At the end, in the aftermath of their improbable World Series win, the 2013 Red Sox have now scattered like the cast of Ocean’s Eleven. Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes went off to Oakland. John Lackey drove his truck to St. Louis. Andrew Miller went to Baltimore, Jake Peavy to San Francisco, Felix Doubront to Chicago, Stephen Drew to New York.
Meanwhile, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia remain among the rubble.
And they, like you, undoubtedly wonder where this is all headed.
The Red Sox would like us to believe they can rebuild it all again, of course, and they hold the 2013 season in their hands like some kind of trump card. See? We’ve done it before, we can do it again. And yet, the feeling remains that 2013 was a fluky-albeit-wonderful and captivating kind of joyride, the equivalent of finding a $20 bill in a pair of old jeans – or in this case, maybe $100 – at a time when the cash wasn’t exactly flowing.
Here’s the point:
If you believe that 2013 was found money, then how can you possibly bank on that kind of story again?
And if you believe that it was part of a master plan, then why are the Red Sox now ripping it apart?
The uncertainty surrounding this club is as great as it ever been.
The truth, naturally, is that 2013 was supposed to be a bridge year, something the Red Sox themselves admitted late last season. The team exceeded their expectations. It exceeded yours. For whatever reason, the Sox then took a hands-off approach to their roster over the winter and took a major step back in 2014, Henry recently admitting to the Boston Herald (bet his Globe employees loved that) that the young players on the Boston roster did not perform as well as the Sox expected them, too.
To their credit, the Red Sox haven’t given up on Xander Bogaerts, who is moving back to shortstop, or Jackie Bradley, who remains in center field, or even Will Middlebrooks, who is going back to third base. But their development doesn’t seem quite as certain as it used to. Remember that when Yoenis Cespedes’ contract expires at the end of the 2015 season, David Ortiz will be about to turn 40 years old. Over the last four years – not one – Dustin Pedroia’s power has disappeared. Mike Napoli is up after next season, too, when Craig (assuming he hits again) might move to first base.
The Red Sox constantly seem like a work-in-progress, and the feeling was never this great during the years from 2003-2008.
Over the last 5-6 years, in some ways, the Red Sox have been run like a fantasy team, folks. They traded prospects for Adrian Gonzalez. They signed Carl Crawford. Then they traded Gonzalez, Crawford and Josh Beckett for prospects and, essentially, cash. They signed Napoli to a three-year contract, then backed it into a one-year deal, then signed him for two more. They signed Drew, cut him loose, brought him back. They traded Jose Iglesias for Jake Peavy, then Peavy for prospects. They signed Jonny Gomes. Then they traded him. They ripped up Pedroia’s existing deal and gave him an eight-year contract, then made a half-hearted attempt to keep Lester.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but my head is spinning. And none of us really care so long as the Red Sox field representative, competitive teams that have a legitimate chance of winning a championship.
Here’s the problem: while oligarchs Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have reinvented their favorite television show – Red Sox Baseball – on multiple occasions with their free-wheeling style, the frustrations have outweighed the successes. From 2009-12, the Sox did not win a single playoff game. They won’t win one this year, either. The 2013 World Series is the one obvious, gigantic, impossible-to-ignore exception, but the why and how of that title defy our sense of logic.
Again, were they lucky? Or are we selling them short?
In the end, again, the conclusion is simple: the Red Sox haven’t operated in recent years as if they have any long-term plan. On a year-to-year basis, it feels as if they are flying by the seats of their pants. Today, the offense looks better, for sure, but the pitching looks astonishingly worse. Of course, the offseason has yet to begin (for most teams) and the start of 2015 is many months away. But if you are a Red Sox player, with the possible exceptions of Ortiz and Pedroia, the message is becoming obvious, whether you are arriving from Oakland or San Francisco, St. Louis or Chicago, Baltimore or New York.
Or even, for that matter, Pawtucket.
Don’t get too comfortable.
And don’t even bother to unpack.