The Red Sox Need a Totally New Hierarchy

With Larry Lucchino stepping down as President and CEO of the Red Sox, attention has swiftly turned to the future, with many observers keen to outline their vision for resuscitating baseball in Boston. There has been no official indication of further changes to the faltering hierarchy, but Red Sox Nation is tired of losing, to the point where ownership has little choice but to act.

Ever since Theo Epstein left town, this franchise has lurched from fleeting success to Red Soxdemoralizing failure, with last place finishes becoming the trademark of a strained and uninspiring regime. As General Manager, Ben Cherington enjoyed one miraculous season, but otherwise has been amongst the most inefficient executives in baseball history; his payroll-to-win ratio ranking with the very worst of all-time. Meanwhile, Lucchino, his boss, seemingly got lost amid the enormity of his role, leading to general chaos on Yawkey Way.

Now, with the Red Sox once again commanding the American League basement, the time for genuine change, not a showcase moving of furniture, has arrived. And, in the modern baseball environment of increased specialization, that means separating the business department from the baseball operation, and replacing Lucchino with two, not one, executives.

That’s right: it’s time for the Red Sox to adopt the model used by Theo’s Chicago Cubs and Andrew Friedman’s Los Angeles Dodgers, where one guy oversees the business aspect of the franchise, and another looms as the President of Baseball Operations, responsible for setting the roster-construction philosophy and hiring the men needed to make it reality.

For too long, Lucchino was in charge of both strands of the juggernaut Red Sox, which led to him doing neither role sufficiently well. Thus, with Sam Kennedy already earmarked as his replacement on the commercial side, the opportunity is ripe for Boston to spawn a new front office role for a chief baseball executive.

However, for it to be successful, that incoming President of Baseball Operations must have full autonomy to set the organizational ethos and draft in his own General Manager, much like Epstein did in Chicago and Friedman did in Hollywood. Merely shoving a guy above Cherington wouldn’t work, because philosophical differences may once again arise within the chain of command.

Ideally, this omnipotent baseball executive would be a young visionary, in line with the industry’s prevalent theme. A few candidates immediately spring to mind, namely Jed Hoyer, Chris Antonetti, Neal Huntington and Jon Daniels. However, if Red Sox ownership would prefer a more experienced guy, people like Dave Dombrowski, Billy Beane, John Mozeliak and even Brian Sabean would be worth serious consideration.

In my rebuilding plan, once in place, this head of baseball ops would then hire his own General Manager, replacing Cherington, who is now in an untenable position in Boston.

Ultimately, whether John Henry and Tom Werner are this aggressive in repairing a wounded franchise remains to be seen. The names may not change so suddenly and severely, but, without doubt, the team’s core philosophy, and the hierarchy that enforces it, must be altered now, or risk further turmoil in the years ahead.

Cole Hamels Traded to the Rangers

One more potential target for the Red Sox is now off the board. Cole Hamels, who had been mentioned for months as a possible target for the Red Sox dating back to when the Chicago Cubs signed Jon Lester, was traded to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday for 3 prospects from the Texas Rangers according to Fox Sports.

Whether you particularly wanted Cole Hamels in a Red Sox uniform or not (I know I didn’t), that makes 2 potential targets, Hamels and Johnny Cueto, that the Red Sox hadcole hamels traded been linked with in the media now in different uniforms. Cole Hamels is in Texas, while Johnny Cueto is now in Kansas City. While I stand by the fact that I didn’t want Hamels in Boston, the fact that the front office hasn’t been active enough when it comes to pitching makes me crazy. From all reports, it sounded like Ben Cherington wasn’t very active with either guy, which is worse than not actually getting the guys.

Whether the Red Sox buy or sell before Friday’s deadline is somewhat irrelavent. The worst thing they could do is stand pat with the guys they have on the roster. For the most part, the 2015 Red Sox have been largely disappointing, and they have to make major changes if they expect to get back into contention. That starts with getting at least one solid starter before the deadline. The Red Sox have also been linked with Sonny Gray, but that’s a pipe dream at this point and would take a miracle.

If I’m surprised by anything regarding the Cole Hamels deal, it’s that he ended up in Texas. The Texas Rangers have a tough task if they want to make the playoff – they share a division with the LA Angels and the Houston Astros, both of whom have been playing good baseball. If anything, I’m surprised a team in better shape to contend didn’t make more of a push. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who sit atop the NL West at the moment, were also rumored to be a frontrunner, but I guess they weren’t willing to pay the price in prospects and in terms of money.

Oh, well. Take notes, Ben. We need at least one more pitcher before the deadline. Pretty please with a cherry on top?

Cueto to KC; Pirates Pursue Red Sox Pair

On Sunday, the Kansas City Royals acquired ace starter Johnny Cueto from Cincinnati, ending the sweepstakes for a premier pitcher in whom the Red Sox were rumored to hold an interest.

The Reds received a strong package of three well-regarded southpaw pitchers in return Red Soxfor their 29-year old superstar, who will be a free agent following this season. Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed will move from Kansas to Cincinnati, as the Reds wave a white flag and declare themselves as deadline sellers.

With a 2.55 ERA and 1.042 WHIP over the past five years, Cueto is a genuine ace who will anchor the rotation of a Royals team destined for another run deep into October. Cueto also won 60 games and struck out 687 batters in that span, distinguishing himself as a truly elite performer.

As virtually everybody on the planet knows, the Red Sox desperately need an ace of that caliber; a genuine workhorse to spearhead a weary rotation. However, there is no indication that Boston ever got seriously involved in the Cueto negotiations, beyond courtesy scouting trips and general due diligence. In all likelihood, Red Sox management would’ve viewed the acquisition cost as prohibitive.

But, even as Boston lurks in the American League basement, it is still apparently shopping for logical upgrades. General Manager Ben Cherington said as much in a recent media session, explaining how the Red Sox have “still got to pursue things that are going to make us better and continue to try to build a good team.”

In this regard, the Red Sox seem to be targeting long-term pieces. A recent report by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggests Boston has inquired on the availability of numerous cost-controlled Cleveland Indians pitchers, without much traction. However, the Red Sox’ desire to add sustainable arms, such as Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar, fits with the recent ideology set down by management.

Yet, even while cautiously roaming the buyer’s market, Boston must also remain realistic. Right now, the Red Sox are 12 games back in the AL East, and 8.5 adrift of a Wildcard berth. To reach the postseason, this team would, at best, have to outperform four other club’s and, at worst, overcome thirteen other ‘contenders.’ The likelihood of that occurring is very slim and, thus, the Red Sox are listening to offers for certain veterans on their roster.

Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported last night that the Pirates have engaged the Sox in talks for Mike Napoli and/or Shane Victorino, two upcoming free agents who have under-performed massively in 2015. I can definitely see this kind of deal happening. Not only would it free the Red Sox from remaining salary obligations, but either player could be a very decent buy-low pickup for a contending team such as Pittsburgh.

Ultimately, we’re still waiting for the first domino to fall on Yawkey Way. Either the Red Sox clinch a deal for a long-term building block, or they begin trading away expendable pieces. Sooner or later, a decision is going to be made, which should set the precedent for how Boston will play the impending trade deadline.

Who Gets the Ax for the Red Sox?

The Red Sox are well on their way to a second straight losing season— the 3rd in 4 years—and Red Sox Nation is not happy. After winning 10 of 15 before the All-Star break, the Red Sox have picked up where they left off before that brief spark of hope. Rattling off 6 straight losses against the LA Angels and Houston Astros , both of which they were thoroughly outplayed.

So, who is responsible? Is it the players who have been vastly under performing? John Red SoxFarrell who can’t seem to get a grip on things? Or maybe Ben Cherington who sold off our best assets, namely Jon Lester and John Lackey, and got very little in return? Or, as I believe, a combination of all 3?

In my mind, everyone from the top down to the players has to be held accountable for the past season and a half. Let’s start with the players. The players have been vastly under performing for the most part since the start of 2014, notably guys like Mike Napoli, David Ortiz and new guys Rusney Castillo, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Those last 3 guys especially have been under the microscope given what the Red Sox paid to get them here.

While Hanley has hit 17 home runs, he has shown that he is incapable of playing left field effectively. Pablo Sandoval has been exceedingly average given that the Red Sox gave him almost $100 million. Those 2 have been so sub-par that there have been calls for them to be removed, primarily from the Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley.

Castillo is on track to be the most expensive minor league player in history. When the Red Sox gave him a 7-year, $72 million contract last season, I assumed that they saw something in him that would justify that kind of money, but I was wrong. He’s hit .230 in the majors in 26 games, and spent the rest of the time in Pawtucket.

Then there’s Ben Cherington who signed them to these deals, although he clearly didn’t foresee that they would under-achieve the way they have so far. My issue with Cherington is the way he blew up our pitching rotation last year, especially with regards to Jon Lester. I, and most of Red Sox Nation, would have loved to see Lester back in a Red Sox uniform. Sure it would have been tough to achieve after the initial 4-year/$70 million offer was made, but then  Cherington pulled a deal that sent Lester to Oakland and probably killed any chance of Lester coming back!

Lastly, there’s John Farrell who can’t seem to keep any sort of grip on the clubhouse at the moment. Yes, the players are the ones who play the game, but the manager’s job is to push the right buttons and put the best possible lineup out which Farrell hasn’t been doing. He hasn’t been helped by injuries, but he hasn’t been good enough as Red Sox manager. In his first season, 2013, everything fell into place and he didn’t have to do much, but that hasn’t worked since.

So, who will get the ax at the end of the season? If the Red Sox finish last again, then the cries for heads of management will be greater than they are right now. The Red Sox better at least try and dig their way out of last—that’s all they can do at the moment.

Padres Demote Will Middlebrooks to Triple-A

The career of Will Middlebrooks has taken another sour turn with the Padres demoting the third baseman to Triple-A on Wednesday as he continues to struggle at the plate.

When the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval last winter, Middlebrooks spot on the roster was immediately in question. Will MiddlebrooksMiddlebrooks was traded to the Padres for Ryan Hanigan just before Christmas, in one of the smaller moves the Padres made this past winter after adding Justin Upton, Wil Myers and James Shields. Middlebrooks was the Padres Opening Day third baseman.

After making his debut with the Red Sox in 2012 the Bobby V year, Middlebrooks has not been able to make a real consistent stay in the major leagues. He claimed the third base job from Kevin Youkilis that year and was on track to be the third baseman of the Red Sox for years to come. He got hit by a pitch on his wrist late that season which cost him the rest of the season. In 2013 he was up and down with the Red Sox and even started games in the playoffs until Xander Bogaerts took over at third base, while Stephen Drew was still on the team.

In 2014 Middlebrooks was demoted to Pawtucket once the Sox signed Drew for a second time and rejoined the team after the fire sale that saw the Red Sox trade Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew. Last season with the Red Sox Middlebrooks hit a Mike Napoliesque .191 with only 2 home runs and 19 RBI. Sox brass wanted Middlebrooks to play winter ball but he declined.

With another slow start this season hitting .212 with the Padres he was demoted to El Paso after already losing his third base job to Yangervis Solarte. Middlebrooks had so much potential with the Red Sox. He had 15 home runs in his first 287 at bats in the big leagues and even hit for a decent average hitting .288. Many question the moves of Ben Cherington this past off-season but it seems the Red Sox got the better end of this deal.

Ryan Hanigan may not have been a flashy name but he is a major league catcher and the Red Sox would have forced Blake Swihart’s development even further after the injury to Christian Vasquez, something they may have done with Middlebrooks.

Why is Mike Napoli Still Playing?

As Red Sox fans try and grapple with the fact that the team did not score a run in 8 calendar days, many have to begin to question the moves the team has made and the lineup card that John Farrell continues to roll with on a regular basis.

The 2015 Red Sox are a prime example of the need for youth on your roster. Although Mike Napolithey have some future stars in Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, the Red Sox have had trouble developing prospects at certain positions, the main one being first base.

Mike Napoli continues to get at bats as the team hopes some team will see something before the trade deadline so the Red Sox can sell high on him. Although he had two hits in the second game of Monday’s double header, Napoli was still pinch hit for by Brock Holt late in the game. Napoli had recently sat out a week while the Red Sox went as far as putting David Ortiz at first base and Hanley Ramirez served as the DH.

Napoli is in the second year of a two year deal that pays him $16 million, there is no question he will not be in a Red Sox uniform come 2016, so why are they continuing to throw him out there? Dustin Pedroia is back from the disabled list so, Brock Holt could play first base. Holt did start Saturday night at first with Napoli getting the starts in the other three games of the Angels series. Holt does not profile as a first baseman for the long haul though with limited power.

The Red Sox have two players who are under performing defensively and could make the move to first base—Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Sandoval, a catcher coming up, could make the move to first more easily than Ramirez in my opinion as the move to left did not work out with Ramirez. He continues to look worse, with a ball sailing over his head in Monday’s afternoon game, after he froze on the ball off the bat. If this is David Ortiz’s last year, I want Hanley as my DH and Pablo at first and find a third baseman. The Sox could even play Travis Shaw at first for the rest of the year to see what they have in Shaw as he has seemed to have proven himself in the minor leagues.

Mike Napoli’s days with the Red Sox could be numbered but with them being in last place and likely sellers at the deadline will anyone take him? Napoli is hitting .197 on the year with 83 strikeouts in 83 games played. A player who was a hero for the 2013 World Series team and a man of the people on the streets of Boston, just no longer is producing at a high level, worthy of a spot in the Sox order, but when will John Farrell and Ben Cherington finally pull the plug?