2012 was a nightmare year for the Red Sox. They were mediocre until the Nick Punto Trade. After the trade that freed up all that money for the future, they were downright horrible.
2013 was in incredible surprise. I thought they would be good, but not World Series Champion good until about August. The hopes of Red Sox Nation were restored. The new model seemed to pay off: no long term contracts, overpay if you need to to do it.
Then came the off season. I will admit, I thought they would be better than they have been. But it seems that Ben over-played his hand. There was too much change. I saw recently that most World Series Champions experience about 20% roster change. The question is, what 20% should change. In 2004 they lost Pedro and Damon. Those were very big pieces to lose. In 2005 they were good but were quickly dumped from the playoffs from the eventual World Series Champion White Sox.
They seemed to learn the lesson. After the 2007 championship, they held on to Mike Lowell who was their primary free agent. It would be a mistake as his hips betrayed him. It nearly paid off as they got all the way to game 7 of the ALCS. All they needed was either a healthy Lowell or Beckett to return to the World Series.
After the victory in 2013 they had some difficult decisions to make as Ellsbury, Napoli, Drew and Saltalamacchia were free agents. All of them were key starters. They made reasonable attempts to retain Napoli and Drew. They made a feeble attempt to retain Ellsbury. Who knows, if they made a real offer during the exclusive negotiation period he might not have gone to the Yankees. I would not pay him what they paid him, but I certainly would have offered him more than they did. They decided to move on from Salty.
The reasons for both were the development of prospects at short (Bogaerts), center (Bradley) and catcher (Vazquez and Swihart). The result was that they had a new catcher to buy time for the prospects, an inexperienced left side of the infield in Middlebrooks and Bogaerts and an inexperienced centerfielder. They also took a gamble on a rebuilt Grady Sizemore who looked very promising in Spring Training but created a log jam in the outfield.
What went wrong? Bogaerts has been one of the better hitters on a team that hasn’t hit well. But he was struggling in the field. Pitchers want a SS they can depend on behind them and he lacked range. Middlebrooks was just plain brutally bad on both offense and defense. He also continued his pattern of getting hurt. Worse, in Spring Training he hit well with his new contacts. He stopped using them because his eyes dried out. He didn’t get glasses like he said he would and hit under .200. What a shock that is. In some ways his second injury was a blessing in disguise.
One big change was that Bogaerts hits right-handed. The man he replaced hit lefty and over .280 against righties. Hang on to that thought.
With Victorino hurt, Bradley stayed along with Sizemore. Bradley played great defense. Initially he drove in some runs, but overall didn’t hit well. When Shane returned someone had to go. Nava, who got off to a very slow start, possibly because he was batting lead off, had options and was sent down. Victorino no longer switch hits, staying a right-handed. Sizemore, who seemed to struggle in the field, moved to left. The result was a batting order that was too right-handed heavy. They have really struggled against right-handed pitching as a result. The 2 regular lefties, Bradley and Pierzynski, have struggled at the plate.
Too many changes in key positions. Too many right-handed hitters. Their defense and offense have both struggled.
Additionally, Clay Buchholz has been replaced by a pod. He bears no resemblance to the dominant pitcher from last Spring. His mechanics are in disarray. Doubront has been a coin toss. That is until he bumped his pitching shoulder into a car door. This puts us out of our misery for a while and gives an opportunity for Brandon Workman to show if he can handle the task.
The bullpen has had problems too. Mujica has been a horror show. Tazawa still can’t pitch against the Blue Jays. Badenhop is not quite what I’m looking for either. They need to make some changes in the bullpen so they can actually get to Koji.
The changes began with re-signing (resigning is a very different word). I put the blame on that monstrosity on Scott Boras who grossly miscalculated. But he’s back, or will be soon. They will have solid defense at short (he made many key plays in the World Series) and a left-handed hitter. This should be taken more an indictment on Will “Can’t Stay in the Game” Middlebrooks. I don’t expect to see him there next year. We’ll either see Cecchini there or Bogaets at 3rd and Marerro at short next year. I doubt Drew will be back, unless no one still wants to sign him but the Yankees will need a short stop so I think they will toss bags of money at him.
Sizemore is still struggling at the plate. The time to give up on him is rapidly approaching (makes you wonder why they gave him a shot but gave up on Ryan Kalish who is now playing for the Cubs and hitting better than Sizemore). Nava has been hitting better of late and could provide a much needed left-handed bat to platoon with Gomes in left field.
Changes need to be made. I really can’t see them sending Bradley down because they really don’t want Victorino to play center and Sizemore probably can’t, at least every day. They will have to wait out Bradley’s hitting (it should come) while enjoying his excellent defense. But there aren’t many options right now. They cannot wait too long because time is running out. Perhaps they can stop plummeting and begin to rise again in an unspectacular AL East.
Update: Victorino left the game with a right hamstring injury, the same hammy that caused him to miss the beginning of the season. This may open the door for Nava to return. For the 2nd night in a row, Pierzynski made a stupid jerk comment after the game. One has to wonder if he will be sent packing soon. He doesn’t seem to have the other guys’ backs.
Update 2: Since dislocating his finger sliding headfirst (stupid, stupid, stupid), he has been worthless at the plate except for maintaining pitch counts and getting walks. He revealed that his finger is still bothering him. It would be best for the team to put Napoli on the DL so he can heal and allow Carp to play some first base and add some power to the lineup.