…And so do I.
Over the winter, Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington was asked if he felt a sense of urgency to re-sign shortstop Stephen Drew as the final piece to his off season puzzle.
Cherington responded that although the Sox would love to have Drew back, he was comfortable going into spring training and the season with the club he has and I’m inclined to agree with him.
My main reason for feeling this way is because I think the Red Sox organization has essentially earned a mulligan with the fan base in 2014. Last year’s championship was so unexpected and spectacular that management should take this opportunity to build the team the way it wants for the future.
Sep 24, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (25) hits a single during the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
That means going with young players in key positions, like Jackie Bradley, Jr. in center field, Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base. It’s time to find out if these guys are the future at these three positions. Why not do it when you are coming off a championship and fully in the good graces of the fan base?
If the Sox go out and win 88-92 games this year and miss the playoffs but find out about the prospects in their farm system then, to me, this season will still be a success. I’m not the type of fan that feels it is my birthright to win the World Series every year so if this season is a bit of a rebuild or exploration of talent, then so be it. I’m fine with it.
That’s not to say that Cherington feels 2014 is a free pass or that the Sox won’t try to field a competitive, championship level team this season. But, at some point, if you have a rich minor league system you have to find out if the talent actually matches the projections. And if these kids are the real deal, then the Sox will certainly be big time contenders.
Cherington went out and made some under the radar signings like Burke Badenhop and Edward Mujica for the bullpen and the intriguing Grady Sizemore for outfield depth. I think that proves he knows he needs to patch some things here and there.
But I also believe he feels 2014 is the time to find out if he has his CF, SS and 3B for the next 5-7 years and if his pitching pipeline, filled with guys like Brandon Workman, Drake Britton, Anthony Ranaudo , Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Henry Owens is the future of his rotation and bullpen.
Jul 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Brandon Workman (67) pitches during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Unlike the Yankees who are signing $175 million “third starters”, the Sox are deep in home grown talent, are coming off a surprise championship and must use this time to find out the future direction of the franchise. There is no sense of desperation coming off a World Series win. So instead of acting like the Yankees and piling on free agents to try and repeat, I love the approach Cherington is taking.
I’m of the belief that Bradley will be the answer in center and having Sizemore on the team will be a good problem to have. I also think Middlebrooks will blossom this season as an all-around player and that Bogaerts will live up to the hype based on the maturity he showed in the postseason.
I also think Workman will “work” his way into a major role on the staff this season and that De La Rosa and Webster will show that they are the future of the rotation when they get their chances this season.
Am I overly optimistic? Maybe. After all, everything went right for this team last year and you have to think there will be some regression. If there is, then they’ll deal with it. The world won’t end.
As I said earlier, I’m not judging this season solely on whether the team repeats or not. They don’t have to be world beaters. They only need to show that the future is secure and it will be good enough. That’s why I am as comfortable as the GM with the 2014 Red Sox as currently constituted.