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 American League East Remains a Powerhouse

Once upon a time, the American League East was baseball’s most powerful division. In the early part of this century, watching the Red Sox and Yankees battle for supremacy was exhilarating. The rivalry had never been stronger. It was Derek Jeter against Nomar Garciaparra. It was Alex Rodriguez against David Ortiz. It was Theo Epstein against the American League EastEvil Empire. Every game was crucial.

That intensity was ultimately cooled, as the Red Sox won multiple championships and old Yankee Stadium was demolished. Some of the history and passion was lost, as the other teams caught up. Tampa Bay won the division in 2008 and 2010. Baltimore rode a renaissance to the crown in 2014. Toronto even won the American League East last year, as the old duopoly was dismantled.

A New Era in the American League East

This year, in a new world order, four teams have a legitimate shot at winning the division as mid-September approaches. And while the division has changed irreparably from the halcyon days, few divisions in Major League Baseball can match the American League East for quality. It’s still by far the most difficult division to win.

 

Right now, the American League East has a combined winning percentage of .523. That’s the best in all of baseball. The National League Central is second at .505. Meanwhile, the National League East currently has a joint winning percentage of just .487 among its five teams. While romping to a playoff berth is always preferable, this may suggest a competitive advantage to whichever team eventually emerges from the American League East. That team will be more battle-tested than any other, having beaten three other teams to the crown.

The Fight for a Title

The Red Sox and Blue Jays currently sit atop the division at 77-61. Baltimore lurks just one game behind. But this is actually becoming a four-team race, because the Yankees continue to surge despite trading away three of their best players in July. The Bombers are in fourth place with a 72-65 record, just four-and-a-half games behind the leaders. That may seem like a lot at this stage, but the Yankees are closer to first place than all but one second-place team throughout baseball. Whether people like it or not, New York is in this thing, too. And that makes for a compelling finish to a bizarre season.

September is full of inter-division games. The Red Sox will play six against Toronto, seven against Baltimore, seven against New York, and three against Tampa Bay. Each division rival faces a similar schedule, with one more interleague series thrown in for some of them. Therefore, this thing could change on an almost hourly basis until the death.

With multiple games affecting the standings each night, scoreboard watching will be imperative. One streak, either positive or negative, could have massive consequences at this point, for a variety of teams. Only the best will survive, as the battle for October reaches boiling point. Let the strongest team emerge victorious.

Dave Dombrowski Has Done All He Can

What more can Dave Dombrowski do to help the Red Sox win in 2016? Not a whole lot. From surprising trades to aggressive promotions, the President of Baseball Operations has worked tirelessly to spark a renaissance of Boston baseball. Now, the trade deadline has passed and the dog days of summer are upon us. It’s time for John Farrell to pilot the plane Dombrowski has built. It’s time to win.

The Dave Dombrowski Project

The overhaul began last winter. Craig Kimbrel arrived in a blockbuster trade. David Price signed a humongous contract. Pablo Sandoval was relegated from the long term plan. In stunning style, the Red Sox transitioned from planning for a brighter tomorrow to fighting for a happier today. Dombrowski executed a shift in philosophy, and a new blueprint was implemented.

Dave Dombrowski

Through spring training, the Red Sox continued to do things differently. Dave continued to press as many buttons as he could reach, hoping to avoid another fruitless October. Travis Shaw became the everyday third baseman. Hanley Ramirez moved to first. A sense of urgency was injected into the Red Sox’ play. They knew the time for excuses had passed.

Time to Deliver

Yet, as the season has wore on, this team has been quite a conundrum. On the one hand, loitering in a three-team race for the division crown is deeply satisfying. It’s all many fans hoped for after three last-place finishes in five years. Yet, deep down, there’s also a nagging sense of underachievement. Red Sox fans see how good this team is on paper, and they think it should be doing better on the field.

Dave Dombrowski likely agrees. At the trade deadline, he made a flurry of moves to affirm that suspicion. Drew Pomeranz arrived to bolster a maligned rotation. Brad Ziegler came over from Arizona to solidify a streaky bullpen. Fernando Abad joined him a few weeks later, adding another veteran hurler to the staff. The Red Sox still haven’t performed to evolving expectations. They still haven’t surged ahead in a tense AL East.

As the calendar flipped to August, Dave Dombrowski played one final card. Andrew Benintendi was promoted to the Majors, skipping a whole level of minor league play to provide a Fenway spark. With that move, the front office went all in. More importantly, it sent a clear message to John Farrell and his coaching staff: we’ve done all we can, and you must now eke maximum value from this roster.

A Critical Stretch Run

The Red Sox are currently 61-50, good for third place. Toronto and Baltimore are tied for the division lead, just one and a half games ahead. Yet by first-order winning percentage –  which attempts to calculate how many wins a team should have based on its run differential – the Red Sox should be almost three wins better off than they currently are. That suggests Dave Dombrowski has done a really good job. It also suggests John Farrell is hurting this team more than he’s helping it.

I don’t want to criticize the guy overtly, because he doesn’t deserve that. A lot of the vitriol spewed about him is unwarranted. But if John Farrell cannot get this team performing to the back of its baseball card, trouble awaits. Dave Dombrowski has used every trick in the book. He’s made all the phone calls, traded a lot of chips and constructed one of the best rosters in a flawed American League. If the results don’t match the projections come October, somebody will be fired. And that somebody is likely John Farrell, who needs to get a better tune from his highly equipped orchestra.

Bartolo Colon a Great Target for the Red Sox

Following Wednesday night’s game, it is becoming clearer that the Red Sox need to acquire starting pitching and one target not being talked about is New York Mets starter Bartolo Colon. Yes, that is the 43 year old Colon who throws an 88 MPH fastball on average according to FanGraphs. Colon would bring stability at the back end of the Sox rotation and the ability to eat innings as an established veteran starting pitcher.

Colon has a 3.39 ERA this year for the Mets with 45 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched.Bartolo Colon These numbers would be very strong in the Sox rotation. However, in the Mets starting rotation, Bartolo Colon currently serves as the 5th starter behind Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey.

Noah Syndergaard: 63.2 IP, 81 Strikeouts, 1.84 ERA, 0.96 WHIP

Jacob DeGrom: 55 IP, 47 Strikeouts, 2.62 ERA, 1.16 WHIP

Steven Matz: 55.1 IP, 53 Strikeouts, 2.60 ERA, 1.05 WHIP

Matt Harvey: 60.1 IP, 50 strikeouts, 5.37 ERA, 1.54 WHIP

Looking at these four guys, some may say that Harvey should be the odd man out in the Mets rotation. There were some questions about whether or not the Mets would demote him so he could work on his game before his last start in which he silenced those critics with 7 shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox. Harvey has been a top prospect in the Mets system and he has a bright future, meaning the organization will not start Bartolo Colon ahead of him. If Colon is the fifth starter and is pitching at such a level, why would the Mets deal him?

The Mets have another elite young starting pitcher rehabbing from a Tommy John surgery, 26 year old Zack Wheeler. Wheeler put together two productive seasons at the major league level before going down with the elbow injury. In 285.1 innings in the majors, Wheeler has a 3.50 ERA with 271 strikeouts. While Wheeler is no guarantee to come back strong, Colon will be the odd man out if he does return. If this is the case, the Red Sox should make the move for Colon.

Bartolo Colon is on a one year deal worth $7.25 million for the 2016 season. The Red Sox could take on this contract and the Mets may even be willing to eat some of it if the Sox throw in an offensive piece that could improve upon the Mets 26th ranked offense. While some may want one of the younger arms from the Mets such as a Steven Matz, the Mets likely will not give these young arms away unless they get an outstanding offer.

Pitching has proved to be the key to World Series championships and the Mets have plenty of it. The Sox have the offense to make a run at a championship but they need improved starting pitching and Colon gives them a cheap but solid option to bolster their staff.

Eduardo Rodriguez Trade Was a Steal for the Red Sox

Two years ago at the MLB trade deadline, former Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington made one of the best trades in recent seasons, trading away one year rental relief pitcher Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles for the once highly regarded starting pitching prospect, Eduardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez signed with the Orioles at the age of 16 from Venezuela. He had been a highly regarded pitching prospect in the Orioles system since Eduardo Rodriguezsigning. Following a rough 2014 season at the Double A level for Rodriguez, the Orioles traded him in order to bolster their bullpen for a World Series run. However, the Orioles ended up being ousted in the postseason by the Kansas City Royals and Miller left in the off season, signing with the New York Yankees. Rodriguez is still with the Sox following a strong rookie campaign, proving to the Orioles that his 2014 campaign at Double A Bowie was a fluke and he actually is the pitcher they once believed he was.

Eduardo Rodriguez: How Good Can He Be?

As a 22 year old last season, Rodriguez had a 3.85 ERA in 121.2 innings pitched for the Sox. Their starting pitching was horrible, but Rodriguez provided a glimmer of hope for the future whenever he toed the rubber. Though he has the potential to be a strikeout pitcher, he only had 98 strikeouts. Rodriguez brings a deceptive fastball to the table.”It’s just experience what he needs now. Every time he throws his fastball to the inside corner, see how the guys react. It’s a late reaction every single time. That’s how he whips. You think it looks like 88, it comes by you at 95,” said the Orioles scout who was responsible for the team signing him when he was just 16, Calvin Maduro. With so much praise from scouts and front office guys, what does the future hold for Rodriguez in a Sox uniform, how good can he be?

Rodriguez has ace potential for the Sox as long as he continues to develop. While he was considered the ace of the team last year, that was only because nobody else was pitching near the level of a major league pitcher. Now, with David Price in the clubhouse, Rodriguez has the chance to learn from one of the game’s best. Current Sox GM Dave Dombrowski has already come out publicly and said that he believes Rodriguez can be an ace in a rotation. As Rodriguez nears his 2016 debut for the Sox, look to see if he can take that next step toward becoming just that.

Eduardo Rodriguez Adds to South Paw Power

A collective gasp shot through Red Sox Nation last week when it was announced that Eduardo Rodriguez would be starting the 2016 season on the disabled list. Eduardo Rodriguez adds a strong balance to a pitching rotation that has the potential to bring another championship to Boston this year. His latest injury, however, worries many. Rodriguez dislocated his right knee cap on February 27th, leading many to wonder if the southpaw would be ready to pitch at all for Boston in 2016. While Rodriguez said he feltEduardo Rodriguez adds fine after some practice throws last Wednesday, Red Sox manager John Farrell wants to make sure he’s healthy before taking the mound again. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

I’m thankful that Rodriguez’s injury isn’t too bad because he’s going to be a key player in the Red Sox rotation this season. After going 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA in 2015, Rodriguez became the first Red Sox rookie southpaw to win at least 10 games; John Curtis won 11 games in 1972. What I’m particularly excited about is that Rodriguez is young and will have plenty of time to develop for the Red Sox. I’m excited about Rodriguez’s potential after posting strong numbers during his rookie year.

On a larger level, the Red Sox are already in a strong position pitching-wise this upcoming season. They’ll have four left-handed pitchers on their rotation this season. With David Price as the Red Sox ace, followed by Henry Owens and Wade Miley, Eduardo Rodriguez adds extra defense for the team. The southpaws will be needed to keep opposing batters in check while David Ortiz, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Travis Shaw add their offensive power. This number of southpaws will also be important because it’ll make it harder for the teams that repeatedly beat the Red Sox last season to do the same this season. Although the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays beat the Red Sox 11 and 10 times last season, respectively, their hitters struggled more against left-handed pitchers than right-handed ones. While those teams were not playoff contenders, beating them this season with our southpaw-dominant pitching rotation will give the Red Sox more wins, making them a stronger threat in the American League.

I’m lucky that my season tickets are on the first base line. It’ll give me a better view of Rodriguez when he takes the mound for Boston this season.