You saw this story and you’re probably thinking “you guys are a bit late with the farewell to the Boston Red Sox,” and that’s a fair statement since the team was pretty much out of it months ago. But, so what, we just got around to it.
The 2015 season was one of the most memorable in recent memory in New England for all the wrong reasons. Yet, unlike past seasons of infamy in the team’s history, there was far less chatter (at least nationally) about the players at fault – though blame largely falls at their feet – and much, much, much more about the powers that be.
In advance, to all of my former classmates at Babson College, I'm sorry.
Several teams made a whole lot of noise in the offseason, including the "Sawx", who annually like to load their famous spring training truck with super-high expectations. Boston threw even more money into their lineup with third baseman Pablo Sandoval, a three-time World Series champion who came off of another sterling performance in the Fall Classic, and Hanley Ramirez, a former Red Sox prospect whose talents flourished and frustrated elsewhere for the last decade.
.@mookiebetts robbed a HR to seal a @RedSox win, and Bullpen Cop was there to celebrate: https://t.co/mlKT8xfuIY pic.twitter.com/G0RE6eF45Q
— Cut4 (@Cut4) September 26, 2015
There was also some infusion of youth on the field, though it could have been done much, much sooner. After years of a revolving door at shortstop (and somewhat at third base), Xander Bogaerts was the team's most anticipated call-up since Mia Hamm’s husband. Mookie Betts’ game has been as good has his name. Jackie Bradley, Jr. had a few of the moments expected of him in 2014. Brock Holt worked his way into the lineup (or just happened to be the right guy at the right time.) After a slow start, David Ortiz started launching bombs into many American League ballparks.
And yet, Mike Napoli started his season 0-for-everything before a May hot streak was tempered with more struggles at the plate, barely hitting above .200 before being sent back to Texas at the trade deadline. Dustin Pedroia will miss close to 40% of the season when it's all said and done.
And the pitching... Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez took the hill against some of the best batting orders in the game.
Feel where this is going? No? Please forgive me.
Let's start with the month of May. Even though Napoli found some sort of magic for a few days, no one else could. Boston scored just 82 runs over 29 games in the month. That on its own is bad, but when you consider that the team couldn't field well or pitch, allowing 124 runs (a -42 run differential in the month) created a hole too difficult to get out of in the AL East, a division of good and great offenses.
Then, there was the idea that Ramirez could actually play in the outfield. People tend to think of left field as the least important defensive position, and that’s not entirely untrue. Yet, a ball will still get hit there, and a game can be lost if it is misplayed. It’s one thing to make the transition out of the infield and into field position #7, but it’s another when you play in baseball’s most (in)famous outfield and that Green Monster. And Ramirez just wasn’t cut out for it, although maybe he can take a page from another infielder who had been through a similarly painful transition to the outfield; Alfonso Soriano.
Sandoval was a complete non-factor for the entire season, whether at the hot corner or at the plate. A switch-hitter who should have helped kick up Boston’s run totals, his first season in the American League may have been a hex on him after departing the San Francisco Giants on unfriendly terms.
Oh, and once again, the pitching. This is probably where the Red Sox’ season went to hell in a hand basket long before the big money additions did. Jon Lester didn’t return to Boston after being traded from the team last year. With other major names gobbled up and very little to work with in the minors, the Red Sox trotted out what many called just a bunch of third-starters and a bullpen bursting at the seams. All of this before you can mention injuries to top-line starter Clay Bucholtz and closer Koji Uehara, among others.
Didn't I say I'm sorry?
Everything mentioned above already signified that this season was a lost cause. However, the real smoldering fires have to do with the business of being the Boston Red Sox. In August, Larry Lucchino stepped down as team president and CEO. His role in the successes and failures of the franchise since 2002 is hotly debated, but there’s little doubt on how divisive he was as an executive from the departure of general manager Theo Epstein and former manager Terry Francona to the disastrous (or hilarious, if you loathe all things Boston) hiring of Bobby Valentine to the major relocation controversy surrounding the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Then, there was the unfortunate news that manager John Farrell was diagnosed with a “highly curable” form of leukemia. (Let us hope for a strong recovery and a return to good health.)
Last, but not least, there’s the broadcast booth where NESN, the team’s regional sports channel, decided to not retain beloved play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo next season. There was and still is enough rage within Red Sox Nation to film a sequel to The Departed.
How many times do I have to apologize?
Principal owner John Henry knew that despite winning the Series in 2013 and the team's third in a decade, keeping former Epstein lieutenant Ben Cherington as general manager wasn’t going to bring back the year-after-year consistency the Red Sox built in the Aughts (the 2000s). In deciding to not retain Cherington, Henry hired former Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski as the new Red Sox president. (Someone failed up, right?) In addition, Henry and Dombrowski added more to the brain trust recently as Frank Wren, the former Atlanta Braves general manager, was brought on as an advisor and the team’s assistant GM Mike Hazen replaces Cherington.
All of this matters because these men must collectively decide if the roster, as currently constructed, needs another season to gel or if players must be moved once again before the bottom completely falls out. What has been good about this season is that younger players have been able to emerge as the season progressed. Betts is a dynamo who can duplicate for some of the perfect annoyance that Pedroia made a name off of. Younger and with a cheaper salary, Brock Holt made Napoli expendable at the trade deadline and could possibly do the same to Sandoval in the hot corner if the team is serious about moving Ramirez to first base. Bogaerts will get better and better. And let us not forget the 22 year-old Henry Owens, who the team hopes can sort himself out to become a significant contributor in changing the fortunes of the pitching staff (he's pitched ten games this season after being called up to the majors on August 4th).
David Ortiz added another brilliant chapter to his
Hall of Fame career sports bar debate case file, but there are so many times a great player can overcome a sluggish start to the season (although, Ortiz is as likely as anyone prove that theory wrong). The injury concerns of Pedroia, who is still the most productive sub-six foot player in the game outside of Houston's Jose Altuve, may or may not solve themselves into 2016.
What is probably the most frustrating part of the 2015 season is that the Red Sox have been playing much better baseball in the last few weeks. They very well may end the year at or just a game or two shy of .500, despite dipping as far down as 14 games under in mid-August. Whatever the new executives decide to do with Ramirez and Sandoval will shape more than next season, but at least the following two as they know youth must be served.
And if not, a few more people owe some apologies.
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