The Red Sox season ended in Cleveland, but officially we will wait until all 162 scheduled games have been played. Yes -- this is a rush to judgment, but this team has no fire, and the players are dogging it; the roster is fundamentally terrible, going through the motions for the next 90 or so games.
They will continue to tease with strategic wins and potentially being in shouting distance of the playoffs to keep up the hope of a dramatic turnaround, like an unwanted guest an hour after the party ended. This squad gives the word lethargic as a necessary addendum to be patched on the uniform numbers.
Management is so dysfunctional that they could not even correctly vet left-hander Matt Dermody, causing another firestorm of incompetence. In their view, sanitizing Tom Yawkey from the historical records makes this a management mulligan. If this represents their vetting ability, it may also reflect their player development ability, roster building, and management structure.
Meanwhile, Alex Cora, the manager or ringmaster, is leaving righty Corey Kluber in to be embarrassed—the humiliation of a two-time Cy Young winner. Cora also addressed Alex Verdugo, who took a siesta to first base. And then there is Mr. Jog, otherwise known as Rafael Devers.
Cora is just in a holding pattern until Jason Veritek becomes manager.
The Red Sox need a good housecleaning to get back on track
The Red Sox have now accomplished a back-to-the-future team circa 1966 with dismal play, disinterested players, the inept front office of Pinky Higgins, and the thundering on-field incompetence of Billy Herman. A 90-loss squad that was symptomatic of all Red Sox teams from 1961-1966. The previous season had 100 losses, and a trend was being established.
The owner, Thomas Yawkey, had seen enough, and a house cleaning commenced, especially with attendance now in the depths of the American League. Herman was fired, and Dick O'Connell replaced Higgins, and in the offseason, Dick Williams came in to restore order to the playpen. The children were about to be held accountable.
The 1966 team differs from the 2023 team in that it had a core of young talent that was producing or soon would be. George Scott, Carl Yaztrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, Tony Conigilaro, Reggie Smith, and Jim Lonborg. Veterans would eventually be mixed into complementary pieces that would fit and fit perfectly.
What do you have in 2023? Is Triston Casas the next "Boomer" Scott? How about the next Mario Mendoza? Rafael Devers as a Yaz is laughable, although Raffy is physically beginning to resemble Joe Foy from '67. Bobby Dalbec is hitting like Tony C; only Tony did it in MLB and Dalbec in 3A. Jarren Duran will not elicit memories of Smith. I see this current team maturing differently than that of 1966 eventually did.
The Bloom decisions invariably go sour. A reward for Michael Wacha and Nathan Eovaldi is a big "See Ya!" and out the door. Player development could be more active, especially in pitching. Fundamentals have gone into hiatus. As the saying goes: "The fish rots from the head down." This past winter, I wrote about defending Bloom which now is as foolish as my prediction of the Red Sox winning the division. Do not seek my advice on investments, relationships, politics, and projections.
I was in Cleveland recently for the Red Sox series against the Guardians and saw Boston's future. Attendance could have been better; the Guardians were barely competitive, media interest was minimal, and the two teams had more holes than a dozen donuts. Red Sox fans were scarcely present for the series, which is a negative trend. This team usually packs them in on the road. The Guardians are going down the rabbit hole, and so are the Red Sox.
The Red Sox are now the land of bad contracts, equally bad play, disheartened fans, and soon-to-be dwindling interest. The spiral will continue as it did in 1961-1966, with a scattering of fans attending games, players exhibiting as much enthusiasm as reading the notes from a library board meeting, and now we have a voracious media feasting on the present target-rich environment for all the ills of the Red Sox.
Is there a cure? This is an ownership issue, and John Henry and his crew have lost their fastball, which started with the exit of Mookie Betts and has continued. Yawkey was in his early 60s when he got the vacuum cleaner out, which created a revitalization of the franchise that has continued until now.
John Henry is 73 and still young enough to restore a slipping legacy, and Henry must create a new executive team to revitalize a fast-disintegrating flagship franchise, and just as some players can't play in Boston may apply to some executives who can't be president of baseball operations in Boston.
Bloom has already tossed out partial acceptance of the team's failures, but I would expect soon Bloom will join Ben Cherington and Dave Dombrowski with the word "former" on their resume, although both won a World Series. With that will come the inevitable managerial change, so Jason Varitek, you are now in the bullpen.
BSI provides volumes of information on player development, which is the one area I now see as underperforming. Marcelo Mayer is supposed to be the next great, but I have doubts based on a string of highly touted prospects who have yet to achieve. And, yes, a portion traces back to pre-Bloom.
This is now on Bloom, who has been running the show for four years. Is this a hasty condemnation on my part? Probably so, but it also stretches to the area of low-cost players. There should be more Rob Refsnyder types on the mound or the field since Bloom was known in Tampa for plugging holes and not creating them.
As a fan, this team should have Betts, Devers, and Xander Bogaerts as their core, and Henry and his regime blew it with a lack of contractual aggressiveness, insulting offers, and bitter arbitrations. Tampa and the Braves are two examples of locking up key players early, and the extension of Garrett Whitlock last season is a change in direction. That, however, is too little and certainly too late.
The Red Sox are in a possible local interest sweet spot, with both the Bruins and Celtics disappointing, but the top fanbase emotional and loyalty draw is the Patriots. The Patriots are on the fast track to irrelevance, creating an excellent spot for the Red Sox to fill.
Filling that takes wins, risky spending, and players who are invested in hustle and not slow motion dogging it like Verdugo and Devers. The fans will roast both, especially those of us who think Trot Nixon is the benchmark for being a dirt dog. Otherwise, it may be another 86 years of disappointment.