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Direction of the Team

Now that that Red Sox have acknowledge their circumstances, I think it important that John Farrell and management do everything in their power to embrace the young players and build their confidence.

An example of not doing this came Tuesday.  Jackie Bradley Jr. hasn’t hit to save his life this year but had, through Monday of this week, strung together a series of good at bats/games.  Why in heck would Farrell then bench him on Tuesday and break that string?  He came back to go 0-4 and then 1-3 in his next 2 games.  You never know with 100% certainty if the benching had anything to do with it, but if a player is gaining in confidence, why sit him and introduce a shred of doubt?  A small issue to be sure but an important one nevertheless.

Farrell obviously still wants to win and reinforce a winning attitude but he also needs to recognize the mentality of young players, especially a boatload of young players.  Time to let these youngsters strikeout of their own and stop pinch hitting for Xander Bogaerts late in games, let players play who are riding hot streaks,  do everything possible to show support for these kids.

Suddenly, watching the Red Sox has become fun again.

 

Hoist the White Flag

This is the earliest the Red Sox have given up on a season that I can remember.  The Nick Punto trade in 2012 happened in August and since the new ownership group and even back into the Dan Duquette era, the Red Sox were always sniffing at a playoff spot late into the season.

A.J. Pierzynski was DFAed today and Jake Peavy is rumored to be heading out of Boston.  These are moves of a team that has capitulated.  This also means the Red Sox are likely to deal Koji Uehara, Jonny Gomes, and maybe John Lackey (who is set to earn the major league minimum for veterans next season) as they might not want the headache of having a veteran playing for the minimum and publicly displaying his displeasure every pitch of the way.

Wednesday night’s game featured 5 rookies in the line-up, Jackie Bradley Jr. Brock Holt, Mookie Betts, Christian Vasquez (major league debut) and Xander Bogaerts and a rookie starting pitcher.  Unheard of in Boston but a very good thing for the future of the team.  I think perhaps Betts and Vasquez were brought up a bit early and risk being like the endless line of rookies the K.C. Royals rush to the big leagues, but otherwise this is valuable playing time for young players.

As a Red Sox fan, I am perfectly fine with a season like this.  A reload, a chance to give younger, future franchise players playing time is a good thing, as long as it isn’t happening every other year.  What begs the question is just what did management see in this team?  Did they think Pierzynski was going to be a major contributor?  Did the Red Sox really need to sign Stephen Drew for $10 million?  Obviously with hindsight, these both look like very dumb and very expensive moves, not that I pay the bills but we now can look forward to seeing the future of the Red Sox develop in front of our eyes, instead of in Pawtucket.

A quick scouting report on the young positional players:

Vasquez – Advanced defensively, with ability to handle a pitching staff and a very good arm.  His offense is a work in progress and doesn’t project to be much more than mediocre.

Betts – 4 tool player with potential to be a 4.5 to 5 tool player if his power rounds out and depending on where he settles on a position.  Command of the strike zone is top shelf.

Bradley Jr. – Elite defensively with good eye at the plate and 10-12 HR power projection.  Offense improved with with more time at each minor league level.  The hope is that he is getting ready to take off offensively.  His defense this year has been outstanding.

Holt – A career minor league average of .307 with a .410 OBP makes his 2014 success not a major surprise but is countered by the fact he is 26.  Old for a rookie but some players take longer to mature.  Defensively he isn’t great anywhere but has proven the ability to player anywhere with competence.  He’s played LF, CF, RF, 1B, SS and 3B this season year all the while hitting .313.  When Holt was included as an apparent throw-in in the Joel Hanrahan deal, I remember thinking there must be something wrong with this kid personality-wise as he had good minor league numbers.

Bogaerts – He was doing well until Stephen Drew arrived.  Seriously, the minute Drew was added to the 25-man roster, Bogaerts started slumping.  That also was when he was moved from SS to 3B.  He is only 21 and has a bright future ahead of him, but I wonder if the Red Sox will try to move Drew (is that possible with him hitting .131?) and give the SS position back to Bogaerts.

If the Red Sox can trade a few more assets for additional future growth and with their financial clout, they might just be gearing up for a prolonged run at success

 

Sizemore Wins

John Farrell announced today that Grady Sizemore has won the centerfield spot over Jackie Bradley Jr. Sizemore is slated to hit 5th or 6th in the line-up while Bradley Jr. will be taking buses to and from games in Pawtucket.

Sizemore was signed to a major league dealing meaning they had to either keep him or cut him (or trade him).

I said early in Spring Training that my preference was for Bradley Jr. to win the job and given today’s news I’m disappointed that Bradley Jr. (To be abbreviated as Bjr from here on out) won’t be with the club and that he’s had such a dreadful spring.

Trying to see a silver lining here, I hope Bjr gets his hacks in at Pawtucket and that perhaps later in the season he gets the call-up.

Sizemore’s accomplishments are amazing so far. His injury record is lousy and he’s really has been out of baseball for 2 years so his playing well and winning the job is a great story. That said, I think it a long shot that he stays healthy all year meaning Bjr could be in Boston before you know it.

Bjr is the future and it’d have been nice to have him in there with Bogaerts and Middlebrooks, 3 young and promising players.

Center Field in Boston

Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox have a question mark in center field.  How did that happen?  Didn’t they have a really good center fielder last year?  Oh, that’s right…I remember what happened.

Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr, Shane Victorino and Grady Sizemore are vying for the starting nod.  Victorino will most likely start the season in right which really means Sizemore and Bradley are the candidates.

Sizemore hasn’t played since 2011 and hasn’t put in a full season, if you consider 106 games a full season, since 2009.  2 microfracture surgeries later and he is back in baseball.  When Sizemore was healthy, he was a high-impact player, a great combination of power and speed and could even draw a walk.  But, that was a long time ago.  At age 29 (turning 30 on July 21) I think he is a longshot to be a contributor of consequence this year.

Bradley, on the other hand, is 23 (turning 24 on April 19) and is just starting his major league career.  So far in the minors he has shown the ability to play excellent defense, get on base and be a 1-2 and maybe even a 3 hitter in a line-up.  His .404 minor league OBP and .876 OPS suggest he has much to offer in the majors, but until he does, it is just speculation.

My hope is that Bradley wins the job.  He is young, healthy and has significant upside.  While I hold no ill will towards Sizemore and I hope his career flourishes, he hasn’t provided anything in basically 4 seasons.  If Bradley can establish himself, the Red Sox have a fantastic defender playing center who is under team control for many seasons to come.  Obviously I hope Sizemore can contribute and heck, ideally has a boffo year.  But if he does, he is free to walk and will have proved to be just a one year help.  Bradley having a boffo year will give them an option in center for a least 6 years.  I’ll take the long-term success vs the short-term one.

Either way, the Sizemore signing was an intriguing one.  I like it and hope he can help.  Victorino will inevitably get hurt and the Red Sox will need help in right at some point.

No Dempster

Ryan Dempster has announced he will not pitch in 2014 sighting a physical ailment and wanting to spend more time with family.

First the impact on the Red Sox. This greatly erodes the team’s pitching depth. Dempster wasn’t going to be counted on for 200 quality innings but as a spot starter and long relief option, he will be missed.

By putting him on the restricted list, the Sox needn’t pay his $14m salary. I don’t know of this frees up salary space under the cap or not but if is does it provides space to add pitching help.

As for his reasoning, it really seems he wants to spend more family time which is great. But if prefer he say that without adding the physical ailment part as, and I’m probably looking too much into this, but the physical part is minor, minor part of his rational.

Good luck to Dempster, from all accounts he is a good guy, unless you are Alex Rodriguez.

AJ?

Jon Heyman is reporting that they Red Sox and A.J. Pierzynski have agreed to a deal.  Great, just when I thought the Red Sox were getting rid of a catcher whose name I can’t spell in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, they go and sign an equally hard to spell catcher.  Very selfish of them if you ask me.

Pierzynski is the catcher everyone hates, unless he is your teammate, which means he’ll probably fit in just fine in Boston.  At the tail end of his career, he is a durable back-stop but we probably can’t expect more offensively from him than we would have from Salty.

Believe it or not, Pierzynski is a year older than David Ross, so the Red Sox have an AARP platoon at catcher.  Ryan Lavarnway had best stay ready as it is likely Ross and maybe Pierzynski could break down, despite the latter’s track record of good health.

I like this signing, it provides a veteran platoon situation and doesn’t, I assume, lock the Red Sox up in a 5 year deal with a catcher.  AJ, being the lefty, will get the majority of at bats and that is just fine, as long as he is in the 7-9 spots in the line-up.  Of course, until details of the deal are released, I reserve final judgement.

Simmer

The Red Sox off-season is simmering with no sign of a boil over.  For everyday players, the Red Sox have the following:

c – David Ross (expect him to be paired with a lefty platoon partner)

1b – Mike Carp

2b – Pedroia

3b – Middlebrooks

ss – Bogaerts

lf – Gomes/Nava platoon

cf – Jackie Bradley Jr.

rf – Shane Victorino

dh – David Ortiz

Of course Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia could all return thus getting the band back together, but for now, the above is what we have.  As it stands, that’s not a train-wreck line-up, hardly so but Middlebrooks is not a sure thing, although I really want him to pan out.  Drew might be a good defender, but Bogaerts has got to be the everyday ss moving Middlebrooks to 3b and Middlebrooks has too much raw power to give up on him now.  He was a disaster 1st half but posted .276/.329/.476 vitals after the all-star break.  Not all-star stuff, but serviceable and he just turned 25.

As Peter noted the Red Sox and Yankees are both linked to Carlos Beltran.  That’d be fine, I supposed for Boston, but it would mean the Red Sox aren’t ready to give the CF job to Bradley Jr.  My problem with Beltran is that he is old and after seeing him leave game 1 of the World Series only to return to game 2 (less than 24 hours later), made me question his willingness.  It’s the WS after all.  You never know when you’ll get there again, you’ve got to force yourself to stay in that game.  And while he has been decently durable since 2011, remember this is the guy would couldn’t stay on the field during large spells with the Mets.

Aside from that, there really isn’t any news to report.  The big names have yet to drop off the board and until they do, we’ve got little to no news.

Qualified Redux

The Red Sox have made qualifying offers to Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury almost assuredly will not return to Boston.  Napoli, according to Yahoo! sports has a multi-year offer from Boston but is going to test the market.  Drew, according to his agent Scott Boros, will decline the offer and also shop the market.

So if all 3 sign elsewhere, the Red Sox get 3 compasation picks.

My guess is Drew and Napoli return and Ellsbury leaves.

As for Stephen Drew, I think he is a fine player, but not a $14m player, so the fact he’ll decline the tender offer is great.  In addition, I don’t know what is wrong with Will Middlebrooks at 3rd and Xander Bogaerts at short.  If I had my druthers, 2014 would start with Napoli at 1b, Pedroia at 2b, Middlebrooks at 3b and Bogaerts at ss.

I’m assuming the Red Sox think Napoli has a strong chance of leaving Boston and if that is the case, Middlebrooks would move to 1b with Bogaerts at 3b and Drew at ss.  Musical chairs.

Also, Jarrod Saltalamacchia wasn’t tendered making him free to sign without compensation.  $14m for him is far too steep, especially seeing his postseason performance, 19 K’s in 35 at bats and very little contact (.476 OPS).  I’d like him back at a reasonable price as I think he and David Ross make a great platoon, but if he strikes it rich elsewhere, that’s ok, I think the Red Sox will be fine without him.

The GM/Owner meetings start on Monday.  Up until this year, the GMs had their own meetings and the owners had their own meetings but I guess they’ve combined things.  Regardless, its at meetings like this that the foundation for signings and trades are made and then we start to see some crazy action.

What a Thrill

I’m old enough to have experienced a Red Sox collapse.  As a Freshman in High School, the 1986 World Series was devastating.  Probably more devastating than it should have been to me, but I was young, that’s how it is suppose to work.

During my lifetime but too early in it for me to understand the magnitude of what had happened, The Red Sox lost a heart breaking World Series in 1975 and of course Bucky F’ing Dent did his thing in 1978, a truly terrible season.

What struck me Wednesday night was that there is a whole generation of fans, those born, say, after 1986, who don’t have any reason to fear a Red Sox meltdown.  All they know of the Red Sox is that they won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.  Life as a Red Sox fan is nothing but positives, peaches and cream, weeeeee!

I’m not asking for anyone to feel badly for me here but watching game 6 from Fenway was an exercise in anxiety.  In fact the 48 hours leading up the game were terrifying.  What if they blew a 3-2 series lead?  Could it be the Red Sox of old have returned?

Top of the 7th, Red Sox leading 6-1, bases loaded and Matt Holliday at the plate the worst moment in game 6.  I could see the older fans around me, pale, withdrawn, miserable.  The younger fans?  Not a worry in the world.  The Red Sox escaped the inning unharmed and went on to win the World Series.  Perhaps I need to accept the fact the Red Sox have been very successful and maybe, just maybe, are no longer tied to curses or jinxes.

I always imagined myself at Fenway watching them clinch a World Series championship, but I don’t think I really thought it would ever happen.  Alas it did and I couldn’t be happier.

Thank you David and Mr. S for the ticket, I can’t think of a way to repay you.

—–

One quick thing I found interesting.  My phone lost battery charge in the 7th inning, lame.  So when the final pitch was delivered, I was left clapping while the rest of Fenway was holding their smartphones, unable to clap.  Strike three resulted in much cheering and screaming, but little clapping as how does one effectively clap with a phone in his/her hands?  Just an interesting evolutionary observation.

Best Boston Sports Day Ever?

Sunday may well have been the best Boston sports day ever.  Of course neither the Patriots game nor the Red Sox game decided anything but for sheer excitement and thrilling outcomes, it has to, at worst, rank highly.

First I must admit I was admonished by my wife for having a crappy attitude watching the Patriots game.  My son was watching with us and when the Pats turned it over with 2+ minutes left, I proclaimed, “It’s over.”  To be fair, I legitimately thought mathematically the game was over and said as much.  Admittedly I said it with a strong tone of poor sportsmanship.  My wife told me it was the wrong message to send to my son and it turns out, boy was she right.

I think my son learned the lesson as well as the Patriots sure put me in my place and he’ll never believe another thing I say.

As for the Red Sox, I was at game 1 and it was probably one of the longest, most frustrating nights of my life.  The Red Sox were embarrassed, struck out 17 times and only mustered 1 hit and the game took nearly 4 hours to play.  To make matters worse, my drive home from Fenway was interrupted by downed power lines which forced me and many others to park our cars on Route 1A for an hour until things were fixed.  Bedtime came at 2:50 am, a late night.

Sunday night’s Red Sox game was a near carbon copy for 5 innings with Max Scherzer mowing down Red Sox at will and the Red Sox not getting even a sniff of a hit.

Things changed in the 6th with the Red Sox scoring their first run of the series and David Ortiz worked his magic in the 8th.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia capped the night with a walk-off hit.

Game 1 provided much room for debate, like why is Mike Napoli so bad?  Why can’t the Red Sox hit?  How many checked swings can one team have in one night, oh really, that many?  As for strategy debate, I can’t really argue with John Farrell as if your team isn’t hitting across the board, I’m not sure what you can do besides try a few pinch hitters, which he did.  Basically you have to tip your hat to Detroit.

Game 2 was David Ortiz’s game and he got the job done.  His grand slam was punctuated with an amazing effort by Torii Hunter flipping over the wall into the bullpen, and one of Boston’s finest raising his arms in triumph as the ball landed in the glove of a bullpen catcher (how the hell did the catcher even see that ball coming at him by the way?  He was in a crouch, his head below the top of the wall.  When did he first make eye contact with the ball?  Remarkable).  One of the most dramatic sports moments I’ve seen.

Good timing too as heading to Detroit down 0-2 and facing Justin Verlander isn’t ideal.

Mark Oct 13th, 2013 as a special day in Boston sports.