It’s been an incredibly frustrating season for Red Sox fans who are now looking to wait till next year. The Sox are looking like they’ll be headed for their third last place finish in the past four years. With the exception of a surge before the All Star break, this team has been flat all season long. The pitching on the team has been awful. They entered Sunday’s game with the worst team ERA in the American League at 4.51. From an offensive standpoint, this team was expected to put up big numbers and be one of the top five offenses in baseball. Instead, they are ranked 8th out of 15 American League Teams with 465 runs.
Numbers side, this team has been lacking interested from the casual Boston fans. The ballpark is pretty much dead on most nights with the exception of Sweet Caroline and the wave. It has been a tough place to watch a game for the real baseball fans and the product on the field is the reason for it. Fans will get behind and fully support a team that is at least in contention and plays hard. This team hasn’t given the fans a reason to get excited for two years. Fenway Park is now more of an exhibit than a place to get excited about watching baseball games. Disagree? Go to a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway when the two teams meet in a few weeks. Let me know if the fans stand up and cheer once outside of a Red Sox home run. Look around at how many people are actually paying attention and care.
There has been a laundry list of bad moves this team has made with both trades and free agents since the 2013 championship season. Ben Cherington deserves some of the blame for this team’s recent poor moves. Most notably, the Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez signings have been nothing short of complete disasters. Sandoval has been well below the league average both at the plate and in the field. Ramirez has put up 19 home runs. Outside of those 19 at bats, he hasn’t produced and he’s been very poor defensively. That’s actually putting it nicely. In addition, the trade of John Lackey in 2014 for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig was a gift to the Cardinals. Lackey is pitching for $500,000 this year. He owns a 9-7 record with a 2.85 ERA. Joe Kelly and Allen Craig have contributed next to nothing to the Red Sox this year. Both players have spent significant time in the minors. Lastly, signing Mike Napoli to a 2 year, $32 million contract proved to be yet another move that paid too much money for an unproductive player. Napoli batted a combined .229 for the Red Sox over the past two seasons.
For all of the bad moves, the most frustrating part about observing this team is their inability to make any adjustments when things aren’t going well. Napoli’s season this year is the glaring example. He was anemic offensively for three and half months. John Farrell failed to do anything about it. He continued to plug Napoli into the sixth spot in the order and he seemed to be perfectly fine with him leaving runners on base night after night. After the All Star break, he amazingly was still on the team and continued to be in the starting lineup. Granted, he did begin to hit better, but it didn’t even matter at that point as it was too little, too late. So why was Napoli in there? They knew he was a free agent and wasn’t going to be back. They knew he was the worst hitting first baseman in the American League statistically. Yet, they did nothing about it! Well, that was until they traded him last week. What did the Sox get in return? A player to be named later or cash considerations. Wait a minute…so we kept this guy in the lineup all year for a player to be named later or money? Does this team really need money? For all of the bad moves this team has made, their biggest issue is their inability to make adjustments. That part is also on the manager who is now 217-218 in his Red Sox career. Excited about the prospects of him leading this team next year?!
OK, so as bad as the Sox have been this year, it’s time to think about next year and what we can look forward to. The good news is that the team may not be far away from getting back in contention next year. There may very well be a new GM and manager leading this team next year, but for now, let’s focus on the potential product on the field. Let’s start with the starting lineup. Christian Vazquez will be back next year which will help sure up the catching spot along with Blake Swihart. There’s a lot to look forward to with those two players. Perhaps, one of them gets dealt in the offseason for pitching. Dustin Pedroia at second base, Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, and Mookie Betts in centerfield. That gives the Red Sox a team that is very strong up the middle. Betts and Bogaerts came into their own this year and they have a very strong upside heading into next season. David Ortiz will be back after his option kicked in last night for 2016. You know what that means. Get ready for the annual Ortiz is done talk from fans and media right around May 1st next year. There are three things you can expect in Boston every spring: The Boston Marathon, St. Paddy’s Day parade, and the David Ortiz is all done talk. Oh yeah, by the way, he’s currently on pace for 35 homers and 95 RBI’s this year. Let’s move on… Sandoval and Ramirez are going to be back, like it or not. Keep dreaming, but there will be no takers. No one will take on those salaries. The only hope is that this was an off-year for both players and they return to respectability. That leaves voids at first base and right field. It looks like Rusney Castillo could be the answer in right. Allen Craig is due $9,000,000 next year. I really don’t understand why he isn’t up with the Red Sox right now. They need to find out if he can be their first baseman next year. Otherwise, he’s another player with dead money. Craig is batting .271 with a .376 OBP in AAA. What do the Sox have to lose by giving him a look for the final two months? This is another example of failing to make adjustments. Regardless, the lineup is not in bad shape for next year and, if a couple of pieces are added, they could be in very good shape.
The opposite is true for the pitching staff. There is no ace. The good news is that there are a few options in the free agent market. The Sox will need to make a big splash and go against their approach of not signing pitchers over 30. David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Jordan Zimmerman will be available. Perhaps that extra cash in the Napoli trade will make the difference! If they land one of these guys, it changes everything. If you have a rotation of Price, Buchholz, Rodriguez, Porcello, and Miley, that isn’t bad at all. The bullpen needs some work, but there are always guys available and they can hopefully sure things up there. Uehara should be back. The Red Sox needs in the offseason are clearly on the pitching side. If they address these needs, they could be a strong contender in 2016.
2015 has been another year to forget. This team has been frustrating to watch. However, the most frustrating thing has been management’s inability to make adjustments both in the front office and in the dugout. This team is far too reactive. The leadership needs some tweaking in addition to the roster. It starts with the leaders of Baseball Operations and the manager of the team.
We can only hope for a more proactive approach in 2016.