

Speaking of the bullpen, how did Joe Kelly get on the playoff roster?  Not sure.  We had him out in the projection.  Thought there was a chance he would get on anyway…but in place of Brandon Workman.  Turns out Kelly got Heath Hembree’s spot.  Hembree was less than average down the stretch too, so I guess it doesn’t matter.  But still…Joe Kelly.  Ugh…

As for the lineup, the top four for the Sox are nice, but there is a drop after that.  The Yanks have a stout lineup top to bottom.  Especially with the late-season emergence of someone named Luke Voit.  That should scare Sox fans as well.

Don’t forget the Yankee pitching staff.  The bullpen is great.  And the starters get the job done.  CC Sabathia for some reason pitches awesome against the Sox.  Will it be different in the playoffs?  Hard to say.  Along with all the rest of the Yank starters.  But I think the Sox can do enough damage against the Yankee starters.  As long as Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez don’t get too many at-bats.  Hell, Corey Kluber gave up three dingers today.  So I suppose you never know.

A prediction?  Sigh…I know, I love doing predictions even if most of them kinda stink.  But there is just so much uncertainty around Sale, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around things now.

Maybe I’ll just do this:  If the “good” Sale shows up, Red Sox in 5.  If he isn’t ready, Yanks in 4.

That’s the best I can do…

Random Musings, Red Sox Style…

More bullet points!

*I know the Sox have the best record in baseball.  And maybe this alone gives Manager Alex Cora some leeway to “experiment”, if you will.  Because don’t you get the feeling he is doing that sometimes?

Well, other than with Blake Swihart…but we will chat about him in more detail later.

A couple of recent examples here.  Robby Scott has been buried in the minors all year.  He had options remaining.  But he isn’t very good either.  Cora brought him into a tie game last week in the eighth inning…when the rest of the “good” relievers were rested and available.  Scott promptly hit a guy and walked another.  Next thing you know, the game is lost.

Xander Bogaerts hurts a finger and for depth (and since the Sox were carrying 13 pitchers and only 12 position players), the team brings up Tzu-Wei Lin from Pawtucket.  Cora sticks Lin in the leadoff spot and Tzu-Wei promptly goes 0-4 with 2 K’s.  Oh, and Lin didn’t hit in his first go around here this year.  And…wait, he was at .299 in the minors?  A couple of weeks ago he was around .214.  Ok, so maybe he got hot.  But that doesn’t always translate to the majors of course.  Leadoff?!

I don’t know, sometimes it seems Cora is pulling stuff out of his arse like this often.  Like Brock Holt batting fifth in the same game as Lin hitting leadoff.  Just hope it doesn’t cost the team a game and then they lose the division by that game and as a result have to play in the Wild Card game.

*That all being said, I can’t say I have too many complaints about Cora overall this season.  Seems to be doing a pretty good job.  Of course, the league stinks.  But still…

*If there is anyone in the organization to complain about, it may be Dave Dombrowski.  The cupboard is bare in the minor leagues.  How are they going to get reinforcements for this stretch run?

Listen, I know guys like Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel are here because prospects were dealt to get them.  I also know that a proven major league player is better than a random prospect.  Many of these much-ballyhooed Red Sox prospects over the years end up being garbage.  Some are dealt before they become that.  Unfortunately, many have stayed in the Sox’ system too long and become garbage before they are moved.  But I’ll take a proven stud over a question mark most days of the week.

But damn, there appears to be less than zero left!  Their two best prospects are Jay Groome and Michael Chavis.  Groome had Tommy John surgery and Chavis got popped for PEDs.

So who is next?  Rusney Castillo?  Ugh…you just don’t hear any names for real prospects in the Sox’ system.  Does anyone have value?

I imagine we will find out over the next month or so leading up to the trading deadline.

*As for Castillo, I agree with some of the local talk radio hosts…Rusney deserves another chance in the bigs.  Well, “deserve” may be a strong word.  But have you seen the OPS’s in this lineup?

Jackie Bradley Jr., .581, Eduardo Nunez, .634, Christian Vazquez, .538…and on and on.

Can Rusney be worse?  And they are paying him like 11 mil this year anyway.  Bring him up and see what happens.

I don’t care if Bradley had three hits Sunday and Tuesday.  He has been abysmal.  And apparently has options remaining.  Yeah, the team has been winning and he plays great defense.  But enough is enough already.  Send him down to find his swing.  If he can.  I’ve said it before and will say it again:  He should have been dealt after his “All-Star” season in 2016.  Didn’t we know that’s the best we were going to get?  And that he is so damn streaky, it could only go downhill from there?  I did.  Sorry.  I did.

*If the Sox won’t bring up Castillo because they don’t want his contract to count against the luxury tax, which is what some believe, then do something else.  I say that something else is to play Blake Swihart every day for 3-4 weeks and give him a chance to get going.  Sure, his OPS of .388 is worse than everyone.  But I suppose that can happen when you are given a mere 80 plate appearances in 79 games up to this point.  While also being asked to play positions you’ve rarely played before.

I have no idea if this kid can play in the major leagues.  I have no idea why I seem to like him and really want him to play.  Perhaps because the Sox have kind of ruined his career by jerking him around?  Specifically in 2016, when he is the Opening Day catcher, drops a couple of foul balls in like the first 8 games, then they panic and dispatch him to Pawtucket (while also bringing up Vazquez, who missed the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery and clearly wasn’t ready to be back in the bigs at that point).  Then bring him back up later in the year and shoehorn him in the outfield and he busts his ankle in the summer.

This year, Cora says he wants Blake to be like Marwin Gonzalez…play all over the diamond and get close to 500 AB’s.  Yup…hasn’t happened.  In fact, Cora started him at catcher in one game then kind of blamed him for the pitch selection after the game.  Yup, that’s why Jalen Beeks got hammered.  Maybe he shouldn’t have given Blake the start behind the plate for the first time this year with a kid making his major league debut on the mound?

Or maybe my affinity for Blake is not to become another highly touted Sox prospect that has stayed in the organization too long and is eventually exposed and found to have no value.  Like…

*Brian Johnson!  His ship has sailed now that he is 27 years of age.  The last guy on the staff.  On top of that, clearly does not pitch well as a bullpen guy.  Maybe he wouldn’t as a regular rotation guy either.  But why bother?  Let him go to another team.

*And…Henry Owens!  Did you know Owens was completely out of baseball for a couple of weeks in May?  Me neither.  This guy was once “can’t miss”.  Boy did he miss…

*We covered Hanley a while back.  I was happy he was gone and that hasn’t changed.  But now with all this stuff coming out about him allegedly having major drug connections and all that, he has returned as a popular topic on the airwaves.  “With the Sox looking for a right-handed bat that can hit lefties, if this proves to be nothing, why wouldn’t they just re-sign him?” and “I don’t like the Sox releasing someone because of the money (if he got enough at-bats to vest his 2019 option)”…blah, blah, blah.

Hanley has not been good for most of his career here.  And not the greatest guy to have around, drug connections or no drug connections.  So please stop it!  They should have done everything they could to make sure that option didn’t vest.  It was stupid to play him every day right at the beginning of the season.

Let’s not all pretend we loved Hanley and NEED his bat.  For most of his tenure here it was “what bat?”.

*Joe Castiglione…we love you, man.  You’ve had a nice career.  But…I don’t know.  Sometimes I just can’t listen anymore.  Last week against the Twins, he was pointing out a fact that the Twins catchers had 17 RBI’s for the year.  And was seemingly surprised that the number could be so low.  Ummmmm, at the time, the Sox catchers had combined for 19 RBI’s on the year.  Just sayin’…

*I leave you with this:  With the Sox having some key contracts expire after 2018 & 2019, as well as some of their younger players due for big raises through the arbitration process.  Not to mention that barren farm system again.  My question is this:  Is it time to start taking offers on one Xander Bogaerts?  One more year of arbitration, then free agency after 2019.  Scott Boras as his agent.  A career that hasn’t taken off as many expected.

X has been decent.  But does the team break the bank to keep him under the circumstances?  Especially with the pitching staff in total flux over the next few years and no one coming from the farm?  And Mookie being due after 2020 on top of that?

I’m investigating this.  Are you?

Time To Fire Farrell?

Of course!  But I’ve been saying that for a couple of years now.

Funny thing is, the Boston Red Sox mediocre start this season may have little to do with John Farrell’s managing prowess.  Or lack thereof…

Sure, there is always some blame that the manager will have to absorb when a team underachieves.  Farrell still sucks as an in-game manager.  That hasn’t changed.  Lack of leadership on more than a few occasions hasn’t helped him either.  All that nonsense with Dustin Pedroia and Manny Machado and all the other characters involved with firing baseballs all over the place.  Hanley Ramirez making up injuries so he doesn’t have to play first base.  And no one pushing him.  Those are two notable cases of a leadership void.

Farrell also doesn’t help himself with his explanations of subluxations and arm angles and all that crap.

But that doesn’t make him primarily responsible for this mess the Red Sox have created.  This actually pains me to say.

You may say, “mess”?  They are only 4 games out, no one will run away with the division and there are 125 games left in the season!  I will say, take a look at this roster, and Pawtucket’s roster and, better yet, the injury report.  And you may have a clearer picture of where this team stands.

Where do we start?  Third base is one place.  6 players have manned the position in 37 games.  Pablo Sandoval and Marco Hernandez primarily, though Josh Rutledge is catching up.  Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and…Steve Selsky have played there as well.  Looks like 13 errors, with Marco’s 6 and Fat Panda’s 4 leading the way.  Atrocious.  It’s gotten to the point where Marrero is earning more time because of his glove, his .243 career minor league average (.198 last year and .169 this year, by the way) be damned.

Is help on the way?  Not from Pawtucket, it would appear.  Looks like there are 5 or 6 minor league veterans playing 3B down there…without a ton of success.  I doubt we will see 20 year-old Rafael Devers in the majors this year.  Though he does currently have a .984 OPS in AA.  He’s supposedly the “next big thing”, so I doubt they will rush him.  Hopefully they won’t trade him either, what with the prospect cupboard stripped down a little bit from trades during the Dave Dombrowski regime.

I think we are stuck with the above motley crew for the time being.  Wait, didn’t Allen Craig used to play 3rd early in his career?  Maybe the Sox can salvage some of that contract?  Ok, nevermind.  He’s hitting .197 in Pawtucket with a .550 OPS.  Seems content to just collect his fat paycheck these days…

First base may be the next issue on the offensive side.  Mitch Moreland is a nice player and can fill a role.  That role should not require him to be the only player on the team to play in every single game this year however.  Especially when he looks pretty lost against lefties.

But part of this problem is that Hanley Ramirez has no interest in playing first, as noted above.  And no one is forcing the issue because they are afraid they will “lose” him.  What a joke.  Raise your hand if you saw this coming (Blowhard’s hand fully extended to the sky), at least in part because of the fact there is no David Ortiz in the clubhouse anymore to help keep him in line.  Make him play first, suspend him if he refuses.  And if he makes up injuries and you can’t tell if he is faking…well, you know his history, so you know he is faking.  I know, easier said than done.  There will be grievances and the player quitting and all that.  But management needs to figure something out and they should be smart enough to do so.

Raise your hand if you also saw Jackie Bradley Jr. reverting into, well…Jackie Bradley Jr.  (Blowhard again, arm straight up).  A mid .200’s hitter at best with a great glove.  But not an All-Star as he was last year.  I would have moved him last offseason for maximum value.  Then played Andrew Benintendi in center, Mookie Betts remaining in right.  Then perhaps a platoon of Chris Young and anyone else in left.  That ship has sailed.  On a positive note, there is plenty of time for Jackie to heat up and salvage his slow start.  But I’m afraid last year was an aberration, my friends.

Elsewhere on the diamond, I suppose I can live with the bodies there…unless Xander Bogaerts keeps up his alarming lack of production.  I don’t care if he is hitting .340.  No homers and 11 RBI in his 33 games is flat-out unacceptable.  And stop blaming Ortiz leaving for being the reason the lineup has underperformed.  There’s enough talent there to not use that crutch.

The big problem is the pitching staff.  Starting with the alarming lack of starting pitching depth on a “big-market” team.  Now, this is in no way saying I advocated for Clay Buchholz to remain here as part of what would have been 7 veteran big league starters.  I said “veteran”, not necessarily meaning “good”.  Good riddance Clay.

The other six?  Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz & Steven Wright.  Sale is rock solid, but has had a tendency to fade down the stretch in recent years for whatever reason.  Before his injury, I think we all could have counted on Price taking almost every turn…and hopefully be better than last year.  And even though Porcello was unlikely to be in the Cy Young mix again, I think we expected him to still be a suitable #3 guy anyway.

But the last three?  E-Rod is presumably still developing.  Having a pretty good year too, though he usually has thrown about 215 pitches every start to even get through the 5th.  It seems that way anyway.  Pomeranz and Wright were huge question marks.  Pomeranz just hasn’t proven durability in his career and Wright is a knuckleballer, so who knows which version will show up?

Lot’s of question marks.  Even with good health.  Then Price goes down.  Apparently Wright was never healthy from the start and pitched through his injury…and poorly.  Pomeranz expects to make his next start, but whatever he was babying in the spring is back.  Ugh.  And your next in line is Kyle Kendrick, Henry Owens and Brian Johnson.  Double ugh.

There aren’t better veteran options kicking around even now?  Dougie Fister, where are you?!

And…why did we ever consider Owens and Johnson “can’t miss” prospects?  They throw about as hard as Wright.  But I digress…

If you think the rotation is suspect, then don’t even look at the bullpen.  Disaster area.  Craig Kimbrel has been lights out.  Robby Scott has done his job…one lefty batter at a time.

The rest?  I can’t even talk about them.  Makes me sick to my stomach.  Makes me pine for some Noe Ramirez.  That should tell you about all you need to know.

This bullpen includes (theoretically) 2 guys who haven’t thrown a pitch in 2017:  Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith.  Smith threw very few pitches last year for the team.  But they are supposed to be at the back-end of the bullpen.

This leads me to the upcoming conclusion.  Although the Blowhard has not been a fan of Farrell for quite some time now, the finger points more to the construction of the team this year more than the manager’s performance.  Right at Dave Dombrowski.

You can’t control injuries (or illness).  But there is enough talent on this team to win.  There have been enough red flags on some of the guys acquired by DD that were worth noting.  He seemed to not only ignore them, he seemed to also overpay to get them.

Most of the trades involved prospects.  I would usually move prospects for proven guys any day of the week.  But did he need to move 4 of them for a closer in Kimbrel last year?  Send the top pitching prospect straight up for Pomeranz?  Send 3 prospects AND Travis Shaw for a middle reliever?  I’m no huge Shaw cheerleader.  But the Sox sure could use him now…at first or third.

For the record, I’ll give up the prospects for Sale.  But that’s different from the deals above.

Now, what does Dombrowski have to trade?  Couple of top prospects are left if he wanted, for sure.  But when MLB.com lists a 27-year-old lefty specialist (Scott) as your 29th best prospect across all minor league levels, that’s not a good sign.  That’s like a small market team.  Again, I’d trade prospects for proven guys every day.  Just seems as if, other than Sale, these prospects are being used for the wrong guys…and too many of the prospects are being dealt in each of those deals.

There is definitely plenty of time this season to right the ship.  But I’m not sure how long Price lasts when he comes back.  I don’t believe Thornburg throws a pitch for the team this year.  Who knows about Smith?  Sandoval will come back at some point, but to me, he is a lost cause.  3B will be an issue all year, offensively and defensively.  Just saw that Hector Velasquez is starting Thursday night.  Who?  Exactly.

This season is on Dombrowski thus far and not Farrell.  So to answer the question posed, Farrell probably does not deserve to lose his job based on the results this season…but as they say, you can’t fire 25 players…

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