Bloody Sox

Red Sox Rants — and other random opinions about sports

The Big Dombrowski

Dave Dombrowski has changed the way the Red Sox do business. In a big way. I’m not sure I approve entirely, but I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

Dombrowski broke the bank: In prospects to bring Craig Kimbrel to the back end of the bullpen. In dollars to lure David Price to the front end of the rotation. In both cases he demonstrated a lack of worry about hard negotiations. He wanted the players. He paid a big price. Will we regret this? We might if Kimbrel doesn’t pitch as he has so far in his career and Manuel Margot becomes a perennial All-Star. We might if Price starts showing genuine wear and tear, dipping in performance like Justin Verlander and then chooses not to opt-out of his contract and the Sox are still paying him $31 million a year to pitch like a number four starter in 2020.

But that’s the negative view. The positive view is that the Sox ride Price and Kimbrel to another World Series title or two.

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The sorrowful Boston Red Sox of 2015

The poor showing by the Boston Red Sox in the three game series at Fenway against the Yankees just before the all-star break was enough to convince me this team didn’t have the game in them to make a real playoff push. They lost two out of three and simply looked underwhelming in a series that was crucial to their fate.

But even I didn’t expect them to be as bad as they have been coming out of the break, losing four to the Los Angeles Angels, and looking completely over-matched, like Northeastern University looks when they play the Sox in the opening exhibition game in spring training. No, I take that back. Northeastern looks excited to be playing that game. These Sox look apathetic and tired.

The players take a lot of the blame for this, of course. But ultimately, it is the front office, led by GM Ben Cherington that put this collection of over-fed, under-performing fat cats together.

I saw no evidence of a plan when he built this team over the winter. It appeared haphazard, with the only goal being not to sign anyone to more than a five-year contract. So, while they let Boston legend and World Series hero Jon Lester leave town, they paid a combined $150 million for Rusney Castillo and Rick Porcello. And though they committed to Castillo, they paid another $90 million for Hanley Ramirez, who would occupy an outfield spot and pretty much assure that Castillo or Mookie Betts would spend the year in the minors. Are you going young, or are you stuffing worn out veterans into the lineup? Cherington could not make up his mind, apparently.

And speaking of worn-out veterans, there’s Pablo Sandoval, who already looks like one might have expected him to look toward the last years of the contract, not the front end. Where are they going to hide this guy next year and the year after and the year after that? He can’t keep playing third base.

It is so easy to find complaints about how this team has been handled. Why didn’t the club insist Dustin Pedroia take a rehab stint? He has yet to have a hit since coming off the DL on Friday. Where has Brock Holt been? It’s like the team is trying to keep the lid on their loan All-Star.

Well it really doesn’t matter at this point, because this team has no chance to make the playoffs. They will, however, come alive for the last few weeks of the season, when it no longer matters, because that’s just the way they do it.

The real problem at this point is that the team barely has anyone of value that they can trade for future pieces. Really, who would give any player of value for anyone from the Red Sox? And even that doesn’t matter too much, because I don’t think Ben Cherington has the skill to swing a trade that results in good return. (Think John Lackey for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.)

So we’re really left watching the youngsters on the team, and keeping our fingers crossed that they begin to fulfill the promise we’ve been told about.

Tonight an exciting rookie makes his major league debut. But Brian Johnson hasn’t pitched in 15 days. I will not be surprised if he looks rusty against the hard-hitting line-up of the Houston Astros. In short, this feels like a mis-management of the youngster. But that’s another story.

Not a talent failure, but a failure to evaluate talent

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It’s been a long, long time since I posted to this blog. I didn’t feel much need to in 2013. Everything was going so well… and ending so well, too. Last year just felt like a hangover from the previous year and not worthy of comment. And I’ve got Twitter when I really need to vent.

But the 2015 edition of the Red Sox are so bad and in so many ways that I really do need the roomier space of a blog to get my frustrations with them out. Thus, like the Terminator rising from the debris of an explosion, fire in its eyes, Bloody Sox is stirring from its long nap.

At least this one time.

So, the Boston Red Sox. What to make of this miserable performance?

Actually, the real problem is that the rest of the division sucks too. As I write this, the Red Sox are only four games out of first, even though they have the fifth worst record in all MLB. This is just a tease that tickles us into continuing to have hope where none is really justified.

Because the sad truth is that this team just is not that talented. The lineup is consists of broken down veterans, unproven rookies (or near rookies), and Dustin Pedroia. The rotation are rejects from other clubs and Clay Buchholz, who should be a reject. The bullpen is cobbled together from retreads, with a 40-year-old closer.

John Farrell is going to take most of the heat for the 2015 failures, but the truth is that the real problem with the Boston Red Sox is that the front office sucks at talent evaluation. Want some evidence beyond this year’s performance:

  • What did the team get in return for trading John Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Andrew Miller last July? Out of all the players they received in return, only Eduardo Rodriguez appears to be useful. I mean, wouldn’t you rather have John Lackey pitching for the Sox this year than Joe Kelly (and at the league minimum no less)?
  • When was the last time a Red Sox prospect lived up to the hype beyond his initial, early success? Jacoby Ellsbury is my answer. Since then, a stream of young players have come and gone at Fenway, without making any impact. I still hold out hope for Mookie, Xander and Blake, but we can’t say any of them have established themselves as great players. Not yet.
  • This past off season, instead of being creative (i.e. finding a way to trade for Josh Donaldson), they just over pay Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, then put Hanley in a position (left field) where he is destined to fail. Sandoval is an okay player, but he’s hardly a cornerstone worth the large contract they gave him.
  • They’ve signed Wade Miley and Rick Porcello to contracts worth well-over $100 million, but they expect us to congratulate them on their fiscal responsibility, because neither contract is for more than four years. Seriously? They didn’t want to pay Jon Lester big money over six or seven years, because they thought the final three years of the contract he wouldn’t live up to it. So instead they are paying two players more than they’d pay Lester, and getting ONLY the mediocre, end-of-contract years.

Finally, imagine this scenario. Ben Cherington never signs Koji Uehura before the 2013 season. That signing always seemed an after thought. Certainly, he didn’t sign Koji to be the team’s closer (otherwise he never would have traded Mark Melancon for Joel Hanrahan). That team does not win the World Series without Koji. In fact, I doubt they even make the playoffs. Now think about how we’d view the Cherington era without that Wold Series title. It would be a colossal failure. Two last place finishes, sandwiched around a near miss and whatever this shitty season winds up being.

Boston Wrong (as in me)

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It has been a long, long time since I posted. I was very skeptical of what Ben Cherington was doing with the Red Sox last off season. I thought they’d be lucky to win 85 games. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Completely wrong. As wrong as it is possible to be for anyone not in the Tea Party.

The 2013 Red Sox were a great team. Not just because they won the World Series, although that helps. But they were a great TEAM. I don’t need to go into that. It is well documented by now. I could see that I was wrong about this team back in April, but I was afraid to acknowledge it then for fear of jinxing them. When they kept on winning, I kept silent, even into the playoffs. But now that the’ve reached the pinnacle of baseball, I can say it: Congratulations, Boston Red Sox. You’re the best team in baseball, and I’m very happy to have been wrong about you.

Intrepid predictions for 2013

The Boston Red Sox front office has been very busy this off season trying to reshape and rebuild this team. Give them an A for effort. Sadly, however, I’m not ready to give them higher than a C for effectiveness. The philosophy they seem to be taking in signing Mike Napoli (well, almost), Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster and Stephen Drew seems to be it’s okay to overpay, as long as it isn’t for more than three years. I don’t get this. Drew seems a good risk, with a one-year deal for under $10 million. He might actually live up to that contract, or even exceed it. Napoli, Victorino and Gomes won’t live up to the combined $31 million per year they will be paid, even if they bounce back to their normal selves. Dempster will give them innings, but not many wins.

The team just made a trade for Joel Hanrahan, the closer for the Pirates the past two years. This deal makes no sense to me. The Red Sox have nearly no chance of making the playoffs this year. Hanrahan will be a free agent after this season. What is the point other than clearing space on the 40-man roster? The Sox put their trust in Andrew Bailey last year, trading Josh Reddick to the A’s in the process. Bailey was hurt, and didn’t perform well on his return late in the year, while Reddick hit over 30 homers and earned a Gold Glove in right field. How much would it hurt to give Bailey another chance?

As reported by Pete Abraham over at the Boston.com Extra Bases blog, the Sox have come very close to spending the same amount on the 2013 squad as they had committed to the 2012 team.  That’s $176 million. Has there ever been a less impressive sports team with that kind of payroll?

With this in mind, here are my predictions for the 2013 Boston Red Sox:

  1. The Red Sox will win more games than they lose, but just barely. Look for 84 wins.
  2. The Red Sox will finish fourth in the AL East and, of course, miss the playoffs.
  3. Mark Melancon will end up the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates and have more saves than Joel Hanrahan will have with the Red Sox. Stolmey Pimentel (another part of the Hanrahan deal), will earn a spot in the Pirates rotation and have more wins than Ryan Dempster.
  4. Stephen Drew will have a bounce-back year, hitting 15 home runs, driving in 78 and hitting .276.
  5. The Sox and Mike Napoli will come to an agreement that will involve incentives to kick in a third year of the contract. Nevertheless, we’ll all be thinking about Mike Lowell’s ailing hip by the time Napoli limps into the DL around July 5th.
  6. Junichi Tazawa will prove to be the real deal, and will become the Sox primary set up man.
  7. Despite annoying the hell out of Red Sox Nation, John Farrell will seem like Walter Alston when compared with Bobby Valentine.
  8. Jacoby Ellsbury will be having another career year when he is injured a week before the non-waiver trade deadline, thus becoming un-tradeable.
  9. At least two of the five catchers currently on the 40-man roster will not be there by the end of the season. Dan Butler will be released to make room for additional signings, and Ryan Lavarnway or Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be traded. Incidentally, Butler will be picked up by the Atlanta Braves and will develop into the replacement for Brian McCann.
  10. With a two-year contract in his hip-pocket, David Ortiz will show up to spring training out of shape. It won’t be until May 19th that his batting average climbs above .220.

That’s what I think will happen, not what my hope is. If the new guys stay healthy and return to their top form, if Jacoby plays like a guy on the cusp of a big-free agent payday, if Lester and Buchholz respond to the guidance of John Farrell and combine for 35 wins. If Dempster pitches 220 innings. If Joel Hanrahan is the all-star closer he promises to be. Well, there are a lot of ifs, none of which are out of the realm of possibility. So, while I’m skeptical that this team can make the playoffs, I also admit there is a reasonable chance. It’s a new year. Anything can happen.

Headline: Sox didn’t overpay too much this time!

Okay, the winter meetings are now behind us. The Red Sox were one of the more active teams in Nashville, not trading players, but acquiring them through free agent signings. All together, they’ve added five significant pieces to the team for the coming year, in order of signing:

  • David Ross, backup catcher and mentor to Ryan Lavarnway.
  • Jonny Gomes, platoon left fielder.
  • Mike Napoli, first base and John Lackey’s personal catcher.
  • Shane Victorino, right field and center fielder when the Sox trade Jacoby Ellsbury on July 30th.
  • Koji Uehara, set up man extraordinaire (i.e. Hideki Okajima, but with better stuff).

Chad Finn of Boston.com has been oozing praise on Ben Cherington for his patience and approach in assembling this group:

Don’t sweat the few extra bucks on the average annual value they’ll pay above the current perception of these guys’ worth. It’s not going to prevent them from doing anything else. The important part is the length of the deals; two or three-year contracts are fine for useful veterans who are here as that bridge to Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, and the next generation of Red Sox.

It’s a sign of just how bad this team was run the past four or five years when the Boston media commend the GM for only overpaying players for three years instead of for five or seven. High five, Ben!

Okay, let’s put aside for the moment the stupid contracts involved, these are five decent baseball players. But none of them is great and I doubt they’re going to make the Red Sox any better than they were on paper going into last year, though they should make them a lot better than the miserable team that played out the final six weeks of the season. Of course, the Bad News Bears would be an improvement on that squad.

Of these five new players, the two most significant, I think, are Ross and Uehara, who should both provide nice depth. But it is very hard to see how Cherington can think the other three are worth the combined $88 million they’re going to pay them for the next three years.

Gomes is going to be on his sixth team, which tells you something about how not good he is. We hear he’s a good clubhouse guy, but good clubhouse guys don’t move around that much. They don’t. Unless that is all they are. He’s no Cody Ross. I’m not even convinced he’s better than Daniel Nava. He made $1 million last year with the Oakland A’s. The Sox will be paying him $5 million for each of the next two seasons.

Napoli was run out-of-town by Angels manager Mike Sciosia. He had one good year with the Rangers, one bad year, and then the Red Sox gave him a three-year, $39 million contract. He’s a sub par defender at first base, where he’ll play the bulk of his Red Sox innings, and he’s not even a good catcher, his natural position. The team for which he had his best year as a pro, Texas, didn’t think enough of him to make a serious offer, even though they need a first baseman. He’s definitely no Adrian Gonzalez. He is an upgrade over James Loney, though he’s not as good a defender.

Victorino is 32. Each of his last three years his batting average has been below his career average. His OBP has been dipping significantly. He’s a pretty good fielder, which is why I’m less concerned with his play than Gomes or Napoli. He might be a slight upgrade from Cody Ross. At least one Phillies person told MLB Radio’s Jim Bowden that they didn’t want Victorino back because they were tired of his act.

I guess $88 million doesn’t buy what it used to. As for the character thing, excuse me if I’m skeptical about intangibles that you have to over-pay for.

As best I can figure, the goal of Ben Cherington is not to screw up too badly and field a team that looks like it won’t be an embarrassment. Can’t wait for April.

From first to worst

In 2010, the Boston Red Sox had a first baseman named Kevin Youkilis who hit .307 with a .411 on base percentage, 19 home runs and 62 RBIs in 102 games at the position. He had won a Gold Glove at first base just a few years before. But he was starting to wear down. That was okay, though, because the Sox also had a phenom in the minors named Lars Andersen, who was going to be their first baseman of the future. When he fizzled out in Double A ball, it was okay, because they had another phenom in waiting, Anthony Rizzo. But then they traded Anthony Rizzo, but that was okay, because they got Adrian Gonzalez, an all-star and Gold Glover, who was going to tear the paint off the Green Monster. Then they traded Adrian Gonzalez because they wanted to rid themselves of Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.

But that was okay, because they just signed Mike Napoli to play first base. But wait, Napoli hit just .227 last year and is said to be a defensive liability. But that’s okay because they gave him a small contract, right. Well, not really. They’re paying him $13 million a year for three years.

And Napoli was the Red Sox “primary off-season target” according to Sean McAdam! Apparently, a big step toward mediocrity is the Red Sox goal for 2013.

On board the Farrell hiring

When I contemplated writing this post, it was going to be about my skepticism over the hiring of John Farrell to be the next Red Sox manager. But I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to go into this new era with optimism, looking at the reasons this is a smart move, well done.

First of all, this happened quickly, just over two weeks after Bobby Valentine was fired. What a contrast to the protracted affair the Valentine hiring turned into! Farrell can get to work and help shape his own coaching staff, and prepare with Ben Cherington for the meetings upcoming once the Giants finish off the Tigers in the World Series.

Second, everyone was on board with the process. There was no meddling by ownership in this decision. Ben Cherington got the man he wanted. This should make for a much more effective relationship between the GM and his manager.

Third, while perhaps not the candidate with the most upside, John Farrell is the safest bet. I would have liked to see what Brad Ausmus would do with the opportunity, but there was a lot of risk to hiring a first time manager with no experience. Farrell has experience, and he has experience in Boston.

Fourth, the players seem to be embracing this hire and they are going on record saying so. That’s key. This kind of public buy-in will make it harder for them to complain or loaf later. (Or so I hope.)

Finally, the Sox gave Farrell a three-year contract. That’s important. That is an expression of confidence and commitment, which they did not give Bobby Valentine (who got just a two-year contract). I said at the time of the hiring of Bobby that the short-term contract was a sign of ambivalence which the players would smell. There are going to be no easy fixes for this team, and I suspect it won’t be until after next season that the Sox begin to be relevant again.  Knowing Farrell is here to stay may help speed the process by just a wee bit.

Why today is best day of Red Sox year

Bobby Valentine was officially relieved of his duties as manager of the Boston Red Sox today. This was overdue, as I argued earlier.  I actually have a soft spot for Bobby — he’s a bicycle riding and native of Connecticut afterall. But he was a bad choice to lead this team, even worse than we knew, as we are now finding out. Well, I don’t feel too sorry for him. He made this bed and he’ll be paid $2.5 million next year for doing nothing (John Henry needs to thank Larry Lucchino for this.)

But what also makes today special is that we no longer have to listen/watch/read about this inept squad. Seriously. As constituted in the last few weeks of the season, the Red Sox were absolutely the worst team in the major leagues. There were probably several AAA teams that would have beaten up on them.

Okay, I can understand that the lineup was bad. Too many of their top talents were injured or traded away. That left a pretty skeletal crew of quality players and a bunch of fill-ins. So I can forgive them for not scoring a lot of runs. But what about the pitching staff. The bullpen was pretty healthy — in fact, healthier than they’ve been in a while with the return of Rich Hill and Scott Atchison. The starters still included genuine major leaguers in Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Aaron Cook, Felix Doubront and even Dice-K. And yet this staff regularly got shelled game after game. They averaged 6.6 runs against in their final ten games. The only reason can be that they stopped caring. And that’s too bad, because the position players appeared to be playing hard right to the end.

So, yes, today is the best day of the year, just eeking out the day in late August when Beckett, et. al. were shipped off to the Dodgers.

Ben Cherington is now being given the opportunity to make this into his own team. He has the payroll flexibility to bring in his type of players on his type of contract. And he will be hiring a manager apparently without the interference of Lucchino (let’s wait and see if that’s really how it goes down).

It’s going to be an interesting hot stove season in Red Sox Nation.

Why Bobby needs to go

Even by his own admission, this season has been “miserable” for Bobby Valentine. Yesterday he jokingly threatened to punch radio talk show host Glenn Ordway in the mouth. If he only could have followed through on that, Bobby would have probably raised his popularity. Ordway is an asshole. But that’s beside the point. It was a stupid thing for Bobby to say, even if Ordway deserved the comment. Bobby is, after all, an adult. He’s been a professional broadcaster. He’s done hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews with the media. He should by now know how to handle himself.

When Ordway asked him if he’d “checked out” on the season, Bobby should have calmly said something to this effect:

Glenn, I’m glad you asked me this question because it gives me the chance to assure all Red Sox fans that my number one priority is helping this young team get through the remaining games of this season. What we do in September will help get them ready for next April. We’ve got a lot of young players, rookies even, who will go on to great careers, and the rest of this season is a chance for them to learn the right way to play the game. That’s what I’m here for.

He didn’t say that, of course. But that’s what the remaining games of this season should be about, and the very reason Bobby needs to go.

While it is not all his fault, Bobby Valentine is now a negative influence on this team, and negativity is contagious. Why would John Henry and company want to keep subjecting the likes of Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway, Ryan Kalish and the other young players on this team to this corrosive atmosphere? Keeping Bobby Valentine in the dugout is stupid and seems only calculated to prove some inconsequential point, and to save Larry Lucchino from the embarrassment, since Valentine was his choice.

I feel bad for Bobby Valentine, but he has been a major contributor to his undoing. Time to put him out of his misery and ours.

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