Playing nine innings while hoping Bill James still has John Henry’s ear …
1. Though there’s evidence to the contrary taking the field at Fenway Park every night – not to mention further evidence in the standings posted on the Green Monster — I don’t believe Ben Cherington was a poor general manager. I don’t — it’s too complicated for such simple declarations, and he accomplished a lot amid the failings.
The Red Sox won a World Series on his watch. You know who else has been able to say that as a Red Sox general manager since 1918? Theo Epstein, twice. That’s it. You may say it’s a fluke. I say championship baseball seasons are too much of a grind to be a fluke, and that team’s success was remarkable and real.
That’s not all in his favor. The two bestplayers he leaves behind are 22 years old. So is the best pitcher. The farm system is stacked (it must crush him that someone else is going to get the benefits of that).
The last-place finishes are damning, sure, and while I don’t believe the Red Sox hoard prospects, I do believe there have been unnecessary backlogs of talent and misjudgments on who should stay (such as Garin Cecchini).
I’m not saying he did not make mistakes, many of them. I mean, dammit, he turned Jon Lester and John Lackey into Rick Porcello, Allen Craig, and Joe Kelly. That’s an inexcusable offense, maybe even a fireable one in itself, before you even consider the colossally disappointing Hanley Ramirez deal.
Cherington probably did deserve to lose his job. Just remember that he didn’t always do a lousy job. He did a lot of good things for the Red Sox. The problem was that very few occurred since October 2013.
2. Just for the sport of it, here’s a list of the Tigers’ No. 1-ranked prospects per Baseball America during Dombrowski’s nearly 13 years in Detroit. I should note that there really wasn’t much else on the top 10 lists beyond these guys, other than the occasional Omar Infante or Avisail Garcia.
I suspect even if he wheels and deals frequently in Boston – and there’s probably no “if’’ about it – he’ll still have more player development success stories than he had in pedal to the metal Detroit.
2002: RHP Nate Cornejo.
2003: RHP Jeremy Bonderman.
2004: RHP Kyle Sleeth.
2005: OF Curtis Granderson. (RHP Justin Verlander was third. He’s had some moments.)
2007: OF Cameron Maybin (LHP Andrew Miller was second – both were sent to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera).
2008: RHP Rick Porcello.
2010: RHP Jacob Turner.
2013: 3B Nick Castellanos.
2015: 2B Devon Travis.
3. I’ll admit it. I have no idea what to make of Travis Shaw. He’s 25, hasn’t hit much in two seasons of Triple A (.715 OPS, 15 home runs in 668 plate appearances), and certainly didn’t look like someone who belonged in the conversation as Mike Napoli’s successor at first base for 2016 and beyond. I figured he was Pat Dodson reincarnated, or Mike Carp 2.0 at best.
But he’s been so impressive during his short Red Sox career that he has to get at least some consideration as a candidate, right? The sample-size is tiny – just 71 plate appearances entering Thursday game – but the production has been practically unprecedented historically among Red Sox rookies in the first weeks of their careers.
Shaw has six home runs – one more than he had in 322 Pawtucket plate appearances this year – and a 1.085 OPS. He’s burst onto the scene like Sam Horn ’87 if not Fred Lynn ’74-’75, and it’s been one of the small joys in this otherwise lost season.
I’m not sure he’ll prove to be a first-division first baseman. I’m skeptical, honestly. But at the least, he’s earned a chance to prove who he really is.
4. Pablo Sandoval hasn’t even been a replacement-level player this season. He’s been a half-win below replacement level according to baseball-reference’s measure, which is just a half-win better than the I-93-level sinkhole named Will Middlebrooks was a year ago.
But there are signs of pending redemption. He looks like he’s dropped a few pounds, and coincidentally or not, his defense at third base has been much better lately.
Offensively, he’s been OK, with an .809 OPS in 50 plate appearances this month. He’s been a disappointment, but he’s not yet a lost cause.
5. Hanley Ramirez, however … I mean, that’s hopeless, right? He has no positional fit, and the argument can be made that he wouldn’t even be worthy of DHing if David Ortiz didn’t have that role locked down. Ramirez’s on-base percentage is right about where we expected his batting average to be — .300. He’s Wily Mo Pena’s inferior as a defender. He has a .489 OPS and no homers in the second half, a span of 22 games.
Man, I apologize for ever wanting this. He is a lost cause, and he has got to go.
6. Seriously, forget eating a few bucks to pulling off something like the creative Prince Fielder/Ian Kinsler swap. If Dombrowski can get anything of value whatsoever for Ramirez over the winter without eating the entirety of his remaining salary, he instantly becomes the early favorite for American League Executive of the Year.
7. Joe Kelly is 4-0 in August with a 3.22 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 22.1 innings. Swell. Now join me, if you would, in praying to the great bambino in the sky that this doesn’t convince the Red Sox’ new management team that he’s part of the future. He’s an exasperating tease, blessed with a 96 mph fastball and not much else. Here’s hoping Dombrowski ships him out as the third or fourth player included in one of the inevitable offseason blockbusters. I don’t want to do this dance again.
8. It’s probably obvious anyway, so I might as well admit it. I’m genuinely rooting for Jackie Bradley Jr. to make it with the Red Sox. I want to enjoy that defensive wizardry every day – he is the best center fielder to ever call Fenway Park home, and there is not a syllable of hyperbole in that statement. If he can just hit a little – and at last, after a lost season in the majors and Triple A last year, there are a real signs he can hit at least a little – he can be a valuable and entertaining player.
9. Rusney Castillo forgot the number of outs during the Red Sox’ win over the Indians Wednesday night, generously flipping the ball into the stands when there was still an out left to be recorded. By my unofficial count, he’s still needs to do it at least half-dozen times to catch Trot Nixon for second place on the Red Sox’ all-time Whoops Forgot The Outs Again list. Manny Ramirez has an insurmountable lead in the category, of course.