What a great win for the Red Sox today! They were down 4-0 in the 8th inning and came back to beat the A’s 7-4. It was the first time in a while that the team showed some life. You could not only see it with the way they were swinging the bats, but also with the overall demeanor of the players as the comeback was happening. Yes, these guys do care! Having said that, I’m not going to put too much emphasis on sweeping the A’s. They have the worst record in the American League. Today’s win was nice, but the Sox are still sitting at 27-31 which is tied for last place in the AL East. They have been very inconsistent across the board. The offense which was expected to carry the team has been very weak and there have been very few players who have met expectations, never mind exceeding them. This team has a lot of work to do. However, there is hope. The division is weak this year. On paper, the Red Sox may have the best team in the AL East. A lot of people have pointed out that even if this team makes the playoffs, they are not good enough to win the World Series. That point may be valid, but so what? Because the team isn’t the best team in baseball, they shouldn’t look to get better? This isn’t just about the Red Sox winning another World Series. This is about becoming relevant again.
The Red Sox are in danger of being out of the picture in August and September for the third time in the past four years. Many fans will point out that they would take a World Series in the middle of three years of last place finishes and that’s a fair point. Yet, for this team, it’s unacceptable. When you spend over $180 in player salaries, the team should not be finishing in last place. At the very least, they should be in the hunt of a playoff spot in September. There have been many questionable moves by Ben Cherington. I’m not going to review all of them here. Instead, I’m going to focus on what needs to happen going forward. It starts with making every effort to contend this year. The games in September need to matter. If they don’t, the Red Sox will continue to lose some fans. The die hards will always be there, but there’s going to be less and less of a following from the casual fan if these losing ways continue. The good news is that there’s still time. Perhaps today’s win actually was the start of something bigger. In order to make something happen, changes need to be made.
1. The Red Sox need a new manager.
I know he was the manager of a World Series Team, but that was two years ago. It’s becoming more and more evident that John Farrell is not the guy. What has Farrell done the past two years? The team has been a mess! Players have underachieved across the board! Isn’t he supposed so be a pitching expert? The guy that figures out what each pitcher needs to get on track? Who exactly has he done this with? I can’t name one starting pitcher on the team who has at least met expectations this year. Buchholz, Porcello, Miley, Kelly, and Masterson have ALL underachieved. Granted, the players have accountability as well, but what exactly has he done to fix it? The Red Sox Front Office obviously thought that Juan Nieves needed to be accountable. How is Farrell any different if his expertise is pitching?
2. Trade for Cole Hamels.
If the team is going to contend, Clay Buchholz cannot be the #1 starter. They need an ace and Hamels is the guy that they can go out and get. The guy to trade is Blake Swihart. The reason you can trade him is because you have Christian Vasquez coming back next year. Swihart is not going to be a difference maker this year. It’s going to take a few years and you have two catchers of the future. Vasquez is elite defensively and is a game changer in that aspect of the game. I’ve always felt that he was the guy the Red Sox would keep and they’ve been looking to move Swihart all along. Bringing in Hamels changes the entire dynamic of the rotation. With a proven ace, it takes a lot of pressure off of the other starters. I’m confident that Porcello will turn things around and be a legitimate starter in the second half of the year and for years to come. Buchholz is what he what he is. Like Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” Eduardo Rodriguez is the wild card here. This could be the start of something special. If Wade Miley is your #5 starter, you’re in good shape. This rotation becomes the best in the AL East, and one of the elite rotations in baseball if you add Cole Hamels. The next question would be who catches this year if Swihart is traded? I’m sure they’ll be able to find someone who could give them the same production Swihart would have given them this year. He’s batting .209 and is average defensively at this point in his career.
3. The Red Sox offense will be better offensively.
There’s just too much talent there to not improve. Pedroia has been on fire since the first post on this site! It’s great to see him getting back to the productivity he once had. Ortiz will be better. Xander Bogaerts is really coming into his own this year. There are a few things that I think they need to tweak in order to get full production out of their players. Rusney Castillo needs to be the every day starting right fielder. His production has not been great, but they invested a lot of money here and they need to find out what he is. He’s 27 years old and he’s not a young prospect. Ramirez, Betts, and Castillo. That’s what the outfield should have been to start the year and that’s what it should be now. Those are the three most talented outfielders they have. Play them. The other issue offensively is the production from Ortiz and Mike Napoli. Ortiz isn’t going anywhere and he’s going to be in the lineup, but you can’t have two hitters in the meat of the order struggling like this. They could look to platoon Napoli, but who plays first base? They’re probably stuck with him for the rest of the year unless they fall out of contention and look to move him to a contender at the trade deadline. They need to move him down in the lineup. Having him hit behind Ortiz or Ramirez is not helping because those guys will not get good pitches to hit. Here’s the lineup I think the Sox should go with.
1. Bogaerts SS – He’s not the ideal leadoff guy, but put him here until either Betts or Castillo prove it.
2. Pedroia 2B – The perfect #2 hitter. Move him to where he belongs.
3. Ortiz DH – He’ll come around. He always does.
4. Ramirez LF – The only player in the lineup other teams fear right now.
5. Sandoval 3B – Like Buchholz, he is what he is. He’s good. Never great.
6. Betts CF – A lot of talent, but he needs to prove he can produce consistently to be at the top.
7. Napoli 1B – Putting him here takes pressure off. Easy out except for two week stretch in May.
8. Castillo RF – Needs to prove himself. Possible leadoff option if he can produce.
9. Leon/Swihart C – A lot of questions here, but lineup is good enough where there’s no exposure here.
The Sox have a strong core. This could be a good season if they make some changes. They don’t need to win the World Series although we all want them to. What they need is a contending season.