5 Best and 5 Worst Parts of Another Red Sox Last Place Finish

The Red Sox are fresh off of their fifth last place finish in the past 11 seasons. That is absolutely insane for a team with the resources it has and the scrutiny the Sox face year in and year out. Obviously you can’t win the World Series every year and nobody expects that, but you better believe Red Sox fans expect a playoff team every year. Or at the very least a team that is pushing for a playoff spot and not something half the city tuned out in August.

As the baseball season continues for the more fortunate and we all turn our attention to the Bruins and Celtics, I figured what better time to breakdown the 5 Best and 5 Worst parts of this disastrous season? I won’t lie, it was significantly easier (and faster) to make the 5 Worst List than the 5 Best, but as much of a flaming dumpster this season turned into let’s not lose sight of every positive development.

5 Best Parts of the 2022 Red Sox Season

1.) The Youth Movement Has Officially Arrived

The Sox had what some called the worst farm system in all of baseball just a few years ago to being ranked No. 11 in MLB this season. Great, hooray, lets throw a party, I know I know, BUT that tree is starting to bear fruit at the major league level. It’s still early as all three of these guys made their debut in 2022, but Brayan Bello, Triston Casas and to a lesser extent Kutter Crawford showed they are ready to produce at the big league level. Beyond that, there were legitimate showcases of some seriously elite budding talent at Fenway this season.

Then there was Pedro himself saying Bello “has the potential to be a Cy Young type of pitcher.”

Then you add in Triston Casas, who has shown *prodigious* power and plate discipline along with a really calming influence over at first base defensively. Now we’re cooking with gas.

Top it off with young guys like Tanner Houck (3.15 ERA) and Kutter Crawford (led the rotation in SO/9) and the Red Sox suddenly have some legitimate young talent on their roster, which is something they’ve struggled to restock in recent years.

2.) This Team Isn’t *Too* Far Off

This isn’t a roster that is so bad that it requires a complete tear down. In fact the Red Sox aren’t all that far off from returning to serious contention. Despite their complete cratering after the All-Star break, they were one of the top 3 teams in the AL in the first half so with a couple of key moves in free agency (read: open the damn wallet) and some (any) actual good fortune with injuries, this team could be right back in the mix next year. There will ample opportunity to shore up the rotation this offseason with free agents including guys like Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodón, Just Verlander, Chris Bassitt, and that’s before we mention their own guy Nathan Eovaldi.

As for the lineup, after getting Kike Hernandez back from injury, Casas getting called up, and when Trevor Story is actually healthy, this is still one of the better lineups in baseball when at full Megazord power. Xander Bogaerts and Raffy Devers showcased what the heart of the Red Sox order can look like for the next 5 years IF the team is smart and extends both players.

Obviously when I say “this team isn’t too far off” it implies that only remains the case if they stop pretending to be the Tampa Bay Rays and crack open John Henry’s piggy back, but there is a clear path back to contention.

3.) Garrett Whitlock is the Real Deal

Arguably the biggest pro of the 2022 season was Garrett Whitlock proved his success last year wasn’t just a flash in the pan. However, the Sox did exactly what I didn’t want them to do with Whitlock: jerk him back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation. Shockingly, Whitlock’s body didn’t hold up and he hit the IL multiple times before ending his season early to undergo hip surgery. By all reports it doesn’t seem like a major surgery so he should be fine for next season, but the Sox *have* to pick a role for Whitlock and stick to it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want him in the rotation. I understand the game has changed and there is less of an emphasis on starters, less pitchers going through a lineup three or more times, and a greater value placed on middle relievers. But that doesn’t change the fact that a top of the line starter is going to give you 200 innings vs maybe half that for a workhorse reliever. Whitlock is incredibly valuable out of the bullpen because he is lights out, but that value was magnified because the Sox just didn’t have many other reliable relievers to turn to this year. Shore up the bullpen with actual, legitimate additions, set Whitlock up to be a top of the rotation starter and lets go.

4.) Michael Wacha Was a Revelation

If you recall, I was not all that optimistic about Wacha coming to Boston because it had been a while since he was an effective MLB starting pitcher. But, I am not afraid to admit when I am wrong and when healthy (my god I am saying that a lot today), Michael Wacha was arguably the best starter on the team. Wacha finished the season at 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 127.1 IP and 104 strikeouts. Having signed a one-year contract for this season, the Sox need to bring this guy back.

Simply put, this is the Chaim Bloom experience. Bloom’s roster management is reminiscent of me walking into Marhsall’s. Sometimes I find really solid workout clothes that are comfortable, affordable, and even name brand. Sometimes I buy a pair of jeans for $12 dollars that rip right down the middle after a couple of times wearing them, ya know because they’re $12 jeans. Once in a while I get a real gem, like the time I found a rare throwback red Patriots Tom Brady jersey for just $20. So there are days I find absolute gold for $20, other times I walk out with an absolute piece of shit that I know I’m probably never going to wear more than once. But like Chaim Bloom, I’m never going to stop shopping at Marshall’s. In case this was too dense to read through, Michael Wacha is the red Brady jersey and the $12 jeans are the $10 million James Paxton contract (0 IP in 2022).

5.) Uhh..

5 Worst Parts of the 2022 Red Sox Season

1.) Finished in Last Place, Yet Again

As I mentioned earlier in this blog, this is the fifth time the Red Sox have finished in the basement in the last 11 seasons. If the two World Series titles sprinkled in over that same period have caused people to overlook the low times, then the tweet above should hit you like a sledgehammer. The wild fluctuation of this franchise from top of the mountain to dumpster fire year after year would be impressive if it weren’t so maddening. For a team with a $200M+ payroll it’s just not acceptable to finish in last place. In fairness the division is much improved from the days when it was a two team race between the Sox and the Yankees back in the day, but the Sox finished a whopping 21 games out of first place.

2.) Absolute Abysmal Record vs AL East

This division has grown into one of the toughest in all of baseball, but the Sox got absolutely walloped by their division rivals this year, going 26-50 vs the AL East. If you can’t keep pace with your peers, take advantage of a distinct home field advantage at Fenway, AND finish behind the perpetually rebuilding Orioles, then something is seriously wrong.

3.) Chris Sale Injured Yet Again

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, just wait until Chris Sale is back, Chris Sale will be better than any trade deadline deal, the Chris Sale injury isn’t considered significant etc. etc. I love Chris Sale so this isn’t Sale Slander, but at 33-years-old and after six(!) years in Boston, he is what he is at this point in his career. Coming back from another offseason injury (broken rib, Tommy John, take your pick) Sale pitched only 5.2 innings this year after a comebacker broke his pinky in just his second start back. I actually felt bad for Sale after this one because it’s just one thing after the next for a guy who clearly relishes pitching in Boston and just wants to be on the mound. With that being said, anything the team gets from Sale here on out has to be considered gravy; not something the team can rely on. In 2021 Sale pitched just 42.2 innings, 0 IP in 2020, 147.1 Ip in 2019, 158 IP in 2018, and 214.1 IP in 2017.

It doesn’t take an economics degree to see the trend line there.

So while I love Sale, I am not banking on him to be the savior of this rotation anymore. It’s negligent to do so at this point. The Sox need to act as if he’s not coming back and build a pitching staff that if Sale does come back healthy then the team will have a good problem finding him some innings. We’ve seen he can still be a highly effective pitcher, he just isn’t someone the team can bank on for volume.

And it wasn’t just Sale either, injuries absolutely killed this team with a ton of games missed by him, Kike Hernandez, Trevor Story, Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Whitlock and others. If this team can get a little bit of luck with health next season then it’ll make a world of difference.

4.) Somehow STILL Finished Over the Luxury Tax

This is probably the most inexcusable part of the entire last place finish. If you want to clear up dead money and acquire some lottery ticket prospects in the meantime, fine. If your owner ties your hands because of luxury tax penalties so you can’t make any big money moves until the books are in order, then fine. But all of those moves are only tolerated by fans because of the promise that it’s building to something in the near future. To finish in last place, trade away key players, let key free agents walk, and STILL finish over the luxury tax that is the definition of insanity. Moves like eating JBJ’s salary just to scoop up a couple of prospects did not help, made only worse by Bradley playing so poorly that the team ultimately released him. Compare that to the guy we traded away for him in Hunter Renfroe having a career year (28 HR and counting) for a fraction of the price. Oof.

5.) Chaim Bloom’s Plan

In fairness, Bloom does seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place. He now runs a BIG market team and works for an owner who loves to be frugal and efficient and smarter than everyone else, yet is *notorious* for flip flopping on organizational philosophies. Remember the whole mantra about how the Red Sox don’t commit big deals to pitchers over 30? That quote got raked over the coals when the Sox finished in last place their first year without 30+ year old Jon Lester (who flourished for Theo Epstein’s Cubs), and the team immediately signed 30-year-old David Price to a 7-year $217M contract. So I get it that his boss may be moving the goal posts on him a bit, but we are now three years into the Chaim Bloom experience.

It is truly put up or shut up time for Chaim Bloom because I do not want to hear any more talk about his five year plan.

It’s been an up and down tenure for the new face of the Red Sox as the team was surprisingly successful last year reaching the ALCS with a team nobody expected a deep run from. Then came the regrettable Hunter Renfroe trade, the bad gambles on injured free agents, playing stiffs at first base for two years while not even bothering to try and resign Kyle Schwarber (46 HRs for the Phillies and headed for the World Series), the near mutiny in the clubhouse when they didn’t bring in any reinforcements this year, dumping Christian Vazquez, attaching top prospect Jay Groome instead of eating salary in the Eric Hosmer deal, the lowball offer to Xander Bogaerts followed by an entire season of drama and I can go on and on and on.

October 28th marks three years since the Red Sox hired Bloom so its time for the drastic organizational shift away from the Dave Dombrowski (also World Series bound with the Phillies) philosophy to start showing dividends.

Bonus No. 6) Dennis Eckersley Retiring

I could write 10,000 words about Eck and what an excellent broadcaster he is, but for now I’ll just say what a bummer it is to see him go. It was a surprising announcement from Eck mid-season that this year would be his last as he wants to move back to Cali to be closer to his grandkids and for that I can’t fault him. However, that doesn’t make it any less sad to see him go, which I think hit harder for Sox fans as they’ve now seen Eck, the late great Jerry Remy, and Don Orsillo leave the NESN booth in just the last few years. The Red Sox broadcast has a steep, uphill battle to find a crew that comes even close to the entertainment, energy, and chemistry that those three guys displayed on a nightly basis over the years with whoever was beside them. We’ll miss ya Eck, don’t be a stranger.

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