Boston Red Sox pitching is a disaster and that means changes as in a new pitching coach. Just who?
The Boston Red Sox fans and media are now engaged in watching the Sword of Damocles eventually sever employment ties of manager John Farrell with the team. This is inevitable and with it comes the second opportunity and that is the annual replacement of the pitching coach.
A quick review of how the Red Sox managed to place themselves between the rock and the hard place.
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You don’t need the NSA, CIA, FBI or any clandestine Black Ops agency to reveal the fact that the Red Sox have failed to develop a young pitcher going on a decade. They draft, they sign, they are patient and they ultimately fail to produce. Even last season’s fast becoming a flash in the pan – Eduardo Rodriguez – was brought in from the outside.
Some may just be attributed to misfortune such as Sonny Gray being drafted and the Red Sox then taking their second choice Matt Barnes. Some may just be the delicate nature of pitchers since many have a million dollar arm and a ten-cent brain. What is certainly a part of the mix I subscribe to is it is systematic.
What is it with the organization that somehow misses out on development? Is it the inherent attitude that simply overrate young players? Is it some type of quirky development strategy where not all parties are on page one or better defined as leadership. Whatever is happening the pitching situation is murky.
The Red Sox have a high-priced mid-rotation pitcher acquired via trade in Rick Porcello. They also now hold an enormous contract on the Faux Ace of the staff one David Price. Fortunately, Steven Wright – a Cleveland reject – has suddenly blossomed into the real ace of the staff.
The idea is for the farm system to produce so you can replace a Jacoby Ellsbury or Jon Lester and the farm system has done exactly that sans pitching – the premier position. So outside you go to toss millions to fix what should be minimal and not major if development had proven itself.
A look for a new pitching coach could initially be internal with Pawtucket’s Bob Kipper – a seasoned veteran – as a possibility. Kipper certainly can take his bows for the performance of the Portland Sea Dogs staff in 2014 including the emergence of Brian Johnson and Henry Owens.
Another plus from that season was the acquisition of E-Rod who remained in the Eastern League and went from an ERA of 4.79 to 0.96. Was Kipper responsible? The group advanced to Pawtucket in 2015 along with borderline prospect Keith Couch and the surge continued with E-Rod makes a significant Boston impact and Owens showing promise. Then it crashed.
Couch is back to Portland, Owens can’t locate the plate, Johnson is giving up walks in bundles and E-Rod is a disaster. Maybe with failure also comes finger-pointing? Cross of Kipper.
The Cincinnati Reds are on the fringe of doing what all teams eventually do – fire their manager. In this case it is Bryan Price who has his job on the line. Price – noted for a Tom Lasorda like expletive delivered speech – was once a well-rewarded and sought after pitching coach.
As a player, Price finished his MLB career with a 20.25 ERA in 2.2 innings. That’s it. Not exactly a selling point based on game experience, but as a PC (not politically correct) Price became the USA Baseball Today’s Pitching Coach of the Year Award winner in 2001 when he toiled for the Mariners. Not exactly MVP, but it is something.
Baseball America anointed Price with their Coach of the Year Award in 2007 while Price attempted to get the Diamondbacks to be respectable. From there Price moved on to the Reds as PC and eventually manager.
Price and Farrell have similar roots in both were and are respected pitching coaches. Both moved into the managerial ranks and both will most certainly be fired – being fired in baseball is a red badge of courage and apparently has little impact on professional status. Price is also a coach who appears to have the pitching philosophy that a pitcher must control, take charge, own and fight for the inside of the plate.
Will Price solve the pitching issue?
If that was a yes, then he would be hired immediately by about 25 or so other teams. The fact is the Red Sox have severed Juan Nieves for poor staff performance and now Carl Willis will follow for similar performance deficiencies. At this point, it can’t get any more dysfunctional and just maybe Price could be “The One.”
The other issue is the direction that development is taking regarding pitching. How is that fixed? What can the baseball ops people develop so that this drought is finished? Maybe an Anderson Espinoza will put that to rest?