2013 Was an Exception for the Red Sox

For Boston and the rest of Red Sox Nation, 2013 was a season none of us will forget. Amid the tragic events of April 15th of that year, the Red Sox and their beards captured our imaginations and united a city en route to a championship over the St. Louis Cardinals. A fluke? No. They were definitely deserving of the championship that year. But it was the exception to the rule, unfortunately. If you subtract the World Series year, the Red Sox are 103-149 since September 1st, 2011 according to MassLive.

In a big market like Boston, you expect more. Dating back to the Terry Francona/TheoRed Sox Epstein years, the Red Sox were challenging for the division most years, if not winning it. Even though they missed the playoffs a couple of years, they were still relevant, and a few poorly timed injuries kept them from being a perennial post-season team. At least until the September 2011 collapse. That changed everything for the Sox.

2012 was a complete disaster under Bobby Valentine, which was marked by him calling out his players publicly, notably Kevin Youkilis. Cue John Farrell, who managed the team to their 3rd World Series crown in the new millenium in his first season back with the club. However, the Red Sox struggled in 2014, dropping back to last place in the division. This year? A continuation of 2014’s struggles, which reached its peak last Friday night, when the Red Sox blew an 8-1 lead en route to a 13-10 loss. I wasn’t the only one banging my head against the wall on Friday. But that game encapsulated their season for me – they give you a flicker of hope, then they take it away.

Unless they do something fast, we can expect a 3rd last place finish in 4 years, which isn’t what most Red Sox fans want to see, nor is it what we expect from a team with a payroll at approximately $181 million. Normally, I try to take the optimistic approach, but Friday night’s loss zapped me of any hope I had that they may turn things around.

The Red Sox Are In Crisis

Following a 10-19 May which dumped them deep into the American League cellar, there’s a Red Sox crisis brewing. At this point, with Boston possessing the fifth-worst record in all of baseball, we’re looking at something much more worrying than a simple slow start; something much more serious than a sporadic under-performance. Quite honestly, we’re looking at fifty-one games of unspeakably bad baseball, and, stretching back to last season, eighteen months of abject failure on the part of management to build a team befitting Red Sox tradition. Ultimately, we’re looking at an institutional crisis on Yawkey Way.

Just take a look at the current roster. For a team that cost $184 million to assemble, the Red SoxRed Sox have a disproportionate share of defects and inefficiencies. Hanley Ramirez is signed through 2018, but his defense is so bad as to be nearly unplayable; Rusney Castillo is a raw neophyte being paid like a proven superstar; and prospects such as Blake Swihart and Xander Boagerts have either been grossly over-hyped or severely rushed on the road to Boston. Meanwhile, David Ortiz is lost at the plate, Koji Uehara is showing signs of age, and not a single hitter seems capable of producing with runners in scoring position. As for the starting rotation? Well, there’s not enough ink in my pen to discuss that again.

But, if this Red Sox team seems bad on paper, it’s even worse on the field. Boston currently ranks 23rd in the Majors in runs scored, 25th in slugging percentage, 26th in WHIP and 28th in ERA, despite possessing the third largest payroll. The Sox were recently swept by the Twins, before losing three of four to the Rangers in Texas, including some of the sloppiest baseball I’ve ever seen from a Boston team. In fact, the Rangers series, capped by Josh Hamilton’s walk-off heroics, felt like a new nadir for the Red Sox; a nadir that certain members of team management were fortunate to survive.

Which brings us to General Manager Ben Cherington, who, after years of poor decision-making, is really starting to feel the pressure in Boston. Admittedly, his work in constructing the 2013 Red Sox was legendary, but hitting on so many successful free agent signings in one winter looks to have been an aberration, when judged in the context of his other work.

Red SoxSince November 2013, for instance, the Red Sox’ moves have been terrible. They let Jacoby Ellsbury sign with the Yankees, and attempted to replace him with Grady Sizemore. They failed to pay Jon Lester his true market worth, and watched him join the Cubs. And, following a dismal 71-91 showing in 2014, they invested astronomical sums of money in decidedly shaky investments, such as Castillo, Uehara, Pablo Sandoval and Ramirez, who is already breaking down two months into a four-year deal. Pitching, concurrently, has been sorry afterthought in recent years, with Clay Buchholz becoming the ace of a team whose General Manager is struggling with the magnitude of his position.

Ultimately, there’s a panicked transience to everything the Red Sox are doing nowadays, whereas the mid-2000s dynasty we all so fondly recall was built with calm intelligence. Basically, after years of trying, Ben Cherington has failed to succeed Theo Epstein in honing a Boston baseball juggernaut. Accordingly, as the Red Sox crisis deepens and October baseball fades further from view, it may finally be time for John Henry to clear the decks and get back to basics.

Manny Being…a Consultant?

manny ramirez

Manny Ramirez has joined the Chicago Cubs as a hitting consultant and will help mold the minds and skills of the young Cubs prospects. Team President Theo Epstein also hired another former member of the Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis, to his staff as a scouting and player development consultant.

Theo must be stockpiling ex-Red Sox players and personnel.  Manny and Youk join General Manager Jed Hoyer, Director of Scouting Jason McLeod, and ex-players DarnellManny Ramirez McDonald and Ryan Dempster as former Red Sox personnel working in the team’s front office.

Then there are the half-dozen former Red Sox on the Cubs’ spring training roster, headlined by Jon Lester, as well as outfielder Ryan Sweeney, catcher David Ross, first baseman Anthony Rizzo (a one-time Sox prospect,) and pitchers Felix Doubront and Drake Britton. Let’s not forget Eric Hinske, who played parts of two seasons (2006-07) for the Sox and is now the Cubs’ first base coach.

It’s Manny, though, that is most intriguing. What advice will the twice-suspended slugger impart on the Cubs kids? Apparently one of the first things Manny did in the Cubs Mesa, AZ, spring training camp was meet with all of the minor leaguers and “shared all the things I went through so they don’t go through that” according to reports.

That must have been one lengthy meeting.  What was discussed first?  Being suspended not once, but twice for PED use? How to deal with 65 year old ball club employees with diplomacy, as opposed to assaulting them when your ticket requests aren’t to your liking? How not to be accused of quitting on your team, or will he profess how to force your way into being traded? Maybe he’ll share fashion tips, on how to make baggy pants look good at Wrigley Field.

We all know he could hit, and hit like nobody else.  Maybe, though, he’ll help the young outfielders in the ChiSox system deal with the lesser known facets of playing left field, such as where to take a leak during the game.  With no Green Monster to walk into in the Windy City, the ivy might be a logical target. Then of course, Manny can teach the kids how to make cut-off plays in the outfield when they aren’t needed.

Red Sox Acquire Anthony Varvaro

anthony varvaro

This trade directly relates to the compensation the Boston Red Sox received for Theo Esptein, meaning it could make-or-break that deal from a few years ago.
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In a low-key but smart move, the Boston Red Sox dealt Aaron Kurcz to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Anthony Varvaro who was designated for assignment on Monday.anthony varvaro

The reason why this relates to Theo Epstein is simple. Along with Jair Bogaerts, twin of Xander, the Boston Red Sox sent Epstein to Chicago and received Chris Carpenter (not that Chris Carpenter) in addition to Aaron Kurcz who was the Player To Be Named Later.
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In his time in Boston, Carpenter surrendered six earned runs in six innings back in 2012 and proved ineffective for the Paw Sox in 2013, making him of little use to the big league club. Although Kurcz failed to progress past AA thanks to an injury which sidelined him for the entire 2013 season, Kurcz posted a 2.14 ERA in 34 outings while striking out 54 men in 42 innings of work for the Portland Sea Dogs.
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In exchange, the Boston Red Sox received a proven pitcher who has been effective in the big leagues these past two seasons. In that time frame, Anthony Varvaro posted a 2.74 ERA in 123 games totaling 128 frames and struck out 93 men and walked just 38. To put it this way, the Red Sox traded for a proven reliever and gave up someone who could become a proven reliever.

Without a doubt, Varvaro will find his way into the Red Sox bullpen next season— most likely as a middle reliever. Set to earn $515k next season, he will be a cheap and effective player for the Red Sox, but unfortunately he is not a lefty. The Boston Red Sox could still use a left-handed pitcher but for now, fans should be happy that they picked up an effective middle reliever for such a low price.
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