At the beginning of this season the
odds on favorites to be division title winners in the American League of Major
League Baseball were the Anaheim Angels, Detroit Tigers, and Toronto Blue Jays.
All three have amassed a lot of talent onto their rosters and seem poised to go
deep into the playoffs. They all have young rising stars and solid veterans.
Each have Cy Young caliber ace pitchers. Two other teams, the Texas Rangers and
the New York Yankees, although seeming to take steps back in the offseason,
still are considered strong contenders come the postseason.
Enter the 2013 Boston Red Sox. After huge offseason signings in 2011 they
seemed ready to dominate baseball in much the way the Yankees have for a decade
and a half. But after a historic collapse in August and September of 2011, and
a miserable start to the 2012 season, the Sox jettisoned much of their new
“talent”, fired, hired, and fired two managers (including Terry Francona the
beloved skipper of their world series teams), and seemed to be gambling on
going in a much different direction than anyone could have imagined just two
seasons earlier. They did manage to retain three veteran bats in David
Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury, as well as veteran pitchers John
Lester and Clay Buchholz. The question was whether the Sox could put
enough talent around these veterans or even if these five stars could carry the
team that had been entrusted to them. Would they stay healthy?
Suffice it to say that in March of 2013 the Red Sox were not a very safe bet to
even make a wildcard spot, let alone have any shot at a division title or
national title. But this is why we call it a “gamble”, and a “safe” bet is
never a “sure” bet. Odds and statistics cannot measure heart, and in a city
that started a revolution and most recently has weathered a terrorist attack on
its very psyche, nobody can be surprised when an underdog can turn into a
Now the season is a month old, but the Red Sox are proving that they at least
have come to play this year, something that Toronto and Anaheim have yet to do.
Not only that, but they have the best record in the majors out of the gate. What
were the odds?Lester and Buchholz look
like the top two aces in the American League. Ortiz is in one of the best
hitting streaks of his career. Pedroia and Ellsbury are getting hits and
looking nimble in the field. But this is just a collective New England
sigh of relief. What’s truly surprising are the little details: Daniel
Nava is hitting out of his mind looking like more than just a very good minor
leaguer a possible every day starter. Will Middlebrooks is staying sharp
defensively on the field while weathering a minor sophomore slump behind the
bat and is looking to be slowly coming out of that slump and providing a
solid bat in the middle of the lineup. Mike Carp, in limited appearances, is
also hitting out of his mind. And the bullpen, a big weakness last year and big
question mark this season, is one of the best in the majors with the two
Japanese pitchers Tazawa and Uehara along with closers Andrew Bailey and
Can the Red Sox keep up this strong start? Anyone’s guess. They certainly were
no one’s early favorite coming into the season, and they will have to find ways
to keep their stars fresh and sustain the ebbs and flows of batting slumps and
streaks in a very long baseball season, while minimizing the injury bug that is
always hard to avoid. In a sport that is all about momentum they certainly have
it, and Boston has been known to spit at long odds, so if you’re a betting
man/woman consider laying some money on the Red Sox being at least in the Wild
Card come playoffs. Because even though you can’t measure heart, this
team seems to have it, as well as a lot of fight, and this early momentum might
just propel them past some teams that have a lot more talent on paper and a lot
more salary in their pockets!
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The 2013 Red Sox is the infamous “bridge year.” And it is the right move. One eye on 2013 and the other on 2014 and beyond is necessary after accepting the Dodgers godfather offer last August.
In a watered down A.L. East, the 2013 Red Sox have an outside shot at the Division. A career year or two and some good luck can lead to October baseball in the Fens. But Yawkey Way should be planning to subtract rather than add to the club in July.
The Sox have a number of possible attractive pieces to trade. Free agents after the 2013 season are likely to be dealt. The most notable is Jacoby Ellsbury. The former MVP candidate, if healthy and productive, could command a piece to the 2014 puzzle. The others alone may not bring back a significant player but future assets are more valuable than Stephen Drew, Aaron Hanrahan, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltimacchia.
As we look towards the middle years of this decade, the Sox options on the mound is relatively deep. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Allen Webster, Jorge De La Rosa, Felix Doubront, etc. provide enough options that at least three could become top of the rotation starters. The right side of the defensive spectrum looks strong with Will Middlebrooks, Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Xander Bogaerts or Jose Iglesias. The organization appears to be missing another possible middle of the order bat. Middlebrooks and Bogaerts may not become the next Manny-Ortiz. The Sox should target a slugging prospect to diversify their offensive assets like they have on the mound.
The Tigers could be the ideal trading partner. They are in win-now mode, do not have an established closer, could use an upgrade in left field and have hitting prospect, Nick Castellanos. He is a legit hitting prospect. A package with Castellanos, Ellsbury and Hanrahan as the principals could make sense for both parties. But the Sox would need to have both eyes on the future.
I can see having Francona in a meeting to discuss the overall marketing strategy once or twice a year. He is the Production Manager. But it seems like the meeting was during the season and was specific to the falling NESN ratings. If so, this is outrageous.
and possibly 2014 will be bridge years to the accession of the next Red Sox
core.All of the off-season signings were
intended to do the following:
the front office to better cultivate the precious crops on the farm.Yawkey Way does not want to be tempted to
rush a player.
the themselves with financial flexibility for the 2015 season when the
prospects should be ready.
a product that would NOT appear that 2013 is a rebuilding season without having
to surrender a draft pick or a current prospect.
On twitter, I have quibbled with some of the signings.But other than the Shane Victorino deal,
nothing was terrible.(The Victorino
contract will haunt the Sox like a bad case of herpes.)The real question is does the Olde Towne Team
have enough future average regulars by 2015 for this to be a feasible plan?
one knows their prospects better than the Sox, so I’ll give them the benefit of
the doubt.But many prospects do not
live up to their potential.Hence,
another part of the bridge to 2015 plan should be adding to, and thereby
diversifying the assets in the Sox portfolio of prospects.The only means to accomplishing this is in
the trade market.Yawkey Way needs to
move any player (Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew Bailey, etc.) that is
unlikely to be a cog in the 2015 team when their market value peaks.
fans, we try to be insiders. We read the
main-stream media outlets, listen to sports radio and TV, check out of the blogs
and chat rooms, but we are outsiders. We
only have a tiny inkling about what characteristics would be a good fit as the
Red Sox Manager - let alone who that person should be.
are not in the dugout or the clubhouse.
The two essential places that one could start to collect information and
draw an informed opinion on what characteristics would make for a successful
Manager of our local nine.
can only go on what the media informs us, who more often than not come with
their own bias. And when we do get a
direct quote, the Red Sox employee is often filtering himself. We are always being put through the spin
have unbiased data on players and therefore can do a before/after analysis of
John Farrell’s four year tenure as Pitching Coach. It may give us an indication of Farrell’s
impact on the 2013 Olde Towne Team’s pitchers.
Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Jon Lester have enough information to analyze and are
still property of the Red Sox heading into 2013.
terms of ERA, each pitcher peaked in Farrell’s last year in Boston and have
fallen off to varying degrees over the past two seasons. But ERA is a flawed
measure to evaluate a pitcher’s production (most notably since it does not
accurately separate a fielder’s performance). Other newer metrics give us a
clearer understanding of a pitcher’s true value, although the simple K/BB ratio
usually does an admirable job in many cases. So when measuring Farrell’s
coaching using K/BB, it is more murky.
had an uptick each year after 2010. Bard was better in 2011, and then had an
epic collapse this season. Lester has slightly declined after Farrell’s
departure in 2010. It is far from a given that Farrell will be able to bring
these three back to their stellar 2010 ERAs, just like we are unclear if he
will be a good fit as the Red Sox Manager.
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