There is A LOT to unpack here less than 24 hours after the Red Sox bowed out in the ALDS for the second year in a row. Granted they didn’t get swept again this year, the Sox lost in 4 games after they started off poorly as it was too little too late against a stacked Astros squad. Where do they go from here? We’ve got the future of Manager John in question, Dustin Pedroia’s health, the absolute enigma that is our starting rotation, as well as questions around Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts, Craig Kimbrel and more. Lets get it.
Has the John Farrell Era Come to an End?
If so it finally does so in a fitting way; getting ejected defending a player who never really seemed to be all-in on him.
— The 300s (@The300sBoston) October 9, 2017
I’m never the guy clamoring for a manager to be fired because I think with the few exceptions, an MLB manager isn’t going to make or break a team. Just don’t screw it up, put players in a position to succeed, and most of all be the clubhouse therapist. And while Farrell certainly has his limitations with in-game adjustments, and even filling out the scorecard (honestly how do you bench arguably your best hitter in Hanley Ramirez for Game 1 in favor of a guy with a shitty knee?), but I think his ultimate downfall is his inability to be that armchair psychologist.
Manager John is not the guy that will call someone into his office to lay down on his couch and just talk things through. One of my favorite stories of a manager excelling at this was one about how Terry Francona used to call players over to talk with him right behind home plate as the team took BP. So everyone in the world could see them, but no one could hear them. This is an area where Manager John is sorely lacking, which became painfully obvious on multiple occasions this year, none more so than David Price blowing up on Dennis Eckersley and then essentially defending Price and the situation was never really resolved. In a market like Boston, managing the clubhouse and all its personalities is the No. 1 job requirement, which is why I think Farrell is ultimately shown the door this offseason.
What Should We Expect Out of Dustin Pedroia Moving Forward?
I don’t want to immediately overreact less than 24 hours after their season came to an end, but I am very, very concerned about Dustin Pedroia. Similar to old friend Kevin Youkilis, as he continues to get older, Pedroia’s balls out playing style is starting to catch up to him as he is routinely dealing with nagging injuries. This year it was the knee, which limited Pedroia to 105 games this year, and Dave Dombrowski sent me in to full blown panic earlier this year when he said that Pedroia’s knee would be something he’d have to deal with for the rest of his career. At 34 years old, that is a terrifying thing to hear. Now facing a number of options on what to do about his balky knee, Pedroia himself intimated that going the surgery route could put him out for a long time.
So while I know its the health thats affecting his play more than anything else, Pedroia just batted .125 in the ALDS this year, .167 in the ALDS last year, .238 in the 2013 playoffs, .167 in 2009, .233 in 2008, and .283 in 2007. Overall, he’s hitting just .204 in his last 26 playoff games. That my friends, is a bad trend. Maybe the Red Sox can do what the Yankees should have done with Jeter years before he retired and either limit his games in an effort to keep him healthy or perhaps move him to a less demanding position. While he’s not an ideal height or power profile, perhaps mixing in some games at first base would help lessen the demand on Pedroia’s body. Rotate him in at DH, where Pedroia has actually thrived in his career, to keep him fresh. Limit the number of games he’s throwing his body around at second base and maybe you get a healthy (and productive) Pedroia in the playoffs. But with four years left on his current deal, the Red Sox don’t really have much of a choice. While I’ve heard a lot of people slamming Pedroia’s leadership this season, I think the reality of an aging body that isn’t bouncing back the way it used to, coupled with the scrutiny of having to police his own locker room to keep dickheads like David Price in check, is mentally draining the guy. Keep him healthy and you’ll have a more energetic, engaged and productive Pedroia. He did hit .293 this season when he was on the field so he’s still a very strong hitter when he’s upright. But, he’s not 25 anymore, so maybe a revived role for the longterm second baseman gets him back to his hey day of shit talking Jeff Francis and Brady Quinn. Can’t ask the guy to do everything, so while I don’t want to defend his poor playoff performance, I think its something the Sox can mitigate by taking a few steps. Again, put the players in a position to succeed.
What the Hell Do the Red Sox Do About Their Pitching
Chris Sale had his worst start of the year at the worst possible time in the playoffs. Sound familiar? Now that we’ve got that out of the way, its important to note how he bounced back and was downright dominant out of the bullpen (on short rest) to give the Red Sox a lifeline in Game 4. Despite the fact he gave up that solo HR to cough up the lead, its important to note that he was lights out. Given the fact that it was his first career postseason start, I’m willing to give Sale the benefit of the doubt. Combined with the fact that Sale seemingly ran out of gas down the stretch, I think the Sox would benefit by working in some rest throughout the year for him, similar to how they used to do for Pedro Martinez. Sale was incredible this year where he was the hands down Cy Young winner before a shaky final 2 months. And while it was exciting to watch him chase that single season strikeout record that Pedro set, whats the point? If it left the guy gassed in October then its doing the team a disservice. So I think he’ll be back and better than ever next season.
As for David Price its hard what to make of him. He was downright dominant out of the bullpen for the Red Sox, which was encouraging to see, especially to see a pissed off emotional David Price. Seriously, the guy was screaming coming off the mound at opposing batters. That David Price I need to see more of. But again the Red Sox aren’t paying $217 Million for a bullpen guy. Price needs to replicate that, or at least come close to that as a starter in 2018 or the team’s cooked again. Most big free agents seem to struggle in Boston in Year 1 and Year 2 was a bit of a wash for Price due to his elbow injury. So maybe Year 3 he’s finally got that comfort level and makes a John Lackey type redemption with a bounce back year. That elbow is still a concern though so its tough to predict.
Rick Porcello followed up his 2016 Cy Young season with a terrible 2017 season going 11-17 with a 4.65 ERA and once again failing to go very far in the playoffs. He went 3 innings yesterday and only 4 1/3 in his ALDS start last year. Not a great trend. Maybe its a mechanical issue he can fix over the winter, but the back to back playoff shellackings are less than ideal.
Steven Wright, remember him? The knuckleballer who was an All-Star that John Farrell broke by having him run the fucking bases. He should be back next year, as well as Eduardo Rodriguez unless he has another knee injury doing nothing before the season starts. Drew Pomeranz had a really solid year going 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA, but another guy who got shelled in the playoffs. Doug Fister pitched admirabily in the regular season after being a guy Dombrowski picked up off the scrap heap in July, but he also shit the bed in the playoffs getting yanked in the second inning of Game 3 and finishing with an ERA over 20! He’s probably the odd man out next year assuming everyone else is healthy. So there’s not really a lot the Sox can do other than have the starting rotation get their shit together. Barring a huge trade, this is going to be the 2018 starting rotation.
The Rest of the Rest
Craig Kimbrel drives me fucking bananas. A two-pitch flamethrower with questionable control is a prescription for Tums. Kimbrel was incredible this season going 5-0 with a 1.43 ERA and 35 saves plus 126 Ks in just 69 innings. But like a lot of other guys with the ball in their hands, he shit the bed when it counted most. Kimbrel had a 4.50 ERA in the playoffs this year, more than triple his regular season ERA. And for a guy who is completely lights out with 3 outs to go in the game, he craters when asked to get a couple of extra outs.
— The 300s (@The300sBoston) October 9, 2017
Kimbrel came into yesterday’s game in the 8th inning with a man on first and two outs. Just get the final out of the 8th and the Sox are still tied heading into the bottom of the frame. Kimbrel proceeds to go: Wild Pitch (advancing runner to second) Walk, and RBI Single to give the Astros a 1-run lead before getting the third out. He then hits a guy in the 9th before giving up an RBI Double to put the Sox in a 2-run hole before getting yanked for Closer B Addison Russell. Can’t have that from a guy that everyone praises all year long for his dominance.
If we can get Playoff Hanley Ramirez and not store brand Manny Ramirez, then the Red Sox are golden. But as we all know, Hanley is off more often than he is on, which is a problem. Maybe he had a “Come to Jesus” moment in the ALDS this year. Maybe Big Papi got in his ear. I don’t know, but if he can actually give a shit for an entire season then the Sox are cooking with gas. But, it would be fool’s gold to bank on that for 2018.
Xander Bogaerts needs to start drinking his protein shakes or something after struggling badly down the stretch for the second consecutive season and then hitting .059 in the playoffs this year. Before the All-Star break this year X hit .303 and after the All-Star break X hit .235. Last year his splits were .329/.253. Granted two years ago he actually hit 30 points higher in the second half, but Xander needs to figure out how to stay fresh or he could quickly find himself on the way out of town.
2018 Silver Linings
Despite some hit or miss defense, Rafael Devers looks like the real fucking deal. Devers was called up on July 24th and was the youngest player in the league at 20 years old. Ya know, after a whole NINE GAMES in Triple-A. All he did was proceed to hit .284 with 10 HR’s and 30 RBIs. Then he became the youngest player in Red Sox history to hit a postseason HR and then he hit another one; and inside the park job in the 9th inning of Game 4 as he nearly kept the Red Sox alive singlehandedly. Unreal. After the disaster that was Pablo Sandoval and trading away Travis Shaw, who hit 30 dingers himself this season, it seems like the Sox have found another young budding star. Thank god Dombrowski didn’t trade him too.
Not a ton else to look forward to as I don’t see a team thats already pressed up against the Luxury Tax making too many additions. Barring a huge trade, this will be the same squad trotting out there in 2018. So maybe another year of playoff experience, a new manager, and maybe a new bench player acting as the glue guy (i.e. Kevin Millar, David Ross, Jonny Gomes) gets this team over the hump next year. Thats it.