The Red Sox Are Built for Sustainable Success

The Red Sox are edging closer to their first division title since 2013. At various times in recent memory, that seemed impossible. Too many collapses. Not enough nerve. But as the leaves change color and autumn truncates summer, things are falling into place just nicely this time. The offense is unstoppable, and the pitching has improved. Boston is galloping away with the American League East, and that may be the case for many years to come.

Red Sox

This current success is rooted in fairly recent failure. The Red Sox have made just one postseason appearance since 2009. They’ve finished in last place three times since then, including the past two seasons, while winning eighty games has proved difficult. Managers have changed. Front office members have been fired. New players have arrived on bloated contracts. Yet, through it all, hope still pervaded, for an exciting group of prospects received playing time in which to hone its craft. Now, we’re seeing the fruits of that labor at the Major League level, and it’s pretty magical.

How the Red Sox Built a New Core

In darker days, back when Pablo Sandoval flailed at off-speed junk or Bobby Valentine lost control, we heard so much about the new core developing below. Well, it’s finally here. And it’s finally attuned to big league ball. Mookie Betts has over 200 hits, 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Xander Bogaerts has 20 bombs of his own and he led the league in batting average earlier this season. Jackie Bradley Jr. may finish with 30 homers and 100 RBI with a late surge, complimenting his all-world defense. These players have an average age of just 24. They’re great, and they’re going to be around for a very long time.

Around that nucleus, there are more layers of young Red Sox talent. Andrew Benintendi is just 21, but his grace, poise and ability belies that fact. Yoan Moncada needs further refinement, but his raw skills saw him promoted to Boston before turning 22. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has slowly returned to form, and he may be the Red Sox’ third playoff starter. Then we have Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, one of whom will eventually become the starting catcher at Fenway Park.

Few Teams Can Compete With This Talent

Quite simply, no other team in the AL East can match that cadre of young, cost-controlled, Major League-ready talent. Toronto is a strong opponent, but many of their aging stars will soon hit free agency. The Yankees are transitioning to a youth movement, and their farm is loaded. But in developmental terms, New York is probably where Boston was in 2014. Many of those bright young players still have a lot to learn, and that can be a painful process. Meanwhile, Baltimore relies on a veteran core, and Tampa Bay is so far removed from contention as to be almost irrelevant.

The Red Sox will have tremendous flexibility moving forward, as these players should remain in Boston for many years. However, right now, veterans like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello and Dustin Pedroia are providing valuable experience and leading the Red Sox back to contention. That blend of youth and know-how is crucial. It may just result in a deep championship run, if the magic dust doesn’t run out.

Whether the Red Sox win it all this year or not, fans can rest assured that other opportunities will arise in future years. At one point, just a few short years ago, that was a distant dream. Yet now, after building through the tough times, sustainable success is once again on tap in Beantown. It should be fun to watch.

The Continued Greatness of Theo Epstein

While some hipsters may argue for Andrew Friedman and his Dodgers think tank, Theo Epstein is still by far the most talented executive working in baseball today. The former Red Sox general manager didn’t necessarily build this current Boston team, but he certainly laid the foundations with astute draft picks and legendary signings. Meanwhile, in Chicago, he’s constructed a juggernaut that looks set to dominate for many years to come, affirming his reputation.

Theo Epstein

Epstein’s achievements in Boston are meticulously documented, to the point where people tend to forget the magnificence of his everyday maneuvering. The overarching narrative is intoxicating. Theo’s expertise in statistics and scouting delivered the first Red Sox championship in eighty-six years. As if that wasn’t enough, the wonder kid then plotted a further title run in 2007. The Red Sox were transformed from streaky contenders to serial winners.

Of course, things didn’t end particularly well between the Red Sox and Theo Epstein. Epstein felt pressure from ownership to make extravagant free agent signings that helped television ratings but hindered his vision for a sustainable baseball machine. Nevertheless, despite receiving some unfair criticism in recent years, Epstein left a strong legacy that we still see on the field every single day at Fenway Park.

The Legacy of Theo Epstein

Dustin Pedroia, the heart of this team, was drafted by Theo. So was Clay Buchholz, but hey, you can’t have them all. Theo also signed David Ortiz and Junichi Tazawa, two key pieces on the 2016 Red Sox. However, what many people don’t acknowledge is that Theo also drafted Betts, Bradley Jr., Swihart, Vazquez, Owens and Shaw. As for Xander Bogaerts, that guy playing shortstop and leading the league in hitting? Well, Epstein signed him, too.

Obviously, a lot has happened since Theo left Boston for Chicago, and Ben Cherington and Dave Dombrowski have made worthy tweaks to this team. But facts must be respected, and one such fact is that the fingerprints of Theo Epstein are all over this Red Sox team. Though it may pain some bitter fans, he deserves greater recognition for that.

How the Cubs Were Built

While Boston is a fine offensive ball club, the Cubs are in a different universe right now. Chicago is 44-19, and has a legitimate shot at beating the all-time record of 116 regular season wins. As a team, the Cubs get on base at a .347 clip, second only to the Red Sox, but every starter has an ERA below 3.00 and the bullpen has been solid. Oh, and the Cubs also lead the league in several defensive stats, as if they weren’t dynamic enough.

Perhaps most impressively, this team was built from scratch by Theo and Jed Hoyer, his trusty lieutenant. They inherited a mess at Wrigley Field, and decided that the best way to get better was first to get worse. Short term pain for long term game was the mantra. Epstein was given the space, time and revenue to execute his Utopian plan for the ultimate baseball team.

First, a young core was established, mostly in the minor leagues, courtesy of trades and brilliant draft choices. Then, once it had matured, external free agents that made sense were signed to compliment the homegrown nucleus. That’s how the Cubs wound up with such a formidable team, with elite players such as Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber primed to lead the North Side resurgence for perhaps a decade to come.

Theo’s Visions for Boston Carried Out in Chicago: What will the Future Hold?

Right now, we’re seeing at Wrigley Field what Theo Epstein once envisaged for Fenway Park and the Red Sox. Many people are quick to say that this fan base wouldn’t tolerate such an aggressive rebuild. Surely it was more purposeful than the general cellar-dwelling of recent times. Yes, the Red Sox won a World Series in 2013 while the Cubs tanked, but Chicago now has a window to win multiple rings while Boston’s future is very bright but far more uncertain.

Ultimately, Theo Epstein was the architect responsible for the two most potent offenses currently dominating Major League Baseball. While he certainly made mistakes in Boston, and developing pitching has always been an issue for his front offices, Red Sox fans must appreciate his continued influence on the team’s fortunes.

Perhaps the Sox and Cubs will meet in the World Series this year. After all, both teams are in strong positions. However, when the last generation of Theo players leaves the Red Sox, the true test will present itself. Can Dave Dombrowski match his forebear in creating a sustainable, organic winner? Only time will tell.

Edwin Escobar Could Be a Welcome Addition in the Red Sox Rotation

Edwin EscobarThe left-handed Edwin Escobar was recalled on the morning of August 10th after the 19-inning affair, but did not see any game time due to the seven-inning effort of Rubby De La Rosa against the Los Angeles Angels on that Sunday afternoon. The bullpen was not taxed much thanks to the young starter, but we also did not get to see what Escobar could bring to the table.

So far, the 22-year-old has shown some great poise in the Boston Red Sox farm system with two six-inning starts, five strikeouts in each, while walking no more than two in an outing. He also has a 1.50 ERA with one run allowed in each no-decision.

The lefty had trouble this year in Tripe-A Fresno after posting three straight sub-3.00 ERA seasons in the San Francisco Giants, but he has shown why he was the No. 2 prospect in the Giants farm system in 2014.

The youngster does not have much of a fastball, but he does mix his four pitches well, according to scouts. A pitcher with four quality pitches would be a welcome bottom of the rotation starter who should be able to get the job done on a regular basis.

The Red Sox still have a long way to go in the rebuilding process to be a contender in 2015, but Escobar is an option they have for at least a spot start or two. He is still a couple seasons away from being the fifth starter in this rotation, but it will be interesting to see what management has in story for the lefty when the rosters expand in September.

Red Sox Minor League Teams In Post-Seaon Action

red sox minor league teams

Courtesy of milb.com

The Red Sox Minor league teams, namely the Pawtucket and Salem Red Sox, enjoyed, or are enjoying, post-season play.

The Pawtucket Red Sox are both in pursuit of a pennant race. Pawtucket is looking to accomplish an unprecedented back to back Governors Cup win. The Governor’s cup is earned by Minor League Baseball’s best triple-A team. As of Thursday, they are tied with the Durham Bulls. They return to McCoy Stadium for game three with former Portland Sea Dog pitcher, Matt Barnes on the mound.

The reason this team has been able to go as far as it has is due to the teams strong pitching, many of them promoted from the Double-A Red Sox affiliate Portland Sea Dogs at the end of July and August. Names like Matt Barnes, Keith Couch, and most importantly Anthony Ranaudo made a significant difference in the five-man rotation and the bullpen. Other members of the pitching staff, like Steven Wright, are solid. Catcher Christian Vasquez and Heiker Meneses were also promoted making plays in the field and at the plate. It is unfortunate to see the Portland team lose so many players, yet heartening to see the aforementioned promoted in the system.

The Salem Red Sox have been playing strong in the Carolina Division all season long. Despite their roster changes to promotion to Portland, ME, the Red Sox of Virginia were capable of clinching the Division. This is the first time in five years that Salem was in contention for the division. Players like Blake Swihart, Sean Coyle, and pitcher William Cuevas made the difference in the last few weeks of the season. They lost an amazing pitcher, Henry Owens, in August to promotion to the Portland Sea Dogs. Still, the team overcame the loss of this strong arm and won the division.