Is Keeping John Farrell The Right Move?

In the wake of the Red Sox season being swept away, questions arose surrounding much of the ‘behind-the-scenes” personnel. The main focus was on manager John Farrell. After a disappointing end to the season, many fans thought their tenure with Farrell was bound to end. On Tuesday, however, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski told John FarrellFarrell, in a Fenway Park hallway, that he’d be back as manager in 2017.

John Farrell went through a roller-coaster 2016 season, much like his team, with plenty of criticism. Farrell, the pupil, was completely outmatched by Terry Francona, the teacher, in the ALDS. It all seemed like a fitting end for Farrell’s time in Boston. To the disappointment of many, that was not to be.

The main criticism of John Farrell has been his ability to manage during the game. Bullpen moves, pinch-hitters, and pinch-runners have buried Farrell’s reputation in the Boston market seemingly every game. When asked about the issue Tuesday, Dombrowski told the media that in-game managing was not vital to the job. Once you get past that absolutely unbelievable assumption, the decision to keep Farrell just keeps getting worse.

So, if in-game management doesn’t matter, what did John Farrell do well? Over the course of the year, he has received praise for how he’s worked with the younger players. Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley had All-Star seasons, and Mookie Betts is still the front-runner for MVP; their regular season can not be considered a disappointment. The playoffs, however, were a different story. Those three players went a combined 4-32 in the ALDS with 12 strikeouts. Any way you cut it, those guys were not ready for the post-season.

John Farrell’s So-Called “Pitching Prowess”

Farrell was also seen as something of a pitching guru when he was brought back to the Red Sox in 2013. For about four out of the six months of this 2016 season, the starting pitching was catastrophic. In the post-season, they returned to form. His big ticket, David Price, threw up in the post-season and then choked on his own vomit. For all intents and purposes, he was like the prophet Jonah if Jonah was swallowed by the whale. His starters only went just over 11 innings in the series and none were really effective. Now, he’s not the pitching coach and I get that. That being said, it all falls under him and he is a pitching guy…

So yes, John Farrell will probably lose the blame on Red Sox pitching when Bill Belichick stops receiving blame for the Patriots defense.

When you really look at it, what does Farrell do exceptionally well? How many playoff wins does he have in the last three years? What other playoff manager hurt his team more than John Farrell? To save yourself some time here it is: no, it is not the right move. Farrell’s biggest decision as manager has been to play Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval this season. So, yes, John Farrell’s greatest move as manager was playing a better hitter over a third baseman the size of a tow truck. Red Sox Nation best get ready: the manager of your dreams is still in the visitors dugout.

Where Did it All Go Wrong for the Red Sox?

The irony was painful. After a summer of blowout wins and offensive fireworks, the Red Sox succumbed weakly in the fall, unable to locate the big hit when it mattered most. A vaunted lineup, unrivaled in the Majors this season, was stifled by a resilient Cleveland Indians team, as old friend Terry Francona masterminded a Division Series sweep of Boston.

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Before the series, few people took the Indians seriously. Three of their best players – Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar – were missing due to injury. Another star, Corey Kluber, saw his start pushed back due to another ailment. By most measures, the Red Sox were far superior. Most fans predicted a swift sweep. That’s exactly what they got, but of an entirely different flavor.

A Shock for Red Sox Nation

The way it happened was stunning. Boston didn’t play great to close the regular season, but a refreshed approach was expected once the playoffs began. Instead, Red Sox Nation was left waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more, for a team that never showed up. Almost from the first pitch in Cleveland, there was a sense of brewing melodrama. There was a sense that this team had run its course, quite incredibly. The Indians finished the job with shocking rapidity.

Perhaps plain old complacency is to blame. Did the Red Sox simply believe their own hype? That’s difficult to confirm, but it would at least explain the way Boston was caught like a deer in the headlights. When the games really mattered, when the wheat was separated from the chaff, this team wasn’t good enough. It just never got going. And now we’re left to contemplate through the bitter months ahead.

As people digest this loss around the hot stoves of New England, one topic will inspire more debate that any other: the choking offense. So powerful during the regular season, the Red Sox lineup froze on the biggest stage of all.

How Did the Red Sox Get Swept?

While it’s unfair to pinpoint any one guy for criticism, it is worth noting the performance of these praised hitters to paint a collective picture. Dustin Pedroia managed two hits in twelve ALDS at-bats. Mookie Betts, by all consensus an MVP candidate, collected just two in ten. That was better than Jackie Bradley, who produced just one hit, while Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez combined to go 6-for-24. It just wasn’t good enough.

Even David Ortiz, the master of October baseball, found little magic left in his wand. Papi added just one more hit to his postseason ledger before riding off into the cold night. For once, he couldn’t muster the big blow, and neither could his teammates. The Red Sox left 41 runners on base during this three-game series. They scored just seven runs. In the end, after all the worrying, that ridiculed rotation kept Boston in these games for the most part. The offense just couldn’t deliver.

And so, what now? The Red Sox will seek a replacement for Ortiz, as weird as that sounds. Perhaps John Farrell will see his position as manager reviewed. Maybe Dave Dombrowski will try to address some weaknesses throughout the offseason.

This young core will return to the postseason on plenty of occasions moving forward. But, right now, this was just a step too far for Mookie, Xander, Jackie and the rest. They should learn from the experience, and come back stronger for it. That may not help Red Sox fans deal with the present shock, but it should assist these players in preparing for future assaults on a World Series championship.

Red Sox On The Brink Of Elimination

With all the optimism September brought for the Red Sox, October is sweeping it away. Winless this month, the Red Sox are facing a harsh reality: elimination. Cleveland quickly became the setting of Red Sox Nation’s nightmares with the debacles of games one and two. After two utter disappointments, the season will hang in the balance of game three on Monday at Fenway.

Game one was seen as crucial in that the Red Sox would need to win to feel Eliminationcomfortable. With Rick Porcello going against Trevor Bauer, it seemed like a sure win for Boston. Porcello, however, dug his own grave in the third inning, giving up three home runs. Even though the Red Sox had the lead twice before that, they were never able to recover. They cut it down to one twice and stranded the tying run at third in the eighth. A gutsy five-out save by Cody Allen closed out a 5-4 Indians victory.

Down 1-0 in the series, David Price got the ball to try and tie the series. This seemed like the perfect setting for Price to “earn” his contract money after an under-performing regular season. Once again, Price couldn’t resist the urge to let us down. Adding to his atrocious postseason resumé, Price gave up five runs on six hits in three and one/third innings. If this were his last start of the season, it would only be fitting. A four-run second inning capped by a three-run home run by Lonnie Chisenhall finished off the Red Sox in game two. An injured Corey Kluber stuffed my foot in my own mouth and shut the Sox out in seven innings en route to a 6-0 victory.

The Smell Of Elimination In The Air

So now the stage is set for the Red Sox. Game three at Fenway with Clay Buchholz on the mound. Dustin Pedroia talked post game about how this performance does not embody the team. Well, it’s time to put up or shut up. Pedroia is just 1-8 this series. Also, David Ortiz, Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts are a combined 3-28 in the first two games. It’s a bit scary to think the only bright spots, offensively, in both games have been Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi.

A rah-rah kind of speech rarely works in baseball, but if Dustin Pedroia lit a fire under his team, they’ll certainly need it. They sleep-walked in Cleveland and it’s yet to be determined whether they’ll wake up before they walk right off the cliff. History may be on their side, the Red Sox are the only franchise to ever come back from this same deficit in the ALDS twice. The first time they did that was in 1999, coincidentally against Cleveland.

After game two, it really can’t get much worse. Monday should be a slugfest. The Red Sox should get their act together and Buchholz is pitching in Fenway, so the balls should fly. That should favor the league’s best offense, but who knows with this team anymore? Let’s just hope the Red Sox save us the embarrassment of avoiding a sweep. On the bright side, if they lose this series it’ll surely be the end of John Farrell’s tenure. That is, if they have any pride at all. It’s the little things.

Discipline Key To Red Sox World Series Title

The Boston Red Sox overcame poor press and play over the last two seasons to break into the playoffs. This 2016 season saw many ups and downs. We saw strong pitching from Rick Porcello, and weak pitching from Clay Buchholz. We saw strong hitting from Hanley Ramirez, and weak hitting from Aaron Hill. And we saw strong fielding from Dustin Pedrioa, and weak fielding from Travis Shaw. The weaknesses didn’t come anywhere near overshadowing the successes the Red Sox had this season though. Ramirez redeemed his weak 2015 performance as a clutch hitter. Porcello emerged as a Cy Young favorite. And last, but not least, David Ortiz is retiring after perhaps the best season of his career. In order to gain another Red Sox World Series Title though, the team will have to focus on strengthening its discipline.

The Boston Red Sox led the American League with 878 runs this season. The team alsoRed Sox World Series Title led the league with a .282 batting average and a .348 on-base percentage. Despite these remarkable numbers, the Red Sox also led the American League in leaving runners in scoring position per game (3.63) and runners left on base per game (7.17). Despite their strong offensive numbers, these last two stats aren’t anything to be proud of. One of the most frustrating things about this season was how the Red Sox blew multiple opportunities to bring runners home. More than once the Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs only to rack up three outs without driving anyone home. Instead of cheers, Red Sox Nation responded with boos and grunts as they left Fenway Park in frustration.

A Red Sox World Series Title Depends On Plate Discipline

The Red Sox are more than capable of driving in runs, and rallying from behind. Hanley Ramirez proved that he’s a valuable clutch hitter. David Ortiz, going into his final days as a player, tied for the most RBIs this season, and should have plenty of experience and ability to rack up a few more runs. The problem will be with players who don’t have a lot of post season experience. The stakes are high (as they always are in a playoff series) but that has to be taken more seriously than ever. Players like Sandy Leon, Aaron Hill, Travis Shaw, and even Xander Bogaerts have to learn how to stay patient at the plate and wait for the right pitch. That’s an easy thing for me to say though because it’s not me up there hitting. Regardless, these small moments will make or break the Red Sox.

Getting guys on base is what the Red Sox do well. Bringing them home is another story. If we want to see another Red Sox World Series Title, the players have to buckle down on plate discipline, and stay patient. That’s how Boston will get to see another victory parade.

The Search For Xander Bogaerts

After a scorching start to the 2016 season, Xander Bogaerts has hit a rut. Though the humidity has run rampant through Boston lately, Bogaerts has experienced a rather cold summer at the plate.

In May and June, Bogaerts looked like a serious MVP candidate, if not a favorite along with BogaertsDavid Ortiz. Bogaerts hit .395 in May and and .324 in June. Also, those two months provided 40 of his 69 RBI this season. During that time, his average reached into the .350s and he was battling Jose Altuve for the league lead in that category. Since then, Xander’s production has plummeted.

Bogaerts Since The All-Star Break

Since Bogaerts was selected to his first All-Star game in San Diego last month, his season has taken a turn for the worse. Since the break, he has batted just .271 and has only four doubles and 13 RBI in 140 at-bats. That has brought his average all the way down to .310. Also, in his last 15 games he is hitting a measly .238 with an  OBP of .269.

In all seriousness, most guys would still love to have the numbers Bogaerts has this year. That is not what I am trying to say. He is still a tremendous talent and among the league’s best shortstops. But during this recent hot streak the Red Sox appar to be on, Xander has not been able to be a major contributor. In high leverage situations he has struggled and has made a habit at lunging at pitches and popping up constantly.

The Red Sox have tried a multitude of methods to try and get Bogaerts back to his former self. He has had a few days off, which he did deserve. The hitting instructors have also worked meticulously with him to fix his swing. So far, we are still waiting on the guy we saw the first half of the season. There is little doubt that his star will shine again, but it remains to be seen whether he will get his swing back in time to help his team make the postseason.

Top Prospects Must Stay With Red Sox

As the trade deadline approaches, talks loom about who the Red Sox will let go in exchange for a strong pitcher. The most recent news points to the White Sox scouting players like Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi. According to ESPN, the White Sox sent scouts to watch Boston’s Double-A team on July 28th. Moncada and Benintendi play there now. Personally, I don’t think any pitcher in the MLB is quite worth giving up Moncada or Benintendi, especially Chris Sale. If Boston wants to make it to another World Series, then the Red Sox top prospects must stay in the farm system.

Yoan Moncada has already stolen 43 bases in stints at Single and Double-A this season.Red Sox Top Prospects Must Stay He’ll easily be a .300 average hitter in time. He can also hit for power. The fact that he can play infield, and serve as a designed hitter only adds to his value.

Andrew Benintendi is the next Carl Yastrzemski. He’s currently hitting over .300 with twelve triples between stints at Single and Double-A levels. You can attribute his triples to his developing strength and speed. Overall, he’s developing power, speed, and eye coordination, which will be both offensive and defensive assets. These factors signal that he’ll become a Boston superstar.

Let’s not forget about Michael Kopech. The guy is a wizard on the mound. Anyone his age that can throw 105 MPH is definitely worth keeping around. He pitched a immaculate inning a few weeks ago. He’s currently carrying an ERA of 1.35 in 26 innings this season. While that’s not a lot to bank on right now, it’s a VERY promising sign of what’s to come.

Experts like famed sportswriter Peter Gammons claim that all three of these prospects are “untouchable” and can’t be traded. According to ESPN, however, Dave Dombrowski said last week that “teams’ motivations tend to change as the deadline creeps closer.” Let’s hope that Gammons is right on this one.

Red Sox Top Prospects Must Stay To Create A New Dynasty

Seeing all three of these prospects on the field in Fenway Park in the near future would be riveting. They’ll be a throwback to the days of Yaz, Boggs, and Clemens. Players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Steven Wright, and Xander Bogaerts will be veterans by then. They can guide Moncada, Benintendi, and Kopech towards a dynasty that Boston hasn’t seen the likes of since the turn of the 20th century when the Red Sox won five World Series between 1903 and 1918. Moncada, Benintendi, Kopech, and other Red Sox top prospects must stay with the team if this dynasty is ever going to come to fruition.