Red Sox 2019 success will depend on surviving failure
By Rick McNair
The 2019 Boston Red Sox will have failures and it will take the form of injuries and poor performance. How they respond will determine the season just as it did in 2018.
The Boston Red Sox were no different from any MLB team in 2018 and that is the aspect of failure that happens. Failure can come with crushing injuries, mysterious disappearance of performance, and a combination of both. The 2018 Red Sox made all the right adjustments and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made the right moves to repair any lineup/pitching malfunctions.
In 2019 it will happen – someone will fall apart or under-perform. In 2017, Drew Pomeranz was 17-6 and 2018 turned into a nightmare for the lefty. In his free agent year, Pomeranz’ performance in all probability cost him a multi-year deal and a chance to join the 1% club. Pomeranz was not alone.
Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez missed starts and then Steven Wright had an impressive September only to have his knee act up again. Failure also brings opportunity and Hector Velazquez stepped up (7-2, 3.18) and eventually Dombrowski added Nathan Eovaldi, who may (hopefully) be a significant contributor in 2019.
The bullpen had some rough edges, but that means opportunity with the most surprising being Ryan Brasier (2-0, 1.60) and Brandon Workman (6-1, 3.27). They were needed with the continuing health issues of Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg.
The absence of Dustin Pedroia was a possible crushing event for the 2018 Red Sox, but that defensive hole was eventually patched with Ian Kinsler being brought in. The lineup itself had two no-shows offensively at catcher with Sandy Leon (.181) and Christian Vazquez (.205), but the lineup became rejuvenated with the addition of J.D. Martinez, an MVP season for Mookie Betts, and the healthy wrist of Xander Bogaerts contributing 23 home runs and 103 RBI.
Manager Alex Cora did a very skillful job of keeping replacements as rust free as possible. Rest was doled out and playing time dispensed to non-regulars in a judicious and efficient manner. Cora’s long MLB service time as a utility player is reflected in his managerial style.
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The 2018 Red Sox did not fold when faced with adversity – the proverbial next man standing approach played rather well and that will be an instrumental ingredient for 2019. Something will go wrong as an arm will turn into a wet noodle or a bat or bats suddenly become a rubber mallet. An unfortunate injury will also be a guarantee since it is a yearly event across the MLB landscape.
Last season the shifty Dombrowski filled in the holes expertly with Eovaldi and World Series MVP Steve Pearce. Expect issues to be addressed as they surface and do not expect an emotional must do it approach as with the bullpen in 2018. Turns out it was well-played by DD.
The Red Sox farm system has projected talent, but it is at Portland (AA), Salem (A+), and lower so replacement value may center on the latest versions of Marcus Walden or Tony Renda offering the only potential substance for the Big Club. The Red Sox have – as all other MLB teams have – brought in fringe players with the hope you may have a Brasier among them.
The Red Sox success in 2019 will be based on how they adapt to failure. If 2018 is the template for that then expect this team not to fold when faced with a troublesome injury of a sudden degrading of expected performance. The resiliency displayed in 2018 was remarkable and credit certainly can be dished out to players and coaches.