There’s nothing like a frustrating home town team to get a blocked writer blogging again. Surprisingly, I quit blogging about the Red Sox in the middle of their miraculous streak towards becoming 2013 World Series champions. Friends asked why. The only reason I could come up with was that I was too afraid to acknowledge that the Band of Bearded Brothers could go all the way. The proverbial jinx. The clubhouse full of good guys and spare parts (as I foolishly called them in a post that previous winter) had a certain magical quality to them. Everything went their way. John Farrell was a miracle worker. He allowed us to put the horrid memory of 2012 (and Bobby Valentine) behind us. From worst to first.
Then 2014 happened. There was no question that the Bearded Brothers would be broken up. Some of the Bearded Brothers were not invited back to the party. They lost their speedy centerfielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, to the Yankees, their good guy catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, to the Marlins, and sure-handed shortstop, Stephen Drew, to free agency. The addition of the always-unpopular A.J. Pierzynski was confounding. Adding the oft-injured Grady Sizemore was deemed necessary in case young Jackie Bradley, Jr. failed to hit big league pitching. Neither one of them could get anything going. 2013 hero, Shane Victorino, was out with a back injury most of the year. The chemistry that was apparent in 2013 was no more. John Farrell didn’t seem quite so infallible. His on-field calls were starting to be questioned. By the middle of the summer, the team was broken. Fire sale time. GM, Ben Cherington, started trading off spare parts. Only some of them were not spare. Clubhouse policeman, Jonny Gomes, took his winning spirit to Oakland. Fan favorite (but ultimately disappointing) Will Middlebrooks was given his walking papers. Most of the starting rotation was traded away — their ace, John Lester, a healthy but unhappy John Lackey, and the emotional Jake Peavy. In one of the worst moves in my opinion, they let lefty reliever Andrew Miller go to the Orioles. We sure could use him now. Young rookies, Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts felt the heat of trying to carry a big league team before they should have had to and they were exposed in the worst way. The only bright lights in 2014 were the young and athletic Mookie Betts, a blocked second baseman who they set loose in the outfield, young catcher, Christian Vazquez, with his cannon of an arm and pitch framing skills, and utility extraordinaire, Brock Holt, who did everything but pitch and catch — and did it well. But, still, First to Worst was the theme of 2014.
Was 2014 just a blip on Farrell and Cherington’s screen?
Would things turn around in 2015? Spring training was hopeful. The Sox signed slugger third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, and brought back former Red Sox shortstop, Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez so much wanted to return to the Red Sox that he agreed to play left field for the first time in his career. Don’t even get me started. What could go wrong?
Slugger Yoenis Cespedes who came in the trade of ace, Lester, to the Athletics disappeared in the blink of an eye and was traded in spring training. Cherington – or someone – decided the Red Sox didn’t need an ace or two. Nope. Let’s just go with 5 questionable alternatives. Clay Buchholz? Well, let’s just see if he could finally pull on his big boy panties and be the ace. Rick Porcello came in from the Tigers. I liked the signing but let’s not forget that he was left off the Tigers post-season rotation. Wade Miley? Who? A National League pitcher. Whatever. Joe Kelly with his zippy fastball. He has no idea where it’s going but it’s zippy. Old friend and good guy, the inconsistent Justin Masterson returned to see if he could get his career back on track. He didn’t and now he’s on the pretend DL trying to get himself together. Enter long-time AAA knuckleballer, Steven Wright. Maybe I’m still too close to watching the tail-end of Tim Wakefield’s career to want to watch another knuckleball pitcher every five days. No ace. No race.
But, surprise! After their pitching coach, Juan Nieves, was fired, the starting pitchers have each stepped it up and turned in a couple of good outings. (As if it was Nieves fault! LOL!) The baseball fan in me said, “OKAY NOW! We can get this season on a roll!” But, the long-time Red Sox fan in me said, “Okay now. Waiting for the other cleat to drop.” Bingo!
Where has all the offense gone; long time passing. Where have all the hitters gone; long time ago? When will they ever learn? When will I ever learn? (With apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary.) Cherington filled this team with “sluggers”– David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Napoli. The lineup should be frightening. Instead it’s pathetic. Ortiz looks his age — whatever age that is. Pedroia was supposed to come back healthy and get back to his “Laser Show” status. Two catchers went down with injuries. Young’uns, Bogaerts, Betts, Holt and Swihart are having their ups and downs as expected. They are not supposed to be carrying the load. Allen Craig and Daniel Nava were supposed to be deep depth in the outfield. Craig has been DFA’d and Nava is not performing with the limited play he has had. Shane “Every Little Thing’s Gonna be Alright” Victorino was going to return from back surgery and patrol right field — except he can’t stay on the field. The Sox brought up Cuban outfielder, Rusney Castillo, and everyone acted like the second-coming had arrived. In his very first game, it became clear that he’s not going to save this team. Every little thing is NOT going to be alright. John Farrell and Ben Cherington are under the microscope and in the crosshairs of the fans. Too bad they both have brand new extensions to their contracts. The only thing worse than being Worst is being Cursed. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 Red Sox.
Perhaps the failure of 2012 should not be pinned on Bobby Valentine. (Ugh. What a horrible admission!!) Perhaps the 2013 Red Sox had their magical season and became World Series champs IN SPITE of John Farrell’s presence. Maybe, just maybe, the failures of 2014 cannot be blamed on A. J. Pierzyski. (What the hell — let’s blame him anyway just for being AJ!) Who can we blame for 2015? If you tell me the season is too young to throw in the towel, I will tell you that you, my friend, are delusional. The only reason the Red Sox are not totally out of the standings is that the rest of the AL East is underperforming. It’s only a matter of time. With so much of the season still remaining, I don’t feel hopeful. Instead I feel dread. Dread for five more months of .500 baseball. If we’re lucky. It’s sad. With the payroll the Red Sox have in place, it’s more than sad. It’s tragic. It’s embarrassing. It’s tragically embarrassing. For owner, John Henry, it must be infuriating. But he is not the only one seeing red.