It was a long, difficult year for the Red Sox, and where there’s a struggling team, there’s no shortage of players to point the finger at. That is why our panel of BSI writers had such strong, varied opinions on who the Least Valuable Player was this season. The list of shame runs as long as the beard that once sat upon Mike Napoli‘s face.
Who was the 2014 Red Sox team LVP?
Rick McNair: Jackie Bradley. The offensive side of Bradley’s game was a dismal failure – especially in the power department. The Red Sox may have had some doubts based on 2013, which meant a Grady Sizemore signing and other potential options for CF. Those doubts were correct and someone in the metrics dungeon at Fenway is in full “I told you so” mode. Bradley was almost an automatic out against any degree of quality pitching as it was high and tight inside for the whiff. Defensively Bradley could just about ring up a strong case for being the best at his position in the league. His UZR/150 is outstanding and his arm proved strong and accurate. What I question about Bradley is his learning curve. There was some discussion that Bradley was not the best of students. His failure could prove to be the demise of Vic Rodriguez and Greg Colbrunn. For Bradley to perform as a competent MLB player may mean patience by Boston or a trade to another team. Boston has never been strong on patience.
Sean Sylver: Clay Buchholz. Many expected Boston’s strong starting rotation to keep them in contention following the offseason departures of hitters Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew. As it turned out, Buchholz, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront combined for an 11-24 record and a 5.24 ERA across 58 starts. After tantalizing in parts of eight seasons, Buchholz’s highwire act has worn threadbare, and I’m not at all optimistic about paying him $12 million in 2015.
Matthew Loper: Jackie Bradley. While a variety of players clearly underperformed for the defending World Champs, no one let Red Sox Nation down more. Even his stellar, highlight-stealing defense couldn’t save his first full season in the Majors. He hit .198 with an OBP of just .265 and 121 strikeouts. He had only 1 home run and 30 RBI – totally unacceptable for a center fielder in the big leagues, especially in Boston. It certainly didn’t help that Bradley was next in line to replace the dynamic Jacoby Ellsbury, but Sox fans weren’t expecting him to be the second coming of Jacoby or to lead off. His approach at the plate was maddening and frustrating, and his inability to bunt made his athleticism and quickness a moot point. To make matters worse, rumors of a bad attitude toward the end of the year did nothing to redeem his season and left an awfully sour taste in fans’ mouths.
Drew Peabody: Will Middlebrooks. Jackie Bradley’s abysmal hitting stats made him a choice many people could make (.198/.265/.266 with one home run). Bradley’s stellar defense shows he did have some value, though, and this kept him in the big leagues maybe longer than was good for the team, considering it’s offensive struggles. Middlebrooks, while playing solid defense, didn’t play well enough to overcome his .191/.256/.265 batting line. Especially alarming is Middlebrooks’ two homers for the season in over 200 at-bats. Rather than playing winter ball, Middlebrooks is going to go the rest/conditioning route to try to let his various injuries heal and get back to being the player who hit 15 and 17 homers in his first two big league campaigns.
Joe Meehan: Stephen Drew. It’s difficult to be the least valuable player on a team that you were only a member of for two months, but that’s exactly what Stephen Drew managed to accomplish. In 39 games before being dealt to the Yankees, the panic signing who was supposed to save the left side of the infield hit .176 with a .255 OBP to go along with 39 strikeouts in only 131 ABs. He also took over at shortstop, stunting the development of Xander Bogaerts and sending the 21-year-old into a complete offensive tailspin as he adjusted to his new demotion to third base. Does Ben Cherington deserve some of the blame for that? Definitely. But Stephen Drew is going to be his very wealthy scapegoat.
Conor Duffy: A.J. Pierzynski. Signed in the offseason to serve as a solid stopgap option for a year, Pierzynski not only was miserable at the plate and in the field, but he was also a clubhouse cancer until his release in July. Pierzynski slashed a meager .254/.286/.348, clashing with the team’s high-OBP offensive style as well as their loose clubhouse and simply did not grant much return on Boston’s $8.25M investment.
Ryan Hathaway: John Farrell. As apathetic as Stephen Drew and AJ Pierzynski were in destroying the chemistry that carried us to a 2013 World Series victory, neither player spent enough time to be considered least valuable. I want to single out Jackie Bradley, but that would be shortsighted, as he played the best outfield defense in the majors without playing a full season. No, I won’t even single out the train wrecks that were Clay Buchholz, Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino. I will cheat a little bit. John Farrell shoulders this one for me; as a team that was built on teamwork and heart just a year ago, I was appalled by the lack of effort shown by this team at times. And while it was the players that only gave half their effort, I was saddened to see Farrell so quickly lose his grip on this team. I heard the same whining and excuses that plagued 2012, but alas instead of the comical Bobby Valentine trotting out to the mound like one of the Three Stooges, I saw a disheartened Farrell who looked like he had given up more so than anyone else on the field. I don’t expect this to continue into 2015, and if it does, I will be attentively waiting for Ben Cherington to make a new move for the good of this team.
Michele Pettis: Will Middlebrooks. He just hasn’t lived up to the hype. Perhaps the media and fans expected too much from him. Perhaps he just hasn’t lived up to his potential. Either way he wasn’t a player that anyone needed to have around.