Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rebuilding the Red Sox Will Be Painful and Require Patience

Once the thrill of dumping $260 million in salary and reducing next year's payroll commitment to $38.8 million from $99.6 million wears off, the reality will set in. The Red Sox aren't likely to be a good team again for a few years. How long before they become a legitimate World Series contender is anybody's guess.

The Red Sox still have a fine group of young players that will comprise their core for the next few years: Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway, Ryan Kalish, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Andrew Bailey. Perhaps even Jacoby Ellsbury (if the Sox can work out a long term extension with Scott Boras this winter) and Mike Aviles will be a part of that core.

The Sox can only hope that most of their prized prospects (including those acquired from the Dodgers in Friday's epic trade) pan out as projected. But that will require all of the stars and planets to align correctly.

The Red Sox spent $175 million this season and failed miserably. They shouldn’t need a $150 million roster to win a championship. They need motivated, determined players with a fighting spirit, a positive attitude and a commitment to teamwork in order to succeed.

The trade with the Dodgers had to happen, and the Red Sox are quite fortunate that it did. What was the point of having so many high-priced, under-performers on the roster? The Sox can just as easily finish in fourth or fifth place without those players, yet save the enormous associated costs. This team was going nowhere with the players who were traded, and it couldn't possibly rebuild with them on the roster.

So, now that process can begin. But it will take a few years before Boston is once again a competitive team, in my estimation.

Red Sox fans will have to be patient, and I think they will be. I think they'd rather root for a team of young, homegrown talent that tries and fails, rather than the sort of team that let them down this year and last.

The Red Sox will not follow their previous path to failure. Signing lots of high-priced free agents didn't work for them over the past decade and management is well aware of that. Boston won't touch Josh Hamilton. The guy is 32 and has way too many problems.

Going forward, I think the Sox will rely more on trades than free agency. Free agents are invariably older, often on the wrong side of 30, and already have at least six years of major league experience. The Sox would rather trade for younger players in their peak years — the mid-to-late 20's — who are still just arbitration-eligible. Then the organization can sprinkle in the appropriate, prized free agents here and there.

But that rebuilding process will take some time, which is not something that most baseball executives or Red Sox fans could have imagined over most of the past decade.

Though they won two Championships in a four-year span — the last of which was just five years ago — the Red Sox have intermittently experienced off years. However, they've have now endured three of them in succession. The Sox haven't won a playoff game since 2008 and they haven't even made the playoffs since 2009. So, Red Sox fans already know what it feels like when their team underperforms and disappoints.

However, this proves that the Red Sox are not exempt from the ups and downs of the sports cycle. There will indeed be down periods. Only the Yankees seem immune to this and are able to continually reload. That's simply amazing.

The best news for the Red Sox is that they appear to have some good players in the pipeline who are just a couple of years away. And now they also have tremendous financial flexibility, which seemed unimaginable just 72 hours ago.

The front office will improve this team during the offseason, I have no doubt. If there are free agents that fit and make sense in Boston, the Red Sox will pursue them. However, they are not done dealing either. It would hardly be surprising to see Ellsbury traded this winter.

The Red Sox have successfully traded four of the nine players signed to guaranteed contracts beyond 2012. In the process, the Sox unloaded their three biggest contracts, as measured by average annual value. The team has quickly gone from $99.6 million in guaranteed money to just $38.8 million.

That can only be viewed as a positive, and amazing, orchestration by the front office.

If this team is destined for some lost years, better to endure them while rebuilding for the future with homegrown talent, and doing it on the cheap.

That's preferable to watching spoiled millionaires act as if they are entitled to not care, or even make an effort.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Epic Trade Remakes Red Sox Roster, Restores Hope

To say that this season hasn't gone the way the Red Sox or their legion of fans had anticipated is an understatement. With a roster full of former All Stars costing $175 million this year alone, the Red Sox woeful 60-66 record and tepid individual performances are monumental disappointments. Burdened by a roster full of entitled underachievers, the Red Sox simply are not a likable club.

The team seems to have just given up and thrown in the towel on an already miserable season.

Going into Friday's contest, the Sox were 6-15 in August. They had lost four straight and 11 of 15. They were 29-37 at Fenway Park this season and had lost nine of their last 11 games there. The once-mighty Red Sox were 16-21 since the All Star break.

Playing sub-.500 baseball has become a way of life for the lackluster Red Sox over the last calendar year.

This club lacks chemistry, heart, desire and will. They are simply an abysmal bunch, given the huge payroll and high expectations.

Boston is on pace to finish with a losing record for the first time since 1997. Considering the high-level talent on the roster and the money committed by ownership, that is simply unacceptable.

However, it seemed that there was nothing the Red Sox could do about their roster until the offseason, at least. Even then, there was a strong chance that they were just stuck with a series of really bad, long-term contracts doled out to disinterested players.

What team in baseball would want Josh Beckett's bad attitude, bad back, dubious shoulder and 90 mph fastball? Who would take the passionless, aimless Carl Crawford and his newly repaired left elbow?

Becket is owed nearly $32 million over the next two seasons and Crawford is owed more than $100 million over the next five. Both players and their contracts seemed virtually unmovable. For guys making so many millions, simply for playing a game, both seemed miserable. Had anyone seen either player smile in the last two years?

The Red Sox appeared stuck.

Then, quite suddenly, along came the Los Angeles Dodgers with an answer to the Red Sox prayers.

Goodbye Beckett. Goodbye Crawford. Goodbye Adrian Gonzalez. And goodbye Nick Punto, a guy known for nothing more than taking up space and destroying his teammates shirts. Thanks for nothing fellas, you're the Dodgers problem now.

Good riddance.

In one fell swoop, GM Ben Cherington has put his stamp on this team and freed up roughly $260 million in payroll. Think about that for a moment; that's more than a quarter-of-a-billion dollars. John Henry must be dancing on a table inside his yacht, drinking champagne straight from a magnum.

The fact that Cherington was able to send three absolutely massive contracts to a single team — and only have to kick in about $10 million in the deal — is stunning. The GM's behind-the-scenes machinations can only be viewed as a coup de tat.

Additionally, the Red Sox will be free of Kevin Youkilis' $12 million salary and Daisuke Matsuzaka's $10 million salary at season's end. At that point, the club will finally be rid of virtually all their bad contracts, save for John Lackey's.

Think the Dodgers could again be fooled into taking another Texas Trouble-Maker? After all, Lackey really seemed to love Southern California.

From the Red Sox perspective, this deal with the Dodgers is nothing more than a salary dump. The prospects (Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Ivan DeJesus and Jerry Sands) are just gravy. One never knows how prospects will pan out. Does anyone remember how good Lars Anderson and Michael Bowden were going to be?

If the two pitchers (Webster and De La Rosa) turn out to be as good as projected, it will only make this salary dump all the better.

Now the Red Sox can go back to focusing on developing homegrown talent. Xander Bogaerts, Bryce Brentz, Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr. (the Killer B's) are all just a couple of seasons away from the Show.

If you are a Red Sox fan, you have to feel a lot better about this team and this organization today than you did 24 hours ago. And for that, we can all feel grateful

Thank you, Ben Cherington. You are not tone deaf after all. You were really listening to the fans and seeing what the rest of us were seeing.

Now we can go back to rooting for this team again. Better days are surely ahead.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Bobby Valentine Is Not The Reason For Red Sox Failure

John Henry released a statement this afernoon backing manager Bobby Valentine and saying the skipper's job was safe. Henry noted that, "Baseball managers often get too much credit and too much blame for what happens on the field."

Whether Valentine's job is safe after this season ends is open to much speculation and he may, in fact, be terminated in the fall. The Sox brass gave Valentine a brief window of opportunity when they handed him a two-year deal last winter, which wasn't a vote of confidence.

Perhaps Valentine won't see year-two in Boston, but the Red Sox failures this season cannot be laid at his feet.

Red Sox starters have a cumulative ERA of 4.78, 11th out of 14 AL clubs. Boston's top-three starters — Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester — have ERAs of 4.48, 4.54 and 5.36, respectively.

If you're looking for the reason the Red Sox have been a .500 ball club all season, look no further. Yet, there's more.

The feast or famine Red Sox have scored the third-most runs in the major leagues, more than the first-place Yankees. Yet, the Sox have been limited to two or fewer runs 29 times. That's not Bobby Valentine's fault.

A whole host of high-priced veterans that this team was counting on when the season began are all having off years at the same time. But that's not all.

Red Sox players have missed 1,119 games while on the disabled list. That's mind-boggling.

The Sox have set a team record by putting 23 players on the disabled list 27 times this season. The 23 players on the DL are the most in a single season by any team in the majors since 1987.

None of that is Bobby Valentine's fault either.

More than anything, the Red Sox really need a roster overhaul. However, they have a number of overpaid under-achievers bogging down their roster, which are always the hardest players to move.

John Lackey will be back in the rotation next season, in lieu of Aaron Cook. However, all four of the other current starters will almost certainly be back in 2013 as well. That's the same group that isn't getting it done this year.

The Sox appear to be handcuffed to Beckett, which is most unfortunate.

In his seven seasons in Boston, Beckett has produced an ERA under 4.00 just three times. And he has twice had an ERA over 5.00. This is the guy who was supposed to be the staff ace from the very beginning, and whom the Red Sox handed a four-year, $68 million extension before the 2010 season.

Beckett responded by turning in a career-worst 5.78 ERA that year.

Bobby Valentine did not give Josh Beckett that regrettable four-year extension.

Firing the manager would merely be an act of scapegoating. The Red Sox face far bigger, far more important personnel decisions and are saddled with some really bad, long-term contracts that will haunt them for years to come.

John Henry and Co. have a major PR problem on their hands. Fans just don't like this team of high-priced, under-performing veterans.

Ratings on NESN are down and ticket sales are dwindling. Maintaining this phony sellout streak has become a bad joke. Fans arrive late and leave early. Season ticket holders can't resell their seats online. Interest in this team is clearly declining.

If management can't fix the glaring problems it has with its on-field personnel, then perhaps they'll make a clumsy public charade of trying to fix their problems by firing Valentine instead.

But doing that won't address the Red Sox real problems, which are all over their roster.