Wednesday, September 28, 2011

After a Huge Choke, How Can the Red Sox Prepare to Contend Next Season? Here's How!

Well I know what you're saying.  "Another year, another choke..." "Why can't these guys ever perform in the late months?"  "There's always next year...."  And the biggest question of all, "Who's to blame?"

Well, to answer that last question, just about everyone.  Now I know I haven't blogged since mid-April, but to be honest, I am a superstitious fan.  I wanted to blog every game, and every single time that I was ready to, we lost.  Then I missed a game...and we won.  Then I got ready to blog again...and we went like that for a few games.  Then, being the superstitious person I am, I said, "My writings can wait, I am a fan first!"  But here we are.  October is 2 days away and the Red Sox are packing up the locker room for a long off season.  But some of these players get to go home and roll around in piles of money that they didn't earn (see Carl Crawford, J.D. Drew and John Lackey).  Meanwhile, those of us fans who have very little money and are all on hard times were looking for one bit of solice from our baseball team.  But nothing. 

But, after passing over some pessimistic tones, I am already trying to move on to the future.  And the future looks a lot like the black hole we're in right now unless some serious changes are made.  I am not the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox.  Nor and I the manager.  In fact, I have no standing what-so-ever with the organization.  But here are a few things that if changed, would benefit the team greatly:

The Manager: I will be the first to admit, I am a huge Terry Francona fan.  He came in his first year and got us a trophy that Boston hadn't seen in 86 years.  And as such, unlike so many others, I don't want him fired.  However, there is one thing I want from him.  Grow a set!  This guy is clearly letting this team walk all over him.  I know it's a perennial All Star team, but grow a spine.  When they're not prepared in April and May, that's on you, Tito.  Now I am all for you being here in Boston, but please...stand up and whip your players into shape!  They need someone to show them that they're [fecal matter] does stink!  So step up, and manage the team like they're your players and not your equals...or even worse, your superiors!

The Offense:  I need to be honest, I don't have many problems with the offense.  I mean, Ellsebury, Pedroia, Ortiz, Gonzalez, Youkilis, and Scutaro...all great.  That leaves the obvious holes...Crawford, the catcher, and the right fielder.  Now I am willing to give Crawford the benefit of the doubt here.  His first full year in Boston?  I imagine it can be scary.  You're not a Freshman anymore though!  Time to really play much better starting now!!  On to the catcher.  We had two, and neither played up to par.  Salty at least was half-decent.  But half decent in Boston isn't good enough.  You're making the big bucks, time to play up to it.  And Varitek...take the darn "C" off your Jersey.  There are only 3 captains in all of baseball.  The other 2 don't have that letter on their jersey, and...oh yea!  They play every day.  The truth is, if these last two days showed me anything, its that Lavarnway is the future of this team.  Varitek's contract is up this year.  If he knew what was best, he would retire before Boston fans begins to resent him. That gives us $2 million that he was making this season.  But I will say let's keep Salty.  If nothing else, he's a cheap coach for Lavarnway since we are only paying him $750,000.  And on to the final position that was a disappointment.  Right Field.  J.D. Drew has never lived up to his salary.  $14 million a year to bat 6th or 7th and have 1 year with 20 Home Runs.  I say make him an offer in the off season for something in the ball park of $2-4 million for a 1-2 year deal at the most.  Any more, and let him go.  Josh Reddick played great in his absence.  Make him the full time Right Fielder.  He may strike out a lot, but so does Drew.  Reddick gives you a similar type player who is younger and is paid much less.  Drew was fun to have around for a while, but I think even Francona knows, it's time to part ways, sadly enough.

And on to the reason we lost this season:
The Pitching: The old saying in baseball is pitching wins games.  And the Sox had no pitching down the stretch.  Look at the facts.  Every Sox fan was looking forward to when Lester and Beckett would pitch.  Every other game was a presumed loss.  Our other 3 starters were an old lefty who gave us 1 win since we traded for him in Erik Bedard, a 45 year old knuckleballer who announced his retirement after this season before the season even began in Tim Wakefield, and a huge let down of a pitcher who is making $16 million a year in John Lackey.  Now here is what needs to happen.  Wakefield is out, we all know it.  Thank you for 17 great years.  You will certainly be missed.  I don't mean to sound cruel, Wakefield is actually one of my favorite players.  But he already announced it.  I hope you return as an analyst or a coach because I want to see you more.  Erik BedardMatsuzaka.  (Side note, I thought this was Dice-K's last year in Boston.  Unfortunately I found out he still has 1 more year of bad performances in a Red Sox uniform).  Bedard is pretty old himself, and I don't think he can perform well enough down the stretch...or even into the middle of the Summer.  I'm sorry, but I am looking to trade him to a team who needs a veteran pitcher to lead a young staff in return for a minor leaguer.  1 minor leaguer will do in return, and not even a huge prospect.  Just clear up some space in our salary.  And on to the biggest dissapointment.  "Big Hoss" as one popular blog calls him.  The only thing big on him is his salary.  Making $16 million per year to set a record for the highest ERA in Red Sox history!  That's over a century of pitchers, and he's worse than them all!  No one will trade with us for him because of that contract.  I say offer a team to take him and we'll eat most of the salary.  I wont mind paying up to $14 million of that to have him pitch else where.  If that doesn't work, pay him $16 million to stay home.  He is a better asset to the team on his living room couch that on the mound.  But I would want to trade him and at least get a few million of that salary per year taken off our plate.  With the return of Clay Bucholz, who I really like for this team, we would have Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Dice-K and some other pitcher.  And by the way, while I'm listing them like that, Beckett should have been the number 1 pitcher all year.  I said it in February.  Lester wasn't ready to lead that rotation and he proved it.  Beckett is the leader, Lester is the future leader (and I mean like 1-2 years future, really soon!!), and Buchholz is the future of the rotation.  In 3 years, if we have Lester and Clay leading the rotation, that's a dangerous 1-2 punch.  But we're Sox fans.  We're not here for 3 years from now, we're here for the now!  So, with that in mind, we need to drop Bedard, let Wakefield retire, and find a way to get Lackey out of a Red Sox uniform.  But who is our fifth starter then?  With the money we will have from Varitek, Drew, Wakefield, and Bedard leaving the team, we should be able to find a decent #4 or 5 pitcher in free agency.  But we'll get to that later.

The last thing we need to cover is the bullpen.  Now I love our middle relief!  Aceves, Albers, Andrew Miller, and Kyle Weiland?  Great!  Now on to the issue...the late innings.  Let's face it, Daniel Bard is done.  A 99 MPH fastball can't help the team if it's all you can do.  AND...he is only brought into games when we're winning and he had 9 losses?!  That means he gave up the tying and winning runs 9 times this season!  Not good for a set up man.  And Jonathan Papelbon.  I am on this guys bandwagon.  I really like him for this team.  I don't like that we're paying him $12 million to pitch 1 inning per game in 63 games.  That's too much.  But the closer is valuable to the team, and let's face it, if he's not the best, he's top 3.  But his years may be numbered.  We need to find a young gun to follow him and train to be the next closer.  That was supposed to be Bard, but that's not happening.  We need a set up man.  Bobby Jenks didn't work out, but I think Theo can find someone for us. 

That brings us to the last topic: The future.

Let's assume for a minute that Wakefield really does retire.  That Varitek finally hangs it up and becomes a catching coach.  That Bedard is gone.  That J.D. Drew moves on to other things.  And finally that Lackey leaves and we only have to pay $14 million maximum to him.  That gives us $21 million to fool around with in the offseason for next year.  That gives us infinite possibilities.  Let's just hope they don't blow it all on one player who can't play up to his salary (see Crawford and Lackey).  But all of Red Sox Nation is asking "Who?"  The Sox were bounced from the postseason just an hour ago, and already it's, "who is there to get?"  Well that's what I'm here for.  Here are some of the notable free agents the Sox should be looking at for next season:

C.J. Wilson - SP
CC Sabathia - SP (he has an opt out clause.  very doubtful we would pick him up)
Scott Kazmir - SP
Edwin Jackson - SP
Joel Pineiro - SP
Heath Bell - RP
Shawn Camp - RP
Jose Valverde - RP
Jason Bartlett - SS (Scutaro is a free agent this year, but I hope we sign him)
Grady Sizemore - OF
Carlos Beltran - OF
Juan Pierre - OF

Most valuable player: C.J. Wilson.  He has pitched great the last 2-3 years.  He killed us all season.  He could be a great pitcher for us.  And he has experience in the postseason, playing against great teams like the Yankees and succeeding.  If we can get him, I'd say it's all we'd need.   That and staying healthy.  But mark my words...if we get Wilson and drop Lackey, we will make the postseason next year.  And by God, we will win!  But until next April, this is me signing off for this season.  Quite a disappointment overall.  But...without the losses, the wins wouldn't be as sweet.