Anyone who read my last post knows exactly how I feel about the Red Sox ownership and their recent turmoil. Monday afternoon, former Red Sox great Curt Schilling decided that there wasn’t enough fuel in this fire, so he added more. Curt Schilling appeared on 98.5 the Sports Hub, and the now infamous Felger & Massarotti afternoon segment when he said, “…he’s [John Henry] full of ****.” Strong words to say the least from the former Sox, but not uncharted waters for Schilling. Almost a week ago now on October 12, Schilling, while on national TV on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, said, “These [owners] are some bad people.” That is a very big accusation to make, not just about the organization, but about the character of the owners. Schilling is saying that the 3 owners, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, and John Henry, are not good human beings; that there is something morally wrong with them. Could this just be the ramblings of a bitter man, after arguing with the Sox when he hurt his shoulder in 2008 after signing a 1 year $8 million contract? Perhaps. Yet again, Schilling would know exactly how the Red Sox organization operates after spending 4 years there and winning 2 World Series. This brings us to Monday afternoon.
Schilling was a special guest on the Felger & Massarotti show Monday afternoon, and he was asked to provide some insight into the team. “It’s a ton of mudslinging and finger-pointing, and at the end of the day the 2 guys most responsible for bringing 2 world championships here and turning this organization around are gone.” Schilling said. When asked what he thinks about John Henry saying that ownership was not involved in the recent release of private information about Terry Francona and the Sox clubhouse Schilling said, “I think he’s full of ****… and I think he’s disingenuous at best. I think there’s been a lot of that, and I think when Terry comes out and says, very candidly, in the press conference… I didn’t feel like the ownership of this team had my back. That is such a much more powerful statement then the words being used. And then to have someone follow that up with… I was confused by that when he said that… That’s not true. You know this is a group of people who would love everybody to believe that they just sit back and watch baseball ops run the team, it’s not true, they’ve been involved, they’re always involved. When asked if Schilling had even been involved with anything like this Schilling said, “Oh absolutely. Absolutely, I got to see it… I’m not speculating. I got to see it, and experience it and watch it happen.” Schilling added one last jab at ownership when asked about what the perception of the Red Sox organization is he said, “When things like this information, Tito’s marriage stuff, and the medical stuff, and the pills and stuff; when that stuff starts coming from a ‘source’ in the organization, that’s people with an agenda, and people with power in an organization because those things don’t come out, they can’t come out from people other than that. The amount of people that can know enough about that information to make it to be a source is very, very small.”
While Schilling was putting the blame on ownership for the leaking of information, he still maintained that close friend Terry Francona and some of his former teammates were very much responsible for the collapse. When asked if Francona was totally blameless for the collapse Schilling said, “No, absolutely not! … He’s one of the few guys to have the wherewithal, the integrity, to stand up and say this is my fault I couldn’t reach the players… ” Schilling then explored what is the root of all this sludge, an idea that I personally explored in a post right after the collapse, which is the players quitting on this team.
Schilling said he was caught off guard by some of the comments Jon Lester had made earlier in the day, with Lester acknowledging that Francona had lost a voice in the clubhouse. “You’ve got a bunch of grown man admitting that they no longer felt like they listen to the guy in charge, and I don’t understand that.” Schilling said. “… you have a player basically telling you exactly what happened… which means, again I go back to the fact that these players quit. They quit on each other, they quit on the manager, they quit on the organization, they quit on the fans. I think that much is clear.” he added. The comments he’s referring to can be found in the article below.
Schilling has always been known for speaking his mind, and he leveled into ownership and the players during his interview. We all know that Francona lost the clubhouse, and personally I think that we all can accept that fact. From everything that’s come out, it is clear that it was not Francona’s fault for the collapse. It was not ownerships fault for the collapse either, it is all on the players. Yes ownership is completely at fault for leaking information to the public. The information that has come out these past few days should confirm that. But there comes a point when what’s going on in the clubhouse doesn’t matter to you or me. I am very concerned about what’s going on in that clubhouse, and I will continue to voice myself on that. The releasing of information is ridiculous, and the owners deserve to be called out on that. But the players are where the root of all this sludge comes from. That’s where there needs to be a change. If these players decided that they didn’t need to listen to their manager, and they could go and eat fried chicken and have a couple of beers (there’s no way it was just 1 Jon Lester, sorry, but that’s a lie for PR), then something has to be done to re-emphasize that these players are adults making millions of dollars a year to play a game. Jon Lester basically said that these players need a babysitter, that they can’t be trusted to do their jobs. That is just pathetic, when you think about a grown man acting like he is 10 years old. These players want to be able to do whatever they want, as long as that means they don’t have to go to work or be held accountable for their mistakes. They had that chance with Francona, as he would defend his players and their performance on the field ever day he was the manager of the Red Sox. Now that Francona’s gone, you are seeing exactly what the Red Sox didn’t want us to see. The players and the front office did not expect to have this type of information come out, and without Francona to defend his players you are seeing upper management throwing their once great manager under the bus to protect their players. The time for action is now. The owners of this team should stop protecting their players, and start holding those players accountable for their shameful performance on the field. If the owners had simply done this from the beginning, then you wouldn’t have seen the information about Francona come out. Red Sox nation does not care nor want to know about all of these goings ons in the clubhouse or with Francona, we just want to see results. If this information was not released, and the Red Sox were to get rid of Francona for reasons I’ve stated earlier, and then Lackey, Beckett, and Varitek to try to clear up this clique, and the Sox went out and won a World Series, no one would have a bad thing to say about the Sox. The PR games need to stop at Fenway if they want to see a playoff game at Fenway.
The Boston Red Sox are not having a good offseason. The Red Sox have fired their manager, Terry Francona, there are rumors that Theo Epstein is going to the Chicago Cubs for money and/or prospects, there has been a series of reports about a clique (including Josh Beckett, John Lester, and John Lackey) drinking beer, playing video games, and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse while the Sox were playing, and the latest splurge of demeaning information came on October 12, when Bob Hohler published a story in the Boston Globe absolutely smearing Terry Francona and the players. The article can be found below:
In this article, Hohler explores why Terry Francona may have lost the clubhouse. Hohler says, “Team sources said Francona, who has acknowledged losing influence with some former team leaders, appeared distracted during the season by issues related to his troubled marriage and to his health.”
Think about that for a second. Terry Francona may not have been able to manage the Red Sox because he was dealing with a bad marriage and health problems. Does this seem like the sort of thing you should know? If Terry Francona is having marital problems, I leave that to him and the walls in his house. If it affected his managerial skills, then it’s the Red Sox job to let him go so that both parties can take care of their separate situations. But I do not want to or need to know that he is having that problem, and it is outrages that this information got out! Furthermore, if Francona is addicted to painkillers why should that be disclosed. Hohler says, “Team sources also expressed concern that Francona’s performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication, which he also vehemently denied. Francona said he has taken pain medicine for many years, particularly after multiple knee surgeries. He said he used painkillers after knee surgery last October and used them during the season to relieve the discomfort of doctors draining blood from his knee at least five times.”
I do not care about Francona’s possible drug addiction, except for the fact that I wish him the best of luck in overcoming any possible demons. If he does have a problem, again, that’s his business and the Red Sox were right to get rid of him. As if that wasn’t enough, the Red Sox source adds insult to injury by saying, “While Francona coped with his marital and health issues, he also worried privately about the safety of his son, Nick, and son-in-law, Michael Rice, both of whom are Marine officers serving in Afghanistan.” Yea, maybe Francona couldn’t win a couple of games because he’s busy thinking about he’s son and son-in-law dying over in Afghanistan! Let’s look at the big picture here, it’s time to forget about baseball when human lives are at stake.
The players don’t get off easy either. As I stated earlier, Hohler discusses the player clique of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey. He also shows how lost the clubhouse was even when they were winning. The Red Sox were leading the division in late August, but that appears to just be an illusion of togetherness. The team was just as dysfunctional and distant from each other, management, and upper management at that time.
Hohler explores saying, “As Hurricane Irene barreled toward Boston in late August, management proposed moving up the Sunday finale of a weekend series against Oakland so the teams could play a day-night doubleheader either Friday, Aug. 26, or Saturday, Aug. 27. The reasoning seemed sound: the teams would avoid a Sunday rain out and the dilemma of finding a mutual makeup date for teams separated by 2,700 miles. But numerous Sox players angrily protested. They returned early that Friday from Texas after a demanding stretch in which they had played 14 of 17 games on the road, with additional stops in Minneapolis, Seattle, and Kansas City. The players accused management of caring more about making money than winning, which marked the first time the team’s top executives sensed serious trouble brewing in the clubhouse.”
While it might be true that ownership cares more about making money than they do their players, the players come off as cry babies about a simple doubleheader. News flash, you get paid to play a sport! It’s not like these guys have to go into consecutive brain surgeries, they just have to go out and have fun playing baseball. By the way, the Red Sox swept that doubleheader. They were so tired that they went out and won both games. Regardless of how bad the players or Terry Francona might look in this article, I still have one question.
Why is this information being leaked? That can not be answered without first figuring out who leaked the information. “Red Sox sources” is all that is given during the article. So someone or someones within the Red Sox organization leaked personal information about their former manager, their players, and the overall clubhouse environment. To figure out who within the organization may have done this, you must read into the article a little bit more. Think again for a moment; Terry Francona, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and the entire clubhouse are brought to the guillotine and slaughtered by this article. Who’s remaining in the Red Sox organization?
There in lies the secret to the source of all this Red Sox information, and it makes perfect sense. The Red Sox’s front office was receiving heat for not resigning Terry Francona, especially when Francona came out and said he didn’t feel ownership had his back during the year. So the people in upper management, consisting of GM Theo Epstein, Chairmen Tom Werner, President and CEO Larry Lucchino, and Principle Owner John Henry, decided to let the public know that Francona shouldn’t have been brought back because of all these problems he has. They then showed the players as being selfish, arrogant, whiny, spoiled brats, just to get the point across for how hard they had to try to get these players to actually work together as a team. Upper management wanted you to feel bad for all the problems they faced when trying to construct a winning team. And you know what, they’re right! I totally agree with what they did, and I feel very bad for what they had to go through. Dealing with all these prima donna players is ridiculous, and having a manager that is clearly distracted didn’t help. But to then go out, and reveal that information to a reporter so that he can tell the world so that you come off as the good guy, is pathetic. The hero does the right thing even when no one is looking. It shouldn’t matter to those guys in the front office what people think of them, as long as they win. If the Red Sox went on to win the World Series next year, and none of this information was leaked out, then everyone would be talking about what a great job ownership did handling Tito and the collapse. They would be revered for completely changing the atmosphere in the clubhouse, and everyone in Boston, including me, would love what they have done for this city. They decided that wasn’t good enough, so they went and released all this sensitive information to the people. If you’re not convinced it was upper management leaking the information, then consider this. Who would even know of such personal information in the Red Sox organization? Even John Henry admitted, “Not that many I would think.”
John Henry apparently heard Mike Felger of 98.5 the Sports Hub ranting about how ownership was smearing Tito, and he took an exception to it. In a spur of the moment interview, John Henry decided to join the Sports Hub’s Felger & Massarotti October 14, to put all of these rumors to rest. I’ve heard this interview, and I can personally say he wasn’t very convincing. Henry was all over the place, and at some points couldn’t even give a coherent response. According to Henry, Red Sox sources leaked the information, not Tom, Larry, or himself. If that is true, that it was just some ant worker who leaked the information, then what kind of state is the front office in? Not only can John Henry not control his baseball team, but now he can’t even control his own employees that work right under him! John states this, but then says, “When it comes to who’s giving person info from the Red Sox, you can’t really go on a witch hunt and start accusing people,”.
So Henry wants us to believe that someone in the Red Sox organization leaked information not named Larry, Tom, or John, and then he wants us to believe that he can’t go out and find the person responsible because it’s not nice to go witch hunting. He owns the team, he can do whatever he wants! He could just get rid of his whole staff if he wanted to and hire any number of unemployed and capable people just to show that revealing information like this is unacceptable! If you still chose to believe that Henry and ownership did not release the information, then consider this. Why didn’t this information come out sooner? If someone wanted to give out sensitive information such as this, why would they wait until a 2 weeks after the season ended and not 2 days? You gain nothing by waiting, so why not just let it all out when they lose the final game of the year to miss the postseason for a 2nd straight year?
Then the last bit of information that seals the deal, is this. Henry said that he and his companies could not possibly be the ones responsible for leaking the information, because the writer of the article, Bob Hohler, has already said that it was a Red Sox source and not the owners. Henry says this in the first 3:30 of his interview on 98.5, which can be heard below.
Monday morning though, the morning show on 98.5 the Sports Hub of Toucher & Rich revisited this idea. It culminated in an email from Toucher & Rich to Hohler, asking if he had indeed stated that the owners of the Red Sox were not his leads. Hohler emailed back saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, that he has not made any statements since the article was published, and he will leave it a that. That’s it. This one statement via email throws everything that John Henry has been arguing into question. So this leaves 2 possible answers. Either Henry is being fed misinformation, or he’s a liar. I’m gonna go on record saying it was most likely the latter. If Henry’s very first statement during his interview is that Hohler had already stated that the front office was not his lead, and this statement is false, then how much else did Henry say that is not true? Based on everything I have seen, there is virtually no case that the Red Sox’s front office, ownership in-particular, is not responsible for the leaking of personal information about their ex-manager, players, and clubhouse. Through all of this, I agree with ownerships decision to get rid of Terry Francona, and I will most likely agree with any changes they make to the roster. But dragging their players, their ex-manager, into all this sludge, is in the words of John Henry, ” It’s reprehensible.”
What was thought to be World Series favorites, has turned out to be a team of frauds. After missing the postseason for just the 2nd time in 7 years, and with doubts about the heart of their order, Sox General Manager Theo Epstein went out and acquired left-handed slugger Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres. Then, in a stunning move, he acquired hot Free Agent commodity Carl Crawford. It looked like the Sox would have a dominant lineup in 2011, and they would have arguably the best pitching staff in the AL with Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, Lackey, Daisuke, Bard, and Papelbon. The team was poised to make the postseason, having a half game lead over the Yankees for the division, and a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card on September 1st. No team in Major League history has ever blown a 9 game lead with just the final month left to play. That was until, this Boston Red Sox team hit the field.
This Boston Red Sox team did the impossible, they whittled away a 9 game lead from September 1st, all the way down to a tie for the Wild Card lead on September 28. On the last game of the year though, it looked like the Sox would make up for everything that happened. The Red Sox entered the 7th inning with a 3-2 lead over the Baltimore Orioles. A rain delay though would force the game to come to a pause. While the Sox watched the Tampa Bay Rays battle the Yankees in their clubhouse, they saw the un-probable happening. Entering the 8th inning, the Yankees had a 7-0 lead over the Rays. Things started going south from here for the Sox. Tampa Bay miraculously pulled the game to within 1, and in the bottom of the 9th inning, with 2 outs and 2 strikes, pinch hitter Dan Johnson pulled a ball down the right field wall, and out of the ballpark. It was a tie game out in Tampa. The Red Sox went back to work just moments before this, and worked their way to the 9th inning. And with 2 outs, and 2 strikes of their own, closer Jonathan Papelbon allowed the game tying RBI double to Mark Reynolds. It was just his 3rd blown save in 34 opportunities this season. The very next batter was Robert Andino. With a 1-1 count, Andino hit a fastball down the middle of the plate on a line into left field. Carl Crawford came rushing in, went to the slide, and the ball hit the very tip of his glove but stayed out. Reynolds scored from 2nd on the play, and the Red Sox, in stunning fashion, had just lost to the Baltimore Orioles, 4-3. Not even 5 minutes later, Evan Longoria would hit a walk off homerun down the left field line, to give his Tampa Bay Rays an 8-7 win, and the Wild Card. Thus ended the greatest collapse in MLB regular season history. This puts the Sox, and their record payroll, in a bit of a bind now.
Ortiz, Papelbon, J.D. Drew, Scutaro, Varitek, Bedard, and Wakefield are all free agents going into this offseason. The big question becomes, who do you keep, and who do you let go? Ortiz, Varitek, and Wakefield all need to be let go. These 3 guys have done great things for the franchise in their time here, but they don’t have anything left to contribute. What it would cost to retain these players just wouldn’t be worth the money, or the years that they most likely will want. I think it also will help give the franchise a new look, and let them start fresh with some younger talent. Drew appears as if he’ll retire, and that’s besides the fact that there is no way the Sox bring him back when they have Ryan Kalish and Josh Redick they can put out in Right. Papelbon, Scutaro, and Bedard I think all have to come back. Papelbon is still an elite closer, and he showed that this year. He came back from a bad 2010 performance, and had just 3 blown saves all year. While he did blow the most important game of the year, he’s one of the only guys you can say that truly helped them get to that point with his consistency. Scutaro is another guy who provided consistent output throughout the season. Also, there is no one who the Sox can really bring in or call up that will replace him. Bedard is a question mark this offseason. He’s very injury prone, and a guy who has to be limited when he pitches. But who can the Sox go out and get to replace him? Roy Oswalt, C.J. Wilson even C.C Sabathia perhaps? While all will be free agents, I really don’t see any of them leaving their current teams. Bedard is a solid starter, and if monitored will produce for the Sox. There is already one person though we all know won’t be returning next season.
Heartbreakingly, Terry Francona has not had his option picked up by Red Sox management. Sad to see Francona go, especially with the way it happened. Sounds like he was tired of this team though, and wanted to go just as much as management wanted to get rid of him. These players let him down, and there needs to be a big change with the environment. According to reports by the likes of Sean McAdams and Dan Shaughnessy, the players weren’t listening to Tito anymore. There were cliques in the clubhouse, players were drinking beer in the middle of games. They flat-out didn’t care, and didn’t want to hear his message anymore. Terry can’t make them care if they don’t want to, and it showed on the field when the going got tough. This team showed their true colors as Francona said in his press conference on Friday. He didn’t like what he saw, and neither did I. You could say it’s his fault because he lost the clubhouse, but the collapse is all about how the players performed down the stretch. It’s all on the players. Epstein made some bad moves in Free Agency, but he also put together a team that was on pace for 100 wins at the beginning of September. And because of the way the players acted in this final month, Terry Francona has to lose his job.
He leaves Boston with a 744-552 record, 2nd most wins among Red Sox managers. He was 28-17 in the postseason, having a .622 winning percentage. That is the 2nd best all time in Major League history, with a minimum of 25 starts. He also became just the 2nd Red Sox manager ever to win 2 World Series. His greatest feat by far, was amounting the greatest comeback in Baseball history, by coming back from a 0-3 deficit in the 2004 ALCS against the rival Yankees. The Sox became the only team in Baseball history to come back down 0-3 to win a series 4-3. That led Boston to its first World Series appearance since 1986, and their first World Series Championship since 1918 after sweeping the best team in the Major Leagues that year, the St. Louis Cardinals. He was the best manager in Red Sox history. I don’t think anybody can really say otherwise. Now the question becomes, who are you going to find that can replace Terry Francona? Big shoes to fill for whoever it is, and they will be expected to take this team to the World Series.
We have a possible World Series preview tonight, as the Boston Red Sox start a 3 game series with Philadelphia Philies. Entering this season, after all the off-season moves made by both teams, most everyone felt a Red Sox-Philies World Series was inevitable. A slow start by the Red Sox though put those discussions on ice. The Sox have climbed their way back to the top, and somehow find themselves half a game behind the AL East leading Yankees. The Philies meanwhile have been dominating this season from the get go. They have the best record in the big leagues at 49-30. They have arguably the best pitching rotation in baseball, with 2 Cy Young winners in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, a NLCS MVP in Roy Oswalt, and a World Series MVP in Cole Hamels. Oswalt though is on the DL, and likely won’t return until August. Where the Red Sox might be able to capitalize on is the Philies hitting.
Philadelphia has struggled this season with the bats. Not having Chase Utley to start the season hurt them, but they also are not getting contributions from other stars. Philadelphia only has 1 hitter with an average above .300. That would be Ross Gload, who only has 50 at-bats. The Red Sox have 3 players batting over .300 with at least 250 at bats. Lead off hitter, and former NL MVP Jimmy Rollins is batting a measly .260 with a .332 On Base Percentage. Compare that to Red Sox leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s hitting .303 with a .365 OBP. The Philies have 1 hitter with 10+ homeruns, while the Red Sox have 3 (and 1 player with 9). The Red Sox have superior hitting, and when you combine that with great pitching they should have the advantage. But, the Sox have not played that way recently. Two of the worst teams in the Majors, the San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates, almost swept the Sox recently. If the Sox want to win, they need to capitalize on their offensive chances. They won’t have many of them, but hopefully the Sox pitching staff can keep the weak Philly offense off the board.
We are midway through the month of May, and the Red Sox are finally .500. Boston completed a sweep of the Yankees in New York last night, improving to 5-1 against the Bombers this season. It was a rough start for Lester on Sunday night. He allowed 4 runs in the first 2 innings, but settled down afterward to gut through 6 strong innings. Lester is now 5-1 with a 3.28 ERA. Freddy Garcia started in a losing effort for New York. After a shutout 1st inning, Garcia allowed 4 runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings. The big strike came off the bat of Kevin Youkilis. After a close pitch that was called a ball, (that everyone in New York thought was strike 3) Youk took the very next pitch out of the park. That 3-run blast had tied the game at 4 early in the game. In the 5th, David Ortiz would score the go-ahead run, blasting a homerun into the rightfield stands. He actually chipped his bat on the hit, but he somehow put the ball in the stands. An error by A-Rod would allow Pedrioa to advance to 3rd and home to score an insurance run in the 7th. In the bottom half of the inning, Alfrado Aceves allowed a double by Rodriguez. Granderson, who walked earlier in the inning, would score on an error by Crawford. Boston still had a 1 run lead though. Saltalamacchia added an insurance run in the top of the 8th, taking Joba Chamberlin deep to right. Bard was solid in the 8th, and Papelbon sat down Granderson, Teixeira, and Rodriguez in order to record the save in the 9th. New York has now dropped 9 out of 12, and now must head to Tampa to take on the Rays.
That’s the first time Boston has swept New York in a 3 or more game series in New York since… 2004. That leaves them just 3 games behind the East leading Rays, and 1 game behind the 2nd place Yankees. It’s been a long journey, but the Sox have put themselves in position to get back in the playoff hunt. The Sox will head back to Boston for a 3 game series against the Baltimore Orioles starting tonight. The Sox have had great pitching, and decent hitting. Hopefully the bats pick up after this series. From now on, the Red Sox have to have a different mentality. They no longer have to play desperate baseball, but they certainly can’t let off the gas just yet. Boston has hit the reset button, but what are they gonna do with it?
After last nights sweep of the Angels, The Red sox are on an 8-1 run. The Sox are now just 1 game below .500, and just 3.5 games behind the 1st place Yankees. WHAT! Seriously, the Red Sox are just 3.5 games behind the Yankees for the best record in the East. Is that not mind-blowing? This team was 2-10 after losing at home to the Blue Jays on April 15. Since then, they have lost only one game, and are 10-11 on the year. Their hitting has improved, but it’s their pitching that has caused such a turnaround. They allowed 1 run in each of the 3 wins against Toronto, 3 runs against the A’s, and 2 runs, 3 runs, and then 2 shutouts against the Angels. The Red Sox pitching staff has a 0.88 ERA over the 9 game span, which is the lowest amount since Babe Ruth was pitching in 1918. But will the Sox be able to keep this up?
Well, no, they won’t. Of course the Sox starters aren’t going to continue to have a team ERA under 1.00 for every 9 game span. But, they will be better than they were to start the season. Lester is off to a hot start, uncharacteristic of him. Beckett looks like he’s back to his ’07 form, which is a huge lift for this team. Dice-K has had back-to-back great starts, allowing just 1 hit in each. I don’t know if he can keep that up, but if he can get back to his 18 win production in the ’08 season, he will provide a huge lift as well. He is capable of such a season, but for some reason, he has never been able to put it all together in the US. Lackey had a good start last night, but don’t expect that again anytime soon. Coming off the win over the Angels, Lackey is now 4-0 against his old team, with an ERA under 4.00. He obviously knows the team very well, and probably has some hatred towards them letting him go to Boston. He has been awful this season, but maybe this could be a catalyst for the rest of his season. He’s not gonna be a 20 game winner, but if he can get to 15 or over, it would be a good season for him. The only pitcher who hasn’t lived up to expectations so far this year is Buchholz. To that I say, look at Lester. He is notorious for having slow starts, especially early in his career. Every year I would wonder if the April Lester was the real Lester. But as the season went on, he would turn into a dominant force. So I hope Buchholz will be like Lester. Because he’s still very early in his career, and hasn’t had great success until last year, I will lean towards this being some growing pains. I feel Buchholz will get better, and then the Red Sox will have a dominant pitching staff. The Sox are not so far away from getting to the top of the AL East as people think. There may yet be hope for this once left for dead team.
As we enter the mid-way point of the first month in Major League Baseball, the Red Sox have been disappointing to say the least. After acquiring Adrian Gonzalez via trade in December (and signing him to a 7 year/$154 million dollar extension on April 15), and signing Carl Crawford to a 7 year/142 million dollar deal, this was supposed to be the most prolific offense in baseball. But along the way, something has gone wrong. One of the glaring problems that this team faces, is that Crawford doesn’t fit anywhere in this lineup. He’s a tweener guy. He can hit 1, 2, 3, or even 4 or 5 in a batting order. He has great legs, a good bat, and has an aggressive swing that drives the ball. So where do you put him in this Red Sox lineup?
Fifth isn’t really a good spot, because he would be batting behind one of the slowest members of the team in Gonzalez, and that’s where they want Ortiz batting. Fourth isn’t a good spot, because that’s where the power hitters go. And in a lineup that has Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis, one of those guys will fill that hole. Third isn’t a great spot, because again, you will have Gonzalez or Youk hitting there. Second is out of the question. Pedrioa has pretty much solidified that as his spot in the lineup. So that just leaves the leadoff spot. And that is where the problem lies.
For about three years now, the leadoff spot has been reserved for Jacoby Ellsbury. When Ellsbury burst onto the scene in late ’07, he showed us what marvelous talent he has. A .300 hitter, with incredible speed, and a good glove. Ellsbury really shined brightest, on the biggest stage. The 2007 World Series against Colorado. In that series, Ellsbury went from bench player in the ALCS, to full-time superstar overnight. He showed a great ability to put the ball in play. And with his speed, any ball in the infield had to be delivered quick and accurate, or you weren’t going to get him. In 2008, Ellsbury became the full-time starter in center-field. He was terrific. He batted .280, with 22 doubles, 7 triples and 9 home runs. He also stole 50 bases, while only being caught 11 times. However, his OBP was just .336. The next year was even better for Ellsbury. He hit .301, with 27 doubles, 10 triples, and 8 home runs. He had a staggering 70 steals, being caught just 12 times. Again though, a low OBP of just .355. And in 2010, the wheels came off for the young center-fielder. He played in just 18 games, and mustered a .192 average in his injury plagued season. So, while Ellsbury’s numbers are good, they are not good enough for a leadoff man. His one fatal flaw is his OBP. Ellsbury is a very aggressive hitter, and he doesn’t have a good eye. It can be painful to watch as he consistently swings at balls down and away in the dirt. One of the things that a leadoff man has to do, is work the count. Ala, Kevin Youkilis in ’06. Youk isn’t the fastest guy, but he is someone who can work the count and is a very dangerous hitter. Insert Carl Crawford.
Crawford is a proven hitter in a weak Rays lineup. For a 2-3 year period, Crawford was the only notable hitter in Tampa. B.J. Upton has come into his own, and Evan Longoria has shown that he is a force at the plate. But Crawford was the first of these Rays to show off his skills. Crawford’s average has gone from .259 in ’02, to .281, to .296, to, .301, to .305, and then his career high of .315 in 2007. He had a drop off in ’08 batting just .278, but has since climbed back up with .305 in ’09, and .307 in 2010. Crawford averages just over 10 home runs a year, and 41 stolen bases a year. Red Sox fans would know, since he stole about 5 bases a series against them. So here’s the battle that we have.
These are two identical players. Elite speed, good contact, but both very aggressive hitters. Neither is a prototypical leadoff hitter. The Sox were hoping Jacoby would fill that void, but he hasn’t lived up to the expectations. They have been moving him around each and every game it seems like, because they feel he doesn’t have the makeup of a leadoff hitter. Now that they have Carl Crawford, a proven veteran, they have a serious problem on their hands. Since Ellsbury isn’t panning out, they’re giving Crawford a chance at leadoff. Crawford is making $20 million a year, which is not something you pay a leadoff hitter. And if the reason you went out and got Crawford was to be fast and get on base, then he wasn’t worth they money. The Red Sox want Crawford to hit somewhere around 3-5, but he’s not helping by batting only .137 with only one extra base hit. And Ellsbury is batting .195 with a .250 OBP. Neither player is stepping up. If the Sox want to get the most of these guys, they need to work with Ellsbury on his patience, and move him back to leadoff. That would allow them to move Crawford down the lineup to the number 7 or 8 spot. This would take some pressure off the $20 million dollar man, and maybe he could get into a nice groove so they can move him back up the lineup. The Sox have a very serious problem on their hands, and need to figure out where to bat these two identical players.