For Ben Cherington, John Farrell and company, the 2013 Red Sox represent a run of glory; when all of the pieces fall into the right places. There was nothing more delightful to watch. That 2013 season inspired hope for the 2015 Red Sox and instilled faith in Cherington and Farrell's ability to right the ship even after a disastrous 70-win season in 2014. But this iteration of the Red Sox have done little to warrant that pre-season hope, becoming the same so-bad-that-you-want-to-throw-your-television-out-the-window kind of disaster as last year's team.
The Red Sox suck, and there's no other way to look at it right now. The system is failing on multiple levels, and it doesn't look like a savior is coming anytime soon.
As the struggles continue for the Red Sox, pressure to do something (beyond firing the pitching coach) to shake up the foundation of the team is increasing.There isn't, however, just one area of the team that has failed; it's a three-fold house fire in progress.
General manager Ben Cherington set up the fire by leaving the gas can rotation on the table. The "He's the ace" strategy has failed miserably. While Rick Porcello and Wade Miley are capable middle-of-the-pack type pitchers, they aren't rotation anchors. Justin Masterson was among the worst starters in baseball during his time in the rotation at the beginning of the season. While a stint on the disabled list was supposed to help him return to form, Masterson reportedly topped out in the high-80s in velocity during his rehab start in Pawtucket, sitting around 86-87 mph for most of the start. Joe Kelly is the most infuriating pitcher the Red Sox have seen since, well, Clay Buchholz was young and trying to establish himself in the big leagues. There's been no ace, little consistency, and plenty of disasters.
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John Farrell's redeeming quality as a manager has always been his ability to manage his veterans. It's what's earned him a reputation as a "player's manager." But at a certain point, when does the team's lack of performance outweigh a manager's ability to juggle personalities in a clubhouse? Farrell has never been the strongest in-game manager (his decision not to walk Nelson Cruz during the Mariners series serves as prime example) and his reputation as one of best pitching coaches in baseball during his first tenure with the Red Sox has clearly not rubbed off on the rotation the last two seasons.
During the downfall of Terry Francona, the now-Indians manager said the team stopped responding to his messages, as if the team's veterans were no longer on the same page with him. Farrell called a meeting with five veterans (Mike Napoli, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval) on Sunday morning, hoping to "re-emphasize the importance of the role that they provide for the younger players and how they go about and execute inside the game." If the veterans can't change the tenor of the clubhouse moving forward, it's worth questioning after the season whether or not Farrell has lost his clout in the clubhouse. If Farrell didn't dump the gas on the clubhouse floor, he's at least done nothing to clean it up.
But it's the prolonged struggles of the team's veterans that set the whole thing alight. Hanley Ramirez has looked as capable in left field this season as a chicken trying to swim. Ramirez' defense has been so bad that despite 12 home runs and 26 RBIs, he's posted -0.5 Wins Above Replacement by Fangraphs' estimation. That should be impossible, but it's just another day in Fenway Park.
Pablo Sandoval is hitting .251/.317/.371 and has been inconsistent on the defensive end. And while Sandoval has, in the past, had the tendency to run extremely hot and extremely cold for prolonged periods of time, the third basemen's struggles have contributed to the gaping hole in the middle of the Red Sox lineup, a hole which Mike Napoli, owner of a .208/.323/.403 batting line, and David Ortiz, owner of a .224/.309/.382 batting line, have played a major role in digging.
Cherington set out this offseason to fix the offensive struggles on the 2014 team. He did so by going out and signing two of the most prolific players available on the market in Sandoval and Ramirez. They haven't fixed the problem.
There isn't one scapegoat for the disaster that is the 2015 Red Sox. The team owns the third-worst run differential in all of baseball (-48 runs), a stat that usually positively correlates with winning percentage. The way that Cherington built this team inherently created major, major flaws. The roster of generally well established major leaguers has significantly underperformed. And John Farrell and his staff have been unable to snap them out of their collective funk.
The Red Sox are going down in flames, and there's no reason to believe the disaster is going to end.