A lot to address from the last week or so. What follows here will be mostly incoherent babbling, in no particular order:
*The Boston Bruins could be done in the next several hours. Sure, we expected a close series and even a possible Toronto Maple Leaf victory. But even though the series is technically “close” at 3 games to 2, the series really hasn’t been…close. Game Two was the Bruins’ best game…and even though they won Game Four, it felt like the Leafs totally controlled the play.
The Bruin defense has been more than suspect. And although Tuukka Rask has been decent, he is still, of course, prone to the soft goal. Usually one a game or so. That simply cannot happen in the playoffs.
But the forwards have been subpar as well. Especially in their defensive zone. I don’t know the exact numbers, but it has seemed that the Leafs have lived in the Bruins zone. That’s not a way to win a series, my friends.
So what’s the problem? Well, Toronto is actually a good team, so there’s that.
Otherwise? I have a sense that guys are playing more hurt than we know.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, that sounds like an excuse. I guess it could be. But there are some dudes out there that clearly aren’t the same players. Yes, the Bruins have a “healthy” roster now that Sean Kuraly just came back…other than Kevan Miller. And can you say maybe Connor Clifton? Maybe not.
But take a closer look. Torey Krug has been abysmal. To me anyway. Missed time with a concussion a month or so ago and then whacked his head on the boards early in the series. Could be a factor. Jake DeBrusk is another. Took that two-hander to the face and he has been borderline invisible. Patrice Bergeron? Does something ail him? Perhaps. He hasn’t had his best series.
Toronto has been the better team thus far. No excuses. But let’s see what comes out after elimination…today or otherwise.
*On the other hand, the Boston Celtics could be done today…with the first round. This Indiana Pacer team is absolutely brutal. Worse than I thought when I was putting together the preview. I pretty much don’t want to waste any more time on them. We will chat more in Round Two
*Tiger Woods won the Masters. This is actually news nowadays.
I used to root against Tiger with regularity. Not because I ever hated him. Because he always won. He was just TOO good. So I always rooted for the underdog…even though pretty much they never beat him.
But isn’t Tiger NOW the underdog?
It is unfortunate that a talent like that has gone through what he has gone through the previous decade or so. And no, I am not talking about his personal “problems”. Like Robert Kraft, I could care less what these dudes do on their own time.
All the back surgeries and physical ailments he has endured. Now those are real issues. And now here he is, a major winner yet again.
I guess I can say that I am happy for him? Sounds weird.
*Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson, Joey Galloway, Reggie Wayne, Eric Decker…Demaryius Thomas?
It’s entirely possible.
But I still take the chance. This wide receiver group for the New England Patriots is embarrassing.
*Yes, the Bruins are in trouble. But if we are all paying attention, Tampa Bay and Calgary are already out. And they were both ahead of the Bruins in the overall standings. Pittsburgh is out as well, and they always scare me in the playoffs. That’s the beauty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs every year. Anyone can win. Even though the locals may be hurt by that very aspect.
*Yoan Moncada is .321/.361/.628. 6 homers and 18 RBI in 19 games.
Was I wrong?
The way he handled himself at the plate…I never thought he would figure it out. And no, I’m not taking back the Chris Sale trade. Do that every day of the week. EVERY day.
I’m just saying that Moncada actually may be a player. Ok, it’s still April so we will give it some more time.
*Dustin Pedroia. Please retire.
You’re done. As the immortal Terry Glenn once said, D-U-N…DUN!!
Can you please admit that Little Leader?
Better yet, we really need the Red Sox to admit it. They have bent over backward to accommodate Pedroia, despite the fact that no one has ever come back from what he has.
Did the Sox really expect him to play about 120 games this season? Silly.
And now they are stuck with some sort of combination of Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, Tzu Wei Lin…and Christian Vazquez? Michael Chavis?
Or…until Pedroia gives it another shot in May. Since now he thinks his latest setback was “minor”…
*Blake Swihart. Good luck in Arizona. May you actually get a chance to play. Hopefully, you flourish. You probably won’t. But after the Sox jerked you around for the last few years, I am rooting for you. If you care anyway.
*Sandy Leon. The Red Sox starters won’t magically get better because Leon is back on the team. They will get better because they ARE better than they have shown. Period.
*Last but not least, let’s talk about the Red Sox management. Yeah, they just came off a World Series. Should we even be complaining?
The team has gotten off to a rocky start, despite wins the last two days over the first place Rays. Sure, they will likely turn it around and be in the mix. But this start is inexcusable.
Everyone shares in the blame. The front office? Dave Dombrowski brought back essentially the same team as last year. On paper, it sounds awesome. But in theory, it may not be. Look at the Bruins the year after they won the Cup. They brought 17 of 20 players back and got dumped in the first round. Players were complaining they were tired, and it was a long Cup run and all that. Perhaps that’s a valid reason if one were to insist. So that’s why you have more turnover from year to year. Although no one wants to hear the excuses of the players for sure.
The manager? Alex Cora has repeatedly defended the slow start by saying that “we did the same thing last year…” Enough already. The players were not ready to play for whatever reason.
Sure, the coaches prepared the starting pitchers like they did last year. But each year is a different entity. Each season needs to be treated differently. Didn’t Cora learn anything from Bill Belichick?
The starters being babied during the spring played a part in the slow start. I would also hazard a guess that the players weren’t as hungry as last year after winning the World Series. Human nature. Again, another reason for some turnover. Long season last year taking its toll? Perhaps. But there should have been plenty of time to rest in the offseason. So I am not sure I can buy that one. I personally never bought it for that Bruins scenario above either.
No time for panic. It’s only April 21st. But it doesn’t mean we have to like where they are right now.
Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!!
…for the first place Boston Red Sox. Yup, I said “first place”. Still seems hard to believe. 17 games left though, so we will see how it plays out. Tough loss last night, 1-0 to the immortal Kevin Gausman. But that just goes to show you that no one has any idea how it will go. Losing 2 out of 3 at home to Baltimore, after taking 2 out of 3 on the road in Toronto. “Only” winning 4 of 6 against Oakland and San Diego earlier this month. Two essentially minor league ballclubs. Yeah, 2 of 3 against anyone especially on the road shouldn’t be bad. But after outscoring Oakland 27-4 in the first two games of the series, you had to like their chances in Game 3, right? Nope. 1-0 loss. Yuck. An eleven game road trip in mid-August that started 7-2, then ended with 2 losses to another horrible team in Tampa Bay.
Toss all that in and consider that after the 4 game set with the Yankees starting tomorrow, 10 of the final 13 games will be on the road. 10 game trip to Baltimore, Tampa and New York, followed by 3 at home against Toronto. I suppose the beauty of it is that they are all AL East teams. But the reality of it is they could go from first place to out of the playoffs in a heartbeat. And they don’t even need any chicken and beer to do it.
It’s been quite some time since I have written about the Sox. So, in typical fashion, I’ll be throwing out all kinds of random crap to pretty much catch up. Thanks a bunch for your understanding!
*Speaking of last night’s game, I like to take the first point to officially apologize to one Mr. Rick Porcello. Even with the loss, the numbers read 20-4, 3.12 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, over 200 innings. Etc. Who on God’s Green Earth saw this coming? Ok, maybe Ben Cherington did. (Side note: with Porcello and the year Hanley Ramirez is having, specifically the 2nd half of his year, perhaps we need to offer up an apology to Ben as well? Well, he also signed Pablo Sandoval too, so…). I have no idea if Porcello has a real chance at the Cy Young, even with the 20 wins. People may shy away from him based on the single fact that he got about 8 runs a game of run support this year. Others may be blinded by the 59 1/3 innings that Zach Britton has thrown this year, albeit a kind of dominant 60 innings or so. But it’s been a helluva run.
*Ben just landed a VP of baseball operations job with the Blue Jays. So let’s not cry for him anymore. He apparently had a chance at a prime job with the Minnesota Twins as well. So he’ll be ok.
*I (we) may also owe an apology to David Price also, due to his recent turnaround. But since I like my 31 million dollar pitchers to have some playoff dominance mixed in, let’s hold off on that for now.
*The biggest thing that makes me nervous over the next two and a half weeks? John Farrell. Why, of course! I suppose I need to give Farrell some credit for the first place team thus far. But I also remain among the few (several?) that would still like to see him go.
It would seem that the Red Sox have enough talent to be a playoff team. Always has seemed that way all year. But…I have never been confident in Farrell’s in-game management. Or the way he utilizes a bullpen. Or many other things. I especially can’t stand his babbling about subluxations and arm angles and arm action and all that stuff he spins when he speaks. Noe Ramirez pitching in a close game Tuesday when Craig Kimbrel was still available? Ruining Steven Wright’s season by pinch running him in a game. Pinch running? I get trying to utilize the whole roster in an NL park, but the fattest guy on the staff? Ugh. Publicly stating that Drew Pomeranz is a “6 inning pitcher” once he arrived in Boston, then in subsequent weeks throwing him out there to blow leads beyond the 6th. Playing Ryan Hanigan…EVER. I could go on, but I’m tired. Let’s just say that there is a good chance that Farrell himself can torpedo this whole thing easily in 17 games.
*I don’t know what happened to Xander Bogaerts in the 2nd half. But I sure hopes he wakes up soon.
*Good thing Dustin Pedroia hates hitting leadoff. He’s only been on fire since he started hitting there. Hate to see what would’ve happened if he stayed in his preferred 2-hole.
*Something that probably only bothers me…along with the Brentz family…Bryce Brentz gets to play in the majors for like 2 months, contributes a bit, then doesn’t get called up along with all the other September additions. Only 4 players on the 40 man roster didn’t get the call. Brentz was one of the 4 (Brian Johnson, Williams Jerez and Roenis Elias were the others, for the record). Obviously, it really doesn’t matter in the end. Though he really should be able to enjoy the playoff chase! In all seriousness, I will say that there have been several blowouts recently where Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have to stay in the game because the Sox didn’t have enough outfield depth to yank them. May have made sense to have another outfielder for that reason alone.
*I know I am not trying to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers toward a World Series championship. And I know Rich Hill has had some blister issues this year and missed plenty of starts, including some after the Dodgers traded for him. But I still would have left him in to chase that perfect game last week.
*Yoan Moncada should be glued to the bench the rest of the year. Maybe not even have him pinch run. Certainly not pinch hit. He doesn’t need to get up once every 5 or 6 days to add another strikeout to the ledger. The kid does look like he has some physical ability. But it also looks like he needs more ABs. He certainly needs more playing time at the hot corner if they plan to move him there for the long haul. His arm looks legit though…makes you wonder why the Sox started him off in the minors at second base. Seems like a waste of his arm to put him there. Another strike against him was forgetting the number of outs in a game this weekend. Not a good look in your first couple weeks in the majors.
Personally, I’d keep him on the bench for as long as this season goes, just to soak in the atmosphere. Then send him to winter ball to play RF and maybe 3B. I’d shop Bradley this offseason and if there is a deal to be made, move Mookie back to center and consider Yoan for RF down the road. Or move Benintendi to center. Something like that. But we will worry more about the offseason when we get there.
*One more thing on the offseason though: Do the Sox try to unload the last 2 years of Hanley’s contract this offseason based on his performance this year? Or stick him at DH and tell him to do nothing but hit? Good question. With David Ortiz not around next year to help keep Hanley “buying in”, I think we need to consider the first option. He has played ok at first this year. Not as good as everyone wants to tell you he has played, but certainly serviceable. But I don’t think I want him there next year.
*The Sox have to rein in their aggressive base running a bit going forward. Lot of head-scratchers here this year. Kind of topped off by Brock Holt trying to steal home Sunday down a run and with a guy who had earlier hit a 3 run homer at the plate. That particular one didn’t come back to haunt them. But that kind of stuff has got to stop.
*I hate the Yankees. I hate Joe Girardi. But he should get even more credit than he already does. How this guy has had the Yanks in the playoff chase over the past few years with those rosters, I have no idea. That’s all the positive stuff I’m going to say about that outfit though.
*The AL MVP race seems wide open. But why is all the Red Sox talk focused on Mookie Betts? I know Big Papi is a DH only and he has not been as dominant in the 2nd half as he was in the first. But I feel like he deserves a little more chatter anyway.
*Lastly, let’s talk about this bullpen. Is it really figured out? Who do you have faith in out there? Will Noe Ramirez still get some key innings in September? Kimbrel doesn’t like to pitch in non-save situations and Farrell apparently won’t force the issue, so how is he going to stay sharp? Joe Kelly is all of a sudden a key component? And so on. A couple of weeks ago, Clay Buchholz was supposed to be the “8th inning” guy. Think about that for a second. Now we are all set apparently? Kelly, Koji Uehara, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr., Fernando Abad, Brad Ziegler…I don’t know. Don’t rule out Farrell trying to re-implement Junichi Tazawa in high-leverage situations either.
All of the relievers listed above are seemingly capable major league relievers…in the regular season…and maybe only in the 7th inning or earlier (outside of Kimbrel…but he sometimes doesn’t inspire confidence either). But as the pressure gets greater, how many of these dudes will step up? Remains to be seen. I know we all love Koji for what he has done over the past few years. But I am not ready to say he is “back” based on a few good innings in September. We shall see…
Ultimately, it was great to enjoy baseball in Boston over the summer again. So even if they collapse, hell, the Patriots have started so it’s not all that bad! But the Sox do have the talent to compete. So hopefully it will be a fun two and a half weeks any way you slice it. Anything after that would be a welcome bonus for sure.
I suppose we really don’t need to rehash the first half of the Major League Baseball season, as far as the Red Sox are concerned. We all know the deal. They are a better than expected 49-38, 2 games out of first place. The offense has been largely good. The pitching has been largely a disappointment, to be kind. Young everyday players, like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are blossoming right in front of our eyes. David Ortiz is having a monster farewell season at the age of 40. David Price and Craig Kimbrel have not made the difference their profile would suggest. Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez have been abject disasters. Steven Wright has been a revelation. Fat Panda is, well…still fat. And for his 19 mil the team got an 0 for the season. Ok, in only six at bats before his injury…but the point remains the same. Blah, blah, blah…
We know all that. Let’s focus on what one man thinks they SHOULD do in the 2nd half of this year. Before we get to that, my thinking is that Dave Dombrowski has gotten off to a pretty good start with the minor deals he has made thus far. Well, I am not sure why he felt the need to get a 33-year-old utility man who has a .199 career average in Michael Martinez. I mean, don’t we have a guy like that already in Brock Holt? And what was Marco Hernandez doing wrong? I guess the move was made because those two both bat from the left side and Martinez is a switch hitter. And they still plan to play Holt a ton in left field it would seem. Whatever.
But I like the move for Aaron Hill. I don’t mind Travis Shaw. But despite the hot start, I never considered him an everyday player…at third or at first. A bunch of at-bats off the bench at both positions? Sure. And it appears that this will be the case going forward. Hill isn’t going to hit 36 bombs like he did in 2009 with Toronto. But he will be a useful addition. At what appears to be a minimal cost…with 2 “prospects” going the other way. Wendell Rijo is only 20, so maybe he will be something. But he was hitting .186 in AA. Doesn’t look good. Aaron Wilkerson was pitching well in Pawtucket. But he’s 27 years old himself and has never made the majors. Doesn’t look like a big loss.
I also like the move for Brad Ziegler. Not a prototypical closer, but he wasn’t supposed to come here as a closer anyway. But hopefully he will close here with Kimbrel now out. As much as I love Koji Uehara, this year he has been…shaky (done?). Junichi Tazawa has apparently been battling a shoulder ailment (and is now on the DL)…but he’s never been considered a closer anyway. Robbie Ross Jr. had some saves down the stretch last year…but on a bad team. Plus John Farrell forgets he has him in his bullpen half the time. So that won’t work. The end result is that Ziegler may now be currently the best reliever in the bullpen. Yikes! But it’s a good move regardless. It doesn’t appear that Ziegler’s cost was much, though maybe a bit more than Hill’s. Jose Almonte, a 20-year-old pitcher that was in Single-A, and Luis Alejandro Basabe, a 19-year-old middle infielder that was in the same location. Young, yes. But I don’t ever recall seeing them on any “Top Prospect” lists.
After all that preamble, let’s get to the Blowhard’s suggestions. Once again, in no particular order.
*Trade for a young #1 or #2 starter using the systems’ supposed plethora of prospects. I know, I know, I know. Who wouldn’t do this? But the point is, the Sox CAN make this happen more than most other teams. According to many people around the game, the Sox have several “can’t miss” prospects. Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Anderson Espinoza, Rafael Devers, maybe even that knucklehead Michael Kopech…yup, you’ve heard all the names.
The Sox should pick their top 2 or 3 guys and keep them. And unload anyone and everyone else. After all, for how long have we heard guys like Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Casey Kelly, Bryce Brentz (before he shot himself accidentally in the leg in 2013 maybe), Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Brian Rose, Wilton Veras and countless others were “can’t miss”? Exactly. Some of these guys won’t make it. Most of them actually. So while their names are hot, get rid of them.
OR, if they decide they will pay Xander and Mookie and not Jackie eventually, deal JBJ. Assuming Benintendi will come up and take his place at some point soon enough. OR, if the thought of engaging with Scott Boras down the road will leave them with so much distaste, trade Xander (heresy!!). Assuming Moncada will come up and take his place eventually.
Now, I am not advocating trading Xander, no, not at all. I actually would still consider trading JBJ, for the record. Still not 100% sold on him long-term. Even though I may be getting there. Anyway, ideally, I’d go with trading a boatload of prospects. But I think you get my overall point. You have things people want. You have a big hole…throughout the entire organization…with starting pitcher depth. Go get a stud. Now.
After all, wouldn’t every single person do Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. for Pedro Martinez again?
EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote the previous 900 or so words earlier, then put it aside for several hours. In the interim, the Sox apparently traded Espinoza for “All-Star” Drew Pomeranz. I use the word “All-Star” loosely of course. Listen, Pomeranz has had a nice half-year…on a poor team with no pressure…in a pitcher’s park. Not to mention that he was an injury replacement for the All-Star game this year. He has been with 3 teams in his 6 year major league career. He was essentially traded for the immortal Yonder Alonso after last season. He has never pitched more than 147 1/3 innings in a full year professionally and stands at 102 right now.
In other words, not exactly the trade I was looking for when I mentioned packaging prospects…especially top ones.
But you know what? I’ll take it. Not that I have a choice. But Pomeranz is only 27. Under team control for a couple more years. Showed some promise in 2014 with Oakland (I know, another pressure cooker!) before he punched a chair after a bad start. Stupid, I know…but who knows, maybe if Kopech makes it to Boston someday they can hang out. More importantly, Espinoza is 18 YEARS OLD. Who the hell knows what he will be? Some people were all worked up the Sox gave up 17-year-old Engel Beltre back in the Eric Gagne trade. Who? Exactly.
Espinoza could be the next Pedro Martinez, sure. But the odds are way better that he becomes the next Casey Kelly…or Brian Rose. Plus…anything can happen before he gets to the majors. Specifically injury…like a major arm kind. He’s a loooooooooooong ways away folks. I’d rather bet on some of the positional prospects than the pitching prospects, if I had to. In any event, maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t. We shall see.
I’m still going after the #1 or #2 type guy as well though…moving on…
*Release Clay Buchholz. Goes without saying. And I’ve still said it a ton. But Farrell is making noise about putting him back in the rotation eventually. Maybe the acquisition of Pomeranz changes that thinking. Either way, it’s well past time. Coincidentally, they need to make space on the 40-man roster for Pomeranz. Someone has to go. Maybe it is finally him? I’m looking at the 40-man and the obvious choice to me is to DFA Sean O’Sullivan. But he is on the 15 day DL, so I don’t know if they CAN make that move. Maybe Josh Rutledge is transferred to the 60 day DL. Or same for Chris Young. But there aren’t many options at this point. DFA Clay? Let’s get everyone on board!!
*Get one other 5th or 6th starter type. This shouldn’t cost much. If the Sox got a number #2 guy this month as I mentioned above, the rotation would look like this: Price, #2, Porcello, Pomeranz, Wright. Eduardo Rodriguez would theoretically be the #6 guy. He’s been terrible, but no one should be giving him away or counting him out now. Plenty of promise there. And he has at least some positive major league history. This other guy would actually be #7. Better than Buchholz. Or Joe Kelly. Or Owens. Good to have some more depth.
*Add another top-notch bullpen guy and a veteran “middle inning” guy. As of right this second, with Taz and Kimbrel (Carson Smith too of course) on the DL, the bullpen consists of: Buchholz, William Cuevas, Tommy Layne, Heath Hembree, Ross, Koji, Matt Barnes and Ziegler…Double Yikes!! Matt Barnes may be your second best reliever now. Ugh.
We’ve gone over Bucky. Cuevas, (also Noe Ramirez, Pat Light, Roenis Elias)? Not any kind of answer. Layne has been ok, but is fungible. No bigger Hembree guy than me. But who knows with him? He’s never been around long enough to know how he will hold up in a pennant race. Ross is ok, but Koji may be done. Barnes? Not a fan myself. Hopefully Ziegler can do something. But…a lot of question marks as you can see.
Perhaps Joe Kelly is that “middle inning” guy? Maybe. Can’t be worse than some of the aforementioned dudes. It appears he will get a chance. I’m ok with it.
If they get the 2 bullpen guys, then the 7 they carry until either injured guys come back and/or September callups can be something like: Kelly/vet, Ross, Barnes, Layne, Koji, Bullpen trade target, Ziegler…still questionable, but if the guy you get is awesome, then that will be a major boost. Hate to leave Hembree out, but you can stash him in Pawtucket like Kelly for a few weeks if you have to. The vet could be a 13th type of pitcher with experience and he could also be in AAA for now. Maybe give Koji a “rest” on the DL. Just mix and match arms until Taz and Kimbrel come back. Then in September you have a lot of half decent arms out there. Anchored by Kimbrel, Ziegler, Taz and trade guy. With depth in Koji, Barnes, Ross, Kelly, other vet, Hembree, etc. And no Noe’s or Light’s in sight either.
Bottom line? Never hurts to have more than enough bullpen arms. The Sox bullpen won’t become like the back-end of the Royals or Yankees…this year anyway. But if they can just have more available options than what has sometimes paraded through the mound for them up to this point, it will help close the gap.
*Fire John Farrell. Ok, that’s not going to happen. He’s here for the season now I feel. Like it or not. And honestly, firing him at this point will probably not accomplish much. Oh well.
What else? Nothing actually. Pitching, pitching, pitching. That’s it.
The Sox can live with Sandy Leon/Ryan Hanigan/Christian Vazquez/Blake Swihart(?) behind the plate. Especially if Leon continues to hit .455. That’s possible, right?
They can also live with Holt/Brentz/Young/Swihart(?)/Shaw(?) in left field I believe. Maybe Benintendi comes up in September and adds to that mix. Pretty sure they wouldn’t want to add him to the 40-man roster before they have to. But perhaps he forces the issue.
The biggest thing they have to do on offense I feel is to keep the Big Guy healthy. Give him a day off a week if you have to. They should be able to work their way around that with the bodies they have. Big Papi’s sick numbers are bound to regress a little anyway. So let’s keep him fresh for the stretch run. I know, he’s only a DH and gets up 4-5 times a game. How much can that affect him? I would normally agree with that thinking. And have argued that over the years. But now he is 40…old for sports. Let’s err on the side of caution in his final year.
There are a lot of teams in the mix all across baseball. But, especially in the AL, I don’t believe one team stands head and shoulders above the rest. The World Series is a realistic goal. When World Series aspirations are realistic, you need to go for it. Let’s leave no stone unturned in order to get there.