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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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Was the Price right?

Of course it was!  We are of course talking about David Price…in case that was a mystery.  Well, he did sign with the Red Sox about a week ago, so maybe it was…

Sure, he has underperformed in the playoffs, to put it nicely.  He has a history of listening too closely to fans/media/outside noise…not a great thing when pitching in Boston.  After Game 1 against Texas this past postseason, he claimed that he is nervous in his first postseason start of the year (fair enough), but also nervous during his “first spring training start” and “first bullpen”, etc.  And then used some sort of duck analogy.  Ok, a little weird.  So maybe some of these things are a little concerning.  Or a lot concerning.

But the Sox needed an ace…and thankfully they have moved on from the “5 aces” crap of last year.  Price was the best out there.  The Sox have the money.  This move HAD to be made.

You may say giving a 7 year contract to a 3o year old pitcher is stupid.  John Henry would have said that last year, but since he changes his mind every year, he didn’t care last week.  You may also say well, Jon Lester was age 30 last offseason and Henry and the Sox wouldn’t give him 7 years.  I would say the Sox didn’t really want to sign him at any price.  I think Larry Lucchino’s original offer of 4 years, 70 million should have told you that right from the start.  We’ve covered all that before though…

Let me also ask you this:  Would you rather have David Price at 7/217 or Jon Lester at 6/145 (plus 25 more in a 7th year or a 10 mil buyout)?  I don’t care how well Lester pitched in Boston, especially in the playoffs.  I don’t care if Lester came through the Sox’ system.  I don’t care if Jon Lester loves Boston.  The answer is easy…and it’s Price.  Price is a clear #1.  Lester, as good as he was here, really is more of a #2.  Take a look at his first year in the National League too.  11-12, 3.34, 207 K’s in 205 innings.  Not horrible, pretty good actually.  But not worth 25 laaaaaaaaaahge.  Obviously there is a long way to go to judge both of these deals.  But I’d take Price any day of the week and I think most of you would too.

If you are balking at the deal because of the 217 mil, well, have you seen the other contracts out there?  Greinke:  6/206.5.  Yikes!  But it goes way beyond that.  Johnny Cueto is still unsigned.  But he wants 25 mil plus.  These 3 were the “Big Three” of the free agent pitchers.  Fine, give them a boatload of dough.  Look deeper at the next “tier”.  Jordan Zimmerman:  5/110.  Jeff Samardzija:  5/90.  Hisashi Iwakuma:  3/45.  Mike Leake:  Unsigned, but looking for at least 15 mil/per.  Mike Leake??  If you ask me, John Lackey’s 2/32 is a steal when compared to the above contracts.  But still 16 per for a 37-year-old pitcher.

Sure, the money on the next level is less and the years are less.  But I’d still take Price’s contract over any of those.  Dig a little deeper.  Look at these:  Marco Estrada (2/26); JA Happ (3/36); Brett Anderson (1/15.8).  Rich Hill had 4 meaningless September starts for the Sox and got 6 mil from one of the cheapest teams out there in Oakland.  Switch gears to relievers:  Darren O’Day (4/31); Ryan Madson (3/22); Joakim Soria (3/25); Shawn Kelley (who?) (3/15); Tony Sipp (3/18).  Throw in position players:  Ben Zobrist (4/56); Chase Utley’s corpse (1/7); Colby Rasmus (1/15.8); Asdrubel Cabrera (2/18.5).  Chris Iannetta, a 32-year-old backup catcher who hit .188 last year…4.25 mil for him.

Ok, so the last paragraph was likely unnecessary.  But I like numbers, so deal with it.  The point has been driven home though I think.  The money is being spent out there.  May as well spend it on the best.  Especially when you still have guys like Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rick Porcello and Wade Mil…ummmmmm, nevermind on him…still in your rotation.

So I liked the Price signing, that’s pretty clear.  Did I like the Wade Miley trade?  Glad you asked!  The answer is…I don’t know.  But I think I do.  Wade Miley is a nice #4 starter who you can seemingly lock into 30 plus starts and close to 200 innings.  That is a positive for any staff.  But he is still…Wade Miley.  Who is to say Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Steven Wright…or any other Joe Blow can’t step into the #4/#5 starter role and replace him decently enough?  Plus, as much as I am not excited about John Farrell coming back as manager next year, when Miley pulled that stunt in the dugout with him after being shelled earlier last year, well, let’s just say I didn’t love that.

So Miley should be replaceable.  Maybe his replacement will be Roenis Elias…who knows?  Elias is a couple of years younger, so that is a positive…for whatever that’s worth.  Losing Jonathan Aro?  Meh.  Carson Smith?  Kind of makes you wonder why Seattle would give up a cheap guy under control for several more years.  But trading a reliever for a durable starter?  Maybe that’s why.  I often would not trade starters for relievers.  But again, Miley can be replaced by…anyone.  And if Smith can help solidify the back-end of the bullpen…probably worth it.  I can’t really get all that worked up about it.

I AM however all worked up about trading Garin Cecchini for a bag of used balls and a couple of beat up fungo bats.  Ok, I am not.  I did find it surprising that Cecchini was DFA’d over a guy like Bryce Brentz…but since absolutely no one but me cares, I’ll save those thoughts for myself.

So with the signing of Price and 4th outfielder Chris Young and the trades for Smith and Craig Kimbrel, Dave Dombrowski says he is essentially done.  (Aside on Kimbrel:  I usually don’t love trading for closers when they can be “found” (see:  Uehara, Koji).  Nor do I love giving up prospects for 60-70 innings a year…4 of them to boot.  But I normally would trade prospects for proven players.  And I am not sure I am worried about any of the 4 prospects becoming someone the Sox regret they gave away.  Even Manuel Margot.  The Sox need bullpen help.  Sooooo…I came to terms with it).

Anyway, Dombrowski said something to the effect of that he “doesn’t like to lie as it sets a bad example…”.  I hope he is stretching the truth then anyway.  There is more work to be done.  I’d still like to see a solid #2 starter.  Is it Eduardo Rodriguez?  Maybe.  But I sure as hell hope it ISN’T Clay Buchholz.  I’d love to see him dealt.  It isn’t Rick Porcello…though his contract doesn’t look so bad anymore, no?  Maybe Ben was somewhat right on one thing at least.  Anyway, there is rotation depth yes, but I’d take another upper end starter.  Bullpen?  Good start with Kimbrel, Uehara, Smith and Tazawa.  Maybe Elias.  Maybe Joe Kelly?  Matt Barnes?  I guess.  Robbie Ross Jr. is a decent 10-11 guy I suppose.  I wouldn’t mind seeing another proven guy out there though.

Hanley Ramirez has to go as well.  Easier said than done, I am well aware of that.  But the outfield experiment did not work last year.  Do we really think the first base experiment is going to work this year?  Cancer in the clubhouse…all that.  Just do whatever it takes to get him out of here.  I think it happens.  But it’s going to take some time…and the Sox eating a lot of dough.  Maybe even until spring training when someone on another team gets hurt and a team panics.  I don’t know how it will happen, but it needs to.  I’d also investigate trading either of Jackie Bradley Jr. or Rusney Castillo.  I’m not sold on either of those guys really.  Maybe trade one of them while they still have some value.  Although I can live with the 4 guys (Young and Mookie Betts the other 2 of course) in the outfield if I have to.

A couple more months until Spring Training…still time to make some decent tweaks to the roster…

 

Winding down the disappointment…

…otherwise known as the 2015 Boston Red Sox season.  17 games left.  Pitchers dropping like flies or getting shut down.  Position players playing all over the diamond in a bit of spring training-ish experimentation.  Journeymen getting called up to actually throw in real games down the stretch.  All that and more to look forward to over the last couple of weeks.  Per usual, a bunch of haphazard notes will follow, in no particular order:

*President/General Manager:  Haven’t commented on the Dave Dombrowski hiring yet.  Probably didn’t really need to actually.  It was no secret that I thought Ben Cherington should have gotten the gate even sooner than he did.  And that I wanted some sort of “baseball” guy in place in that chair, instead of some young whippersnapper whose main focus was sabermetrics.  Again, sabermetric analysis absolutely has a place in today’s game.  Just not as much as people think it should have.

DD hasn’t tangibly done much to this point, from what I can tell.  Unless you count the waiver deadline deal of Alejandro de Aza something worth noting.  I don’t, but if you do for some bizarre reason, then that has to be a positive, right?  In any event, it’s only been exactly a month since he was hired.  Plus it is toward the end of a lost season.  So there really isn’t anything we should have expected him to do by now.  The offseason will be the time for changes on and off the field and I am excited for those.  And I am sure he is doing his homework all around right now.  So some of my faith has been restored in the organization as we sit here now.  Let’s hope it keeps trending in the right direction.  And the ownership group, specifically Tom Werner, let him do his job.

*Manager:  Sorry that John Farrell got cancer.  Don’t wish that upon anyone.  Well, maybe some people…but I have no real reason to wish it upon him.  But at the same time, I am happy that he is not managing the team anymore, as macabre as that sounds.  Look, I just used a big word!  Hopefully I used it correctly…anyway, I was done with Farrell long before the diagnosis.

I have no interest in seeing him return to the team as manager next year.  Hopefully Dombrowski sees it the same way.  Delicate situation?  Of course.  But that’s why people spend big bucks on public relation firms.  One of the heavyweights in that field should be able to help the Sox spin it to make it look like they are focusing on Farrell’s health…or doing him some sort of favor by not retaining him.  John Henry can afford it.

Is Torey Lovullo the answer?  My sense is no.  After all, he has been under Farrell since Johnny’s Toronto stint.  So some of the same habits have to have seeped into Lovullo’s managing acumen, no?  (Another big word I hope I used correctly!).  And he has said some really stupid things along the way while closing out this season.  To wit:  After Matt Barnes’ first Major League start, where he gave up 6 runs in 5 innings, Lovullo said, “Matt did exactly what we wanted him to do out there tonight”.  Excuse me?  Wow, aiming high I see.  It’s one thing to support your players.  It’s completely another just blatantly lie like that.  At least I hope he was lying…

The team has played better since Lovullo took over, I will allow.  But I chalk that up to a variety of factors.  Some of the opposition playing out the string.  September minor league callups diluting the talent in the majors.  Pitchers such as Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly and Wade Miley throwing games more at their level of mediocrity than the level of atrociousness they were throwing at earlier in the year.  The lineup doing more damage as the year has gone along.  A great deal of the youngsters stepping up their game.  Possibly the “Dombrowski effect”, where players are now not feeling comfortable under Cherington’s excuses for them and knowing the new guy in charge now can drop the hammer.  Probably others too.  But I am not convinced it is Lovullo’s skills that have led the charge.

Who do I want to be the next manager?  Good question.  Depends on who is available in the offseason for one.  I’ll give that some more thought as time goes on…

*First base:  Does having Hanley Ramirez play 5 games or so at first base at the end of September really make a difference?  Why bother?  DD also mentioned “6, 7 weeks of Spring Training” to evaluate him there.  Didn’t Hanley have that time last spring to adjust to left field?  How’d that work out?

I think it’s all a smokescreen.  My opinion is that DD eats a ton of dough and unloads Hanley in the offseason.  To whoever will take him.  Just a gut feeling.  For now, everyone is just saying the right things.

I also think Travis Shaw will not be at first next year.  He’s had a decent run.  But not sure he is the long-term answer.  May even be time to deal high.  Brock Holt?  Garin Cecchini?  Fat Panda Sandoval?  Surely, you jest.

I think the one major offensive piece Dombrowski gets this offseason is here.  And it doesn’t necessarily have to be “major”.  Just someone competent.  So maybe it is Shaw that sticks.  Chris Davis?  Leaning toward “no thanks”.  Too unpredictable.  Plus I just found out Scott Boras is his agent.  He will get Davis his big contract, but hopefully elsewhere.

*Outfield:  Despite his scorching hot 6 week run or so, I am still not convinced Jackie Bradley Jr. can consistently hit major league pitching.  Case in point is his recent 1-27, 15k slide.  But again, .225-.250 will do it for me here.  He is that awesome defensively.  Since trading Dustin Pedroia and moving Mookie Betts to 2nd is a pipe dream, Betts is out here.  Along with Rusney Castillo.  Funny how Castillo gets a few hits and all the “he looks like he never played the game of baseball” clowns from the spring all of a sudden flip back to how they loved him back last September.

Anyway, the big focus is on how these three will align going forward.  I say, who cares?  If all three are above average defensively and each can play all three positions out there, can’t you just mix and match by stadium if you are to play to defensive strengths?  For instance, Bradley could play RF at Fenway, LF at Yankee Stadium and CF most other places?  Something like that?

People will whine, “baseball players are creatures of habit…they want to know where they are playing every day…blah, blah, blah…”.  I say, that is total garbage.  Brock Holt can play all over the diamond, especially last year when he picked up a new position every day, but these guys can’t have some sort of rotation?  Plenty of other people can move around too.  So why can utility guys do it successfully, but BETTER players can’t do it?  Jeez…I see where Texas has had Mike Napoli in LEFT FIELD a couple of times recently.  Napoli?!  People may point to the Hanley Ramirez failed experiment.  But he is older, bulked up too much and really didn’t fit the OF mode anymore.  Plus, it doesn’t help when you don’t practice and seemingly don’t care.  But I guess that is besides the point.  In any event, these kids are young and fast.  Shouldn’t be a problem.

If they insist on staying in one position, I’ve got that answer too.  Castillo, Bradley, Betts, left to right.  Castillo has the better arm for 81 games in right at Fenway Park, but Betts is the better fielder and athlete, so he goes there.  I want my best defender in center.  So despite Betts being more than competent there, I want JBJ in center.  Period.

I’m also not ruling out a trade.  This Manuel Margot dude down on the farm is rising fast.  Maybe not for good next year, but possibly for a cup of coffee or so.  If he is the real deal as scouts say, then this has to play into the outfield picture I would say.

As usual, I am not done…but done for now…

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