Saturday, August 29, 2015

What's Wrong with the Red Sox?

The Red Sox have hit a major rough patch (Baseball Revival Files)
Man, the Red Sox sure know how to ruin a summer.

They keep finding new ways to do it, too. They threw away four great months with a historic collapse in 2011. 2012 was a mess from start to finish. In 2014 they forgot how to hit, and in 2015 they forgot how to pitch.

It’s not just the losing that’s bothersome. It's how poorly the Red Sox have handled losing, the disgraceful manner in which they've lost. They haven't just been bad; they've been embarrassing.

It all started with the fried-chicken and beer fiasco of 2011, which cost Terry Francona--the greatest manager in Red Sox history--his job and prompted Theo Epstein to move on. Then there was Bobby Valentine's brief reign, which felt like the previous September stretched out over six months. In 2013 Boston finally did something right by winning the World Series, only to revert to its losing ways the following year. 2014 saw the Sox trade all their World Series heroes away, and in 2015 they resorted to cleaning out the front office because there was no one left to trade.

Once perennial contenders, Boston has become constant disappointments. It's mind-boggling that the Red Sox have spent more than $1 billion in player salaries over the past six years and have just one postseason berth to show for it. Granted, they made the most of that magical run, but they've also proved it was a fluke by posting the worst record in baseball since.

Somewhere along the line, the former powerhouse seemed to have lost its way. Boston's downfall has been puzzling because the Red Sox have great players, smart management, and one of the most advanced analytics departments in baseball. They're also blessed with one of the sport’s largest payrolls, its best farm system, and a devoted fan base that still fills Fenway park (paying the highest ticket prices to do so) no matter how well the team is doing.

Boston has no excuse. They have all the tools to succeed, and yet they're still one of the worst teams in baseball. Nobody does less with more. They're the misguided kid who graduates from Harvard and takes a job flipping burgers at McDonald's.

Given all its resources and talent, Boston's prolonged stretch of mediocrity is inexcusable. The bad years should be .500 seasons, not last place finishes, especially since the AL East has become so winnable these days. With the Yankees' great core aging out and the Rays unable to afford their top players, the Red Sox were primed to rip off four or five division titles. Instead, they've become cellar-dwellers, missing a golden opportunity to dominate their division.

There's no easy explanation for it, other than that they've just played really poorly. They’ve made mistakes, costly mistakes, on the free agent market, but who hasn’t? They’ve battled injuries, but so does everyone over a 162-game season. A lot of their prospects haven’t panned out, but that’s baseball.
Boston is still searching for answers (The Boston Herald)
This year was supposed to be different. The Sox spent wildly, shelling out roughly $400 million for Rusney Castillo, Yoan Moncada, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and Rick Porcello. Vegas bought into the hype, declaring them World Series favorites. Another worst-to-first campaign seemed possible, especially after an encouraging spring training and strong start to the season.

Then the losses began piling up, and it didn't take long for things to turn ugly. Pitching coach Juan Nieves was fired after getting barely a month to break in a new rotation, as if it was his fault Boston built a crummy staff. The players quickly soured, losing their temper with the manager, umpires, and with each other.

Pedestrian performances by the rest of the league kept Boston in it through the All-Star Break, until an eight-game losing streak knocked them out of contention. They were once again sellers at the trade deadline, only this time they had nothing to sell.

For once it seemed like the Sox were going to quietly fade away, bottoming out in relative obscurity a la the Rockies, A's, and Phillies.

Instead, August has turned out to be Boston's most eventful month (off-the-field, at least). Larry Lucchino announced he was stepping down at season's end. John Farrell was diagnosed with cancer. Dave Dombrowski came aboard as president of baseball operations, ousting Ben Cherington from his post as general manager. Even Don Orsillo, the team's beloved play-by-play man for 15 years, is out of a job.

Only the Red Sox could create so much controversy while playing out the string, They still have unfinished business to attend to, like finding a new general manager and figuring out how to fix this mockery of a team. Another meaningless month of baseball awaits them, but if one thing's for certain, it's that Boston will keep making headlines between now and season's end.

Friday, August 28, 2015

New Life in New York

For the first time in a long time, Mets fans have reason to smile (Denver CBS)
I was going to start this post by noting that it's been awhile since both New York's baseball teams were good at the same time, but then I remembered that it's been awhile since either one was good period. The Yankees barely finished above .500 the last two years, missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in the wild card era. And until this year, the Mets had yet to enjoy a winning season during Obama's presidency.

More mediocrity was expected from both clubs this year. The Yankees were too old and the Mets didn't have enough bats. Nobody saw either seriously contending for the top spots in their divisions, not with the re-tooled Red Sox and juggernaut Nationals standing in their way.
And yet here we are, in the final week of August, and both teams are sailing towards October. The Yankees have a firm grip on the AL's top wild card spot and are still a threat to win the AL East, where they sit just 1.5 games back of the Blue Jays. FanGraphs estimates their playoff odds at over 90 percent.

The Mets are in even better shape, having opened up a 6.5 game lead over the scuffling Nats. With only one month to go, FanGRaphs gives New York an 83 percent chance of winning a division that 100 percent of people expected Washington to not just win, but run away with this year.

Both teams are succeeding, but in completely different ways. The Mets are built around young arms, having assembled a dynamite rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard, who between them had just three years of major league experience prior to this one. Between their excellence, a solid bullpen, and a top-10 defense, it's not surprising to see New York carry the National League's third-lowest ERA.

But while the Mets are great at preventing runs, they've had a much more difficult time scoring them. Scientists are still trying to determine how they scored any during the first four months of the season, before Yoenis Cespedes and his booming bat arrived. David Wright's prolonged absence stretched what was already a thin lineup to its limit, reducing New York's offense to Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, and...that was pretty much it. Despite not hitting for power or average and minimizing risks on the basepaths (only two teams have attempted fewer steals), the Mets somehow scraped together enough runs to make its stellar pitching stand up.

Offense hasn't been hard to come by lately, however, as New York just set a new monthly club home run record. For that they can thank Cespedes, who's lifted the offense since arriving in a trade deadline swap with the Tigers. His eight homers and 23 RBI are tops on the team since he came over, adding some much-needed thump to a lineup that has also benefited from the emergence of Travis d'Arnaud and the return of Mr. Wright.

So with their pitchers still going strong and their offense rounding into form, the Mets are poised for a strong finish that, barring a miraculous surge by the Nationals, will result in their first postseason appearance in almost a decade. And with all that young pitching just starting to bloom, it's likely the first of many.
Aging players like Rodriguez have led the charge for the Yankees (NY Times)
While the Mets' success was unexpected, anyone following the organization closely could see greatness on the horizon. We just didn't expect it to come so soon.

As for the Yankees, it seemed as though their time had passed. They still had all the big-names, but most of them were has-beens. Over the hill. If the Mets were supposed to be the team of the future, the Yankees were the team of the past.

But like the Spurs or the Patriots, they just won't go away. Even as the game has become dominated by young players, the Yankees keep marching on. They might be grayer and a little slower than you remember, but they still look damn good in those pinstripes.

It's remarkable, really, how well the Yankees have performed with a roster devoid of youth. They're impossibly old, with every member of the starting nine over 30 save Didi Gregorious, who only just inherited the shortstop job from his 41 year-old predecessor--Derek Jeter. Gregorious is also the exception in that he is the only regular besides Stephen Drew who isn't having at least an average season at the plate (per OPS+), but both compensate with strong defense up the middle.

The Yankees must have discovered the fountain of youth during spring training, because how else could so many players on one team defy their age? The weighted average age of Yankee position players is 31.5--nearly two years older than the next oldest team. Their dugout should be doubling as an infirmary. Instead, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are mashing like they did during their prime, and only Jacoby Ellsbury has missed significant time.

The pitching has also held up much better than anyone could have expected. Masahiro Tanaka's elbow became a ticking time bomb once he opted not to undergo Tommy John surgery. but that hasn't stopped him from reclaiming his status as team ace. After making just 13 starts in the past three years combined, Michael Pineda has regained the form that made him an All-Star as a rookie. Adam Warren deserves credit for stepping up while Ivan Nova was out for much of the first half, and Nova has pitched well since returning.

The Yankees rotation might not scare anybody (except Yankee fans when CC Sabathia is pitching), but its shutdown bullpen definitely does. New York's relief corps is among the best in baseball, rivaling the Royals' in sheer dominance. With Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller slamming the door at the end of games, opponents are finished if they trail after seven innings. Rivera may be gone, but his spirit lives on.


The last few summers have been tough on New York baseball fans, but ones like this don't come around too often. The Mets are a great story in the way that any young team starting to realize its potential is fun to watch. The Yankees are a great story just as teams and athletes that recapture their former glory always make great theatre. They're winning, they're interesting and, perhaps most importantly, they're different. What's not to like?

It's been awhile since New Yorkers have been able to dream on a Subway Series. Pretty soon they'll be able to let their imaginations run wild.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dombrowski to the Rescue

Dombrowski (second from right) has his work cut out for him (Reformer)
Just when another listless Red Sox season seemed to be quietly winding down, Boston made major waves off the field by shaking up its front office.

That should come as no surprise, however, because whenever the Red Sox do poorly, heads are bound to roll. In the wake of Boston's 2011 crash, Terry Francona was let go and Theo Epstein jumped ship, even though it was clearly the players who were the issue. When the team finished last the following year, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez were traded and Bobby Valentine was shown the door. In 2013 Boston won the World Series, so everyone got to keep their jobs, but a last place finish in 2014 resulted in much of the title-winning roster getting booted, including four-fifths of the starting rotation and several key role players.

This year brought more of the same. Pitching coach Juan Nieves got canned in May, barely a month into the season. Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino--two of the few remaining World Series champions--were traded. Team president and CEO Larry Lucchino announced he was stepping down at season's end.

But as the Red Sox spent another summer in the AL East basement, one got the sense that neither Ben Cherington, the team's architect, nor John Farrell, the team's skipper, would not return next year. No one could have imagined that they'd both be gone so soon, under such extraordinary circumstances, within a few days of each other.

Farrell, of course, was forced out by lymphoma, which he began chemotherapy for Tuesday. He will not return this season, though he expects to be ready for spring training if his treatment goes well. His job is safe for the time being (firing a cancer patient is one way to alienate your fans), though with two years remaining on his contract he was probably never in serious danger of being fired anyways, especially since he's never caused ownership any headaches (unlike his predecessor, who somehow survived an entire season before getting axed).

And besides, it wasn't Farrell's fault he got stuck with a position-less Hanley Ramirez, an overweight third baseman who swings at balls that hit him, and a truly awful starting rotation. A manager can only work with what he's given, and what he got has amounted to a steaming pile of garbage.

The man who handed him that trash bag was Cherington, who is leaving his post as Boston's general manager after three and a half seasons. With Dave Dombrowski, former GM of the Detroit Tigers, taking over as Boston's president of baseball operations, Cherington is following Lucchino out the door as well.

Gone with him is Boston's slavish devotion to analytics, which many point to as the root of the team's recent failures. The front office's severe misjudgment was most obvious during this past offseason, which has turned out to be a disaster. Analytics may have said a starting rotation of Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson, and Joe Kelly would be fine, but any sensible person could see it was doomed from the start. Cherington trusted the same analytics that believed Ramirez could play left field, that said Pablo Sandoval was worth almost $100 million, and that valued Rusney Castillo at another $72.5 million.

Look, analytics are a great tool, and it's better to have them than not, but they can't be used blindly. Just as WAR shouldn't be the end-all, be-all stat for any baseball discussion, analytics shouldn't be the only method teams use for evaluating players. They're a good place to start, but you need to supplement with scouting.

Enter Dombrowski, one of the few remaining "old-school" baseball people. He may seem like a dinosaur to some, but his results on the field speak for themselves. While Dombrowski never won a World Series with the Tigers, he transformed them from one of the worst teams in baseball to a perennial powerhouse. He'll seek to do the same in Boston, aided by baseball's best farm system and a gargantuan payroll.

With Cherington gone, his first order of business is to find a new general manager. The frontrunner appears to be Frank Wren, former general manager of the Atlanta Braves. Like Dombrowski, Wren's a more traditional baseball mind who enjoyed great success with his last team. With him and Dombrowski at the helm Boston would seem to be in good hands.

Like his predecessor, Cherington left behind a huge mess to clean up. Hopefully Dombrowski and his new general manager can get things back in order as quickly as he did.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Reeling Red Sox Rout Mariners

Pablo Sandoval paced the assault with three hits and three RBI (
John Farrell never lets himself be the story. In his three tumultuous seasons as manager of the Boston Red Sox, he has never said anything even remotely controversial. He stays out of his own way, keeps his opinions to himself and his foot out of his mouth. In that sense he is the ideal manager, especially in a baseball-crazed town like Boston. No matter how stormy the seas get, he doesn't rock the boat.

Farrell is nothing like his predecessor, a diva manager who loved the spotlight and became a running punchline during his lone season at the helm. Perhaps that's why the Red Sox hired Farrell in the first place; because he was the exact opposite of Bobby Valentine.  

Now, because of circumstances beyond his control and almost certainly against his wishes. John Farrell has become the story. 


2015 has been a lost season for the Red Sox, a season of lost gameslost hopes, and lost personnel. Through it all Farrell has been his usual stoic self, keeping a steady hand and a straight face throughout another rocky season. He's kept an even keel even when his players lost their cool, the media ripped him to pieces, and Red Sox Nation called for his head as he steered the team towards a second-straight last-place finish.

Now, the Red Sox will have to carry on without him. Yesterday Farrell announced that he has treatable lymphoma, and that he'll be stepping away from the team for the remainder of the season. Red Sox bench coach Tory Lovullo will take his place in the dugout. 

Farrell's bombshell was the latest and most severe blow in a season wracked by frustration, disappointment, and underperformance. When it rains, it pours, like when Carl Beane and Johnny Pesky passed away during Boston's nightmare 2012 season. The Red Sox just learned they're losing Larry Lucchino, their CEO since 2002, at the end of the season. Now they've lost their manager, too. 

It's probably a blessing that the Sox are in last place as they deal with the unexpected departure of Farrell. Suffering such an emotional blow in the middle of a pennant race would have been even more devastating. It's still a punch in the gut regardless of the team's standing, but it would have been tough for the Sox to mount a playoff run without their skipper. There's no pressure on Lovullo or his players, who are free to play out the string and start preparing for next year.

Thankfully there was a game--or more accurately, a distraction--last night, which allowed the Red Sox and their fans to get back to the business of playing ball. With the Farrell news breaking earlier in the day, there was a dark cloud hanging over Fenway Park even though it was a gorgeous evening. The crowd spoke of Farrell's condition in hushed tones, anxiously seeking updates as they tried to keep pace with the developing story. For once Farrell was the headline, only everyone wished he was anything but. 

The Fenway Faithful needed something to celebrate. What they needed was a win.

The Red Sox delivered, pulling out their most dominant victory of the season with a 15-1 rout of the Seattle Mariners. Boston's 15 runs, 21 hits, and 14-run margin of victory were all season-highs. How fitting was it that the Sox followed their worst loss of the season with their most resounding win? It was the highest peak of what has been an up-and-(mostly) down year, the finest hour of a team struggling through its darkest.

The Bosox rallied behind their cancer-stricken skipper, putting on a show for their sellout crowd. Seattle scored the game's first run, but after that it was all Boston. The game produced several memorable moments, including another multi-homer performance from Travis Shaw and another highlight-reel catch by Mookie Betts.

Last night's rout of the Mariners was the best kind of win, the kind where everyone contributes. Nine different Red Sox banged out two or more hits, and the only Bostonian to go hitless (Xander Bogaerts) still contributed by scoring a run. Even Joe Kelly--a trainwreck on the mound this year--was masterful, firing six innings of one-run ball while striking out six. For a night, at least, the Red Sox could do no wrong.

As it turned out, Boston's bats were just getting warmed up. They followed the romp with an even bigger outburst on Saturday, demolishing the previous night's season highs with 22 runs and 26 hits. They lit up one of the sport's best pitchers in Felix Hernandez, pounding him for 10 runs on 12 hits and knocking him out in the third inning. Six different Red Sox finished the game with three hits or more, and every member of the starting nine registered at least one except Shaw.

So far this weekend has been exactly what the Red Sox and their fans needed: to vent four months of frustration by beating another team's brains out. The Red Sox haven't won much this year, but for two days they've played like the juggernaut they were supposed to be. 

Unfortunately winning isn't a cure-all. Winning won't treat Farrell's cancer. But it sure can make everyone feel a little bit better.

Pujols, Teixeira Turning Back the Clock

Teixeira takes another pitcher deep (NY Times)
One of the best sluggers in the American League this year is 35 year-old first baseman who has been hobbled by injuries in recent seasons, injuries that have cut into his into playing time, hampered his power, and left many to wonder just how effective he could be going forward. Recently his giant contract has been deemed among the worst in baseball, but this year he's been worth every penny. He's re-asserted himself as a middle of the order force on a contending team, socking home runs and driving in runs with regularity. Last month he was an All-Star for the first time in years, and now he's adding to his MVP case as the stretch run looms.

I'm talking about Mark Teixeira. I am also talking about Albert Pujols.

Both players, you see, are enjoying unexpected resurgences at the plate. What's funny is that they're going about it different ways. Pujols is being more aggressive than ever before, continuing a trend of declining walk rates since 2009. This is common in older hitters, who start their swing earlier to counteract their diminishing bat speed. He's also tinkered with his batting stance, adjusting his leg kick and load position. His is a classic case of an older player taking on the role of mad scientist, feverishly trying anything and everything in the hopes of recapturing his old glory.

Teixeira, on the other hand, wanted to get back to doing what he's always done: take walks and hit the ball a long way. Rather than experiment with a new approach, he simply sought to return to his old one. His only change was what he put on his plate, which no longer includes sugar and gluten (how somebody can swear off one, let alone both, is incomprehensible to me). Contrary to Pujols, Tex became even more patient. Granted, he's always been a disciplined hitter, but it's noteworthy that his walk rate hasn't been this high since 2010. Given how far the league walk rate has fallen since then, that's really quite impressive.

Once among the best pure hitters in the game, they're essentially all-or-nothing sluggers at this point. Their averages, which used to top .300 with regularity, have settled into the .250s. Pujols is striking out more than at any point since his rookie season, and Teixeira's taken plenty of whiffs, too.

It's the return of their power, however, that's made them elite offensive performers again. Both are sitting on 30 home runs, a benchmark neither has surpassed since 2011 (Pujols hit 30 on the nose in 2012--his first year with the Angels). They're tied for fifth-most in the American League, four behind ML-leader Nelson Cruz. Pujols is sporting his best Isolated Power since 2010, while Teixeira is putting up the best ISO of his career. Pujols is in the league's top-10 for total bases, whereas Tex is in the top-10 for slugging percentage and extra base hits.
Pujols hasn't hit this well since his Cardinals days (ESPN)
Their coinciding comebacks is just the latest parallel in their exceptional careers, which have mirrored each other at every turn. Both were born in 1980, came up in the early 2000s, and raked from the start. They were extremely durable. They hit for good power and high averages. They became multi-Gold Glove winning first basemen.

Both were absolute monsters through around 2009 or so, then they signed huge contracts with new teams and almost immediately began going downhill. Part of it was age, part of it was injuries, and part of it was the league-wide decline in offense that's been happening since these guys turned 30. They both had some years where they got off to absolutely terrible starts, and as you get older those slumps last longer and it becomes harder and harder to come back from them.

They both bottomed out in 2013, when injuries limited Pujols to 99 games and Teixeira to all of 15. They bounced back some in 2014, but nowhere near their pre-injury levels. As they crept into their mid-30s and injuries kept piling up, their careers seemed to be heading south.

Then, just when everyone had written them off, they came roaring back. Fully healthy for the first time in years, they've been able to inflict some serious damage on AL pitching this summer. It was a sight to see both at the Midsummer Classic, something neither had been a part of in half a decade. They looked like dinosaurs alongside National League representatives Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo, both of whom are nearly a decade younger.

But every All-Star Game is like that, a bizarre juxtaposition of fading stars and bright up-and-comers. Pujols and Teixeira might not have looked like they belonged, but their numbers said otherwise.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Owens Owns Yankees in First Start

Owens pitched well before Boston's bullpen unraveled (Vavel)
The lopsided score of last night's game in the Bronx would seem to suggest that poor Henry Owens got shelled in his first big league start. Given that New York routed Boston 13-3, you might have assumed the Bombers mopped the floor with the kid.

But that was hardly the case. The Yankees went to town after Owens left the game in the sixth, putting a dozen runs on the board. Two of those were charged to Owens, who departed with two on and nobody out, but it's still damn impressive that he only let up one run to the first-place Yanks in an August road start in the Stadium.

The 23 year-old started well enough, fanning Jacoby Ellsbury for the first K of his career. He quickly ran into trouble, though, as Chris Young grounded a seeing-eye single through the left side and Alex Rodriguez worked a seven-pitch walk. That set the table for Mark Teixeira, who's having one heck of a bounce back year. Like Rodriguez before him, Tex battled Owens to a full count before shooting a single up the middle, plating Young with the game's first run.

Just three batters after recording his first major league strikeout, Owens had surrendered his first earned run. It didn't take long for him to clean up the mess, however, as he retired Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran to end the inning.

After Chase Headley opened the bottom of the second with a single, Owens got into a groove. He retired 12 in a row after that, striking out four as he cruised during his second time through the order. Meanwhile, Boston took the lead with two runs in the fifth, giving Owens a shot at the win.

Alas, it was not to be. The same Yankees who roughed him up in the first tormented him again in the sixth. Young led off with a single, then Rodriguez ripped a doubled. Having thrown 96 pitches and facing a tough spot with Teixeira up again, Owens was lifted in favor of Robbie Ross. Ross promptly imploded, allowing another RBI single to Teixeira followed by a go-ahead two-run double from McCann. Having re-taken the lead, New York was just getting started.

No longer in line for the win, Owens could only watch as the Yankees hung nine more runs on the Sox in the seventh, putting the game out of reach. He'll have to hope for better relief work (and more run support) his next time out--another road start in Detroit on Sunday. He's slated to face Justin Verlander in what will be an interesting matchup of the rising star versus the washed-up has-been.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Beltre Breaks Out, Cycles Again

Beltre's bat seems to be coming around (SI)
Adrian Beltre turned back the clock last night, notching the third cycle of his illustrious career to help the Texas Rangers outslug the Houston Astros 12-9. Interestingly enough, all three of Beltre's cycles have come at Globe Life Park in Arlington--home of the Texas Rangers. His first cycle was as a visitor with the Seattle Mariners in 2008, while the second occurred in 2012--his second season with the Rangers.

Now 36 and in his 18th season, Beltre has shown signs of slipping this year. While he's continued to provide his usual stellar defense at the hot corner, he entered last night's game batting just .262/.305/.394--his lowest figures since his injury-plagued 2009. From 2010 to 2014 Beltre was among the best hitters in the game, but this year he's finally started to show his age. His power is down for the fourth straight year, though that might have something to do with the sprained left thumb that cost him three weeks in June. With his body breaking down and skills eroding, Beltre, like most athletes in their 30s, simply isn't the player he once was.

But for one night, at least, he was. The life returned to his bat, enabling him to Beltre wasted no time getting going, keying the Rangers' six-run first with a go-ahead, two-run triple into the left-centerfield gap. He doubled his next time up the very next inning, then followed that up with a single in the third. Facing Mike Fiers in the fifth, he proceeded to rip a laser over the left field wall, completing the cycle before the game was even half over.

Beltre's is the second cycle by a Ranger in less than two weeks, as teammate Shin-Soo Choo turned the trick at Coors Field back on July 21st. Beltre's cycle was special, however, for being the third of his career, which ties a major league record shared by John Reilly, Bob Meusel, and Babe Herman. All of them retired before Jackie Robinson broke the color line, making Beltre the first player with three cycles since baseball was integrated--a fitting accomplishment considering his Dominican heritage.

The Rangers, who are just two games behind the Twins for the second wild card, are hoping there's more where that came from. Beltre had already shown signs of breaking out prior to last night's display, going 3-for-4 with a home run on Friday and notching two more hits on Saturday. With a dozen hits--five for extra bases--in his past half dozen games, Beltre's bat appears to be coming around. A strong second half from him would go a long way towards keeping the Rangers' playoff hopes alive, not to mention prove he still has something left in the tank.

The Rangers and their fans can only hope that last night's game was a sign of things to come rather than a reminder of the beast Beltre used to be.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dead Sox Miss Deadline

The Red Sox had a quiet deadline this year (Boston CBS Local)
Despite their enviable position as one of the few sellers in a market flooded with buyers, the Boston Red Sox were unable to accomplish much at this year's trade deadline. All they managed to do was ship Shane Victorino to the Angels for Triple-A utilityman Josh Rutledge and acquire Ryan Cook, a reliever (pictured), from the Oakland A's for a player to be named later or cash.

Boston sold Victorino at his absolute low, at the age of 34 and in his second straight injury-plagued season. After picking up all but $1.1 million of money remaining on his contract, they'll have paid him about $38 million for roughly a full season (185 games). Rutledge is eight years younger but won't have much of an impact, seeing as how he hit just .259/.308/.403 in three years with Colorado and didn't get so much as a plate appearance since being traded to the Angels last December. Cook, 28, also spent much of the year in Triple-A after being demoted in early May. Once an All-Star (in 2012), his peripherals have been in decline ever since.

All in all, it was a very weak take for a last place team that needs all the help it can get. Cook could prove useful if he returns to his 2012-2014 form, but the Red Sox need a lot more than a middle reliever. It's going to take much bigger moves and millions more dollars to fix this bloated mess of a team.

It was especially disappointing that Boston was unable to upgrade its horrendous rotation with so many starting pitchers on the move last week. Granted, pretty much all of them save Cole Hamels are going to be free agents this winter, but then the Red Sox aren't the Royals when it comes to budget constraints. It's high time Boston paid real money to a pitcher that isn't Rick Porcello, and they better be ready to shell out this winter for a Mat Latos or Jeff Samardzija, if not a Price or a Cueto.

Boston's relatively inactive trade deadline was a far cry from last year's roster purge, when Ben Cherington traded eight players leading up to the deadline, including four-fifths of his Opening Day rotation. In breaking up the team that won it all nine months earlier, he was taking the first steps towards rebuilding for a competitive 2015. It hasn't worked out, mainly because all the players Cherington got in return (except Eduardo Rodriguez, who's been a gem) are either no longer with the club (Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson) or have played like garbage (Joe Kelly, Allen Craig).

To be fair, the Red Sox did not have many desirable trade chips this year. Teams weren't exactly lining up for the services of Mike Napoli, Alejandro De Aza, and Junichi Tazawa. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are untradeable given their poor performance and massive contracts. And for whatever reason, the Red Sox once again failed to unload Koji Uehara, a ticking time bomb at age 40 who should have been traded last summer.

Boston's best chance to add appreciable talent was via a three-way trade with the Cubs and Padres, but that deal was declared dead this morning. Deader than their moribund season.