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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…

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Playing catch-up…baseball edition…

*David Price.  A couple of weeks ago, I said I wasn’t concerned about Price, despite his bad numbers.  I still can’t say that I am concerned.  But I have to tell you, we really need to see more…and soon.  13 starts into the season, 7-3, 4.63 just ain’t gonna cut it for $31 mil.  Especially when the rest of the staff sucks, other than a knuckleballer that could implode himself at any time now.

I know he’s pitched better recently.  But take the other night.  I know it sounds stupid to get on a guy that threw a complete game 3-hitter and only lost 2-1.  But let’s look a little deeper.  Price has had some games in which he got bombed, inflating the ERA.  He also has had some games where he gave up some runs right out of the gate.  This game?  A few things that an bona-fide ace should just not let happen.

Top of 4, Chris Young gives the Sox a 1-0 lead by dropping one in the seats.  What does Price do?  Gives it right back in the bottom of the 4th when he hangs one to Brandon Belt.

Bottom of the 7th.  Price is at 60-something pitches and cruising right along, despite the blip to Belt.  Then he throws like 30 pitches against the murderer’s row of Matt Duffy, Brandon Crawford, Trevor Brown and Jarrett Parker.  No runs, but…he should be blowing those guys away on at least half the pitches.

Bottom of the 8th.  Gives up leadoff homer to .190 hitting (.208 in 53 career at-bats) Mac Williamson.  Who??!

A three hitter against a National League team without Buster Posey and basically only Belt as a real threat is no huge accomplishment.  I’ll take it…but combined with his postgame comments about how “I have 7 wins and about a 5 ERA, I will get better.”  Should he be happy he has a near 5 ERA in the middle of June?  I don’t think anyone else is.

*This is why the Sox need to go get Yordano Ventura.  Well, there are many reasons.  The rotation stinks.  The organizational pitching depth is thin.  But most importantly, you may be able to get Ventura cheap…or cheaper than previously anyway.

If Kansas City truly does want to unload him, then he is worth a shot.  Sure, the numbers are down and he is flammable.  But he is still only 25 and throws gas.  Supposedly he is being “mentored” by Pedro Martinez.  Can that be a bad thing?  Pedro was a hothead and threw gas.  I’m not saying Yordano is going to be Pedro.  But I am saying Ventura is absolutely a risk worth taking, if the price is right.

*Hey, did you all know that Ichiro Suzuki is only 5 hits away from tying Pete Rose’s all-time hit record of 4,256?  Haha, no he isn’t.  I am combining his 1,278 hits in Japan with the 2,973 he has in the States.  And no, for the record, I don’t count his Japan hits.  Those are equivalent to hits accumulated in the minor leagues.

I broach the subject simply because for the past couple of years I have anticipated a lot of hoopla around Ichiro once he got “close” to Rose.  I figured a lot of jamokes would try to combine the totals and make a huge deal of it as he approached the number.  Especially since most of the people related to baseball would love for any way to erase Charlie Hustle from the record books.  I figured they’d be all over this…as bogus as it would be.  I am actually amazed I haven’t heard a peep.

That being said, being 27 hits away from 3k in the States alone is pretty impressive after his late start in the country.

*Madison Bumgarner in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star Game festivities?  Sign me up!!  Why the hell not?  The stodgy old baseball people will never let this happen.  But the game is for the fans and I guarantee the fans would eat it all up.  Just do it!!

*Joe Kelly to Pawtucket, Clay Buchholz to the bullpen.  I still want John Farrell fired…more on that later.  But I’ll give him some credit for making these moves, and the Fat Panda move at the start of the season, among other moves that he normally wouldn’t make.  Of course, Dave Dombrowski most assuredly gave Farrell his approval to make them.  But still…Farrell isn’t kowtowing to the veterans, as he has historically done.

In any event, Kelly stinks.  This has been no secret.  The St. Louis Cardinals always seem to know the right guys to get rid of (hello, Allen Craig!).  Why he has not been tried in the bullpen for one inning max is beyond me.  Maybe it’s because Curt Schilling is right.  Schilling, you say?  Pfffft…that guy is a gasbag!  That may be true.  But he knows pitching.  And in an interview earlier this week, he said “there is no ceiling to the numbers if Kelly had a baseball IQ.”  Ouch!  Schill then went into detail for his claim, basically saying that he doesn’t learn, but has amazing stuff.  So why aren’t coaches straightening this stiff out?  Got me.  Seems that it is then on the player.  And at 28 years old (Happy Birthday yesterday Joe!), that is not going to change.  Time to try something else…like the bullpen.

As for Bucky, I honestly can’t believe they went this route…to mop-up man.  I didn’t think they would release him.  And they can’t send him to the minors.  Perhaps a trade, but that wouldn’t happen overnight.  And with the organizational pitching depth being so thin, unfortunately, it is probably a good idea to keep him around…because when he is right (physically AND mentally), he can be dominant.

I think everyone fully expected him to get yet another phantom injury and spend a month on the DL and then several more weeks in Pawtucket on rehab…until he felt like he wanted to pitch up here again probably.  I would’ve likely still done that.  Because now you may completely lose the fragile (physically AND mentally) Bucky by burying him at the back of the ‘pen.  Maybe it was a new method to get him to take his head out of his arse.  We will see how it works out.

Unfortunately, I bet we see how Bucky responds to the demotion sooner rather than later.  The next time the Sox need a 5th starter, I would bet good money it is him.  Sigh…and I’m not going to expect different results.

*Psycho Steve Lyons said on a recent broadcast that “Hanley Ramirez is a Gold Glove first basemen.”  Also, “Name me who’s better out there now?”  ALSO, “He has made the infielders around him BETTER.”  Ummmmmm…Hanley has been serviceable at first.  But those comments from Lyons are borderline grounds for termination.

*Something that may only interest me…but I found it funny.  A week or so ago, the Sox called on the immortal Noe Ramirez to close out a blowout loss.  Noe comes in and can’t see the signs Vazquez is throwing down.  So Vasky wipes his hand in the chalk around home plate.  Presumably he can now see them.  I thought he had glasses?  Anyway, Noe then proceeds to give up back-to-back bombs.  I found a lot of humor in that for some reason.  Guess actually seeing the signs didn’t matter…

*If Jackie Bradley Jr. and some other prospects that are highly touted but have been deemed expendable can get me a legitimate #2 starter, I am doing it.  I’m still not buying in, sorry.  He’s gotta do it at the plate for a longer stretch than a month at a time.

I don’t dislike the guy, but I also don’t like him now being lumped into the “untouchable” group with Xander and Mookie.  He is not on the same level and too many people are putting him there.  Sure, he has value if he hits .250 and plays his exceptional defense.  But maybe Andrew Benintendi can do that too.  Or some other dude.  I’m striking while the iron is hot.  Let’s see what’s out there.

*Carson Smith is out for the year, Roenis Elias is in Pawtucket and as previously mentioned millions of times, the Sox rotation is not good.  But don’t tell me that Wade Miley is the answer.  5.27 ERA in Seattle as we speak.  Seattle…isn’t that a pitcher’s park?  I’m all set, but thank you.

*Finishing up with more Johnny Farrell.  God, I hope he never has to manage in the National League at all.  We saw what that would be like in the 2013 World Series, when it looked like he had no idea what a double-switch was, among other head-scratchers.  And we were then reminded on Wednesday night.

Tight game in San Francisco.  No need to go to your bench early.  Just because they took Bumgarner out and put in a righty, in a 1-1 game, there was no need to hit Travis Shaw for Josh Rutledge in the 7th inning.  Rutledge is not all that great, but Shaw has been slumping.  What’s the difference at that point?  Maybe later in the game for Rutledge, sure.  But when you have Vazquez and Price “hitting” also, it would’ve likely been better to save Shaw for later regardless.

Then the 9th.  Hanley gets on 2nd with no out, as Williamson drops his fly ball.  Nice gift.  I’m not sure I would’ve had Bradley bunt next, but probably would’ve leaned that way.  A hot hitter in Chris Young was up next and with one out a fly ball gets the tying run home.  With cool bats behind Young, it may have been the best move.  I guess you can’t blame Farrell for Bradley taking two close strikes to fan, but still…

So Young is due and Farrell HITS for him.  The guy is on fire, but just because it is supposed to be a righty-righty matchup and he still had David Ortiz at his disposal, Farrell feels like it is the move to make at this time.  Stupid because 1.  Young is hot, against lefties and righties.  2.  They would undoubtedly bring in a lefty to face Papi.  3.  They wouldn’t pitch to Papi regardless, with first base open and cold or terrible bats to follow.  How does he not see this?

Papi predictably walks.  Shaw predictably K’s against the lefty Lopez.  Marco Hernandez, hitting for Vasky, probably predictably grounds out and the game is over.  And Rusney Castillo was used as a pinch runner for Ortiz, so the only bat left on the bench to bat for Price if it got to that point?  Sandy Leon!  No one left if necessary for extra innings either.  Solid effort…keep up the great work Johnny…

 

 

Mea Culpa?

So here we are just past the quarter pole of the Major League Baseball season.  The Boston Red Sox inexplicably have a 27-17 record and are in a virtual tie for first place with Baltimore atop the AL East.  I say inexplicably, because well, no one really expected this.  And if anyone says they did expect it, they are blowing some serious smoke up your keister.

My wish for John Farrell being canned by Memorial Day will go unfulfilled.  That wish has already gone unfulfilled for months actually.  But that is besides the point.  I may even have to begrudgingly admit that Farrell has done a half-decent job to this point.

Of course, that is easy to do when your offense has been off the charts the first six weeks of the season.  And the bullpen has been pretty good too.  So even if the starters are mediocre, and they have been, the success of the first two here can win you a lot of ballgames.

Therein lies the potential downfall of the team however.  The starting rotation.  David Price is 6-1, but with a 5.53 ERA.  I’m not going to be too worried about him though…he should round back into form.  Maybe he already has with his last couple of starts.  “#2 starter” Clay Buchholz has been atrocious.  And that is being kind.  My feelings on Bucky have been pretty clear.  But despite the talent he flashes (seemingly once in a blue moon recently), I’m not expecting much out of this bum.

Joe Kelly started the 3rd game of the season.  I suppose that means he is technically the #3 guy.  I don’t care about the great performance Saturday.  He still stinks.  I heard one “insider” say on a radio broadcast that fixing this shoulder impingement that landed him on the disabled list this season…you know, the impingement that he has had for like 8 years…will mentally free him now and he will reach his full ability.  Or some garbage like that.  So the “impingement” held him up for almost a decade…and he never bothered to have it fixed until now.  Ok, if you say so.  And we are not even sure it is even “fixed.”  He is just doing different kinds of exercises, working on a program and of course taking some meds.

Rick Porcello is 7-2, 3.47.  Wow.  We will take that from him.  Sad that we will “take” a 3.47 ERA from a 20 plus million dollar pitcher.  But that’s unfortunately where we are at.  The team’s best starter this year, Steven Wright, (3-4, 2.52), is a knuckleballer.  We’ve seen this movie before with Tim Wakefield.  This performance will not likely hold up.

What’s beyond that?  Other than Eduardo Rodriguez, really nothing.  Henry Owens?  William Cuevas?  Sean O’Sullivan?  Yikes!!  Can’t even talk about Brian Johnson now, as he has been placed on the inactive list in Pawtucket to deal with anxiety issues.  As for E-Rod (I actually hate calling him that, but the name has caught on), can we even count on him now?  He is due to start Tuesday for the PawSox on another rehab outing.  But how long will this go on?  Seems like the rehab has lingered on for a while.  Some setbacks.  Some vagueness.  Some overprotection.  I actually don’t expect to see him until after the All-Star break.  Or until Bucky inevitably goes on the DL.  Or, the most likely scenario…when Wright gets shelled a couple of times in a row.  At that point, Farrell will have his excuse to push Wright back to long relief, saying some nonsense about how “Steven gives us a lot of flexibility out of the ‘pen…”  Even if it is only 2 bad starts out of like 15.  But none of the other guys are really candidates to move to the bullpen.  Except maybe Kelly, but they have been clear they won’t move him there.  So we’ll just have to deal with whatever happens when Eduardo is finally ready.  I wouldn’t be shocked if that turns out to be 2017.

Any way you slice it, a lot of question marks in the rotation the rest of the way.  Yes, we knew this from the get-go.  But now after the hot start, hopefully there is more urgency to supplement the talent there going forward.

And now with the news today about Carson Smith needing Tommy John surgery and being done for the year, is the bullpen in the same boat as the rotation?  Meaning, do they need some urgency to supplement the talent there as well?

Even if Smith was healthy, my answer would be…you can’t ever have enough bullpen arms.  Looking at it from the beginning, Smith, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Kimbrel are a solid back-end.  Not Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances for the Yankees, but still pretty good.  Robbie Ross Jr. is decent enough and you could do worse with Tommy Layne as a lefty specialist.  That leaves anyone as the 12th pitcher…since that’s what every team has anyway.  In addition to “anyone” as their 13th-20th pitchers.

But now?  Smith is done.  Koji is not quite the same guy…to be expected at his age of course.  Because of this, it’s only a matter of time before Farrell throws Tazawa every day and burns him out.  Old habits die hard.  So then what?  Ross, Layne, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Roenis Elias, Pat Light…mediocrity at its finest.  IF they are lucky that is.

Lastly, the offense.  Incredible thus far.  No other way to explain it.  The most amazing aspect really has to be that Hanley Ramirez seems to care!  But there’s where the questions start.  How long will THAT last?  Who the hell knows?  As long as they are winning, I don’t expect his attitude to change.  But with him…ugh…let’s not even think about it…

So we all know the offense can not likely keep up the pace they are at.  Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if the players above Hanley in the lineup did actually keep playing at a high level:  Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts & David Ortiz.  But then again, Pedroia has battled injuries in recent years.  And we are all still hoping Big Papi doesn’t pull a “Rafael Palmeiro” in his last year…getting busted for PED’s.  Please just make it through this year without a failed test Big Guy.  Please and thank you.

I think we still do have to show some concern with the last 4 spots in the order however.  Ok, you will say, “last 4 spots in the order, if all we have to only worry about those guys, we should be ok.”  I would say, sure, to a point.  But the Sawx will still need something out of those dudes.  And I have my questions.

If the season ended today, Jackie Bradley Jr. would likely get MVP votes.  Seems incredible, eh?  But true.  I may be one of the few left in this camp, but I am still not convinced he has completely figured out major league pitching.  Call me an idiot if you like, but we have seen him go through stretches like this before.  It would not shock me one bit to see him go something like 15-100 with 45 K’s in the month of June alone.  He’s either been awesome or horrendous for stretches in the majors…no in-between.  With his glove, I’d take the in-between.  I still think it remains to be seen if he has finally crossed that line.  Sorry.

On a lesser scale, same with Travis Shaw.  With the Fat Panda out for the year, there is no real competition.  And there hasn’t been really since he won the job.  Of course, he has been a pleasant surprise and is still playing well.  But there is also no track record with him either.  I hope he continues to hit.  I’m just not certain of it.  It’s a long season.

I guess I am not worried about Christian Vazquez’ hitting.  Pretty much anything you get from him offensively is a bonus.  But if the lineup suffers as a whole…it looks a lot worse.

I’m keeping an eye on left field.  My feeling is that you are looking at a change here.  Brock Holt won the job coming out of Spring Training, as one side of a platoon with Chris Young anyway.  I’m not sure when he got his latest concussion, but it may have “helped” the team in a way.  The Brockstar seemed to be a little exposed playing almost every day, as much as I love the dude.  Once the Sox sent down Blake Swihart and threw him in LF in the minors, I kind of felt like he would be playing there in the majors soon enough.  Just a hunch.  Partly because they had decided on Vazquez behind the plate.  But perhaps also partly to show some versatility as a piece in a future deal?

In any event, now that the door has opened for Swihart in LF now, I feel like he will stay there when Holt comes back.  Holt will go back to the utility role that he has been successful at.  And he will still get plenty of at-bats.  I would also say Holt getting another concussion is something to monitor.  He may not even be back soon.  Brock was sidelined for over a month at the end of 2014 with one.  And now he has another.  This is baseball, not football.  Something to watch.

This team has been very fun to watch the first part of the season.  I don’t mean to throw a wet blanket over the situation.  But I have found myself also waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop” with regards to them.  I don’t see them sustaining their success…unless Dave Dombrowski steps in and wheels and deals.  Can’t rule that out, but quiet so far.

Ssssooooo…I am not apologizing for any of my early season hesitations and negativity…yet…

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