We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster:
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.
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…
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?
…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…
…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…
So we are finally here. Took the Sox forever to clinch the division but they got it done. Does anyone give them a chance in the playoffs however?
I’m not too excited about their chances, to be honest. But in the playoffs, I suppose anything is possible. We all know I have been down on this team since early in the year. How I feel about Manager John Farrell is quite obvious. But the team itself? They won 93 games and the division. How can you feel bad about that? Well, to me, this team has actually underachieved this year. I mean, how many of the players actually improved from last year? Out of the position players, maybe one…and it was Christian Vazquez. He only played 99 games. Of course, I am not counting Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi, who obviously improved from last year, since both were essentially minor leaguers.
But the guys that were supposed to be the centerpieces of the offense…Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez and I suppose even Jackie Bradley Jr…all regressed this year. Dustin Pedroia probably was about as good as he can be these days. But he missed 57 games this season. Very frustrating.
The pitching staff? Drew Pomeranz and Craig Kimbrel took a step up. And of course Chris Sale came over and dominated. But the rest? Meh. We don’t even need to talk about Rick Porcello’s pathetic year. Well…at least he will have one great year under his belt to look back on.
In my opinion, the Sox have been an unlikable bunch all year and we’ve hashed through a lot of that…the David Price and Dennis Eckersley thing, the Pedroia/Manny Machado thing, just about everything Farrell does…and all that other off the field stuff. Add it all up and it can be tough to root for them. But of course I will…
So now they go up against a 101 win Houston Astro team in the American League Division Series. How do they matchup? Glad you asked! Let’s have a brief look at how the rosters should stack up and see if we can come up with any way the Sox can win this series. Only a 5-gamer, so as noted above, anything can happen. Rosters have not been announced, so a little bit of guesswork involved here…especially for the ‘Stros:
*Catcher: Bos: Vazquez, Sandy Leon. Hou: Brian McCann, Evan Gattis.
I think we can sum this matchup as “defense vs. offense”. I know, Vasky hit .290 this year, but let’s be real. Anyway, not that percentage of base stealers caught is the “be all, end all” here. But Vazquez was 42% and Leon 37%. The Astros? McCann 13%, Gattis 10%…and if they end up keeping a 3rd catcher, it will likely be Juan Centeno…who tossed out 8%, though admittedly in few opportunities. I don’t think Houston cares as long as their guys hit a little and don’t have too many passed balls. I’ve already written enough here.
Edge: Even, believe it or not.
*Infield: Bos: Mitch Moreland (1B), Pedroia (2B), Bogaerts (SS), Devers (3B). Hou: Yuli Gurriel (1B), Jose Altuve (2B), Carlos Correa (SS), Alex Bregman (3B).
Pedey is still hobbling, X has been painfully average all year, Devers has slowed down a bit since his electric debut and Mitch Moreland is…Mitch Moreland. Compare that to two studs who will get MVP votes in Altuve and Correa (who may have been a top candidate if he hadn’t missed over 40 games), a potential future star in Bregman, who got better as the year went on, and a solid first sacker in Gurriel…need I say more?
Edge: Houston, by a landslide.
*Outfield: Bos: Benintendi (LF), Bradley (CF), Betts (RF). Hou: Marwin Gonzalez (LF), George Springer (CF), Josh Reddick (RF).
Josh Reddick? Does anyone know he was .314/13/82 this year? .314? Springer had an awesome year. Gonzalez was a sort of super utility guy until he started playing more left down the stretch. Lot of offense here and the defense is not all that bad either. Reddick did win a Gold Glove in 2012…though that also may have been because he hit 32 homers that year…you know, because that’s sometimes (often) how Gold Glove voting goes. Bradley and Betts are true Gold Glovers, though I know JBJ hasn’t actually won one. And offensively, the Sox OF’s are pretty good too, though the feeling is they could be better. This is a close one.
Edge: Houston, by a smidge.
*Designated Hitter: Bos: Ramirez. Hou: Carlos Beltran.
Hanley is infuriating, but can still hit a little. Beltran looks done. He may not be in this spot this series, but I’m putting him here for now.
Edge: Boston, as much as it pains me to say.
*Bench: Bos: Eduardo Nunez (IF), Brock Holt (INF/OF), Chris Young (OF), Rajai Davis (OF/PR). Hou: Tyler White (IF), Derek Fisher (OF), Cameron Maybin (OF/PR).
Seemingly a wasteland on both sides. Sure, Nunez made a difference when he got to Boston. But he got hurt, then came back for a couple of innings and got hurt again. Do we really think he will all of a sudden ready to go this week? Holt should be replaced by Deven Marrero on the roster. Neither one can hit, but Marrero has the better glove. Young stinks and Rajai should only be a runner. The Astros bench may be worse. Maybin can still play a bit (at least run) and Fisher has some promise. But nothing impressive here. Only three bench guys for Houston because of Marwin’s versatility. And because they need as many bullpen arms as possible…since most of them are not necessarily good.
Edge: Boston, simply because of Nunez, if he’s even somewhat healthy. If not, even, since they then both stink.
*Starting Pitchers: Bos: Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez. Hou: Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers.
Sale alternated good and bad starts through September. Pomeranz pitched well Saturday, but was hammered his previous start. Always have to wonder when his bubble will burst. We don’t need to go through Porcello again. E-Rod? You just don’t know. Porcello and E-Rod are probably the right choices for Games 3 and 4, if indeed those are the choices. I really can’t do Doug Fister. You know Farrell will not go away from Porcello in this series too. If that is the case, and it would be hard to do, but it may be worth considering starting him in Game 2. His ERA was about a run and a half better on the road than at Fenway. Would take some serious stones to push Pomeranz back to Game 3. I don’t think anyone thinks Farrell has those stones though. In all seriousness, I doubt I would have the stones to do that either.
The Astros will start with 2 studs in Verlander and Keuchel. Then they have like 12 guys that could start the rest of the games. Morton, McCullers, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock…they have options. And some pretty good ones.
Edge: Houston, and it’s not as close as one may think.
*Relief Pitchers: Bos: David Price, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Brandon Workman, Carson Smith, Addison Reed, Craig Kimbrel. Hou: Peacock, James Hoyt, Michael Feliz, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, Ken Giles.
I’m not sure Price can be “this year’s Andrew Miller”. But you have to like the way he has responded to his bullpen role. Guys like Barnes, Kelly and Workman have pitched better than expected this year. But I’m not sold on them for the playoffs. As long as they are 6th inning guys, maybe 7th, I suppose I can accept it. Who else do you want? Heath Hembree? Fernando Abad? Blaine Boyer? Austin Maddox? Nah. I’m not sure Smith is ready, but when your next option is Robby Scott, I suppose we can see what Carson has to offer. I think they will put him on the roster and pick spots with him. Reed and Kimbrel are pretty stout at the end.
Total stab on the Houston bullpen. Peacock was in the rotation and did very well the latter half of the year. But he’s used to coming out of the pen, whereas it doesn’t appear Morton or McCullers are, so it’s easy to shift him back there. He’s about 16 innings away from his career high in innings too, so you know managers like to protect those guys. Devenski, Harris, Gregerson and Giles are decent enough, but are we afraid? Liriano hasn’t been great, but he is a lefty you know. Feliz, Hoyt, Mike Fiers, Tony Sipp, Joe Musgrove, Tyler Clippard? Take your pick. McHugh could actually be here too.
Edge: Boston, primarily due to Reed and Kimbrel at the back end.
So who wins the series? Houston, 3-1. Sox win one of the first two. Then some combination of Porcello, E-Rod, Fister and Hector Velasquez get blasted out of Fenway in Games 3 and 4.