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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…

Red Sox Preview…

…20 games into the season.  Nice work.  Season is 1/8th over and the Blowhard is just getting around to writing about the team for the first time since the playoffs last year.

Oh well, at least it’s still April.  And you know, the Celtics are (and the Bruins were) in the playoffs.  Everything the Patriots do is seemingly newsworthy.  Ok, enough of the excuses…

So this isn’t really a Season Preview…quite obviously.  The following is a collection of thoughts about the first 20 games.  In no particular order:

*I’m not sure how many times exactly so far the Red Sox have had their ideal lineup in place, but it can’t be much.  Because of injury, illness (sorry Buck Showalter), bereavement and whatever else, the Sox have been shuttling players in and out of the lineup right from Opening Day.  But let’s say they do have their lineup all in place one day soon.  Does it scare you?  Not me.

*David Ortiz is going to be a bigger loss than you think.  Who is to say he would have put up monster numbers again if he stuck around in his age-41 season.  No guarantees there.  And he probably wouldn’t have.  But where is the power this year?

*Not to mention Ortiz’ leadership.  Does anyone really buy into Hanley Ramirez trying to fit into that role?  Laughable.  Not that he is trying to be that kind of leader.  But he has made comments that he has wanted to.

*Dustin Pedroia would seem to be the “next in line” to be that guy.  Makes sense.  But the whole Manny Machado incident from last week leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths…and not for Machado’s actual slide and subsequent Pedroia injury.  It was how Pedroia handled the situation.  Publicly slamming Matt Barnes for throwing the pitch (location and timing) and presumably management as well (specifically Manager John Farrell?), suggesting that if they were going to throw at Manny, it should’ve been done the next time he was at the dish in the series.

While Pedey may be correct in everything he said, both to Machado on the field and then after the game, it would appear that this is not the way a “leader” goes about an incident like that.  Then again, when the Sox collapsed down the stretch in 2011 and cost Tito Francona his job, Pedey just watched all the antics unfold in front of him…as did the “Captain”, Jason Varitek.  And Ortiz himself, for that matter.  So maybe this leadership crap is exactly what it is…crap.

*I admit, when they rolled Andrew Benintendi in the 2-spot from the get-go, I did not like it.  Seemed that it may put some pressure on the kid.  Every other “phenom” the Sox have brought up over the years seemed to start out at the bottom of the lineup.  Then eventually are moved up when they proved their mettle.  But the kid is unflappable.

*Sandy Leon was a nice story for about 2 months last year.  Hit everything in sight.  But it’s time to give the job back to Christian Vazquez.  And not because he is hitting .478.  But because he appears to be all the way back from his 2015 Tommy John injury.  Defensive monster.  And if Blake Swihart can ever get his mojo back…

*Pablo Sandoval still stinks.  And before he got hurt, his defense stunk too.  But at least they have Josh Rutledge to platoon with him when the still Fat Panda is healthy.  Sigh…

*Speaking of platoons, this team is going to have its problems against lefthanders it appears.  Mitch Moreland has had a nice start.  But looks helpless against lefties.  Panda can’t hit right-handed.  Rutledge?  Please.  Hanley refuses to play first…and the Sox are letting him get away with it.  That means either Moreland or Panda has to play against southpaws, along with Rutledge.  No good.  Chris Young is ok against lefties and ideally he would DH and Hanley would play first and Rutledge third.  Not exciting, but the best they can do.  Nice leadership Hanley.

*It’s early.  But Xander Bogaerts should be better than what I see.

*Who DIDN’T see the Rick Porcello regression coming?

*Steven Wright for that matter too.

*I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not counting on seeing David Price until after the All-Star break.

*Heath Hembree has been a pleasant surprise.  Joe Kelly hasn’t been horrible.  Matt Barnes has been nice.  But in reality, I don’t want any of these guys pitching in the 8th inning with a small lead.  Or really any lead.  I’ll likely be holding my breath on Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith when (if?) they come back as well.

*What’s the purpose of having Fernando Abad on the roster?

*Or Steve Selsky?

*Pawtucket Red Sox note:  Deven Marrero, the former first round pick, is 4 for 39 this year thus far.  That’s .103, for those scoring at home.  .253 OPS.  Solid.  Hit .198 all of 2016 in Pawtucket, with a .487 OPS.  Is his defense really that good?  He actually got a couple of days in Boston earlier this year, with the illnesses and all.  I’m not sure I understand…

*Pawtucket note, Part II:  Allen Craig is still alive!  .211 for the PawSox thus far.  My question though is…why?

*Pawtucket note, Part III…and Reason #2,567,321,956 why Spring Training stats mean nothing:  Kyle Kendrick is 0-3, 8.10 in his three starts on the farm.  Remember when some people were trying to make space for him in the big league rotation?

*John Farrell.  It’s no secret I am not a fan.  But honestly, I don’t remember being outraged at him at all this year.  20 games in, kind of surprising, I know.  A lot of people were up in arms when he yanked Chris Sale in his last start when he was at 102 pitches and dominating.  Then Craig Kimbrel immediately coughed up the lead and cost Sale a win.  I didn’t honestly have a strong feeling about that either way.  Then the Sox won the game anyway.  And Kimbrel actually went 2 innings himself, something he historically does not do.  Hard to really complain about that in the end.

Soon enough Farrell will piss me off.  But we will cross that bridge when we get to it…

*By the way, embarrassing note:  this is probably the first time in my life that someone made the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster and I had absolutely no idea who he was.  Ben Taylor.  Who?  Well, he’s not here anymore.  But he didn’t embarrass himself in his stint, that’s for sure.  Didn’t even realize he was in Portland for a bit last year, or right up the street in Lowell for 4 games in 2015.  Hasn’t been around for that long, but still something I’m not proud of.

*Speaking of embarrassing…and ending on this note…Taylor is ranked as the 18th best prospect for the Sox.  According to MLB.com anyway.  They list the top 30 prospects.  Ranked at #29?  Robby Scott.  Yup, a 27 year old lefty specialist is on a “Top Prospect” list.  Yikes!

 

 

Time for some hardware…

…now that the Major League Baseball regular season has concluded.  Let’s get right to it, starting here with the American League:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mookie Betts, Boston
  2. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
  4. David Ortiz, Boston
  5. Adrian Beltre, Texas
  6. Josh Donaldson, Toronto
  7. Jose Altuve, Houston
  8. Manny Machado, Baltimore
  9. Robinson Cano, Seattle
  10. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto

10 guys seems a little steep here, but that’s what the official ballot holds.  So I only do what I’m told.  Anyway, these ten all had pretty good years, how do you decide?  I just went with the guy from the home team.  Ok, that’s not exactly true.  The way I see it, the award probably comes down to Betts or Trout.  Trout is probably still the best player in the league, probably in the majors.  But his team was awful.  I have trouble giving MVP awards to guys on bad teams.  I know that many feel differently, simply because how can one guy make a team playoff caliber essentially by himself?  Fair enough point, but it’s my ballot, so that’s what I’m going with.

Trout’s OPS was almost 100 points higher than Betts’ and if you believe in sabermetric stats like WAR, then you would see Trout was better than Mookie there as well.  Both are good defensive players.  Betts had about 40 more hits, but Trout had about 70 more walks.  Many of their other statistics were similar.  Betts had a deeper lineup of course.  Trout power dropped from 2015 and he walked more this year, likely because of what was around him.  If you choose Trout, I won’t hold it against you.  I just went with the guy on the playoff team.

So as you can see, other than Trout, all of the players listed are from playoff or near playoff teams.  Though I am not sure there were many other legitimate candidates.  Brian Dozier?  Nah.  Khris Davis?  Ummmm…

I would’ve loved to have given this to Big Papi, being that it is his last year and I am a homer.  But I have to say not playing the field has to hurt him a bit.  I am not opposed to giving DH’s the award, but a DH would have to be clearly separated from the pack for me to do so.  Kind of like when Ortiz finished 2nd in the voting in 2005 to Alex Rodriguez.  That year, I would have given the MVP to Papi.  He had sick numbers, but also a slew of clutch hits that for me put him over the top.  Oh well.  As for this year, Papi falls behind Miggy here because Miggy had an insane 2nd half to help keep his team in the mix.  And he played the field all year.  If you wanted to flip-flop them, I wouldn’t argue there either.

5-8 is probably the next tier.  Beltre finished strong, Altuve and Machado did not and Donaldson was basically in between.  That explains that order.  Cano and Edwin seemed like solid choices for the last 2 spots.  But if you stuck Nelson Cruz or someone else in there, it doesn’t matter to me.  Even Dozier, if it makes you happy.

Pitchers?  I’m not opposed to it.  But it would have to be another case in which one would have to be extremely dominant.  I mean, how can you justify voting for a starting pitcher that pitches maybe 35 games over an everyday player that plays over 150?  Or a closer that pitches like 70 innings over that same everyday player?  I could, but only in extreme cases.  And none fit that bill this year.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Detroit
  2. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  3. Rick Porcello, Boston
  4. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
  5. Zach Britton, Baltimore

In reality, Verlander is 1, Kluber is 1A and Porcello is 1B.  It was that close.  Then Sale is a distant 4th.  As far as pure numbers, Verlander made more starts, pitched more innings, had way more strikeouts and had the better WHIP and ERA than both Kluber and Porcello.  He also gave up only 4 unearned runs this year, where the other two gave up 7 apiece.  Hey, that counts.  Again, sabermetrics tells us that Verlander was better there too (6.6 WAR to 6.5 for Kluber and 5.0 for Porcello).  Verlander “only” won 16, compared to Kluber’s 18 and Porcello’s major league leading 22.  But what sealed it for me was Verlander’s 2nd half 8-3, 1.96, .180 batting average against, which topped the 2nd halves of the other two by a decent amount (Kluber, 9-1, 2.52, .215; Porcello, 11-2, 2.62, .203).  More importantly, Justin got only 3.97 runs a game for support.  Kluber got 5.16 and Porcello 6.61.  Seems like he was working with less margin for error.

Sale went 3-7 in the second half, but his ERA was actually better (3.28 to 3.38 in the first half).  His innings, WHIP, K’s and everything else were much better than the remaining candidates, so he was an easy pick for 4th.  I don’t love taking relievers.  But Britton had an ERA well under one and didn’t blow any of his 47 save chances.  So there is something to be said for that.  In reality, Andrew Miller probably had a more dominant year.  But he wasn’t asked to close many games, so I have to give Britton the nod here.

Aaron Sanchez, Masahiro Tanaka, Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana and JA Happ with his 20 wins will get some love.  I saw them a step or more below all of the above however.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Michael Fulmer, Detroit
  2. Nomar Mazara, Texas
  3. Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

Fulmer runs away with this one.  He was 3 innings shy of qualifying for the ERA title, where he was leading for a stretch and would have finished third at 3.06, behind Sanchez at 3.00 and Verlander at 3.04.  Mazara was one of only two rookies who had enough plate appearances to qualify for a full season (Cheslor Cuthbert being the other).  Mazara started strong and cooled off a bit, but seemed like the best bet for 2nd.  Only 53 games and 201 at-bats for Sanchez and he gets 3rd?  Yup.  20 homers in those 53 games.  Among an otherwise quite barren Yankee lineup.  Good enough for me.  Cuthbert?  Nope.  Tim Anderson?  A shortstop, so maybe.  Max Kepler?  Meh.  Tyler Naquin or Ryon Healy?  Not today.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Terry Francona, Cleveland
  2. Scott Servais, Seattle
  3. Buck Showalter, Baltimore

TIIIITTTTOOOOO!!!  Yup.  Love Tito, but not being nostalgic here at all.  The Indians improved 13 wins from 2015, though their best player, Michael Brantley, totaled a mere 43 plate appearances during the 2016 season.  The lineup is clearly improved from 2015, but other than Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana, the rest of them are probably really platoon players on good teams.  Sure, Mike Napoli and Jose Ramirez had pretty good years out of nowhere.  But they also gave almost 250 plate appearances to an old and fat Jose Uribe.  Yan Gomes hit a solid .167 in about the same amount of chances.  The pitching is of course the strength, bullpen with Cody Allen and a dominant 2 months from Andrew Miller leading that charge.  The rotation was solid, with Kluber in the Cy mix as noted above.  But behind him, Carlos Carrasco battled injuries and after Danny Salazar had an All-Star start, he had his problem with injuries as well.  Some challenges there that Tito had to navigate as well.

Servais took over the Mariners this year and led them to 10 more wins.  It helped that Cano had a rebound year.  And Cruz is Cruz.  Kyle Seager is pretty good.  Not much else to write home about in that lineup.  As for the staff, Felix Hernandez made only 25 seemingly “un-King Felix” like starts.  Hisashi Iwakuma won 16, but with an ERA over 4.  Tijuan Walker never took that “next step”.  And after Steve Cishek became shaky at closer, they went to a young Edwin Diaz, who got the saves, but whose ERA did spike as well.  I’m not sure how Seattle improved so much actually.  Side note:  JA Happ went 4-6, 4.64 and Mark Trumbo hit 13 homers in 96 games for the 2015 Mariners.  Then Happ won 20 for the Jays and Trumbo hit 47 bombs for the O’s in 2016.  What?

Buck won 8 more games this year than last, with a lineup that seemingly only hit homers or struck out and a putrid rotation.  That’s good enough for 3rd for me.  And it doesn’t count him not pitching Britton in the wild card playoff game, which was inexcusable in my eyes.  People may ask, “where is John Farrell”?  After all, the Sox won 15 more games than 2015.  Farrell may well win the award in real life.  But when I spent all year trying to get him fired, I couldn’t put him in my top three.  They really should’ve won 5-10 more, but Farrell held them back.  I still believe that and still wouldn’t mind not seeing him back next year.  But I’ve beaten that like a dead horse.  I’d love to give Joe Girardi a vote.  I hate the guy and I hate the Yankees.  Another secret, I know.  But how he has kept that team in the playoff race until the last week or so the last few years, I have no idea.  Old team, half the pitching staff I’ve never heard of, his 2 best relievers were traded at the deadline this year, A-Rod circus, etc.  But they lost 3 wins from 2015, so it would be hard to justify a vote for him all that being said.  Texas won 7 more games for Jeff Banister this year, but he won the award last year and…that team is pretty good anyway.

Next:  The National League

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