I come before you today to discuss the state of our Red Sox. The past two years have been simultaneously nice and unsettling. I got the same feeling about this year’s team that I had about Tony Romo and Drew Bledsoe. The team was very good. At times they were excellent, but never elite. This nagging feeling of they wildly underachieved have throbs in my head like a hangover. First off I’d like to say goodbye and good luck to John Farrell. He is gone and I’m OK with that. Thank you for 2013 and good luck. Normally pitching coaches don’t make the best managers, but you pushed the right buttons that year.
Farrell inability to know his roster and tailor his MO to maximize their production drove me insane. Case in point Chris Sale. He makes Todd Pinkston look fat and fades out towards the end of the season. Why wasn’t he given extra days and limited to 30 starts and 195 innings pitched? Hitters are hitting .210 with a .264/.323/.587 OBP/SLG/OPS stat line in April. In September/October hitters are up to .259 with a .314/.436/.750 line.
Farrell’s handling of Xander Bogaerts was particularly troubling. He should operate by the Bill Belichick adage of know your players cold and tailor your coaching accordingly. Xander is a first half player. His 2017 splits are .303 6 HR 41 RBI in the first half and .235 4 HR 21 RBI in the second. 2016 was similar. He hit .329 10 HR 56 RBI in the first half but just .253 11 HR 33 RBI in the second. We know this so why he wasn’t limited to 145-148 games to keep him fresh is beyond me.
One last point on Xander; he got drilled in the hand on July 6th and his season fell apart after that. It’s staggering he wasn’t put on the DL. He really would have benefitted from two weeks to get his hand right and timing back. In the month of June he had an OPS of .763 but it fell to .452 in July. You see my point? John Farrell was impervious to baseball common sense. Alex Cora needs to have a Xander salvage operation in 2018. Limit him to 145 games, hit him leadoff, tell him to drive the ball and not settle for weak singles to right center field. With his size and speed a 20 HR/20 SB season is possible!
John Farrell’s handling of David Price was terrible. On one of my last columns I spoke on how Price is too concerned with media, too thin skinned, too rabbit eared and fundamentally lacks the clutch gene to be the ace of a World Series team. You need a real alpha dog to keep him in check or his unhappiness can wear on the rest of the team. Theo knew the bridges were burned with Nomar in 2004 and moved on. Why no one could see this with Price is baffling. Like Pablo Sandoval there is no shame in conceding you bet $217 million on the wrong horse. I sure wouldn’t hold it against them.
Thankfully Alex Cora is going to take the reins soon. I for one am glad they are going with a young bench coach instead of some retread. Hopefully Cora will take the lessons from the World Series teams and proceed with the right plan. For instance he needs to be given at least 8-12 starting pitchers to work with. Historically speaking teams almost never have 5 guys making 32 starts a year. It’s only happened a handful of times in the past century.
Cora needs to live by the 90% station to station 10% small ball rule. I’d like to see the 2018 team work counts, not swing at crap and belt some moon shots. A few times a year both pitchers are going to be throwing gems. Here is where you need the ability to bunt and move runners along. Cora played the game so I hope he knows the value of a few base stealing threats. Johnny Damon in ’04 and Ellsbury in ’07 and ’13 prove my point. Guys like Dave Roberts distracted Mo Rivera in Game 4. As a result he threw a flat cutter to Bill Mueller, and he belted it into center to tie the game. No stat could measure this, but any viewer can see speed distracts pitchers and turns singles into extra base hits. Farrell had this year’s team brainwashed into being suicidal kamikazes on the base paths. Cora hopefully has the sense to teach them the fine line between aggressive but not stupid. Rickey Henderson could pull off what the Sox did this year because he had the track record.
On the bright side I don’t think the Sox are far off from winning their 9th World Series title. The right tweaks here and there can make it happen. Farrell is gone and he’s the first move I’d make. Next up is change the approach on the base paths. Move no. 3 is purge David Price from the team. Move no. 4 is changing the character of team. Avoid fights with Eckersley and focus on winning. Move 5 is acquire more power.