Thursday, 3 December 2015

The Dombrowski effect.

This entry will be focusing on the winter off season for the Boston Red Sox. The story was familiar [not least because I wrote twice about in the heat of the summer dog days] and seemingly everywhere I looked on Social Media was outcries and disappointment regarding those Red Sox of Boston, Massachusetts.  The team that ended the season, was very different to the team that started it, and hopefully, will be different still to those that open Spring Training in February.

End of 2015 Roster: [The players that started the final game of the season, By Position, not batting order]
C - Blake Swihart
1B - Travis Shaw
2B - Dustin Pedroia
3B - Deven Mererro
SS - Xander Bogaerts
LF - Rusney Castillo
CF - Mookie Betts
RF - Jackie Bradley Jr
DH - David Ortiz.
SP - Rick Porcello [L]

Beginning of 2015 Roster [Ranked by position once again]
C- Ryan Hanigan
1B - Mike Napoli
2B - Dustin Pedroia
3B - Pablo Sandoval
SS - Xander Bogaerts
LF - Hanley Ramirez
CF - Mookie Betts
RF - Shane Victorino
DH - David Ortiz [Although their first series was in an NL city [Phillies] so was unavailable to play DH.

There's a stark comparison to the beginning and end of the season here, and those outside of Boston might feel it's a coincidence that things happened and the team got better towards the end of the season [it wasn't], by playing so well a play-off place wasn't entirely out of the picture, but the horrible start really was too much to do in the second half, even when key players that in many peoples' eyes were a reason why they team was scuffling, were replaced in the line-up their replacements just delayed the inevitable, and others got traded [Napoli, Victorino], some got injured and shut down for the season with nothing to play for. [Buchholz,Sandoval,Hanley, and at one point Pedroia was on the DL]

At some point in the season the old regime left, when Ben Cherrington was thankfully replaced by former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski. In a short time there, the feel good factor has increased, even with him just being there [or was that just me] ? I know I was more excited for him arriving, then I ever got for Christmas as a young 'un.

Anyway, back to the point here and this past week, Boston have signed two new players one being back up Outfielder, last played for the New York Yankees, Chris Young, and finally an ace, in 7 year, $215M man, David Price [with an opt out]. I've never understood the point of opt out agreements , but I guess they make sense from a business point of view. The rotation is finally looking like it could last and as of this morning, it looks like this:

David Price,Clay Buchholz,Rick Porcello, Wade Miley/Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez. Henry Owens and knuckleballer Steven Wright will also be in contention for a rotation spot, if management think one or both of Miley / Kelly are better suited to the pen.

Before this, the Red Sox pulled off a monster trade with their previous reluctance to trade prospects not Dombrowski's preferred action, particularly in this instance where the players dealt were blocked at their primary positions in acquiring a new Closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel will replace the previous closer Koji Uehara, who will probably pitch in the 8th inning going forward now.

The Bullpen now looks like this as of writing :
Junichi Tazawa, Robbie Ross JR, Tommy Layne, Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Heath Hembree, Jonathan Aro. Much healthier overall ! There are other names who could potentially be in the mix, but right now, I think they'll probably open up on Triple A.


The team need to move on from Hanley/Sandoval,and, as of now, the plan is for Hanley[Right Picture] to play 1B, but there are several players available via FA who already know how to play 1B that I'd sooner see in Fenway, who arguably would be a better fit, and the most prestigious of those is Chris Davis, who declined Baltimore's arbitration offer, although there are a few other interesting options who would provide more versatility at 1B than Davis, such as Mark Reynolds, or potentially a player like Justin Morneau. Another position that proved problematic is 3B, although there aren't many intriguing FA options there, with Juan Uribe heading the pack followed by David Freese, former Red Sock Will Middlebrooks, and recently released Alberto Callaspo.  I doubt 3B changes unless a trade occurs involving Sandoval.
Pictured above [left], Sandoval on being announced as a Boston player, which was arguably, his finest appearance, it just seemed to get worse from there. The Ramirez era was different, with Hanley being one of the few hitters that seemed to start the season off on the right foot, but now his short term future in Boston seems to be a little cloudier with Hanley probably having more trade value [although salary might have to get eaten] to move him, He's not really an Outfielder any more, and some would say never was, especially with the emergence of Castillo and JBJ finally starting to figure things out, and the fact he wasn't going to displace future superstar Bogaerts and at this point, he doesn't have a position to play regularly, unless he's the one to replace Ortiz after he retires at the end of 2016, as Ramirez's bat still appears to have plenty in it and could extend his career a few seasons' in the long term.

Middle infield in general doesn't appear to have any issues, although one worry would be keeping an ageing Pedroia [pictured] on the field, and could perhaps limit him to four starts per week in order to keep him healthy and fresher. It could be argued, given the positional flexibility Brock Holt has, he could give all defensive players a breather once a week and be more than a Monday/Thursday guy in the process, but not quite an every day player either. That's certainly an option, but I'm not a back-room staff member so the approach they go with will probably have been discussed already, this is just how I'd play it if I were approached on things*.

It's not just on the field that the Sox are making moves, with the 2016 season being a new beginning for the Red Sox [NESN] announcers as long time game caller Don Orsillo got bumped out of the booth, despite the protests from fans, and Orsillo remained as professional as they come, and already has a new job out west doing first radio, than eventually becoming the Padres television commentator. I know the Padres will love him , and the Red Sox will continue to feature Jerry Remy and former radio play by play guy Dave O Brien. Best of luck to Dave, but a huge part of why Don was so beloved in the NESN booth was with his relationship with Remy, and it just won't be the same without his infectious enthusiasm for baseball greeting us every night.

Finally, its a good thing that John Farrell will once again be in control of the Sox, after undergoing cancer treatment in the 2015 season. A great announcement late last season that his cancer was in remission, and a well handled announcement that he'd be back in the dugout. The Red Sox are certainly trending upwards, and long may that continue in the reign of Dombrowski.

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