A brief overview of what new year resolutions that the Boston Red Sox will need to fulfill in order to get out of the American League East basement.
It’s that time of year again. A time when everyone pretends that the start of the calendar means that they can wipe the slate clean and commit themselves to goals that will resolve the issues of yesteryear.
If New Year’s Day has that power, then why does Red Sox Nation still feel the bitter cold of defeat after the 2015 season ended months ago? It’s because that’s how many things went wrong last year for the Boston Red Sox. If they want to get out of last place in the A.L. East, they will need to stay committed to the plan, whatever that may be.
In that vein, let’s look at only a couple of pressing issues:
- Injuries – Seriously, can someone on the team over the age of 23 not look like they will fall apart if a feather smacks them in the face? Starters Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Christian Vazquez, Clay Buchholz, and a host of others spent much of 2015 watching the team play without them. A team whose only All-Star representative was the utility player Brock Holt is not exactly flooding Bostonian hearts with confidence. That’s no slight on Holt, as he performed admirably and worthy to be an MLB starter. However, the injury list looked more like a casualties of war journal. Vazquez’s Tommy John surgery was never supposed to happen at his age and made the team rely on an untested rookie in Blake Swihart to play catcher; Buchholz started the year cold and, as he began to thaw out Boston’s frosty hopes with better pitching, his injury put their dreams on ice; Pedroia played well when he was actually on the field, but his butt warming the bench was agitating some people thinking about his recent long-term contract; and Han-Ram fought the foul wall and the wall won, to the groans and chagrins of the Fenway faithful who know all too well his history with injuries.
- Optics – Can you call running around the bases out of gas an injury? When Pablo Sandoval had to leave a game due to ‘dehydration’ after running from first base to home plate, all of the nightmares after seeing his giant belly in spring training were justified. It wasn’t like the Red Sox brought the Kung Fu Panda in to play third base like a Gold Glove candidate, as his .949 fielding percentage and 15 errors were not the worst defensive statistics in his career. However, the Red Sox did not expect Sandoval to hit .245 with only 10 home runs and 47 RBIs, especially after signing for $17.6 million last year with another four years and $72.4 million to go. Even with optimism for future success, Baseball-Reference.com is projecting Sandoval to hit only .264 with 58 RBIs. Signing ace starter David Price and closer Craig Kimbrel may have changed the optics on the pitching staff, but every pitcher needs less Panda-flopping and more athleticism to back him up.
- Powerful Distractions – Future Hall-of-Famer David Ortiz will be giving up his mighty stick for the serene sands of retirement, whether it be the shores of Massachusetts or his native Dominican Republic, after 2016. Whether he wants it or not, the farewell tour will commence a la Derek Jeter all over the major leagues. The celebrations alone can be too much for the young team around him who are still discovering their own potential, both offensively and on the mound. On their depth chart, the Red Sox have five positional players starting after having less than 2 seasons of experience. These players will be trying to battle through slumps while watching the face of the franchise praised for a wonderful career in each and every away series, not to mention the huge party in Fenway Park at the end of the season. The thoughts of Big Papi leaving in a year may also put unwanted pressure on them to step up and be the power that will be missing from the current roster. If they don’t, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will have to bring in players who can, thereby taking their jobs away from them. That’s a lot to think about while battling MLB pitchers, constantly being reminded that they must produce quickly, regardless of their long-term potential.
Those issues are not the only problems that need to be resolved during the 2016 season, but they are certainly very pressing on the minds of Red Sox Nation before spring training hits everyone in February.
Red Sox Resolutions for 2016:
- Stay Healthy – Cover Fenway Park in Nerf if you have to, but the priority must be to stay off of the disabled list. Health is a major factor, as the team cannot play to their potential on paper if they have to continuously rehab in the minors or sit on the bench. Hanley might have to play some DH if he starts to look a bit ‘limpish’ at first base. Moving a player is not the only solution, especially when he finds new ways to get himself hurt, no matter how much he works out or has trainers taking care of his body for him.
- Optical Illusions – Alright, so magic may not be realistic; however, the optics of 2015 need to be changed. Nobody is saying that Sandoval has to have a body of a Greek god, or a Venezuelan god for that matter. After all, look at Ortiz. Yet, the big difference was that Ortiz produced. Nobody is going to care if Sandoval weighs 400 pounds as long as he can hit timely runs in and play decent defence to win close ballgames. The problem is that nobody believes that he can help to do that by weighing as much as he does, already.
- Stay Focused – Mookie Betts doesn’t have to win the game every time with a late single in the ninth. Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t always have to catch a ball that he had no business touching. Pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens don’t have to be the second coming of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, although that would be nice. All that the young players have to do is be themselves and keep their focus in the pressure cooker that is Major League Baseball. Not to mention the added heat of Ortiz leaving a gaping hole in the power section of the roster. They were not brought up from the minors to be the big hitters; that’s what Han-Ram and Sandoval were brought in for.
Anyone else worried yet?