So baseball in Boston is over for another year, just in time for the first freeze watches to be out. Between now and Opening Day 2017 there are a lot of leaves and not a small amount of snow to fall. The David Ortiz era is over, and the Red Sox in 2017 should have quite a different look than they do now. A few thoughts and comments about where things go from here.
1. I’m pretty sure manager John Farrell stays – after all, how do you dump a manager that got you to the post-season? But he really doesn’t deserve it. He was out-managed by Terry Francona in the playoffs, was out-managed on virtually every occasion that warranted it during the season, and couldn’t handle a bullpen if you gave it to him in a shopping bag. I’m not sure what kind of a motivator he is with younger players, but you can bet the Sox are going to get younger next year, and I’m not sure Farrell is the guy you want to have manage that. Unfortunately, he’ll probably be back, but on a very short leash.
2. While I love Jackie Bradley, Jr. in CF he’s too streaky a player on a team that’s already streaky. I’m guessing he’s trade bait at the Winter Meetings and should bring something very nice in return. That allows Mookie Betts to go to center, and hopefully the Sox find some punch and a decent defender in right field.
3. Andrew Benetendi is a keeper. Can’t wait to see him mature with some experience under his belt. He could be a star.
4. I hate to say it, but you’re probably looking at The Return of Pablo “Fat Pig” Sandoval at third base next year if he’s able to keep distance between him and the Golden Corral “Blue Plate Special”. He can’t do a hell of a lot worse than Travis Shaw did – he had one good month and a half and showed he was nothing more than a decent AAA player who got killed once big-league pitchers figured out his weaknesses. The guy never learned to adjust, so see you later, alligator.
5. Hanley Ramirez had a great year and I look forward to seeing him again at first base next year.
6. I hope Dave Dombrowski doesn’t go apeshit trying to replace David Ortiz. You can’t replace “Big Papi” – there will never be another like him. But he’ll still need to consider carefully how he wants to handle the DH spot next year.
7. You can bet the Sox will be in the market or a pitcher at the Winter Meetings. David Price sucked this year but Sox ownership made that bed a long time ago when they dissed Jon Lester. They’ve still got a damned good core with Price / Porcello / Rodriguez / Buchholz, but another starter wouldn’t hurt.
8. Dustin Pedroia is going to be a problem. The guy can still play, for sure, and with Papi gone his role as a leader on the team is going to be even more important. But he can’t play an entire year as your everyday second baseman. He plays too hard, and John Farrell never rested him enough. By the end of the season he was toast. Gotta keep that in mind for next year.
9. The biggest issue is going to be rebuilding the bullpen. I’m guessing – thanks to Farrell’s mismanagement – they’ve gotten all they can out of Junichi Tazawa, which is too bad. Koji Uehara should be brought back. Closer Craig Kimbrel was OK but he needs to pitch better. The rest of the bunch you can have for a bag of balls.
10. The Sox need to find a backup for Xander Bogearts – another player Farrell drove into the ground so that he was all but useless the last month of the season. Somebody’s gonna need to be a suitable backup for Bogearts and Pedroia.
11. It wouldn’t bother me if Jerry Remy doesn’t come back to the NESN broadcast booth as analyst next year. He was great with Don Orsilllo, but his style never meshed with Dave O’Brien’s, and, frankly, he got on my nerves all year long. He had a great run for a long time, especially with DO, but his time is past.
12. That being said, anytime Dennis Eckersley shares the booth with O’Brien that’s OK by me. Loved listening to his commentary all year long.
Overall, it was a good year, one that my Mom would have been proud of. She loved her Sox, and I feel bad she missed seeing Big Papi’s farewell – I think she would have liked that. It’s always sad when baseball in Boston comes to a close, but the feeling is much more muted here in Arizona when it’s still sunny and the temperatures are in the 90s. Here there is still lots of golf to be played. The Sox overachieved much of this year, but over the last three weeks – hey, timing is everything – picked the worst time to slump as a team. I think Farrell’s management style had a lot to do with that, but that’s the way it goes.
This off-season ought to be most interesting because both the Sox and the dreaded Yankees are on the ascendancy. Next year I’m guessing these two teams will be back to being the great rivals they are, fighting it out one memorable series after another. That’s something to look forward to!