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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…

Red Sox Preview…

…20 games into the season.  Nice work.  Season is 1/8th over and the Blowhard is just getting around to writing about the team for the first time since the playoffs last year.

Oh well, at least it’s still April.  And you know, the Celtics are (and the Bruins were) in the playoffs.  Everything the Patriots do is seemingly newsworthy.  Ok, enough of the excuses…

So this isn’t really a Season Preview…quite obviously.  The following is a collection of thoughts about the first 20 games.  In no particular order:

*I’m not sure how many times exactly so far the Red Sox have had their ideal lineup in place, but it can’t be much.  Because of injury, illness (sorry Buck Showalter), bereavement and whatever else, the Sox have been shuttling players in and out of the lineup right from Opening Day.  But let’s say they do have their lineup all in place one day soon.  Does it scare you?  Not me.

*David Ortiz is going to be a bigger loss than you think.  Who is to say he would have put up monster numbers again if he stuck around in his age-41 season.  No guarantees there.  And he probably wouldn’t have.  But where is the power this year?

*Not to mention Ortiz’ leadership.  Does anyone really buy into Hanley Ramirez trying to fit into that role?  Laughable.  Not that he is trying to be that kind of leader.  But he has made comments that he has wanted to.

*Dustin Pedroia would seem to be the “next in line” to be that guy.  Makes sense.  But the whole Manny Machado incident from last week leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths…and not for Machado’s actual slide and subsequent Pedroia injury.  It was how Pedroia handled the situation.  Publicly slamming Matt Barnes for throwing the pitch (location and timing) and presumably management as well (specifically Manager John Farrell?), suggesting that if they were going to throw at Manny, it should’ve been done the next time he was at the dish in the series.

While Pedey may be correct in everything he said, both to Machado on the field and then after the game, it would appear that this is not the way a “leader” goes about an incident like that.  Then again, when the Sox collapsed down the stretch in 2011 and cost Tito Francona his job, Pedey just watched all the antics unfold in front of him…as did the “Captain”, Jason Varitek.  And Ortiz himself, for that matter.  So maybe this leadership crap is exactly what it is…crap.

*I admit, when they rolled Andrew Benintendi in the 2-spot from the get-go, I did not like it.  Seemed that it may put some pressure on the kid.  Every other “phenom” the Sox have brought up over the years seemed to start out at the bottom of the lineup.  Then eventually are moved up when they proved their mettle.  But the kid is unflappable.

*Sandy Leon was a nice story for about 2 months last year.  Hit everything in sight.  But it’s time to give the job back to Christian Vazquez.  And not because he is hitting .478.  But because he appears to be all the way back from his 2015 Tommy John injury.  Defensive monster.  And if Blake Swihart can ever get his mojo back…

*Pablo Sandoval still stinks.  And before he got hurt, his defense stunk too.  But at least they have Josh Rutledge to platoon with him when the still Fat Panda is healthy.  Sigh…

*Speaking of platoons, this team is going to have its problems against lefthanders it appears.  Mitch Moreland has had a nice start.  But looks helpless against lefties.  Panda can’t hit right-handed.  Rutledge?  Please.  Hanley refuses to play first…and the Sox are letting him get away with it.  That means either Moreland or Panda has to play against southpaws, along with Rutledge.  No good.  Chris Young is ok against lefties and ideally he would DH and Hanley would play first and Rutledge third.  Not exciting, but the best they can do.  Nice leadership Hanley.

*It’s early.  But Xander Bogaerts should be better than what I see.

*Who DIDN’T see the Rick Porcello regression coming?

*Steven Wright for that matter too.

*I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not counting on seeing David Price until after the All-Star break.

*Heath Hembree has been a pleasant surprise.  Joe Kelly hasn’t been horrible.  Matt Barnes has been nice.  But in reality, I don’t want any of these guys pitching in the 8th inning with a small lead.  Or really any lead.  I’ll likely be holding my breath on Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith when (if?) they come back as well.

*What’s the purpose of having Fernando Abad on the roster?

*Or Steve Selsky?

*Pawtucket Red Sox note:  Deven Marrero, the former first round pick, is 4 for 39 this year thus far.  That’s .103, for those scoring at home.  .253 OPS.  Solid.  Hit .198 all of 2016 in Pawtucket, with a .487 OPS.  Is his defense really that good?  He actually got a couple of days in Boston earlier this year, with the illnesses and all.  I’m not sure I understand…

*Pawtucket note, Part II:  Allen Craig is still alive!  .211 for the PawSox thus far.  My question though is…why?

*Pawtucket note, Part III…and Reason #2,567,321,956 why Spring Training stats mean nothing:  Kyle Kendrick is 0-3, 8.10 in his three starts on the farm.  Remember when some people were trying to make space for him in the big league rotation?

*John Farrell.  It’s no secret I am not a fan.  But honestly, I don’t remember being outraged at him at all this year.  20 games in, kind of surprising, I know.  A lot of people were up in arms when he yanked Chris Sale in his last start when he was at 102 pitches and dominating.  Then Craig Kimbrel immediately coughed up the lead and cost Sale a win.  I didn’t honestly have a strong feeling about that either way.  Then the Sox won the game anyway.  And Kimbrel actually went 2 innings himself, something he historically does not do.  Hard to really complain about that in the end.

Soon enough Farrell will piss me off.  But we will cross that bridge when we get to it…

*By the way, embarrassing note:  this is probably the first time in my life that someone made the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster and I had absolutely no idea who he was.  Ben Taylor.  Who?  Well, he’s not here anymore.  But he didn’t embarrass himself in his stint, that’s for sure.  Didn’t even realize he was in Portland for a bit last year, or right up the street in Lowell for 4 games in 2015.  Hasn’t been around for that long, but still something I’m not proud of.

*Speaking of embarrassing…and ending on this note…Taylor is ranked as the 18th best prospect for the Sox.  According to MLB.com anyway.  They list the top 30 prospects.  Ranked at #29?  Robby Scott.  Yup, a 27 year old lefty specialist is on a “Top Prospect” list.  Yikes!

 

 

On to the second season…

…if the Big Papi tributes ever end, that is.  Hey, don’t get me wrong, David Ortiz has made a tremendous impact on the Boston sports scene over his career.  Big part of the Red Sox’ three World Series Championships…and hopefully soon a fourth.  Tremendous in the community.  Goodwill ambassador for the game.  And all that.  Can’t possibly say enough positive things about the man (“The Man”?).  I just hate “farewell tours”, that’s all.  My apologies.  This applies to everyone, in any sport.  It was silly to see these pregame charades going on in opposing cities during the season.  Especially in cities Papi barely played in (San Diego?  San Francisco?  Please).  Ortiz should absolutely be honored.  And it should be huge.  But do it some other time.  And then do it again when he gets in the Hall of Fame.

Let’s really just be thankful that Jeremy Giambi was, well, Jeremy Giambi and that Ortiz got a chance to be in the lineup every day.  Remember, the genius Theo Epstein loved him some Jeremy.  Most of the “Theo” apologists had forgotten this long ago though.

While we are at it, you know what’s worse than farewell tours for players?  Honoring broadcasters.  Holy Vin Scully!  Sure, Vin may have been great as what he did.  But he is an ANNOUNCER!  It’s not like he ever split the atom or cured cancer.  He didn’t even make a difference on the field in any of the games he covered.  Enough already.  I’m sure he did a lot of great things for the community as well and is generally a good man.  But he is just relaying what he sees on the field.  Maybe throwing some cute anecdotes or something in there as well.  Awesome.  Hopefully the 48-year-old Scully was better than the 88-year-old Scully I heard on ESPN doing the 4th inning of a game a week or so ago.  Wow.  Mistakes and non-stop rambling.  Kind of like all of the announcers who stay on too long…which is about every one of them actually.  Jealousy?  Maybe.  And I sure hope to be as active as Vin at 88.  But just how I feel.

I’ll definitely give the radio guys more props than the TV guys.  Radio voices have to paint a sort of picture for the listener.  Tougher job than just seeing what transpires on the field directly from the television set, where the viewer can already see the action.  But still…

I’ll also give some props to some of the classic calls, such as Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in Miracles?!”  Though nowadays when those calls are made they seem previously prepared and then when delivered therefore sound somewhat forced.  Especially Jack Edwards’ ridiculous flow of words after a Boston Bruin’s victory.  Half the time no one knows what the hell he is talking about.

Sssssssooooo…now that I have gone waaaaay off topic and likely pissed a lot of people off…let’s get to the upcoming matchup!

The Boston Red Sox will be playing the Cleveland Indians in one of the AL Division Series.  Will Terry Francona come back and haunt his former team?  One he won 2 World Series with?  He might.  And in reality a lot of people would love to see that due to how the team’s head honchos ran Tito out-of-town.  Thanks Tito for the 2 rings…but a bad month with some chicken, beer and pain killers…and possibly a rendezvous or two with Hazel Mae (& others?)…so get the hell out?  In truth, Tito had been here for 8 years and sometimes it is just time to move on.  But his departure did leave a bad taste in many people’s mouths.  They would love to see Tito stick it to John Henry and Tom Werner.  Too bad Larry Lucchino technically isn’t involved here anymore.  Because when you throw in the fact Uncle Larry essentially picked Francona’s successor doesn’t help.  Most people haven’t forgiven any of the brass for the Bobby Valentine disaster.

On to the matchups on the field:

*Starting pitching:

John Farrell can say what he wants about not knowing who is going Game 1 or Game 2.  But with Rick Porcello going yesterday and David Price tomorrow…it’s pretty obvious.  Cleveland will counter with Trevor Bauer in Game 1 and Corey Kluber in Game 2.  Conventional wisdom says Sox win Game 1 and the Tribe Game 2.  Trevor Bauer in Game 1???  Yikes!!  Kluber is a possible Cy Young winner (again) and Price is 2-7, 5.12 career in the playoffs.  BUT…Kluber hasn’t pitched since straining his quad a week or so ago and maybe Price finally finds postseason success with his 31 mil?  Your guess is as good as mine.

I’m guessing Clay Buchholz in Game 3 (another Yikes!!) and Eduardo Rodriguez in Game 4.  Looks like Josh Tomlin in Game 3 and no idea Game 4.  Mike Clevinger?  Ryan Merritt?  Bauer?  The Tribe suffers a lot here without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.  If those 2 guys were healthy, the Indians roll.  Then again, the Sox have a history of making no-names look like household names.  Wouldn’t surprise me if someone like Merritt blanks them.  Steven Wright is a no-go for the Sox and Drew Pomeranz is unlikely as well.  Despite Wright’s All-Star first half, these 2 guys don’t compare to the 2 injured Indian starters.  Any way you look at it, the pitchers available for this matchup look like a wash to me.

*Bullpen:

I would say the Sox carry 7 arms here for the first round.  One less than the regular season.  Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler, Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr., Joe Kelly (over Heath Hembree) and Robby Scott (over Fernando Abad) would seem the logical choices.  Though it would not shock me in the least if Farrell thought it was 2013 and kept Junichi Tazawa either as the 12th or at the expense of one of the above.  Scott is unproven, but lefty.  And since Abad has pitched only once since September 16th, looks like he is out.  Kelly still stinks.  But they do still like him…better than Hembree anyway.

I’m not going to pretend I know a ton about the Indian bullpen.  But what I do know is that Andrew Miller is better than anyone the Sox have.  And they aren’t even using him as closer.  2 walks and 43 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings since joining the team.  9/120 in 72 2/3 IP overall.  Wow.  From a guy that used to never be able to find the plate earlier in his career.  Compare him to Kimbrel, who this week has come in throwing gasoline on the fire and throwing the ball anywhere BUT over the plate.  Just lost the game again tonight.  Not encouraging.

Cody Allen is the closer.  Not a lot of fanfare nationally it appears.  But seems to be having a solid season.  After all, they kept him at closer after the arrival of Miller.  Koji has been getting the job done since his return from the DL.  But hasn’t necessarily been untouchable.  Farrell seems afraid to use Ziegler as much as he should.  I like the Indian late inning guys a whole hell of a lot better than ours.

The rest of the Tribe bullpen?  Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister…possibly Salazar.  Looks like a pretty decent edge to the Indians here.

Starting bats:

We know the Sox lineup has put up some runs this year.  Looks like Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi will be the primary 3B and LF, respectively.  Don’t need to say anything about Mookie Betts, Papi, Hanley and Dustin Pedroia.  JBJ had a surprisingly nice year of course.  Xander Bogaerts disappointed in the second half, but still needs to be considered a factor.  Sandy Leon rounds it out…in the middle of a .216 September.

Cleveland has some pop in Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli (34 homers and 101 RBI for Nap?  Wasn’t he DONE last year?).  Some speed and a little pop in Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.  Tremendous speed in Rajai Davis.  A couple of serviceable players in Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin.  And a catcher worse than the Sox’ (Roberto Perez).  Yan Gomes is usually their catcher.  But he just came back from injury and was atrocious this year anyway.  Looks like it will be Perez.

The Red Sox SHOULD have a decided advantage here.  What with them scoring over a hundred more runs than Cleveland.  Just listing the opposing names really kind of covers the analysis here.  But, as noted, the Indians do have a little power and can impact some games with their legs.  Even Napoli and Santana have 5 stolen bases!  If the Sox can jump out early, they should be able to keep the Tribe at bay.  But any close games could result in Cleveland “stealing” games.  Get it!  Haha…I’m here all week…

Bench:

Chris Young, Aaron Hill and Travis Shaw are the main dudes.  Young and Hill specifically will play left and third, respectively, against lefties.  But only Merritt is a (potential) lefty starter in this series.  Backup catcher?  I’d take Christian Vazquez.  But guessing Farrell takes Bryan Holaday.  As long as it’s not Ryan Hanigan.  None of them really matter actually.  25th guy?  A perfect pinch runner would be Yoan Moncada.  But since he is nowhere near ready for the major leagues and made some baserunning mistakes when he did play in the final month to boot, I’m guessing Marco Hernandez takes this spot.  Not to mention that I just found out they shipped Moncada back to minor league camp yesterday anyway.  For what?  I don’t know.  I would’ve kept him along for the ride.  Along with Bryce Brentz.  But you already knew that.

Indians bench?  Gomes or Chris Giminez at catcher.  Brandon Guyer, Coco Crisp, Michael Martinez, Abraham Almonte, whoever.  Uninspiring.

I’d give the edge to the Sox here.  But if anyone makes any kind of contribution here on either side this series, with the possible exception of Young, I’d be a little surprised.  Hill may get into games late, but hasn’t done a whole lot in the AL.  Shaw has completely fallen off the map and out of the “rotation” altogether.  It’s possible the Indian’s bench makes some impact with their legs, but not likely their bats.  But who knows with postseason heroes coming from nowhere often.

Prediction:

As we speak, Cleveland has a half game lead for home field.  They have one of the best home records in the majors so you may think this is a concern.  The Sox have the 2nd best road record in the majors though, so it may not be.  Not liking the way the Sox are choking games down the stretch, especially Kimbrel.  But Farrell has been lifting Ortiz, batting Xander 6th, pitching Kelly in a save situation, etc.  So he may not be that concerned about it.  But speaking of Farrell, it is no secret that I don’t love him.  Seems as if the Sox should have a few more wins under their belt this year.  He could cost them a game in this series.  The Tribe will really be hurt by not having a healthy Carrasco and Salazar, not to mention Michael Brantley.  Though Brantley essentially hasn’t been there all year, so maybe his injury is irrelevant for these purposes.  Indian speed could cause problems.  And the bullpens could play a huge role.  If Kluber can’t go or is far less than 100%?  Not good.

That all being said, I’ll take the Sox in 5.  Praying that Farrell keeps the bonehead moves to a minimum…

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