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It was a long, frustrating season. There were many times I wanted to give up on them. Mostly I wanted to fire Farrell. But the frustration of this season doesn’t lie at just at Farrell’s door.

  1. The Missing Papi. Yes, his play was missed. More than that was probably his presence. Some of those young players needed him in tough times. It is hard to know but I suspect things would be different in the clubhouse controversies.
  2. Clubhouse Controversies. Price was seriously out of control. The fans just want you to perform as you have for years. It really isn’t complicated. But he thinks he can act like Ted Williams. I understand him being frustrated with the media, but not the fans. I didn’t think he was a good fit here, and still don’t think he was. He treatment of Eck was similar to Manny’s antics that got him gone. Part of me hopes he’s gone. Pedroia struggled with leadership during the Machado events, and not reigning in Price.
  3. Injuries. There were the guys who missed serious time, especially the starting pitchers. Stephen Wright missed the season. Rodriquez was not right even when he was pitching. Price was in and out. Fister actually had some good starts, but that you had to rely on him was crazy. But when your depth keeps getting hurt or can’t throw strikes this is what happens. But it was the injuries that hampered guys: Bogaerts, Betts and Moreland all had injuries that put them in prolonged slumps. Pedroia was having a good season before his knee became too much of a problem. Hanley’s shoulder had an unknown effect on his play.
  4. Sloppy Baseball. There were too many “error repeaters”, guys who kept making the same mistake. I love Benintendi but he ran into too many outs. He wasn’t the only one. There was some sloppy defense at times.
  5. Farrell, Farrell, Farrell. He “protected” players. Fine. But he needed to correct players. He didn’t need to protect Price in the Eck incident. He made so many mysterious moves. He’d play guys who struggled for guys who were playing well. Too many mystifying moves, and not just in the playoffs. You play Devers and put Marrero in late for defense. But Farrell plays Marrerro based on the “match ups” despite the actual statistics that screamed, play Rafael.
  6. Dombrowski. The Sale move was great. Moreland played well, but this team had no power. The pen needed help due to injuries from last season, which should have been addressed. His was a mixed report card.
  7. The B’s regressed. Some of it was injuries. Some was struggling to get out of funks or the sophomore wall. I think we’ve seen the best of Bradley. Betts and Bogaerts had injuries and should be better next year. Benintendi worked through the problems and likely learned some important lessons. But their missing production was a serious problem for this team.

This will be an interesting off season. It began with a bang. Finally Farrell was fired. He was never Dombrowski’s man. But you don’t fire a guy who just survived cancer. They should have let him go after last year’s sweep and kept Luvollo. But he lost the clubhouse in addition to the bonehead moves that probably had Dombrowski throwing darts at his picture.

  1. New manager. Looks like it will be either Alex Cora, Brad Ausmus, or Ron Gardenhire. I’m surprise Gabe Kapler isn’t in there. Of those three, I only want Cora. I’ve wanted him as manager for a few years now. He’s smart, articulate, gets analytics and builds relationships. He seems to have good EQ. Gardenhire apparently has good EQ as well, but is old school and doesn’t like the analytics that Farrell seemed to ignore or his book was a  few years old. Ausmus has a low EQ and struggles in dealing with the press. We don’t need Farrell part 2. Cora, please. Whomever it is they need to build a good staff. Perhaps Butter got complacent but they didn’t seem to fix fielding problems. Too many hitters had prolonged slumps and Porcello never quite got his mechanics figured out this year. That shouldn’t be happening. Update: Gardenhire was hired by the Tigers.
  2. New slugger. I’d like J.D. Martinez, but that would necessitate a move like trading Bradley. Both Benintendi and Betts can play center field. Bradley may help get you pitching. Hosmer is another option and he’d fill the hole at first. But they need a solid veteran slugger who can help change the club house culture like in 2013.
  3. Surgeries have begun. Ross was first, and the least significant. E-Rod’s surgery was overdue and hopefully will resolve his issue with the balky knee so he can trust it again. Hanley’s shoulder surgery was probably overdue. Perhaps he returns to a fearsome hitter instead of the shell of himself he was this year. Pedey should have one on his knee but it may be a problem going forward. This does create some short-term issues. E-Rod won’t be ready to begin 2018. This means you need Wright and Price healthy and ready to go. Assuming you keep Price after sitting him down and telling him he’s been an ass. Who knows when and for how long Pedroia will be healthy. They need a good back-up plan for him. Nunez would be a great one, if you can convince him to come back.
  4. Good-bye Chris Young. He was pretty useless this year. Does this mean Castillo gets another chance? Or does Brentz finally get a chance? Brentz may add some power to the line up. If you go for Martinez, you have Sam Travis ready to play first. He’s not really a power bat, at least yet. Unless you want to move Devers there instead of Chavis. Devers and Chavis would give you 2 power bats at the corners. I’m not sure Chavis is ready for the big leagues, so now you need Devers at 3rd with Marrero as the utility/defensive replacement. Tough decisions, to be sure.All of this is why you need a manager who can work with the young players, unlike Farrell.
  5. 6-man modified rotation? Having Wright is a big advantage if he’s healthy. He could give you one start per starter per month. Sale could get some rest throughout the season so he’s ready to dominate when you need him too. Not May but September and October. In between those irregular starts, the knuckleballer can provide long relief. Now that Farrell is gone he won’t be a pinch runner and messing up his shoulder on slides.
  6. The Unexpected Moves. Dombrowski can’t stand pat. They barely beat the Yankees, but that doesn’t mean they are the better team. The Series-bound Yankees have figured out what the Red Sox haven’t in 2 tries: how to win in the post-season. Their many young stars are progressing. The Sox have to get better too.

This is a crossroads kind of off-season. They will either get better or worse. If better they will be in contention for championships. Worse, and the next few years will be just as frustrating as this one, or more. Now is when Dombrowski has to earn his keep.

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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.

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I had the expectation that the Red Sox could make the playoffs. I saw many of the issues from 2012 resolved by the changes that the front office made. They got some guys known to love playing the game, and able to grind out at bats. The previous season they lost plate discipline. I expected the starters to return to much better form than they exhibited the previous year. I can’t see Lester and Buchholz having lost it. Guys can just have bad years, and when there is turmoil in the club house it is hard to focus on your job. So, I expected both the pitching and hitting to be better.

I didn’t expect a World Series. As the season developed, I saw it as a distinct possibility particularly after soundly beating the Tigers and Dodgers late in the season. I was encouraged in that they didn’t have any big losing streaks.

I was also encouraged by their resiliency. They survived after Clay’s rather inexplicable injury. They survived season-ending injures to the 2 men competing to be the closer: Hanrahan and Bailey. It was disconcerting to see Miller also go down with an injury, but they had enough depth to deal with his loss in the bull pen. It was Pedroia, in my mind, that set the pace for the team. He suffered a thumb injury in the season opener and kept playing. His power numbers were down, but he still hit for average and still played exceptional defense, earning a Gold Glove award.

A tragedy like the Marathon bombings could have distracted them. In this case it drew them together and provided them with additional motivation. Some analysts have said they took off after this, but they were playing great ball with great results before the Patriots’ Day tragedy and the following hysteria until the brothers were killed and captured by authorities.

One concern was their hitting against the elite pitchers, particularly lefties. Sometimes funny things happen and the Red Sox ended up facing 3 of the best pitching staffs in the Rays, Tigers and Cardinals in the playoffs. Not an easy assignment. Thankfully the Red Sox had a pretty good staff of their own. Ellsbury carried them offensively in the first round. Papi was a consistent force in the last 2 rounds. There were surprising contributions from Gomes, Victorino and Napoli who struggled offensively. They had just enough offense to win these pitching battles.

It ended up being a very satisfying.

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This was not the collapse some of the economists have been predicting.  But it felt as devastating.  The team that had the best record in May-August utterly fell apart.  They went from leading the division to not making the playoffs in the course of a month.

There are plenty of people pointing fingers. I’ve read some ridiculous statements.  I’m going to try and put all this together so it makes sense- not sensationalistic headlines.

Issues of payroll are utterly irrelevant.  I don’t care how much a guy is being paid, if he’s hurt he can’t help the team.  So the size of the Red Sox payroll is ultimately irrelevant in this discussion.  You also can’t look at the roster on paper.  You have to see the roster that can actually suit up.

I refuse to point the finger at Theo or Francona.  At the trade deadline the Sox were in an enviable position.  People were largely singing their praises.  Only hindsight is 20/20, so don’t blame them for not having the gift of prophecy.

The seeds of the collapse were sown in Spring Training with Felix Doubront showing up out of shape.  The team had high hopes for him, and he was positioned to be the spot starter like Lester and Buchholz had been before him.  His job was to be ready.  He wasn’t, and suffered a number of injuries.  The depth they had at pitching took its first hit.  And a big hit since they would be forced to rely on the inconsistent Miller and overmatched Weiland.  This would cost them critical games.

It's lonely when you lose

Ryan Kalish’s injury was also pretty big.  Reddick was the guy who ended up filling in for the injured Drew.  He’s streaky, the book says, and he proved it.  He was on fire when he came up.  But down the stretch he struggled horribly.  A healthy Kalish, the heir apparent to right field before the season, would have made a big difference.  But it was not to be (and THAT, my friends, is part of what A-Gon was trying to say).

Diva-K’s injury seemed like a boon at first.  He was horrible!  But if his arm wasn’t messed up, he would’ve been better.  Instead we got a loveable but too old Wakefield and his quest for 200 wins.  It became a source of instability in the rotation.  Combine that with John (S)lackey’s ever deteriorating performance and the 4th and 5th spots on the rotation gave the Sox next to nothing.  Not even innings since no one when deep into games.

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"Are you ready to listen yet?"

Peter Gammons know calls Dice-K the Riddler.  I’d prefer to call him The Enigma, though I’ve called him Diva-K in the past.  He is an incredibly talented pitcher who nonetheless drives Red Sox crazier than Manny “Money” Ramirez ever did.

Dice-K arrived as a highly touted front-line starter destined to conquer America.  He had 6 “plus” pitches.  But somewhere along the road to glory something went seriously wrong.  It started well.  He was a key component of Red Sox 2007 World Series championship (32 starts, 15-12, 4.40 ERA, 201 Ks, 1.32 WHIP) by eating up over 200 innings as advertised.  He had a mystifying 2008 season (29 starts, 18-3, 2.90 ERA, 154 Ks, 1.32 WHIP in only 167 innings).  Notice that consistency in the WHIP.  He gave up 13 fewer HRs.  He put guys on base at the same rate, but fewer scored.  The maddening aspects began to kick in.  But it was easy to look at the record and ERA and get hopeful for the future.

Then started the injuries and power struggles.  Francona has said that he essentially can’t talk with Dice-K.  There is a cultural divide that seems quite ginormous.  His WHIP and ERA have gone up, innings have gone down.  The frustration factor has correlated with the WHIP and ERA.

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It has been a strange season.  And it is less than 2 months old.

We have yet to see the 2010 Red Sox.  In the next few days we’ll see something close to the 2010 Red Sox.  If you were to remove 2 starting outfielders from any MLB team, they would struggle.  When they are players like Ellsbury and Cameron, you can understand why the Red Sox have struggled this year.

The players roaming LF and CF in their stead, while driving in some runs, have given up quite a few runs with abysmal defense.  The game against the Yankees earlier this week was marred by missed plays that Ellsbury and Cameron would have made.

Scutaro has done reasonably well as the leadoff man, but Ellsbury adds a whole different dimension.  With the threat of the stolen base, he messes with a pitcher’s head.  The loss of Ellsbury for most of this season has been tremendous.  You take Crawford and Upton out of the Rays’ line up for over and month and they are tanking it.  The only significant injury, if you want to call it that, the Rays have endured is to the bullpen.  Not quite the same as 2 everyday guys.

Their loss put a big strain on the pitching staff.  Here’s hoping that the pitchers not named Lester, Clay and Bard benefit from that increased defensive presence.

So, I think the Red Sox will look very different from this point on.  They will look far more like we expected them to look (except the offense has been better than some people thought it would be).  They are in the running for the Wild Card as the Yankees start to deal with multiple injuries as well.

While we can’t push the reset button, I think we’ll see a much improved team in the weeks and months ahead.  Maybe joy will return to some of the unrealistic fans of Fenway.

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Going into this season most people, Cavman included, thought starting pitching was the Red Sox greatest strength.  I didn’t think the offense was as “average” as some people.  But so far the starting pitching has been the weakest link, despite numerous injuries to key position players.  We have seen Lowrie, Lugo, Kotsay and now Youkilis on the DL, with games also missed by Ellsbury, Drew and Papi due to injury.

Despite the games missed, the Sox are still 21-13 which would put them in first in most divisions (well, the Blue Jays have barely played any AL East teams).  No thanks to the starting pitching- Wakefield excepted.  Lester and Beckett have been greatly disappointing.

I think it is time to bring up Clay Buchholz who continues to dominate as he did in Spring Training.  This puts Masterson back in the bullpen where he is most effective.  When Dice-K gets back, give Lester and Beckett some rest.  They obviously need time to either rest or figure something out.  Go to a 6 man rotation, I don’t know.  But if the Red Sox have average starting pitching they would have a better record than the one they already do.  That speaks volumes about the fantastic job the hitters and bullpen have done, with the exception of the recently designated for assigment Javier Lopez.

I suppose they could just keep doing what they are doing.  But, will that help Beckett (6.42), Lester (6.31)and Penny (6.9) get back on track.  Seriously 3/5 of the rotation with ERAs over 6- two of them aces????  It is a miracle they aren’t hanging out with the Rays and Orioles.  I am grateful for this miracle, but we can’t expect to keep winning consistently unless we get better starting pitching.

Update: the Herald’s John Tomase agonizes over this after another lousy start by Lester.

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