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Cancerous…

…well, I actually hate to use serious words for something sports related.  Kind of like calling anyone in the sports world a “hero”.  Sports figures are not heroes.  Law enforcement personnel, doctors, soldiers…now, those are real heroes.  I guess it’s how you personally choose to define the word yourself.  But I am already digressing…

What we are talking about here involves the Boston Red Sox.  Maybe a better word is “toxic”.  I don’t know.  Either way…though the Sox are in first place in the American League East, as well as having the second best record in the entire AL, something doesn’t seem right.

And it goes deeper than this whole David Price fiasco.  Which David Price fiasco?  Take your pick I suppose.  There is the one that involves confronting Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley on the team plane roughly a month ago.  But once the specific details came out this week in a Boston Globe piece, the story has taken on new life.  You’ve all heard and read what apparently happened, so no need to rehash those details.

But combine that with Price yelling at reporters weeks before the Eck incident, his social media whining and everything else that has gone along with him…that’s kind of the tip of the iceberg.  Heck, there was even a rumor being thrown out there yesterday that Price almost came to blows with manager John Farrell at some point in the spring…with General Manager Dave Dombrowski present.  I think that one may be a little far-fetched, but with Price, who knows?

What I do know is that apparently 217 mil does not give you thicker skin.  Price never should have come to Boston.  Sure, he couldn’t turn down the cash…and the Players Association probably wouldn’t have let him (a la A-Rod when he was going to take discounted cash to come to Boston years ago).  But he clearly can’t handle Boston.  And it seems as if he is trying his hardest to be moved now…though the likelihood of him being traded is slim to none…and that’s closer to none.  Our best bet to be rid of this tool is for him to pitch well over the next year-plus and opt out.  I know, that means another year-plus of this clown.  May be the only avenue though.  How many playoff losses do you think he can accumulate before then?

Enough about Price himself.  The most disturbing thing about the airplane incident with the Eck is that supposedly a great deal of players applauded Price being an A-hole.  So people’s feelings were hurt because Eck made some critical comments?  Grow the F up.  Athletes today are worse than ever.  Can’t say a bad thing about them or they lash out.  Please.  The funny thing about it was that Eck was just commenting on a poor Eduardo Rodriguez rehab start.  Just saying “yuck” when that particular pitching line came on the screen.  That’s all it allegedly took for Price to lose it?  Amazing.  How ’bout just recognizing that it was fact?  That the start was indeed actually poor?  Yeah, why would anyone do that?

Eck is no doubt more critical of players than pretty much any game analyst across the country…probably in any sport.  But is he THAT critical?  Maybe.  I don’t hear every inning of every game he calls.  Or all his studio work.  But I doubt it.  Players are just babies now.  I don’t know if it’s because it evolves from the “everyone gets a trophy as a young athlete” mentality or not.  But it’s a discouraging trend to say the least.  Social media ain’t helping things either.

Moving on…I didn’t want this whole piece to be about Price.  Just couldn’t help myself.  But when I say “toxic” as well, there is more to consider.  Hanley Ramirez, for one.  He’s finally playing first base on a regular basis…glad he finally agreed to.  But how long will it last?  I’m not counting on it being long.  D-O-G.  I’d love for him to be out-of-town as well.  At least he’s hitting some bombs again.  Though they may be the quietest 17 dingers you’ve ever seen.

John Farrell?  Ship him out too.  Though that is old news for me.  How many times can I say it?  Managing is bad, clubhouse may be bad, every time he flaps his gums…yup…bad.  But you know how I feel.  Nothing more needs to be said.  Although…have you noticed what Torey Lovullo is doing in Arizona with essentially the same roster the team had in 2016?  Just sayin’…

You know who else I am down on?  Dustin Pedroia.  No, say it ain’t so you will say.  But things are starting to add up.  On the field, he is a gamer, absolutely no doubt.  Battles every second, offensively and defensively.  He seems to be the only guy hitting recently, to boot.

But Pedroia “behind the scenes”?  Starting to lose some luster…to me anyway.  The whole Manny Machado thing earlier this year where he seemed to throw his teammates under the bus.  From all reports, he apparently supports Price’s antics.  Bobby Valentine was an assclown for sure.  But when Pedroia confronted him with the whole “we don’t do that here…” nonsense, what was that?  He’s the player, Valentine was the manager.  Deal with it.  Leadership?  Where was ol’ Dusty back in 2011 when the team was folding down the stretch and cost that manager (Terry Francona) his job?  Where was Jason Varitek’s leadership that year as well…but that’s a story for a different day.

This last paragraph may rile some people up.  Too bad.  Again, completely and wholeheartedly appreciate Pedroia’s game on the field.  His “off-field” stuff has bothered me for a while.  And this year it has seemed to elevate to a new level.  My opinion…

These are the players that stick out to me…plus the manager.  For the clubhouse type stuff anyway.  Maybe there’s more.  And there probably is.  But we may never hear any specifics on those players.  These veterans are kind of the easy ones to point to of course.

I will say that all the crap above is not the only reason “something doesn’t seem right”, as noted earlier.  The squad essentially only lost David Ortiz from last years’ lineup.  And all of a sudden the rest of them can’t hit?  Kind of inexplicable, no?  As noted previously, Pedroia has been in line with his career numbers and has hit very well the last month or so.  But everyone else has regressed.  Yes, even Mookie Betts.  I have no idea what the hell is up with Xander Bogaerts.  I expected another step up from last years’ numbers.  Nope.  You can run through the rest of the lineup and see the same things.

The trading deadline is Monday.  Despite my feelings above, the Sox are indeed in first place.  What would I do?  Glad you asked.  But since I rambled on about Price and bad mojo in general, that will have to wait another day…

 

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…

Boston Red Sox first half review…kind of?

I suppose we really don’t need to rehash the first half of the Major League Baseball season, as far as the Red Sox are concerned.  We all know the deal.  They are a better than expected 49-38, 2 games out of first place.  The offense has been largely good.  The pitching has been largely a disappointment, to be kind.  Young everyday players, like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are blossoming right in front of our eyes.  David Ortiz is having a monster farewell season at the age of 40.  David Price and Craig Kimbrel have not made the difference their profile would suggest.  Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez have been abject disasters.  Steven Wright has been a revelation.  Fat Panda is, well…still fat.  And for his 19 mil the team got an 0 for the season.  Ok, in only six at bats before his injury…but the point remains the same.  Blah, blah, blah…

We know all that.  Let’s focus on what one man thinks they SHOULD do in the 2nd half of this year.  Before we get to that, my thinking is that Dave Dombrowski has gotten off to a pretty good start with the minor deals he has made thus far.  Well, I am not sure why he felt the need to get a 33-year-old utility man who has a .199 career average in Michael Martinez.  I mean, don’t we have a guy like that already in Brock Holt?  And what was Marco Hernandez doing wrong?  I guess the move was made because those two both bat from the left side and Martinez is a switch hitter.  And they still plan to play Holt a ton in left field it would seem.  Whatever.

But I like the move for Aaron Hill.  I don’t mind Travis Shaw.  But despite the hot start, I never considered him an everyday player…at third or at first.  A bunch of at-bats off the bench at both positions?  Sure.  And it appears that this will be the case going forward.  Hill isn’t going to hit 36 bombs like he did in 2009 with Toronto.  But he will be a useful addition.  At what appears to be a minimal cost…with 2 “prospects” going the other way.  Wendell Rijo is only 20, so maybe he will be something.  But he was hitting .186 in AA.  Doesn’t look good.  Aaron Wilkerson was pitching well in Pawtucket.  But he’s 27 years old himself and has never made the majors.  Doesn’t look like a big loss.

I also like the move for Brad Ziegler.  Not a prototypical closer, but he wasn’t supposed to come here as a closer anyway.  But hopefully he will close here with Kimbrel now out.  As much as I love Koji Uehara, this year he has been…shaky (done?).  Junichi Tazawa has apparently been battling a shoulder ailment (and is now on the DL)…but he’s never been considered a closer anyway.  Robbie Ross Jr. had some saves down the stretch last year…but on a bad team.  Plus John Farrell forgets he has him in his bullpen half the time.  So that won’t work.  The end result is that Ziegler may now be currently the best reliever in the bullpen.  Yikes!  But it’s a good move regardless.  It doesn’t appear that Ziegler’s cost was much, though maybe a bit more than Hill’s.  Jose Almonte, a 20-year-old pitcher that was in Single-A, and Luis Alejandro Basabe, a 19-year-old middle infielder that was in the same location.  Young, yes.  But I don’t ever recall seeing them on any “Top Prospect” lists.

After all that preamble, let’s get to the Blowhard’s suggestions.  Once again, in no particular order.

*Trade for a young #1 or #2 starter using the systems’ supposed plethora of prospects.  I know, I know, I know.  Who wouldn’t do this?  But the point is, the Sox CAN make this happen more than most other teams.  According to many people around the game, the Sox have several “can’t miss” prospects.  Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Anderson Espinoza, Rafael Devers, maybe even that knucklehead Michael Kopech…yup, you’ve heard all the names.

The Sox should pick their top 2 or 3 guys and keep them.  And unload anyone and everyone else.  After all, for how long have we heard guys like Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Casey Kelly, Bryce Brentz (before he shot himself accidentally in the leg in 2013 maybe), Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Brian Rose, Wilton Veras and countless others were “can’t miss”?  Exactly.  Some of these guys won’t make it.  Most of them actually.  So while their names are hot, get rid of them.

OR, if they decide they will pay Xander and Mookie and not Jackie eventually, deal JBJ.  Assuming Benintendi will come up and take his place at some point soon enough.  OR, if the thought of engaging with Scott Boras down the road will leave them with so much distaste, trade Xander (heresy!!).  Assuming Moncada will come up and take his place eventually.

Now, I am not advocating trading Xander, no, not at all.  I actually would still consider trading JBJ, for the record.  Still not 100% sold on him long-term.  Even though I may be getting there.  Anyway, ideally, I’d go with trading a boatload of prospects.  But I think you get my overall point.  You have things people want.  You have a big hole…throughout the entire organization…with starting pitcher depth.  Go get a stud.  Now.

After all, wouldn’t every single person do Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. for Pedro Martinez again?

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I wrote the previous 900 or so words earlier, then put it aside for several hours.  In the interim, the Sox apparently traded Espinoza for “All-Star” Drew Pomeranz.  I use the word “All-Star” loosely of course.  Listen, Pomeranz has had a nice half-year…on a poor team with no pressure…in a pitcher’s park.  Not to mention that he was an injury replacement for the All-Star game this year.  He has been with 3 teams in his 6 year major league career.  He was essentially traded for the immortal Yonder Alonso after last season.  He has never pitched more than 147 1/3 innings in a full year professionally and stands at 102 right now.

In other words, not exactly the trade I was looking for when I mentioned packaging prospects…especially top ones.

But you know what?  I’ll take it.  Not that I have a choice.  But Pomeranz is only 27.  Under team control for a couple more years.  Showed some promise in 2014 with Oakland (I know, another pressure cooker!) before he punched a chair after a bad start.  Stupid, I know…but who knows, maybe if Kopech makes it to Boston someday they can hang out.  More importantly, Espinoza is 18 YEARS OLD.  Who the hell knows what he will be?  Some people were all worked up the Sox gave up 17-year-old Engel Beltre back in the Eric Gagne trade.  Who?  Exactly.

Espinoza could be the next Pedro Martinez, sure.  But the odds are way better that he becomes the next Casey Kelly…or Brian Rose.  Plus…anything can happen before he gets to the majors.  Specifically injury…like a major arm kind.  He’s a loooooooooooong ways away folks.  I’d rather bet on some of the positional prospects than the pitching prospects, if I had to.  In any event, maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t.  We shall see.

I’m still going after the #1 or #2 type guy as well though…moving on…

*Release Clay Buchholz.  Goes without saying.  And I’ve still said it a ton.  But Farrell is making noise about putting him back in the rotation eventually.  Maybe the acquisition of Pomeranz changes that thinking.  Either way, it’s well past time.  Coincidentally, they need to make space on the 40-man roster for Pomeranz.  Someone has to go.  Maybe it is finally him?  I’m looking at the 40-man and the obvious choice to me is to DFA Sean O’Sullivan.  But he is on the 15 day DL, so I don’t know if they CAN make that move.  Maybe Josh Rutledge is transferred to the 60 day DL.  Or same for Chris Young.  But there aren’t many options at this point.  DFA Clay?  Let’s get everyone on board!!

*Get one other 5th or 6th starter type.  This shouldn’t cost much.  If the Sox got a number #2 guy this month as I mentioned above, the rotation would look like this:  Price, #2, Porcello, Pomeranz, Wright.  Eduardo Rodriguez would theoretically be the #6 guy.  He’s been terrible, but no one should be giving him away or counting him out now.  Plenty of promise there.  And he has at least some positive major league history.  This other guy would actually be #7.  Better than Buchholz.  Or Joe Kelly.  Or Owens.  Good to have some more depth.

*Add another top-notch bullpen guy and a veteran “middle inning” guy.  As of right this second, with Taz and Kimbrel (Carson Smith too of course) on the DL, the bullpen consists of:  Buchholz, William Cuevas, Tommy Layne, Heath Hembree, Ross, Koji, Matt Barnes and Ziegler…Double Yikes!!  Matt Barnes may be your second best reliever now.  Ugh.

We’ve gone over Bucky.  Cuevas, (also Noe Ramirez, Pat Light, Roenis Elias)?  Not any kind of answer.  Layne has been ok, but is fungible.  No bigger Hembree guy than me.  But who knows with him?  He’s never been around long enough to know how he will hold up in a pennant race.  Ross is ok, but Koji may be done.  Barnes?  Not a fan myself.  Hopefully Ziegler can do something.  But…a lot of question marks as you can see.

Perhaps Joe Kelly is that “middle inning” guy?  Maybe.  Can’t be worse than some of the aforementioned dudes.  It appears he will get a chance.  I’m ok with it.

If they get the 2 bullpen guys, then the 7 they carry until either injured guys come back and/or September callups can be something like:  Kelly/vet, Ross, Barnes, Layne, Koji, Bullpen trade target, Ziegler…still questionable, but if the guy you get is awesome, then that will be a major boost.  Hate to leave Hembree out, but you can stash him in Pawtucket like Kelly for a few weeks if you have to.  The vet could be a 13th type of pitcher with experience and he could also be in AAA for now.  Maybe give Koji a “rest” on the DL.  Just mix and match arms until Taz and Kimbrel come back.  Then in September you have a lot of half decent arms out there.  Anchored by Kimbrel, Ziegler, Taz and trade guy.  With depth in Koji, Barnes, Ross, Kelly, other vet, Hembree, etc.  And no Noe’s or Light’s in sight either.

Bottom line?  Never hurts to have more than enough bullpen arms.  The Sox bullpen won’t become like the back-end of the Royals or Yankees…this year anyway.  But if they can just have more available options than what has sometimes paraded through the mound for them up to this point, it will help close the gap.

*Fire John Farrell.  Ok, that’s not going to happen.  He’s here for the season now I feel.  Like it or not.  And honestly, firing him at this point will probably not accomplish much.  Oh well.

What else?  Nothing actually.  Pitching, pitching, pitching.  That’s it.

The Sox can live with Sandy Leon/Ryan Hanigan/Christian Vazquez/Blake Swihart(?) behind the plate.  Especially if Leon continues to hit .455.  That’s possible, right?

They can also live with Holt/Brentz/Young/Swihart(?)/Shaw(?) in left field I believe.  Maybe Benintendi comes up in September and adds to that mix.  Pretty sure they wouldn’t want to add him to the 40-man roster before they have to.  But perhaps he forces the issue.

The biggest thing they have to do on offense I feel is to keep the Big Guy healthy.  Give him a day off a week if you have to.  They should be able to work their way around that with the bodies they have.  Big Papi’s sick numbers are bound to regress a little anyway.  So let’s keep him fresh for the stretch run.  I know, he’s only a DH and gets up 4-5 times a game.  How much can that affect him?  I would normally agree with that thinking.  And have argued that over the years.  But now he is 40…old for sports.  Let’s err on the side of caution in his final year.

There are a lot of teams in the mix all across baseball.  But, especially in the AL, I don’t believe one team stands head and shoulders above the rest.  The World Series is a realistic goal.  When World Series aspirations are realistic, you need to go for it.  Let’s leave no stone unturned in order to get there.

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