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Infuriating…Conclusion…

…picking up where we left off…and with PERFECT timing!

My next topic was the bullpen.  Just…wow…another meltdown Wednesday afternoon.

I know, Chris Sale didn’t exactly pitch that well.  But at least he left the bullpen with only three innings to give.

Problem is that this bullpen sucks so bad, no one can trust them getting even nine outs in any game.

Why does the bullpen suck so bad?  Welp, for starters, they are filled with a bunch of 6th/7th inning guys and have paraded several fringe major leaguers through there all year as well.

The Sox have had 17 guys throw bullpen innings for them thus far this season.  And I’m not counting an 18th, Eduardo Nunez, who threw an inning in a lopsided game earlier this year.  Truth be told, his stuff may be better than half the stiffs they have thrown out there.

In any event, a couple of these guys may be ok in the 8th inning.  But NONE of them belong in the ninth, even with a significant lead.

That’s where we go into the departure of the closer for the last three years:  Craig Kimbrel.  Kimbrel sure as heck had his flaws.  And he was delusional about what he wanted for a contract this past offseason.  But, by and large, he got the job done over his tenure.  He also was borderline unhittable at times…like all of 2017, for instance.

In any event, he knew how to handle the 9th.  Sure, he did not pitch well in the 2018 postseason.  And I was completely ok with letting him go, especially with the ridiculous contract demands he had.

But then they didn’t go out and get SOMEONE else??!

I fully expected them to go out and get a Fernando Rodney type…some dude who would have been cheap enough, but had experience in the ninth closing games.  Now, Rodney has been terrible this year himself, but you get the idea.

We all knew Matt Barnes was not a closer.  Every time they tried to have him sub in for Kimbrel when Craig needed a blow, he was at least shaky.  And most of the time (it seems), he didn’t get the job done.

Didn’t the Sox brass know this?

Ryan Brasier was a nice story last year.  But there is a reason one spends 10 years or so in the minor leagues (and some in the Japanese League minor leagues as well…chew on that for a second).  He threw 33 2/3 nice innings in 2018 but most forget that a great deal of them, especially early on, were mop-up, low leverage spots.

And they expected Barnes and Brasier to all of a sudden hold down the fort late this year??!

Sigh…

It’s easy to blame President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski.  And we should heavily blame him.  After all, he’s pretty much never been able to put together a decent bullpen.  If he had been able to, we’d probably be talking about the 2013 World Series Champion Detroit Tigers instead of the ragtag bunch of Red Sox that ended up winning it all.

We also have to blame the Red Sox owners, John Henry and Tom Werner.  It’s amazing how unpopular these guys are even after bringing 4 World Series victories to Boston since they have bought the team.

But they are.

They refused to go over the luxury tax to re-sign Kimbrel…or any other decent bullpen arm.

WHAAAAAAT?!

So they will spend a gazillion dollars on all the other players.  But when it comes to that last key piece…nah.  We will just throw a bunch of crap against the wall and see what sticks.  They apparently loved the idea of the above scenario, along with seeing guys like Colton Brewer in the eighth inning and journeyman (to be kind) Josh A. Smith actually closing games.

That all being said, you know who else deserves some blame?

Manager Alex Cora.

Yup.

I’m still ok with Cora overall, though he has had some head-scratchers this year (more on that later).  After all, we always end up hating every Red Sox manager in the end, right?  Well, not Tito Francona.  LOVE that guy.  And HATE the way he was driven out of town.  But I digress…

Anyway, Cora has admittedly done the best he could with this collection of flotsam and jetsam.  He mixes and matches depending on who is coming up in the lineup for the opposition.  And when Barnes pitches against the best part of the lineup in the 7th inning, it seems he has done ok.

But sometimes Cora gets TOO fine.  “Painting by Numbers” with the bullpen-fine.  And then when it doesn’t work out he is left with some stiff at the end of the game that coughs it up.  An extreme example was Brian Johnson in the 17th against the Twins.  Johnson stinks.  But he is slightly better when he is a starter.  But never throw this guy in extra innings.  I’d like to see the numbers, but my sense is every time I see him out there in extra innings he loses the game.  My opinion, but I think it is closer to fact.

Again, that was extreme, but that’s also what you get when you throw all your best guys one inning…then the game gets tied and you have no one left.

But the one I liked from Wednesday was even pitching Barnes.  I heard a stat on the radio after the game where Barnes has close to a 10.00 era when he gets zero rest and close to a 2.00 era when he gets at least a day of rest.  He pitched Tuesday.  So why was he in there Wednesday?  With all the analytics these guys use these days, didn’t the team (and Cora) know this?

Yes, I understand that a guy like Brandon Workman had already pitched two days in a row.  And options are obviously limited, as we have outlined.

But Steven Wright pitched the eighth.  Yup, Wright is back after being suspended for the first 80 games.

Listen, Steven Wright is certainly no savior.  But he is certainly fresh.  The Chicago White Sox are not world beaters.  He pitched well in rehab leading up to his activation.  He pitched well in relief last year and the team dabbled with him in the late innings.

Why couldn’t he go two innings?

Not sure.

He is a starter by trade so should be able to give some length.  Not to mention that he is a knuckleballer.  It’s not like he’d be stressed by going the second inning.

Lookie here, I’ve spent my “allotted time” on the whole bullpen disaster.  Go figure.

As referenced above, a couple more things on Cora.  Please stop blaming the schedule for some of your woes.  Everyone plays 162 games and has at least some portion of it that is not ideal.  (Visions of Josh Beckett bitching about having only a handful of days off during the year…).

If the players don’t like the 162 games, do something about it.  Sure, the owners want the gates and are likely the driving force behind all of the games.  But factor this into the next Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations then.  I have never heard of this being a topic…but maybe it is…I don’t really pay much attention to the labor part of the game.  If this has been brought up by the players previously, I apologize profusely.  But still…stop whining about the schedule.  The general public never likes to hear rich people bitching about…anything.  Especially about playing a game…a game that most families cannot even afford to go to.

Well, you can complain about the schedule, but do it privately.  We don’t want to hear the manager whining about it either.  Cora is probably trying to protect his players, but still…

Let’s move on.

How about some overmanaging folks?!  Taking Brewer out with a 3-2 count on a batter?  I guess you have to do it if you have someone like Josh Taylor ready to go.  Ha!  Brewer is a right-hander and Taylor is a left-hander.  The batter, Jon Jay bats from the left side.  Why wouldn’t Cora bring Taylor in from the start?  He said something about if the previous batter had gotten a double instead of a single, he would have brought Taylor in at the beginning of the at-bat.  But he got a single…but then stole second, so THEN he wanted Taylor…blah, blah, blah…

Brewer,, Taylor, whatever…they probably are the same guy, somewhere between the 12th/13th pitcher on a major league staff and a decent minor league pitcher.  The jury is probably still out on both, but they are both beyond prospect status, so they are likely AAAA depth.  Except they throw with different arms.  I’m just not sure the move was anywhere near necessary.  Why bother??

I guess the only other thing I wanted to say about Cora was that it kills me how he often gives the teams’ top players “maintenance days” against good teams when that particular series is sandwiched in-between series’ against putrid teams.  Why wouldn’t he rest them against the bum teams?  No idea.

And just Tuesday, he played J.D. Martinez, a DH with a bad back, in the field in soggy conditions and gave Andrew Benintendi a day off.  Seemed silly, what with several days off upcoming due to the trip to London.  At that point, I did not know that Benny had “leg fatigue” and was going to miss Wednesday’s game as well.

But still, there wasn’t another option to play the outfield?  Brock Holt is banged up yes.  But again, that’s what happens when you have to carry more stiff pitchers than you want at the expense of bench players.

There it is, the bullpen screwing things up again…

Baseball Hardware…

…so now that the World Series has concluded, Major League Baseball is about ready to announce their award winners.  The Gold Glove awards (yaaaaaaawn) were announced last night.  The Blowhard of course feels like he should add his two cents, starting with the American League…and remember, the postseason does not count:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Aaron Judge, NY Yankees
  2. Jose Altuve, Houston
  3. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
  4. Carlos Correa, Houston
  5. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  6. Nelson Cruz, Seattle
  7. Brian Dozier, Minnesota
  8. George Springer, Houston
  9. Josh Donaldson, Toronto
  10. Corey Kluber, Cleveland

Again, a 10 person ballot, so we did what we needed to do here.  Turns out MLB had the same top 3, though it appears there are really only two candidates in Judge and Altuve.  Spots 3 through even 20, I suppose you could have all kinds of different orders.  Since Ramirez had the same OPS as Altuve and was on the best team in the league, I went with him third.

Anyway, back to the top two candidates.  It appears that Altuve may have a leg up on the real ballot, based on what is being talked about nationwide.  And sure, he was consistent all year long, while Judge was miserable in August and not so good in July either.  Altuve hit 62 points higher.  And Judge struck out 124 more times.  But if you take a deeper dive, Judge’s OPS was 92 points higher, he scored 16 more runs (with Altuve being probably in a better overall lineup), walked a ton more and of course…the 52 homers.  For those of you who believe in sabermetrics and the WAR stat, Judge was on top 8.8 to 7.9.

You probably can’t go wrong either way.  But what sealed it for me?  Judge hit .311, with 15 homers, 32 RBI’s and a 1.352 OPS is September as the Yanks made their playoff push.  I know, he may have been hitting some of those bombs against minor league callups.  But one also probably should consider the pressure of a playoff race as a factor as well.  Along with the fact that everyone else is hitting off the same bums too.  Anyway…

As for the rest…the true MVP may well have been Correa if he hadn’t missed over 50 games.  Trout obviously still stakes a real claim to being the best player in baseball.  So despite Mikey missing almost 50 games himself, he’s still gotta be there.  Another member of the “about 50 games missed” club is Donaldson.  His team sucked after having high expectations at the start of the season.  But his numbers were sick in the games he did play.  So I found a place for him.

I felt that someone from that inexplicable Twin playoff team had to be in the Top Ten…so that’s why Dozier is here.  And he won a Gold Glove too…YAAAAY!  Cruz and Springer…I suppose Francisco Lindor, Gary Sanchez, Jose Abreu, Justin Upton, Jonathan Schoop, Edwin Encarnacion or whoever else could have filled those spots.  Lastly, as I’ve said in the past, I don’t love including pitchers in the MVP race.  Once every 5 days for a starter and once every 3 days or so for a closer aren’t the same as playing every single day.  But for one, I included 3 guys that missed about a third of the season here.  And for two, if a pitcher’s performance deserves consideration, then it deserves consideration.  Kluber’s 5-0, 0.84 in September helped him to deserve consideration.

Cy Young:

  1. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  2. Chris Sale, Boston
  3. Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland
  4. Luis Severino, NY Yankees
  5. Craig Kimbrel, Boston

This race seems pretty cut and dried to me.  As opposed to last year where Kluber, Rick Porcello or Justin Verlander were pretty tight and any one of them could have won.  Porcello did and boy do the voters probably feel foolish about that now.  Maybe not, since each year is different.  But we all know Porcello was horrific this year.  Kind of makes me personally want to take the award away from him last year.

As for this year, Sale had his 300 strikeouts and all and had probably had a healthy lead in this race as the summer wore on.  But Kluber’s stretch run blew him past Sale to take the Cy.  Severino will be third in the real world, as he has already been announced as the third finalist.  I’m going with Carrasco though, maybe for the sole reason that I hate the Yankees, I don’t know.  Kimbrel was pretty dominant this year, so even though I don’t love relievers in this spot, his performance was hard to ignore.  If you put Verlander there, I could live with that.  But Ervin Santana or Drew Pomer…nevermind.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Aaron Judge, NY Yankees
  2. Trey Mancini, Baltimore
  3. Andrew Benintendi, Boston

There really is no 2nd and 3rd here.  Judge will be unanimous.  Mancini had a higher OPS than Benintendi (.826 to .776), so I went with him 2nd.  Plus, I was continuously furious with Andrew for all the boneheaded plays he made on the bases this season.  Deserves to be knocked down.  There really weren’t any other choices here.  Yuli Gurriel is apparently technically a rookie this year.  But since he is 33 years old, has played professionally since he was about 8 and had exactly 130 at-bats in 2016 (if he had 131, he would not have been considered a rookie in 2017), I’m passing on him for my ballot.  Honorable mention goes to Matt Olson of Oakland here, since he hit 24 bombs in only 59 games and 216 plate appearances this year.  Maybe I should have put him second…

Manager of the Year:

  1. Paul Molitor, Minnesota
  2. A.J. Hinch, Houston
  3. Terry Francona, Cleveland

Hinch’s Astros won the World Series.  Tito’s Indians had the best record in the league.  But Molitor is the ONLY choice here.  The Twins made the playoffs this year after losing 103 games in 2016.  How did they do that?  I have no idea.  Have you seen that squad?

Dozier had a good year.  Miguel Sano was having a good year…until he missed the last 6 weeks or so with some sort of shin problem.  Byron Buxton woke up in the second half (and won a Gold Glove…YAAAAY).  Jose Berrios developed some and Santana had a nice year leading the rotation.

But the rest?  Brandon Kintzler was an All-Star closer for the team…then was dealt to the Nationals at the trading deadline.  The corpse of Joe Mauer is still around…and did hit .305.  Kind of an empty .305 though.  The rest of the pitching staff was pretty horrendous…and they actually gave a 44-year-old Bartolo Colon 15 starts, AFTER he went 2-8, 8.14 in 13 starts for the Braves.

I can’t see how this team finished anywhere near the playoffs.  So Molitor should win this thing unanimously.  Though I’m sure some idiot voted for John Farrell because the Red Sox finished first this year.  After all, Nick Cafardo probably has a vote, eh?

Next:  The National League

Gross…different sport…

…so now it’s up to Clay Buchholz.

Think about that for a second.

Ok, that’s enough of that.  Now get your head out of the oven.

The good news?  This series is not over.  The Red Sox are coming back home and that, in and of itself, should create a glimmer of hope.  Cleveland is barely a .500 team on the road.  They also score about a run and a half less per game away from their friendly confines.  Their offensive numbers overall are much worse on the road, though the pitching splits are admittedly pretty similar.  But Josh Tomlin should not be unbeatable either.

You would assume the Sox offense will wake up at Fenway.  Well, they certainly can’t be any worse.  The only guy who has shown up so far is Brock Holt.  I suppose Andrew Benintendi too.  But that is it.  Similar to Cleveland, the Sox’ offensive numbers spike upwards at home.  Though not the same as the Indians, their pitching stats do get worse at Fenway.

The bad news?  Where do we start?

The Sox obviously have a good team and have the capability to not only come back in the series, but also take three in a row to win it.  But does anyone have that vibe now?  I don’t.

After winning 11 in a row to seal up the AL East, the Sox dropped 5 of their last 6 regular season games.  This obviously cost them home field, at least for this series.  How big was that really?  Didn’t think it was a huge deal before the series.  Feeling like that was the wrong assumption now.

People may write off the end of the season too.  Players were tired, they wrapped up a playoff spot and lost focus, home field wasn’t THAT important, etc.  But most of the regulars played most of those last 6 games.  So John Farrell must have though they still did have something to play for.  And then they didn’t get the job done in that respect.

This may have carried over to the first 2 games of this series.  We have seen an alarming number of brain cramps and bad plays in a mere two games:  Dustin Pedroia with an uncharacteristically brutal error in Game 2.  Benintendi being lazy on a fly ball in Game 1, allowing a catcher to tag from first to second.  Jackie Bradley Jr. with some terrible throws from the outfield, not to mention some horrific at-bats.  Sandy Leon with a bad throw or two.  David Price walking a the #9 hitter Roberto Perez, who hit .183 this season, TWICE in two at-bats.  Rick Porcello giving up three bombs in one inning.  Maybe even Marco Hernandez not taking third on a loose ball at the plate in the eighth inning in Game 1 (though there was only 1 out and he may not have made it, so maybe I’m being picky on this one).  This is only to name some.

Has the season-long farewell tour caught up to David Ortiz as well?  Especially with all of the events last week?  Perhaps.

More bad news?  You got it!  Due to Corey Kluber’s performance in Game 2, the Cleveland bullpen will be fresh for Game 3 on Sunday.  Specifically Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.  So if Tomlin gets ripped, Terry Francona can do a similar thing Sunday that he did Thursday.  And doesn’t everyone expect Buchholz to get blasted too?  So Game 3 could very well play out exactly like Game 1.  Not good for the Sox.

I would very much like to blame John Farrell for this series.  But I can’t really.  His two “aces” lasted 7 2/3 combined innings.  His offense completely shut down.  He has seemed to make the right bullpen moves.  People may have complained about moving Holt to 2nd in the batting order and Xander Bogaerts down to 6th, but Holt has performed.  I’m honestly not sure what else he could have done differently across the board.  As much as I would like to bash him, I really can’t.

One thing I would consider though:  Moving Benintendi to center and inserting Chris Young in left for Game 3.  Bradley is 0-6 with 5 strikeouts.  Probably would be 0-7 with 6 K’s if he didn’t get hit by a 0-2 pitch in his last at-bat Friday.  He doesn’t look right any way you slice it.  But what else can you do with the team?  Not much I am afraid.  Just have to hope the home cooking helps win Game 3.  Then maybe bring Porcello and Price back on short rest and hope the results in their second starts in the series are vastly different than their first ones.  Though how can we really expect that with Price’s career futility in the postseason?

I’m not packing it in, but it really does look like a lifeless team now, no?  And then to have to rely on Buchholz.  Yikes!  But we’ve seen them do it before.  Just have to hold out some hope for that.

The best thing about coming back to Fenway?  No more shots of LeBron James and the rest of the Cavalier clowns in their luxury box.  Please TBS, how many times did we really have to see that?

Speaking of TBS…I think we’ve had enough of them too…

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