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Leftover Weekend Nuggets…

…some random thoughts on recent events, once again, in no particular order:

*Do we even need to talk about the actual New England Patriot win over the Pittsburgh Steelers this past Sunday night?

Not really.  But I will say a few things.

A little surprising on how easy the win was.  Isn’t Pittsburgh supposed to be a prime contender in the AFC this season?

The defense looked pretty damn good, and that was even playing without linebacker Kyle Van Noy.  There seems to be a lot of bodies out there that can contribute, that’s for sure.

The offense could have been crisper.  I mean, four field goals from Stephen Gostkowski is probably at least two too many.  Though I will take the fact that he made all of them.  He has been shaky at times recently.  And the new holder, punter Jake Bailey, hasn’t always inspired confidence thus far.

Sony Michel supposedly looked very good in training camp.  He did look very good in the very little he played in the preseason.  He did not look so hot in this game, however.  Let’s hope this changes.

But all of a sudden I am not worried about this receiving corps.  And that’s not because of the guy we will talk more about later.  I feel pretty good about Julian Edelman, of course.  I have this gut feeling that Josh Gordon will stay out of trouble this season.  If the team keeps Phillip Dorsett active, I actually feel ok about him.  I mean, I don’t think Dorsett is going for almost 100 yards and 2 TDs every game…let’s not be ridiculous.  But I think if the team doesn’t bury him now, he is trusted by Tom Brady and can be useful.  And Antoni…ok, let’s get back to him in a bit.

I think the team will miss Rob Gronkowski, don’t get me wrong.  But I am not as concerned about the tight end position as most.  There will just be a whole lot more blocking out of that group.  But I think Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse can make at least a few grabs in the passing game.

I would worry more about the offensive line.  But in reality, the Pats have such a soft schedule the first half of the season, I think by Game 7 or 8, Dante Scarnecchia and the boys will have something decent figured out.  Even if that means bringing in more bodies still.

Ok, that was more than a few things.  In the end, it was a good win.  But I am actually not going too crazy about it.  Pittsburgh may not actually be as good as we think.  Plus, I think we all thought that the Pats would be like 7-1 or 8-1 to start out the season…certainly no worse than 6-2.

It may not even be worth commenting more until we actually get some real games…especially the 19-0 talk.  It’s waaaaaaay too early for that nonsense.

*Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski got fired late Sunday night.

Questionable timing?  Perhaps.

But I think that is something else we all saw coming.  There has been some talk that maybe Dombrowski “asked for it” because he knew it too and wanted to get a jump on other opportunities that may be available in a few weeks.

I’m guessing the Sox just wanted to bury it, especially after ownership subsequently has refused to talk about it.  That last part is kind of bizarre.

Either way, is it the right move?  Most likely.  There are some moves to be made this offseason and Dombrowski may not be the right dude to be in charge of those.  Primarily because one of the moves COULD be trading Mookie Betts.  And a move of that nature will involve most likely getting a package of prospects…not exactly DD’s strong suit.  He’s better known for stripping down a farm system for major league talent.

And, by the way, I am not advocating trading Mookie.  So pipe down.  But the reality is that if he doesn’t want to sign an extension this upcoming offseason, you can’t lose a guy like that for nothing the following offseason.  So you HAVE to investigate trading him.  I’ve been pretty clear about this for quite some time now.  I’m not looking to run the guy out of town.  I hope he re-signs…even if it is for a gazillion dollars.  John Henry has the dough, after all.

In any event, how much blame does Dombrowski get for this year?  A piece for sure.  But I don’t think it is as much as people want to lay on him.

Not getting a closer has been beaten to death when pointing fingers at DD.  And that’s valid, for sure.  He didn’t have to re-sign Craig Kimbrel for a jillion dollars.  But getting SOMEONE that had ninth inning experience would have been nice.

But what else?

People like to point to re-signing Nathan Eovaldi to 17 mil per (4 years) and Steve Pearce for 6 mil this year.  And that hurt them acquiring more bullpen help.

I say that’s bogus.  Pearce was short money and he SHOULD have formed a nice platoon at first base with Mitch Moreland for this year.  Then they both go elsewhere next season.  It is a lot of money for Nate, who never stays healthy and doesn’t have a tremendous track record (other than the playoffs last year).  But someone was going to give him some dough.  And having some starting rotation depth is never a bad thing.

To top it all off, you hear more about those contracts now that both of those guys barely played this year.  Only a few naysayers on them when they were handed out.

The Chris Sale extension?  Stupid.  But I think most of us would have given him good money over 3 years (instead of the 5 he got) though, no?  And that extension starts next year, so it has nothing to do with his performance this season.  Plus…I think ownership may have had quite a bit of say in handing that one out.  My opinion.

The bullpen?  Kind of in shambles.  But doesn’t that describe the bullpen for many major league teams?  And isn’t that why these guys are in the bullpen in the first place?  They can’t start, they can’t close and they are inconsistent from year to year.

Matt Barnes is no closer, but he should be a capable bullpen arm.  So should be guys like Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and maybe even Steven Wright.  But Wright got hurt again and Hembree missed a chunk of time as well.  Relying on Ryan Brasier was probably foolish, but then you had guys like Marcus Walden, Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez pitch pretty well instead.  Typical of the year to year inconsistencies of most bullpen arms.

The point is, Dombrowski could have gotten more bullpen arms for sure.  But would they have even worked?

I suppose the fact that he did nothing at the trade deadline may have been one final straw.  I think he should have sold.  Others think he should have bought.  But in the end, he sat on his hands.  The consensus is probably that he should have picked one way or the other and made something happen.

But I don’t believe he should have the lions share of the blame.  Manager Alex Cora then?  Some to him as well.  He hasn’t been as good as last year, but how could he top that?  We need to realize that he is just a second year manager and will make some mistakes.  I think he has acknowledged a great deal of the mistakes he has made.  He will presumably get better the more experience he gets.  I’m not blaming him a ton either.

This all lies on the players.  Some of them are putting up gaudy numbers.  But SOMETHING has been missing all year.  There is plenty of talent on this team and it should have made the playoffs.  Injuries to Sale, Eovaldi and David Price, of course, did not help.  But this roster should still be a lot better.

And Dombrowski put together that roster.  So I guess it’s all his fault…

*So the Red Sox are 9 games out of the wild card with 17 games to go.

It’s over.  We know that.  We have known that for a while.

But you still have to compete until you are officially eliminated.  Use all your best players…even if you have to use 8-10 bullpen arms because that’s all you have.

Not sure why Xander Bogaerts wasn’t in the lineup last night, but whatever…

That being said, once the team is officially eliminated from the playoff race, since the team dumped Dombrowski early, maybe they can dump a few more dudes early too?

I mean, why are we bothering with guys like Gorkys Hernandez, Chris Owings and Josh A. Smith for?  They can also let Moreland and Rick Porcello walk soon for all I care.

Let guys like Darwinzon and Marco Hernandez, Travis Lakins, Sam Travis, Trevor Kelley, Mike Shawaryn and Bobby Poyner play more.  Call up some dudes that they have to add to the 40-man roster this offseason and give them a taste.  They may not even be overwhelmed since there are plenty of minor leaguers in the majors at this time of year.

And why no Rusney Castillo?  Gorkys, Rusney, what’s the difference?  Rusney’s salary won’t hurt the luxury tax at this time of year.  May as well see if you can get SOMETHING in return for that investment.

Even if it’s a couple of late September hits.

And…I’m fairly certain I am the only one thinking about this…

*Last, but certainly not least?  Antonio Brown!!

If I still have you after 1,500 plus words, thanks for being here!  If not, well then I guess I successfully “buried the lead”.  Or is it “buried the lede”?  Either way, I’m not sure “successfully” is the proper word either.  Let’s move on…

I’m actually not going to talk much about him here.  I mean, everyone else has been talking about him non-stop.  How much more can I really add?

In a football sense, I have decided that I am ALL IN with this dude.

Make no mistake, the guy is an arseclown.  The stuff he was pulling this summer up to and including this past weekend has certainly been juvenile.  You know the list of stuff he pulled in Oakland, so we don’t need to rehash it here.  He apparently has been doing that kind of stuff his whole career.  Including the videotaping stuff in the locker room.  And how last year ended in Pittsburgh…etc., etc., etc.

I don’t THINK  he will get away with that stuff here.  I mean, one never knows, but I would think before any kind of nonsense would get to Bill Belichick, guys like Brady, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Dont’a Hightower, etc. would squash most things.

The Pats paid Brown a lot of money, so he will get more than one chance.  It’s not a risk free move, as some have been saying, but for one year it is worth the gamble.  As fans, we just have to hope he keeps in line for this one year.

Listen, I’m never going to hold any athlete as a role model.  Most of these guys are total jackwagons.  Even Brady can act bizarre at times…you know, the concussion water, avocado ice cream, etc.

I make no apologies for adding great players.  None.  Just like I make no apologies for the Patriots winning ways the past couple of decades.  People forget (or don’t even know) the doormats they were their entire existence before then.

People also compare Brown to past Patriot “headaches” such as Randy Moss, Corey Dillion, Adalius Thomas, et al.  They forget that there is one dude on the roster right now that has the potential to be a loose cannon…Michael Bennett.  There’s probably more in that locker room as well.  They just aren’t a superstar like Brown.  And as good a player as Bennett is, he’s not at Brown’s level either…I don’t think anyway.

You’re gonna have some crazies in any locker room, no matter what team you are.

What’s one more?

UNLESS…the story that broke last night about Brown being accused of rape is true.

Sadly and unfortunately, I am skeptical of a lot of those stories, especially when they come out of the blue like this one did.  And I am hoping that the story is not true of course.

But what if it is?

Now we are talking Tyreek Hill territory.  And that’s not somewhere you want to be.

As I said above, Brown has done some juvenile things over the years that kind of makes him look like a jackass.  So he’s kind of an idiot.  But is any of the stuff that has gone public really all that harmful?  Probably not.  He’s just kind of immature and pretty much a tool.

But if these new allegations are true, that changes EVERYTHING.  And Brown should be in jail, not ever on the field at Gillette Stadium.

Also, unfortunately, we may not know the truth until Brown has already played his year in New England.  So at this point maybe the only thing we can do is accept him as a player on the field.  Or at least try to.  Until that truth comes out.

Won’t be the first time this is the case for an athlete.  Which is another sad state of affairs…

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Told Ya…

…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…

SELL!!

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?

They don’t.

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…

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