Maybe this is all the perfect plan.
Maybe what is happening in Fenway Park right now is exactly what the Red Sox planned for. Maybe the blowouts, the crazy games, the heartbreaking loses is precisely what the Sox want to be doing right now. Maybe the torture us Red Sox fans are tredging through is how this master plan was all envisioned from the getgo.
And maybe all of this is what will make this team great in 2011.In Monday night's game against the Rays, the Red Sox sent out a less-than-impressive lineup. It featured four rookies: Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish, Yamaico Navarro and, finally, the Major League debut of Lars Anderson.
Four rookies in the Red Sox's starting lineup? When is the last time you've seen that outside of a game that took place in Fort Myers, Fla.?
The rookies combined to go 3 for 13 with five runs scored, five RBI, three walks and five strikeouts. Despite Ryan Kalish's grand slam contributing to most of that, it wasn't a bad day for the Sox's crew of misfits. They're getting their hacks in, discovering what it's like to try to hit a Major League pitcher and just living the big leaguer life day in and day out.
The Red Sox aren't in contention anymore. Forget about it if you still are holding out, because it just won't happen. The Red Sox have realized this, too, and that's why these rookies are playing. They aren't playing because Theo Epstein and Terry Francona think they're the key to win games. They're playing so they can become comfortable in the big leagues so that once 2011 rolls around, they're not rookies anymore. The understand, they have knowledge, they're capable.
That is the Red Sox's master plan.
I hate to bring out the "B" word -- but yes, this was supposed to be a "bridge" year. What is better for a bridge year then to finish it by acclimating most of your young talent that could seriously contribute in 2011? This season is done. There will be no playoffs for Boston, but it doesn't mean it's not important. It's very important. It's important for the Red Sox and the young players to just get ready.
If the Red Sox wanted to make a hard push in 2011, they were going to need some of their young talent to step up. The front office knew that no one would be ready to contribute to a large chunk of 2010, but it didn't mean they couldn't get their bumps and bruises in. What's better: throwing your fringe-level youngsters into spring training, hoping they can pick it up? Or getting all your players at least a month of solid playing time the year before? This one is a no brainer.
And hey, it worked for Dustin Pedroia.
In 2006, the Red Sox sat 6.5 games back in the AL East on Aug. 22. On that day they called up a 22-year-old second baseman by the name of Dustin Pedroia ... and he sucked. Pedroia got his licks in, but didn't impress by any means. He played mostly every game in September and finished with a .191 batting average and a .561 OPS.
But the key to all this is that he played, and he got used to the MLB. He didn't light the world on fire, but he didn't have to. He just played and that's what the Sox needed. And, pretty much ever since, Pedroia has been the best Red Sox on the field on any given day.
The Red Sox could afford to have a .191 hitter at second base because they had nothing left. No playoffs, no nothing. So get the rookie ready and hope he's ready to be the every day second baseman come 2007. Turns out, he was.
The strategy also worked for David Murphy. Remember that guy? The Sox called him up on Sept. 2 and he played a large chunk of the month. Success wasn't found by him either, as he batted just .227. He has gone on to be a very solid outfielder for the Rangers.
That brings us to this year and a similar situation. No playoffs and young guys that need to be broken in for 2011. Kalish, Anderson, Navarro, Nava, Josh Reddick, Felix Doubront, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Michael Bowden are just a few to name. They'll get their at-bats and their innings this September and they'll probably struggle mightily.
But it's exactly what the Red Sox want. Rest Marco Scutaro, he deserves it. Instead, play Navarro and Jed Lowrie. They need it, and the Sox do, too. Give J.D. Drew a night off and we can see Kalish/Reddick/Nava playing right field. Let them get used to Pesky's Pole. Mop up duty? Forget Scott Atchison (as much as we all dearly love him) and give Bowden those innings to chew up and spit out.
It's hard to imagine Theo Epstein sitting in his office last January saying to himself, "Yes. Let's lose a ton so we can have our rookies play in September and be ready for April 2011." I don't think he honestly works that way, but maybe it was in the back of his mind. That's something I wouldn't be surprised about.
Maybe this is the perfect plan. And just maybe this will work out perfectly for the Red Sox in 2011.