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We Interrupt…

…this prolonged period of silence to rejoice in the fact that HANLEY IS GONE!!!!  I know, the Celtics just lost Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, a truly impressive run; the Bruins are a few weeks removed from a fairly successful season of their own; the Red Sox currently have the best record in baseball and Tom Brady (plus Rob Gronkowski) is being a colossal baby.

But THIS is what brings the Blowhard out of hibernation??  Sure does!  It’s some of the better news we have gotten recently, as silly as this sounds.  But we feel the need to write something about it, no matter.  And we promise to cover the other stuff soon as well.

HANLEY IS GONE!!!  I’m sorry, that just felt good to say again.

Now, Hanley is not entirely gone yet.  Since being designated for assignment last Friday, he is still kind of in limbo.  I suppose there is always a chance Hanley could end up in Pawtucket, if he agrees to it, that is.  That would seem to be unlikely, however.  He will definitely clear waivers if he hasn’t already…no one is picking up that contract.  He could well be traded for a bag of baseballs and some batting practice pitcher screens.  But even though the club that acquires him would only be responsible for the major league minimum salary, this may not happen either.

In a few days, Ramirez will likely be released.  Ending a stint that gave the Sox .260/.326/.450 for a .776 OPS over 431 games over parts of 5 seasons with the team.  5 seasons?  Yup, Hanley had 2 AB’s (2 K’s) as a 21-year-old in 2005, the year before he was dealt as part of a trade for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and I think other flotsam.  Who remembered that?!  Not me…thank you Baseball-Reference.com!

Ok, so it’s really the 4 years, 88 mil that Hanley stole from the Sox from 2015-2018 that is the problem.  Sure, 2016 had some highlights.  But other than a few then, a colossal waste.

Left field was a disaster in 2015, and although we can’t entirely blame Ramirez because he shouldn’t have been stuck there, we CAN blame him for a complete lack of effort in trying to get better out there.  Jeez, guys like Mike Greenwell, Jim Rice and even Manny Ramirez became at least serviceable out there during there careers…for the 81 games in the small left field in Fenway anyway.  Hanley didn’t even try.

Hanley WAS serviceable at first base in 2016.  However, 2017 came and he basically refused to play there again.  There was some bogus shoulder injury or something.  Then in 2018 he comes in all ready to play first and was chirping about a 30/30 season or some nonsense along those lines.

I don’t think anyone who follows the team, specifically principal owner John Henry, wanted to see Hanley rack up the 497 plate appearances during the 2018 season, that would vest the 22 million dollar option for 2019.  Yet here he was in the lineup every day, middle of the order, and actually having a strong April.  Whoops.

Then Friday happened.  Did anyone see this one coming?  I think not.  The little leader in Dustin Pedroia was to be activated and I think everyone believed (former) prospect Blake Swihart would be the casualty.  I think the Sox took huge advantage of Hanley being 0 for his last 20 and down to .254/.313/.395 to make this move.  What if he was still hitting over .300?  Perfect timing.  I’d also call that “dodging a bullet”.

By giving Ramirez all of that playing time early on, they were playing with fire on that 2019 option.  What if he kept the hot April going and later in the year started approaching those 30/30 predictions?  Hanley looked to be in decent shape, seemed to be playing a good first base, appeared to have had a better attitude this year and all that.  You never know…especially when there is a carrot worth 22 million dangling in front of him.

The Sox lucked out that Hanley cooled off.  Simple as that.

Now, would losing Swihart have been the end of the world?  Most assuredly not.  He just would have gone on that long list of especially recent “hot prospects” that the Sox hung onto too long before everyone realized that…they weren’t really prospects after all.  So they haven’t even been able (or willing?) to trade high on them before they all flamed out.  Brian Johnson is one currently on the team.  But you know, Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Henry Owens, Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden, Ryan Lavarnway…the list is endless.  You can probably also throw in their top 2 2018 prospects in Jason Groome (Tommy John surgery recently) and Michael Chavis (80 game PED suspension)…but I digress…

Something about Blake I like though…but I could be wrong…since he is still being buried now.  We’ll see.

Ok, this looks like about 800 plus words and it was supposed to be just a few words to get back into the swing of things.  So Hanley Ramirez is gone and I am clearly happy.  But this Sox team still has a lot of the same unlikeable characters from last year.  This may explain why I am still not in love with the team despite their success thus far this year.  A story for a different day perhaps.

But if they could DFA David Price, Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley Jr. also, that may help me a little bit…

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Red Sox Offseason Primer-Conclusion

We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster:

Catchers (3):

Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez

No need to rock the boat here.  Other than having Vazquez take more playing time away from Leon, that is.  Last year, they essentially split time and hopefully that will be adjusted a smidge in the upcoming year.  It would appear that these two will be the tandem again.   I can live with that.  Defensively, they are a solid duo.  They threw out about 40% of base stealers, an impressive number in this era.  Swihart at one point was a “can’t miss” prospect.  Think that one missed.  He will be 26 in April and catchers supposedly do develop late.  But he has been injured in recent years and also jerked around by the team position-wise.  His bat was his primary asset as a potential pretty good offensive catcher, but .190 in almost 200 at-bats in Pawtucket last year does not inspire confidence.  I’m not sure if he has options left.  If he does, he will likely go back to Pawtucket.  If not, it wouldn’t surprise me if he played a ton in the spring to try to pump up his value and then shipped elsewhere before the season starts.  Too bad.

Infielders (9):

Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Marco Hernandez (UT), Brock Holt (UT), Tzu-Wei Lin (UT), Deven Marrero (UT), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Hanley Ramirez (1B), Sam Travis (1B)

This is where some work needs to be done.  Based on what the rest of the 25-man roster would look like all around at this very point in time, it would appear 7 of these 9 would have to make the squad.  With Pedroia out injured until around June, that would seemingly leave everyone else but Lin on the major league roster.  Not ideal.  Bogaerts and Devers obviously set on the left side of the infield.  Ramirez, in this scenario, remains the designated hitter.  That puts Travis full-time at first.  And a combination of Hernandez, Holt and Marrero holding the fort at second until Pedroia comes back.  Ugh…

Dave Dombrowski insists that Hanley will be ready to play first base next spring.  That may well be true in a physical sense.  But does anyone really think that Hanley will be up for that plan?  Travis looks like he may be able to hit a little.  But I’m not sure he is the full-time solution.  I don’t think the Sox think he is either.  And that is a positive, because it would seem to spur the team on to make a major move involving a 1B or DH.  Or an outfielder, but we will cover that in a second.

Speaking of second, I can even live with that combination of stiffs at second base for 60 games or so until Pedroia comes back.  Does it really makes sense to go out and (re)sign a guy like Eduardo Nunez to a decent sized deal when you are locked into Dustin for like 14 per until 2021?  I think not.  I’d personally try to move Pedroia, but the knees, age, contract and 10/5 veto rights pretty much make that impossible.  Dombrowski has been talking up Marco recently.  But maybe that’s for trade purposes, who knows?

The move to be made at 1B/DH?  Could be Eric Hosmer.  But I’m not sure I want to spend a ton of dough on a good glove but someone who (other than batting average) may not even be a better hitter than what you had there last year in Mitch Moreland.  Carlos Santana?  Meh.  Again, would seem to be too much money for not much of an upgrade.  I don’t care how many home runs Logan Morrison had last year, he’s probably the last guy I want them to sign.  Lucas Duda?  Surely, you jest.

Hopefully there are some big bats that may be available that we don’t know about.  Because I can’t say I totally love the names being thrown out there now.

Oh, and Xander?  Part of me (actually, most of me at the present time) wants to unload him now.  Underachievement for the last year and a half.  Frustrating.  But the rest of me tells me they have to keep him.  25-year-old shortstop that presumably has his best years ahead of him.  Push comes to shove, I’d probably deal him in the right situation.  But it has to be EXTREMELY right.  I’m not giving him away.  Though I really wanted to last year…

Outfielders (4):

Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley (CF), Bryce Brentz (LF/RF)

On the surface, Benintendi-Bradley-Betts left to right would seem to suffice, right?  But when teams are searching for a power bat, that bat may be in the outfield.  Which would necessitate some sort of adjustment to this outfield alignment.

And no, even though Brentz hit 31 homers in Pawtucket last year, he is not the “power bat” that the Sox are looking to add.  Or he shouldn’t be anyway.  It’s a nice story, since Brentz was designated for assignment last summer and anyone could have claimed him for nothing.  But a nice story is all it is.  Dombrowski has been talking Brentz up as the 4th outfielder too.  But I’m not even buying that at this time.

Obviously, newly minted National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton is the hot name out there for the power bat.  All sorts of reports on him this past week…he wants to play on the West Coast and won’t approve of a trade to the Sox; that his reps are trying to get him to Boston because they think it will be the best fit, on and off the field; the Marlins want the world for him, even though he has almost 300 million left on his contract and on and on.

Stanton is the easy answer.  He plays right field though.  Right field in Fenway?  I suppose if that’s what he wants.  You could move Mookie back to center and keep Benny in left.  Maybe Stanton would agree to play left and then you would move Benny to center.  Giancarlo could of course DH, but he may not be ready to do that.  Either way, if he comes here, those “problems” will likely work themselves out.

I’m all for Giancarlo, even if the price is somewhat high.  I suppose it depends what “high” is, but the Sox should explore all options to get this done.  J.D. Martinez?  Ok…it’s only money for him I suppose.  And the Sox print money.  If it’s a fallback option, I guess you could do worse.  Other names?  Haven’t heard much.  Again, you never know who may be available, so maybe it’s a name we haven’t heard yet.

Any way you slice it, a big bat is absolutely imperative.  The Sox never really replaced David Ortiz last year.  Huge hole there, to state the obvious.  Where that bat comes in positionally, it doesn’t really matter.  Things could be maneuvered to make it work.  Bradley is one way things can be maneuvered.  I’d look to move him.  His ceiling has been reached.  Especially offensively.  His glove is nice, but can Mookie or Benintendi do at least 90% of that?  I think so.  And that should work out fine.  There has been rumored interest in JBJ.  If that is truly the case, I would strike while the iron is hot.

I’d actually like two bats, even if one is a little inferior to the other.  Can’t have enough power.  But, all in all, this may be the only move the Sox have to make.  Some tweaks to the pitching staff, sure.  But the big bat should be the one move the Sox should be all in on.  Anything else after that should be gravy, no?

Smorgasbord…

…lots to catch up on here, let’s start with the Thursday Night Football game and then dive right in:

Miami at Baltimore (-3.5)  

The Dolphins are 4-2 despite scoring only 92 points in 6 games.  They will be going with their backup QB in Matt Moore.  However, Moore may actually be better than the starter, that fraud named Jay Cutler.  Speaking of frauds…Joe Flacco everyone!  Neither team really excites me this year.  Therefore, take the points.

Miami 21, Baltimore 17.

Week (against the spread):  9-6

Week (straight up):  10-5

Season (against the spread): 50-56

Season (straight up): 64-42

Now for the rest of the Boston sports world, in no particular order:

*John Farrell is gone as the manager of the Boston Red Sox.  We have known that for a bit.  And everyone on God’s Green Earth knows how I feel about Farrell.  So no need to expound on any of those thoughts here.  Good riddance.  Buffoonery at every angle.

But…Alex Cora?  Count me among the unimpressed.  Just six years removed from the game, but more importantly, he has no managerial experience whatsoever?  Yeah, I’ve heard he managed the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic.  But who cares about that?  He was (is) a bench coach for the Houston Astros.  Doesn’t excite me either.

People are raving about him.  Maybe he has great people skills.  And actually can manage.  More importantly, maybe he can straighten out those morons in the clubhouse.  But…how do we really know?

He actually played here from 2006-2008.  Does that help?  Perhaps a little.  He knows what the demands are here in Boston.  Looks like the only player on this roster he actually played with was Dustin Pedroia…and Pedroia took his job.  People describe Pedey and Cora as close.  But I swear I remember Cora being pissed Pedroia took his job.  I don’t know, maybe Cora can also play 2b this upcoming season until Pedroia comes back…as we learned Wednesday that Dustin had knee surgery that will keep him out around seven months.  If the other options are Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin, then why not?  I know, there is a whole offseason to find a better temporary 2b option.  But some local jamoke writer actually proposed those three clowns as legit (and probable) options.

Let’s also look at the hiring process.  The only three guys General Manager Dave Dombrowski thought of interviewing were Cora, Ron Gardenhire and Brad Ausmus?  THESE guys were the cream of the crop?  YIKES!

Dombrowski has some work to do on the actual roster and most certainly the clubhouse.  Let’s also see who Cora surrounds himself with on his staff.  But this hiring reminds me of a somewhat similar one for the Sox back in 1992.  A hire that a former college hallmate termed a “franchise manager”.  They had to go get him before someone else swooped him up.  Yup…Butch Hobson.  Ugh…

*The Celtics obviously took a big hit with the Gordon Hayward injury.  Just over five minutes into the season he goes down for the year…what a kick to the junk.

But you know what?  They’ll still be up there fighting for the top seed in the East.  Cleveland will probably treat the regular season as an extended preseason, similar to what they did last year.  There are other competitive teams in the East.  I suppose Milwaukee, Washington and Toronto will be in the upper tier.  But not unbeatable, even without Gordo.

Look, with only 4 of the 16 players on the roster carrying over from last year, there was going to be an adjustment period anyway.  I don’t think anyone thought the C’s were going to win the NBA Finals this year with full health.  Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum appear to have a world of talent (though I am not getting too high about their performance against the lowly Knicks on Tuesday).  But let’s remember they are 21 and 19 years old, respectively.  In fact, 7 of the 16 players are rookies, though admittedly most of those are on the back-end of the roster.

It’s a long season and anything can happen.  Barring any other unforeseen major injury, I’m still excited about watching this team develop.

*I don’t believe Jae Crowder intentionally tried to injure Hayward.  But he certainly had a hair across his arse in the opener.  Al Horford got all worked up at him at one point.  Don’t see Al react like that much.  Anyway Jae, let it go dude.

*Brown certainly looks like a different player this season.  I know summer league means squat.  But I did watch some of the games there.  Judging by how Jaylen has come out in the regular season thus far, I would have expected him to dominate the summer league.  And he was pretty unimpressive there, in my opinion.

In any event, for a guy with his talent, he seems to have a lack of touch around the rim.  Seems like he could have added several layups to this years’ total already.  But I shouldn’t complain.  He sure looks a hell of a lot better taking outside shots than he did last year.  Keep improving his finishes around the rim and of course the free throws and the sky COULD be the limit.

*I have no idea if guys like Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, Daniel Theis or Jabari Bird can actually play in the NBA.  But I can for damn sure tell you one thing:  I’d rather give those guys a shot than have carried over the likes of Jonas Jerebko, Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson into this year.  We KNOW what those guys can do…and it’s not much.  Let’s see if any of these kids can develop into something.  While playing 9th to 13th man minutes.

I’m intrigued mostly by Theis, to be honest.  Now, I don’t want him playing 30 minutes a game.  But I’d like to see him get a consistent 10-15 minutes a night to see what’s there.  Listed at 6’9″, as a center, if he can add to the mix as a rebounder, that would be a tremendous help of course.  Especially considering the fact how horrid the Celtics were in that department last year.

*Last, but not least, the Boston Bruins.  This could be a looooong year, my friends.  But you know what?  I think I am ok with it.

Say what?  Think about it.  These guys are not championship timber, by any stretch of the imagination.  Not even a player or two away.  There has been an influx of young players this year.  Started a little bit last year, but you can really see it now.  There are apparently more to come.  Don Sweeney has been talking about this for years and we MAY be starting to see the “fruits of his labor”.

We have given Donnie Hockey a little bit of a beating the last couple of years, but if this was the plan all along, and Cam Neely (also taking a beating) and ownership have been on board with it…and of course if it eventually WORKS…then the B’s could be set up for years to come.  All the while remaining at least competitive during the transition years.

There is a long way to go, but in this young season we have seen glimpses.  We’ve also been horrified at some of the play.  But with young players and inexperience, that comes with the territory.  If the future is truly bright, then can’t we deal with the ups and downs for a little longer?

*Let’s break it down a little further.  If the lines this year when everyone is healthy are…

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Spooner-Backes

Kuraly-Nash-Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Miller-McAvoy

Krug-McQuaid

…doesn’t that give you a little hope?  Specifically looking at Bjork and DeBrusk hopping right into the top six forward mix.  As well as Carlo and McAvoy making some noise on defense in their 2nd and 1st year, respectively.  Of course it would help if these guys really can play…and by all accounts they can.  It would also help if Vatrano and Spooner took their heads right out of their arses as well.  But you could always sprinkle in a Timmy Schaller…or a kid such as Danton Heinen or Austin Czarnik or I guess this Kenny Agostino dude they just brought up.  Or…

Of course, I’d rather still have Colin Miller over Kevan Miller.  Or ANYONE remaining from the Tyler Seguin trade (or someone who could play anyway…meaning…not Jimmy Hayes).  But if some of the other dudes eventually make it as well…Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Matt Grzelcyk, Rob O’Gara, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon…we could be looking at a solid young core for years to come.  We shall see…

*Lastly, I will also tell you, I would keep the kids coming.  As the trading deadline approaches and the Bruins likely at the bottom of the playoff seedings, or even slightly out of them, I would work to shop some of the vets and implement more kids.  Not everyone, mind you.  But a few.

First off, they couldn’t necessarily trade ALL the vets anyway.  Most of the higher paid ones of course have no movement clauses, thanks to former GM Peter Chiarelli…and a little by Sweens himself.

Who would I look to deal?  Tuukka Rask, top of the list.  You just don’t need a 7 million dollar a year goalie.  Especially for a team in transition.  He has a modified no-trade.  The door is open.  Zdeno Chara has had a nice career in Boston.  But he’s heading toward 41 years old.  And they are still throwing him out there for about 25 minutes a game…in OCTOBER!  Stop the insanity!  Give those minutes to someone else.  Z has a no-move, but maybe see if he will waive it to go to a contender.  I’ve heard people around here saying that they wouldn’t mind if Chara signed on for another 2 years after this year.  Once again, STOP THE INSANITY.  You still may be actually able to get something decent for him too.

Others?  Krug for sure.  3 more years at 5.25 for a defenseman that is truly an offensive specialist.  Has some no movement protection starting next year.  Move him before that goes into effect.  Backes?  Makes 6 mil for the next 4 years with a lot of no-move protection.  Likely untradeable.  Krejci?  I’d love to see him on the above line.  But injuries seem to be taking control of him.  And yes, no-move protections of course.

Just see what’s out there for some of those guys.  Can’t hurt.  Oh yeah, it’s time to just buy Matt Beleskey out.  That ship has sailed.  Actually, that ship sailed long ago…

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