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Mookie-time??

I have to say, I am still undecided on whether I like the Mookie Betts call up at this time.  I have strong opinions on many Red Sox items.  But I am still up in the air on this one.  Maybe throwing thoughts down on paper will help me out.

On one hand, I have been saying all year to “play the kids”.  The Sox won the World Series out of nowhere last year.  They had a team full of serviceable major league ballplayers, but really only a couple of superstars.  Other than Koji and Nava, none of the players really had a “career year”.  They all just meshed together well and basically everything fell all into the right places.  Quite frankly, it is still hard to believe.  They have also won 3 World Series’ in the last decade.  They have a pretty good amount of prospects in the minor league system (at least pitchers).  In reality, the time is probably right to start implementing kids.

On the other hand, where I was completely willing to watch the Celtics lose every game last season in order to get the best pick they could for the recent, supposedly deep, draft, I am unsure I really want to watch the local baseball team tank completely.  It’s kind of the line the Red Sox management team is straddling as well, albeit for vastly different reasons.  I just want them to be competitive because I love baseball and want to see winning action.  We all know the Sox want to do it for ratings and anything else that leads to them making more money.  Even though they will tell you that is not the case.  Sure.

In any event, I was all for them working in SOME of the kids from the start, regardless of whether that meant losing a few extra games in the name of development.  I certainly didn’t think that this method would kill any chances the Sox had this year if they did that.  If the veterans they had continued to do the same things they really always had in their careers, then this plus the kids should have made this a contending team again.  I also left open the possibility of working more kids in over the course of the year, as there would be injuries, there would be underachievers, and there would be guys that you could move for value at or near the trading deadline and not sabotage the chances for the current year.  I actually thought they MAY be able to straddle that line with some success, while also acknowledging the chances of back-to-back World Series Championships were likely slim anyway.

What I didn’t count on was most of the players not even coming close to what they have done in their careers.  As well as a couple of lingering injuries.  And a re-signing that made absolutely no sense.

To recap, I was totally fine with Xander being the SS, Middlebrooks the 3B and Bradley Jr. being the CF at the start of the year.  If the other 6 spots held their own and the great players were still great players, I figured the offense would be fine.  Unfortunately, although Gomes is about the same, Nava plummeted back like he was managing his college team.  Victorino has been hurt the entire time (we knew he would be hurt, but not basically the whole first half).  Napoli was hurt for a bit and I feel he has underachieved when not.  Didn’t love the AJ deal, but for 1 year, I suppose I would be ok.  He would at least hit and maybe we could move him at the deadline.  Work in Vazquez this year with Ross and with an eye to start next year.  But AJ hasn’t really hit.  And more importantly, Pedroia and Ortiz, even though Ortiz’ power has been pretty much there, are playing WELL under their career norms.  Throw in the fact that even the role players that contributed last year, such as Carp and Ross, haven’t been good either.  The Pedroia thing isn’t getting nearly enough play.  It could be that his wrist is still hurt and that is affecting his bat.  If it is, force him to sit by putting him on the DL and make it right.  I’m starting to wonder if his career is heading down the Youkilis path.  Youkie played hard all the time and threw his body around so much that it broke down earlier than most players.  Wonder if Pedroia is going through the same thing, especially considering his size.  Maybe that’s why he bit on the seemingly lowball extension.  He knew it.

Sssssoooooo, there goes that idea.  Then Bradley has sucked more than we thought (at the plate) and Will sucked and then got hurt…and…although Xander at least hit and was developing at SS, the Sox panicked and inexplicably signed Stephen Drew.  Not only is Drew worthless, but Bogaerts has struggled since being pushed back to 3rd.  Not to mention that there will be no room for Middlebrooks when he comes back AND he blocks Cecchini from getting any kind of cup of coffee this year to get his feet wet.  What a joke.  The biggest joke is that they actually caved and gave Drew his prorated 14.1 mil from the qualifying offer that he turned down over the winter.  As I said last year when he signed for 9.5 mil, when they gave him his 10 mil this year, with presumably no interest from ANYONE both of those years, couldn’t they have signed him for 3 mil???!  Who were they competing with?  Who wanted this stiff?  But I digress…

As for Betts, he was not one of the prospects I was expecting to see this year.  Especially since he was only a second basemen at the start of the year.  I figured he was quite a ways away.  Additionally, I figured he would have to learn a new position and that may take time…and it would happen in the minors.  (Kind of bothers me the Sox are seemingly panicking where they are having guys like Betts, Holt, Cecchini and maybe soon Middlebrooks learning new positions on the fly, instead of perfecting them in the offseason…story for a different day).  Mostly, I was thinking the above guys in the field and then some of the pitching prospects.  As they have started to with Workman and de la Rosa (Rubby should have stayed and someone else moved or released or something…again, a story for a different day).  Then maybe work Ranaudo, Britton, Webster, Barnes, etc. in relief toward the deadline and September, with an eye to rotation spots next year and beyond.  Kind of felt Owens was in the same boat as Betts, not here until at least 2015.  Figured some of the young pitchers would also be auditioning for trades…after all, not enough 40-man roster (or rotation) spots for all of them.

Betts has only played a handful of games above Single-A and is learning a bunch of new positions on the fly.  Yes, he has passed every test, at bat and in the field.  But is this pushing it?  If he comes up and looks foolish, does it stunt his growth?  Is he going to be a worse hitter than Bradley?  I’ve long held that the Sox keep their players in the minors for way too long, but I was ok with it in this case.  Just seems too fast.

At this point, I really don’t believe the Sox are going to make some noise in the playoffs however (or to GET to the playoffs, for that matter).  They aren’t that far away in the standing now, with several teams between them and a spot though.  The indications are there that it just isn’t going to happen however.  Even though they will never admit it, some of the vets are surely comfortable after the win last year.  It subconsciously affects them, I am sure of it.  Some of the guys just actually suck, like Drew and Carp.  AJ has brought a “Beckett-type” attitude with him, I am sure of that as well.  That can never be a good thing.

To me, after half a season of evaluation, it is time to start moving some of these vets while they can get something of value for them.  Even a box of baseballs for some.  It’s just not the same feeling.  I’ll detail some of those thoughts in another piece.

But where that leads me to on Betts…is that as this appears to be a season of going nowhere, the Sox may as well have him up and give him regular at-bats until the All-Star break at least.  If the results are bleak, they can ship him back quickly.  If there are positive results, they should play it out kind of like how they seem to be riding it out with Holt (who saw that one coming, by the by?).  But there is no harm in seeing Mookie play a few games at the major league level, I have come to that conclusion.

 

Can you feel it?

Opening Day is right around the corner!  Well, I’m not really counting the Australia games.  Did anyone actually pay attention to them?  And I guess I am not counting the Sunday Night Baseball game either, but at least we can all follow it.

Red Sox open up Monday at 3:00.  Seems to have snuck up on everyone…well, me anyway.  The Bruins have been smoking hot, the Celtics have been the opposite (much to most people’s delight this year though) and the Patriots have made a few impact free agent moves.

The fact that this Sox camp has been largely uneventful is probably another big reason as well.  Not to mention that instead of coming off a “chicken and beer” year or a Bobby Valentine debacle year, they are coming off a World Series Championship year.  I suppose that helps keep things in perspective.  (Side note:  speaking of “chicken and beer, have I mentioned that the strength coach for the Sox that year is now working (at least part-time) at a small gym in Billerica, MA?  Seems like quite a fall…especially considering he apparently was on the Diamondback staff during their World Series as well.  Feel kind of bad for the guy actually.  The players walked all over him in Boston, he said a few things publicly the ensuing winter suggesting as much, the team pretty much made him a scapegoat and canned him…and now he seems to be blackballed out of baseball completely altogether.  He probably deserved better.  But anyway, I digress…)

The team came to Spring Training this year without much controversy.  Dempster “retired” right before camp.  No big deal, he was basically insurance anyway.  Wouldn’t have minded that insurance, but I guess that is why they got Chris Capuano.  Not sure why they had to do that, as Workman seemingly had earned that spot on the roster, based on his work specifically in the playoffs.  But that’s really kind of a minor issue.  There weren’t really any spots up for grabs on the roster.  You knew most of the kids (other than Bogaerts and maybe Bradley) would be seasoned more in the minors…cuz that’s how the Sox roll.  Certainly the young pitchers.  Always good to have 15-20 pitchers that can contribute to the pitching staff of a team over the course of the year.  So try the Badenhop’s and Capuano’s early.  Keep guys like Francisco Cordero, Tommy Layne and Rich HIll in Pawtucket if they are ok with it.  Keep the kids down until they prove they are ready.  Gonna need them all.

The biggest noise came from the contract situations (see previous post).  Jonny Gomes shot his mouth off about how great he is.  And the endless Stephen Drew stories.  (Love how he is still completely delusional…as well as Boras.  Scotty Boras generally gets his guys deals that most people can’t fathom, but this time…not so much.  Kind of telling that when a great team like Detroit loses their SS, likely for the year (old friend Jose Iglesias), they go out and trade for two others not named Drew within a week:  Some Romine guy no one has ever heard of…and the corpse of Alex Gonzalez.  Gonzalez used to be a wizard at short, but A:  He is 37 years old, B:  He hasn’t been able to stay healthy for years and C:  Milwaukee actually played him at 1B last year, as I believe Baltimore was doing this spring before dealing him.  So much for Stephen Drew.  But Boras said recently that he has a 3 year, 39 million dollar offer on the table for him.  Sure thing chief).

Oh, Jonathan Herrera beat out Brock Holt for the utility infield role.  That was pretty major…not.  They actually could use a guy like Drew as a backup on the left side of the infield.  Solid veteran who could help out if Bogaerts and/or Middlebrooks falls flat on their face.  But not for 14 mil per.  Goes without saying.  Glad the team is going with these two guys though.  Xander should be playing SS, until he proves otherwise.  And I didn’t want to give up on Middlebrooks yet.  Which brings us to about the only story on the actual playing field this spring…and the last kid who was SUPPOSED to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day, Jackie Bradley Jr.

Not that the Sox were handing Bradley a job, but they kind of were when they let Ellsbury walk and didn’t sign anyone else of significance.  Grady Sizemore was supposed to be a gamble…anything he could give you would be a bonus.  Hadn’t played in two years, has been essentially useless for five.  Now he is the darling of camp.  Just cuz he played a few games.  33 at-bats and all of a sudden people are talking like he will be a 30-30 guy again this year.  Let’s pump the brakes on all this folks.  Grady was a pretty good player in his early to mid-twenties.  But now he is 31 and hasn’t done much for a half a decade.  Everything he will do this year IS a bonus and we can’t forget that.

That being said, I’d have him break camp with the big league club.  If he has anything to offer, might as well get it out of the gate.  Instead of him going to Pawtucket, or probably extended spring training, and wasting his hits down there.  Problem is, you’ll need someone capable of playing CF when he can’t.  And apparently we can’t count on Victorino to do that, because of injury and whatever else.  The talk of playing Nava there is a joke (remember a stint he had out there last year when Ellsbury was a late scratch one night and Victorino was unavailable?  It was ugly if you don’t remember.  And another side note:  What is all this talk by Farrell about “trying” to get Nava some time in center and “trying” to get Carp some time at 3rd still?  Haven’t you had the last 6 weeks to get those guys time at those places?  Many games, major, minor and intrasquad?  You are the manager, if you want to get them experience at those positions, just put them in the lineup already).

Bradley should also break camp with the team.  As opposed to last year, he has done squat in the spring.  But so has Papi with his 2 for 35.  OK, different situations, I know.  But Bradley can stay here for his defense and pick up some valuable major league at-bats in at least a platoon scenario.  Unfortunately, the way the roster is constructed, there may not be room for him.  Because you still have Nava, Gomes and Carp in the OF as well.  Do you really need all of those three though?  I’d rid myself of Gomes personally, since he extremely overrates himself and Farrell feels the urge to play him too much.  But they won’t.  Nava should suffice since he is serviceable at LF/RF/1B and switch hits.  Carp is expendable.  They love how he can hit cold off the bench, but so what?  That was one year and he was atrocious in the playoffs.  There is supposedly trade value out there for him.  What are they waiting for?  You can find a Mike Carp anywhere.  Deal him, open the spot for Bradley.  It’s best for the team.  Mike Carp?  Please.

My favorite part about the beginning of the regular season?  In all honesty it could quite possibly be the end of two straight months of “feel good” stories from all the local blowhard writers that are everywhere.  Enough already…nauseating…

 

Papi got his dough!

So…I guess he can stop whining?  Love Big Papi, but his contract talk over the years has been tiresome.  As for the contract?  Ugh.  I was on the side of giving him an extra year…at as much as 20 mil.  ‘Roids or no roids, the guy had earned it.  Even if he proceeds to hit a buck-fifty with 6 dongs in 2015.  Who cares?  Parting gift.  For all he has contributed throughout the years, I had no problem giving him one more year in 2015.  Not like the Sox don’t have the money.  They can just sell a few more bricks.

But the option years?  Not sure those were necessary.  Not to mention that they will be fairly easy to attain as well.  425 plate appearances?  Not really a lot.  What happens if he is hitting .220 in 2015 towards the end of the year…and has around 400 plate appearances in mid-September?  THAT will be interesting.  Ortiz most assuredly will think he deserves the 2016 option regardless of what he does in 2015.  So he will start squawking then.  And can you even imagine the chirping if he sucks in 2015 and they bench him at the end of the year so he doesn’t meet the requirements?  That could get ugly.  Club options with him in the past haven’t been so smooth, as everyone undoubtedly remembers.

Should have just given him the one year extension and called it a day.  After that he will be 40 and he would have to just deal with going year-to-year.  It’s not like anyone would overspend to get him then.  If they did?  Really wouldn’t matter.

Speaking of contracts, the whole Jonny Lester situation is an interesting one.  Lester had a good year in 2013, capped by a tremendous postseason.  He has, by and large, been a pretty good pitcher throughout his career of course.  If not an ace, at least a #2 guy.  Pitches in a tough division, gives you 30 plus starts and 200 plus innings every year.  Always being on a good team has helped.  Nice pitcher to have on your staff.  But people forget how brutal he was in 2012.  I guess the whole team was that year, so it’s easy to dismiss.  But the fact of the matter is that he isn’t a shutdown ace.  He just isn’t.  So him asking for 25 mil a year for 6 years makes me kind of shudder.  Not much of a “hometown discount”, as he claims he would be willing to take.

That kind of coin for a guy like Lester is silly.  Fans also get caught up in the fact that he has pitched for the Sox for his entire career.  They want to spend extra dough on keeping him because of this, and he has been part of two World Series championships and all that crap.  They are not thinking rationally about giving a 6 year deal to a 30 year old pitcher.  For ace money, typically a guy with a mid-2 ERA (Lester’s career low ERA?  3.21 in 2008, his first full season).

That all being said?  I’d still consider giving that kind of deal to him…but hopefully no more than over 5 years.  For one, as stated above, the Sox ain’t hurting for dough.  For two, there are some contracts coming off the books over the next few years, so there’s room.  For three, presumably the kids from the “ripe” farm system will take those open roster spots, at significantly less dollars.  So there will be more room.

But the most important thing to look at is the pitching staff overall, as it is currently constituted.  Lackey and Peavy are old and average at best.  And both probably gone within 2 years.  Dempster is already gone.  Buchholz can’t ever stay healthy and Doubront is inconsistent, making them both unreliable.  Capuano?  Haha!  And then you have the seven kids that are on the cusp:  Workman, Britton, Barnes, Ranaudo, Webster, de la Rosa and Owens.  Not all of these guys will be in the Sox rotation going forward of course.  Some will go to the bullpen (de la Rosa?  Workman?), some will be part of trades and some will just flat out suck and not make it.  They could sign a big name free agent, but that may be a trick or treat option.  May not be able to handle the AL East or primarily the heat that comes with pitching in Boston.

So who is left?  A guy that has been here for a while, stayed healthy, been pretty consistent over the years, always takes the ball and has had great postseason success.  This may be the best reason to give him the dough.  We may find out within the next week.

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