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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…

2016 MLB National League All-Stars

In honor of the Major League Baseball All-Star game selections being announced today, I present my National League All-Star picks.  21 position players, 13 pitchers, with each team represented (I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule).  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Wilson Ramos, Was (S), Buster Posey, SF, Jonathan Lucroy, Mil

Surprisingly a lot of options here, compared to the AL.  Wellington Castillo and J.T. Realmuto actually earned some consideration in addition to the three I selected.  Yup, I am serious.  Anyway, I was tempted to once again go with Posey as the starter.  But I couldn’t ignore Ramos’ superior numbers.

1B:  Anthony Rizzo, CHC (S), Paul Goldschmidt, AZ, Wil Myers, SD

You can probably pretty much pencil in Rizzo and Goldy every year for the forseeable future, barring injury or change in leagues.  Myers is the Padres rep, but if you’ve been paying attention, he’s had a pretty good year regardless.  Last year somehow I took 6 first basemen.  Three here seems about right.  Brandon Belt is 12th in the NL in OPS, so maybe he has a case.  Freddie Freeman isn’t awful, but also isn’t lighting the world on fire.  His atrocious team does not help.  I decided on someone else for the Braves rep however.

2B:  Daniel Murphy, Was (S), Ben Zobrist, CHC

Murphy has carried over his performance in last year’s playoffs for the Mets right into this year.  Pretty much a no-brainer here.  Zobrist cost the Cubbies more than you would think this past offseason.  But it’s worked out great so far.  Not a lot of other candidates.  Couldn’t do DJ LeMahieu here at all.  Because, as you know, I penalize players a smidge for playing in Colorado.  Dee Gordon is serving a PED suspension.  Jean Segura?  Nope.

3B:  Kris Bryant, CHC (S), Matt Carpenter, StL, Nolan Arenado, Col, Jake Lamb, AZ

Did you know Carpenter leads the NL in OPS at 1.008?  And that Lamb is 2nd at .974?  Neither did I.  I was aware that Carpenter was having a pretty good year, but shocked at seeing where Lamb stands.  Bryant is 6th at .948, but he’s still my starter.  One of those guys you can pencil in for multiple All-Star selections before he is done.  Another monster year for Arenado, but you know…Colorado.  Puts him on the team regularly, but not as a starter.

SS:  Corey Seager, LAD (S), Aledmys Diaz, StL

Thin here again this year.  Trevor Story has been a nice…ahem…story, but I’m not putting him at this level yet.  106 K’s so far this year.  To put that in perspective, Chris Carter has 103.  Yikes!  Brandon Crawford deserved a look as well, but no room at the Inn for him this year.  Especially when his OPS is lower than a guy like Jonathan Villar.  Anyway, Seager is one of those potential stars and at 22 years old, he may be that already.  Diaz came out of nowhere earlier this year and kept Jhonny Peralta’s job when Peralta came back from his injury.  And he hasn’t missed a beat.

OF:  Yoenis Cespedes, NYM (S), Marcell Ozuna, Mia (S), Bryce Harper, Was (S), Carlos Gonzalez, Col, Gregory Polanco, Pit, Adam Duvall, Cin, Odubel Herrera, Phi

Seven outfielders, but since no DH’s are selected in the NL, 2 or 3 of these guys could rotate in there.  Another takeaway?  No Giancarlo Stanton or Andrew McCutchen.  I do like to try to include real “superstars” in these games, even if they are not performing to their usual standards in a specific year.  The All-Star Game is really an exhibition, even though it decides home field advantage in the World Series, as foolish as this decision continues to be.  Fans want to see these types of players though and that’s why the superstars get voted in regularly, regardless of current performance.  Unfortunately, those guys have been less than good this year.  On top of that, they may be the 3rd best option at OF on their own teams this season (Ozuna & Christian Yelich in Mia; Polanco and Starling Marte in Pit).  I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of them though.  Ryan Braun’s numbers are pretty good and he is 11th in OPS.  But since he is a “convicted” liar and cheater, he doesn’t make my team.  Ok, I am sure there are other scumbags on this team too.  But that’s what I’m going with.

Moving on, Harper isn’t having the best year.  But he’s the reigning MVP and putting up fairly decent numbers.  See the explanation above on why he starts on my team.  Gonzalez can be basically lumped in with Arenado…on the team every year, but playing in Colorado makes me never put him as a starter.  Cespedes and Ozuna seem like obvious starters to me.  Polanco is 5th among NL OFs in OPS.  Duvall and Herrera are their teams reps.  Since Jay Bruce and Joey Votto have slightly higher OPS’s than Duvall, you could argue either of them as the rep.  But I’m not.  Especially since Votto had a horrendous start.  The only other true candidate from the Phillies was Jeanmar Gomez.  No thanks.

P:  Clayton Kershaw, LAD (S), Max Scherzer, Was, Jake Arrieta, CHC, Johnny Cueto, SF, Madison Bumgarner, SF, Jon Lester, CHC, Jose Fernandez, Mia, Noah Syndergaard, NYM, Stephen Strasburg, Was, Julio Teheran, Atl, Kenley Jansen, LAD, Mark Melancon, Pit, Jeurys Familia, NYM

Probably like 5 or 6 of the above named starters have a legitimate claim to start the All-Star Game, but I’m going with Kershaw.  ERA is under 2.00 and of course he is his usual dominant self so far this year.  But he is hurt in real life, so if I had to choose a backup starter it would have to be Arrieta.  Since he is the reigning Cy Young award winner, maybe I should have picked him anyway.  Cueto is 12-1, Strasburg is 10-0, etc.  Lot of studs on this staff.  Well, Teheran is 3-7, but since his ERA is 2.72 and the Braves are really an AAAA-level team, he is here as their rep.

There was some talent left off here too.  Cases could be made for Jacob deGrom, Carlos Martinez, Kenta Maeda, the old John Lackey and the really old Bartolo Colon…if you can believe that.  Toyed with Drew Pomeranz as the Padres rep.  But felt like Myers was the better choice considering all the pitching options available in the NL.

The way I feel about closers, with all the options for starters, it is somewhat surprising that I didn’t go with 13 starters and no relievers.  But I felt the 3 closers selected were worthy.  Jansen and Melancon have ERA’s around 1.30 and Jansen, in particular, has been dominant.  Familia is 29-29 in save opportunities.  Speaking of dominant, it’s a little bit of a shame that Fernando Rodney got traded from San Diego to Miami…going from closer to setup man.  Yes, this just happened recently, but it did impact my thinking.  Rodney gave up ONE run in three months for the Padres, going 17 for 17 in saves opps in the process.  Sure, he only pitched a shade under 29 innings, but impressive nonetheless.  He may have been my Padres rep if he remained in SD.  But no way he is Miami’s.  Probably should have found a spot for him anyway.  Maybe we can pretend he will be Kershaw’s injury replacement…now there’s a win-win, right?!

The only other closers I gave consideration to were A.J. Ramos and Hector Rondon.  But Ramos didn’t quite do it for me.  And since Theo Epstein apparently is trying to pry one of the Yankees’ three bullpen studs to presumably unseat Rondon, I dismissed him as an option.  The only middle man I considered was Sadaharu Oh…ummmmm, I mean, Seung Hwan Oh of the Cards.  He appears to now be their closer, with Trevor Rosenthal being awful.  But the competition was too tough for him to have a realistic shot.

That about covers it…so let’s see how mine compares to the real selections…

2016 MLB American League All-Stars

In honor of the Major League Baseball All-Star game selections being announced Tuesday, I present my American League All-Star picks.  21 position players, 13 pitchers, with each team represented (I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule).  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Salvador Perez, KC (S)

There will be three catchers selected for the actual game.  How they are going to pick the other two is beyond me.  Have you seen the list of all the AL catchers?  There is no one else even remotely qualified.  So I am not picking more than one here.  There are two other guys that I pick later for my team that have catching experience.  They can be my backups if necessary.  You know, if this game was played on more than this “paper” I “write” on.  Perez likes to catch every inning of every game anyway.  Done.

1B:  Miguel Cabrera, Det (S), Chris Davis, Bal, Eric Hosmer, KC

Cabrera’s year seems to be flying a little under the radar.  Maybe because it’s not as insane as usual.  But he’s putting up some numbers again, in case you didn’t know.  Davis isn’t hitting below .200 this year.  .242 isn’t that exciting, but it’s enough with the power numbers he puts up.  Hosmer can close out the game with his elite glove.  But his offense is improved over the past season and a half and he has some good production in the first half of this year.  Plus, well, KC did win the World Series last year, no?

2B:  Jose Altuve, Hou (S), Robinson Cano, Sea, Ian Kinsler, Det

Altuve is having a monster year.  So even though it’s a nice comeback year for Cano, Jose has to be the choice here.  1 shy of his career high already with his 14 bombs.  Leads the league in average and hits.  1 shy of the league lead in steals.  Nice work.  Glad to see Cano is back, as noted.  Kinsler seems to be the 2nd best Ian in the league this year, but it works out for him that he is the best one at his position.

3B:  Josh Donaldson, Tor (S)

Looks like I am taking only one third basemen here too.  But plenty of other guys on my team can (and do) play third.  They are just listed elsewhere since they’ve played more at other positions.  You’ll see.  Oh wait, Cabrera can also play 3b of course.  As can Davis!  Anyway, two guys I left off here are Evan Longoria and Kyle Seager though.  Close, but decided someone else would represent Tampa in Longoria’s case.  And Seager was a little behind Evan.  Oh, and Donaldson is one of the backup catchers on this roster too.  Good thing like 8 other guys have 3b experience!

SS:  Manny Machado, Bal (S), Xander Bogaerts, Bos, Eduardo Nunez, Min

This year’s shortstop crop is a lot stronger than the past couple of years.  Machado and Nunez are listed here because they have both played a handful more games at short than at third.  So, you see they can back up 3b on my team also.  Hell, even X can, with his experience there as the immortal Stephen Drew slid into that position in Boston in 2014…for whatever reason that was.  I would’ve loved to find room here also for Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor.  Maybe I should have anyway.  But they will have plenty more chances.  Nunez had to be here unfortunately because who else could you possibly take from the Twins this season?  But at least his numbers are pretty good, so he was a strong consideration at some position either way.  Nice utility guy…follows up very nicely on Brock Holt’s selection to the game last year.

OF:  Mike Trout, LAA (S), Ian Desmond, Tex (S), Jackie Bradley Jr., Bos (S), Mark Trumbo, Bal, Mookie Betts, Bos, Carlos Beltran, NYY

Just copy and paste Trout here for at least the next decade…unless he switches leagues at some point.  Desmond had a rough start, but has come on huge.  His transition to the outfield from being an error machine at short has been smooth.  So smooth that he is playing mostly center field now.  I actually tried to find a way to NOT add JBJ to the team at all.  When I was putting this together, my initial sense was that yeah, he had that 29 game hitting streak and put up sick numbers in the midst of that.  But what else has he done?  Well, since the streak, he has been pretty good too.  He remains sixth in the league in OPS.  And when you factor in the glove, that gave him the last starting spot over Trumbo…since Trumbo has served as DH for almost half his games.  Mookie is actually only 20th in the league in OPS, but you can’t argue with the overall numbers.  At first glance I was like, Carlos Beltran?  Really?  But he belongs.  And not because he will be the Yankee rep either.  What, you wanted Michael Saunders here??  7th in the league in OPS, Saunders is.  Surprising.  But I can’t see it.

DH:  David Ortiz, Bos (S), Edwin Encarnacion, Tor, Victor Martinez, Det, Nelson Cruz, Sea

4 DH’s?  Yup!!  But in name only…kind of.  Big Papi starts because it is allegedly his final year and I said so.  Not to mention he leads the AL in OPS by .118.  That’s kind of a pretty good lead.  Edwin has played about a third of his games this year at first.  He’s another guy that can play 3rd in a pinch.  Cruz has played over 40% of his games in the outfield.  So he can trot out there if needed.  And Victor serves as my teams’ primary backup catcher too.  We will take the bats any way we can get them!

P:  Chris Sale, CWS (S), Danny Salazar, Cle, Cole Hamels, Tex, Rich Hill, Oak, Michael Fulmer, Det, Steven Wright, Bos, Aaron Sanchez, Tor, Marco Estrada, Tor, Andrew Miller, NYY, Zach Britton, Bal, Wade Davis, KC, Alex Colome, TB, Will Harris, Hou

As I’ve explained in the past, my inclination is to take way more starting pitchers than closers and certainly middle relievers.  Great starters are infinitely more important to their team and that is why they get the big bucks, as they say.  Closers historically get hot for a year or three, but unless they are Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, they inevitably fail and fall back into middle relief or the minors or out of baseball.  Very few of the elite ones that can do it for 10 years plus.  Middle relievers are usually failed starters AND closers.  So even though they can be dominant, it usually doesn’t last.  And if it does, they will go back to another key role.

Unfortunately, this year it seemed I HAD to take 3 full-time closers (Britton, Davis, Colome) and 2 others that have closed for at least part of the year (Miller, Harris).  For the 8 starters chosen, it’s basically Sale and everyone else.  Ok, Salazar and Hamels have been pretty good too.  But although Hill has been pretty dominant when on the mound, he has missed some time due to injury.  Really had to be Oakland’s rep though.  I couldn’t possibly feel good about taking Khris Davis or Danny Valencia.  But with Hill, we are talking about a guy pitching in the independent leagues less than a year ago.  Fulmer has also been pretty dominant, but came up from the minors after 6 weeks in the season had passed or so.  Wright has been a revelation in Boston, since the rest of the rotation has been putrid, to be kind.  But he’s a knuckleballer on a nice run.  And also has a ton of unearned runs, which, well…he still did give up the runs, didn’t he?  Estrada is somewhat uninspiring, though Sanchez has been way more than I think even Toronto expected.  Maybe Jose Quintana has an argument, but it’s like 6 of one, half-dozen of the other I would say.

But because guys like King Felix, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Corey Kluber, Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, etc. have been mediocre, injured, downright atrocious or some combination of the three…these are your 8 starters in the All-Star Game folks!!

As for the ‘pen, Miller has been lights out since joining the Yanks last year.  Almost 2 K’s per inning.  Can’t argue his spot.  Britton and Davis are elite closers.  Colome is Tampa’s rep, for better or for worse.  But he was real good before getting hurt.  Harris has been an elite setup man for a couple of years in Houston now.  He recently has grabbed the closer role and let’s wait and see if he has what it takes for that.  But an 0.76 ERA currently would be hard to leave off the team.  Sadly, I also actually gave strong consideration to another couple of middle relievers.  Brad Brach of the O’s (1.01 ERA in 44 2/3 innings) and Kelvin Herrera of the Royals (1.40 ERA in 38 2/3 innings).  Just couldn’t pull those triggers though.

So there you go…NL to follow soon.  As I still try to process the Kevin Durant news into some coherent thoughts…

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