Welcome back to Boston, John Farrell. Now you’re really finding out what it can be like to manage the Red Sox.
Losses are mounting. Players are starting to grumble. Critics are second-guessing. Meanwhile, Farrell forgoes the sacrifice bunt in a 1-0 game with two runners on base and no outs on Friday, allows Shane Victorino to run to take the bat out of David Ortiz’ hands on Sunday, then tries to bunt twice with the Red Sox trailing by three runs in last night’s 7-4 defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.
Some days the Sox bunt. Some days they don’t. Sometimes they scrap the running game. Sometimes they don’t.
Um, what exactly are the Red Sox trying to be this season? Exactly who are they? Over the winter, the Red Sox declined to give anyone anything more than a two-year contract, resulting in a free-agency pull that included A.J. Pierzynski (.244 average, .634 OPS), Grady Sizemore (.226, .645) and new mop-up man Edward Mujica (an 8.04 ERA). The good news was that the Sox committed to Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, general manager Ben Cherington saying as recently as the weekend that the Sox had no intention of moving their best prospect from his position.
That is, until they lost four in a row for the first time since 2012 and seemingly decided that Bogaerts can’t play shortstop and Will Middlebrooks, well, can’t play at all.
Here’s a question for you: if Ryan Dempster hadn’t walked and saved the Red Sox about $13 million this year, would Drew be here? And if the answer is no, why are the Sox now intent on turning Bogaerts into a mental mess? Prior to last night’s game, the Sox effectively told Bogaerts he wasn’t good enough to play shortstop in the big leagues. Then he went out and made two errors, doing exactly what they told him he would do.
Presumably, Bogaerts can handle this. By all accounts, he is a mature, bright and poised young man, perhaps to a fault. What Bogaerts really needs to do now is what someone like Dustin Pedroia would do – take it all personally. Get angry. Play with a chip on his shoulder. Hold this all against the Red Sox and prove them wrong.
Farrell, for his part, can also help the cause some, most notably by getting Pedroia out of the leadoff spot and back in to the No. 3 position, where, on this team, he belongs. With or without Drew, the Red Sox don’t have enough depth to their lineup. They’re better off being a little thin at the top than thin in the middle. Farrell should seriously consider a lineup that features Bogaerts at the top, utilizing the youngster’s best offensive skill at the moment: his plate discipline. Bring back Daniel Nava and pull the plug on Sizemore. Pop in Drew (now that he’s here) and hope Pierzynski starts to hit again.
If none of that works, the Red Sox can start selling off pieces at the trading deadline.
Let’s be honest: in many ways, the Sox last season never were really tested, which is not their fault. They never lost more than three in a row. As a result, nobody really groused about playing time. Everything Cherington touched turned to gold, and Farrell generally pushed all the right buttons. The Red Sox were the feel-good story of the summer, a team that was rewarded for its efforts, dedication, hard work.
Unfortunately, of course, baseball doesn’t always work that way. The Red Sox overplayed their hand during the offseason, eschewing talent in the name of youth, promise and financial prudence. Team president Larry Lucchino all but mocked the New York Yankees for their free-spending ways. Now the Sox look like they’re scrambling to address problems that were there last winter, failing to answer the question that mattered most:
What, exactly, do they want to be this year?