A new Boston Red Sox season and what can possibly go wrong?
With the embedded mindset of the “Fellowship of The Miserable,” the first brush with a new season for the Boston Red Sox is not what can go right but what can go wrong. To quote that famous philosopher – Han Solo – “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Attitude comes into play with the collection of sensitive millionaires that have now joined together to either show money well spent or to resemble the worst of public and private financial disasters. Money does have a tendency to provide complacency and not every player is capable of demonstrating the innate desire to constantly prove something – do I hear the name, Dustin Pedroia?
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The Pablo Sandoval ongoing drama continues to occupy center stage as Panda sailed into camp with a look that was not a streamlined cigarette boat, but an immense tanker with the cargo hole filled with oil or in this case too many carbs. Not a good start. The Red Sox did the right thing and handed third base to Travis Shaw.
Dave Dombrowski – who has some type of exalted management title – has been around baseball long enough to see that you simply win with pitching and pitching – especially in the current “Age of Bullpens” – became His personal baseball crusade and a quality job he did. Then it happened. Injuries.
Carson Smith was supposed to be either a seventh or eighth inning bridge to another DD acquisition – Craig Kimbrel. Smith felt “Forearm tenderness” and in the world of baseball pitching tenderness has little to do with and romantic tendencies, but is often a precursor to a more extensive injury. That left the Big Four of Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Smith and Kimbrel down to a Big Three. Then Koji had a tweak and at his advanced baseball age and a previous lengthy list of injuries that does not bode well and now it could be a Big Two as opening day approaches and Tazawa could make it a Big One if he degrades.
Looking for a nugget of positives among a suddenly dented bullpen is the emergence of Matt Barnes – a former number one pick. Barnes closed out 2015 with some eye-opening positives and that has continued into the spring session. I personally think the real key will be Robbie Ross who was six for six in 2015 saves opportunities and could take up some slack. Tommy Layne is pure situational lefty material and does that with reasonable success. Noe Ramirez looks hittable but gets outs. Steven Wright is well into the bullpen mix – if needed, but the reality is the mentioned hopes are a step down from the injury collection.
Eduardo Rodriguez is everything you want from a young power pitcher and especially his ability in 2015 to give the “Noo Yawkers” something to think about. Unfortunately, the cruelty of the Baseball Gods was on display at Fort Meyers and E-Rod had a minor knee tweak that has migrated into a longer delay. Not a good sign for the faint of heart.
The enigmatic Clay Buchholz has always one to be concerned with. The incredibly talented right-hander could have won three Cy Young Awards if the schedule was 81 games and not 162 games. Counting on Buchholz for 30+ starts and 200 innings is never a good wager.
Buchholz is not alone in the disappointment ledger as Rick Porcello had added to the anxiety medication prescriptions being written in Red Sox Nation. Porcello was a dud in 2015 until a revival took place in the latter stages of a dismal season. This spring has not created any “good feeling” for me that the Porcello of 2014 has resurfaced.
Now to attempt to accentuate the positive there is the signing of a truly impressive pitcher in David Price. This is the template for a professional with a capital “P” as he brings both competitiveness and a world of talent into the rotation. The other positive is Joe Kelly. Kelly did little last season until a trip to the bushes apparently caused some type of pitching nirvana that has certainly carried over to the spring. Just maybe a good arm now has a stable mind?
There is certainly a level of erosion that has taken place in both the bullpen and the rotation and the problem is it is the quality performers that have gotten the nicks and dents leaving considerably more responsibility to a series of question marks – especially the rotation.
The Red Sox have accumulated a bundle of talented young players – Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts all are positioned to take it to the next level – or will they? Ah…just say, Don Schwall, Mike Nagy or Chuck Schilling and plenty more. I doubt it will happen since they all appear “Too good to fail.” But what about Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley?
Both Castillo and Bradley have much to prove. For six weeks in 2015, the defensive genius of Bradley swung a thunderous bat and then came September and back to the .200 mark. Castillo may actually give way to other outfield options if he does not produce the expected offense. And speaking of offense. The reliance is on David Ortiz – a 40-year-old slugger on a Sayonara tour. Can Papi churn out 30/100 yet again? The Red Sox have a potent offense and should get some runs – they always seem to do – but will it be a consistent performance and not in batches?
Leadership is important and that brings in the status of manager John Farrell. The nation is divided on just how to approach the Farrell situation after the performance of interim manager Torey Lovullo coupled with Farrell’s recent very public romantic entanglement. Farrell is also a holdover from the previous management regime and may be on a very short employment leash.
Attempting to shine the light of positive on the Red Sox do have an abundance of talent, money, replacement parts and an energetic baseball ops given firm support by senior management. The Red Sox do not exist in a baseball vacuum as other teams certainly have their share of issues, but the Red Sox also reside in the American League East that is simply once again a loaded division. But each of our division neighbors has their own flaws, losses and issues. Our tendency is to give only a cursory glance to the division.
What has set aside this ownership from the Yawkey years and the Yawkey Trust years is a willingness to accept setbacks in decision making. That is apparent with the amount of money sitting in Pawtucket and the Boston bench and in LA. Pro-active I believe is the term parsed around?
Despite some of the negativity I have put forward, I still expect this to be a playoff team since they will certainly address any issues immediately and make the necessary moves to get to that magical 90 win plateau. Expect the usual disappointments to surface and the surprises to surface with the idea that surprises far outweigh the disappointments.
Cautiously optimistic that 90 wins will be achieved.