With the Red Sox treading water at 21-19 and in third place in the division, blame has started to make the rounds. It was (and still is) a year budding with promise, as the young core coupled with some star pitching brought high expectations. Anything short of an AL East title and a strong playoff showing will be considered a disappointment for this team, and .500 baseball isn’t and won’t be received too kindly in Boston.
That being said, it’s mid-May and thus far too early to make many broad conclusions or sweeping changes. The team needs more power, needs a third baseman, and needs a healthy David Price to stabilize the rotation. But there seem to be a few narratives/solutions in the Red Sox sphere that provide the wrong mindset at a time when the team is still feeling itself out and dealing with injury.
Here are three common sentiments — taken directly from tweets tweeted @OverTheMonster — that represent the wrong angle to take on the early season struggles:
This one irks me the most, and is a sentiment we’re all victims of at one point or another. When things are going well, it’s because Mookie Betts is really good, Chris Sale is a superhuman, Craig Kimbrel throws baseball really fast, etc. But when the team is failing to meet expectations, the blame is placed squarely on Farrell. And while he, as the manager, is partially to blame, it’s not his fault his third basemen are either hurt or incompetent. It’s not his fault that potentially two of the three best relievers on the team are injured and struggling in their recoveries. It’s certainly not his fault that David Ortiz retired.
And firing him would probably be more problematic at this point than any magical solution. Pretending that firing Farrell — and this goes for every time this wave of anti-Farrell sentiment hits — would be some end-all, be-all elixir ignores the real problems with the team. While we’re on the subject, he’s started handling Kimbrel really well in the back of the bullpen — pitching him in high-leverage situations regardless of innings, multiple inning outings, etc. But he hasn’t gotten much praise for that.
“Trade Jackie Bradley/other young pieces”
This “solution” is perhaps the most astounding one out there, and is a far more widespread sentiment that I thought existed. As a fanbase, patience is not one of our strong suits, but we’re coming off a season in which Bradley had the fourth highest wins above replacement (WAR) among all MLB outfielders. His early knee injury has certainly interrupted his early season rhythm — and having two other outfielders capable of playing centerfield doesn’t help — but this is no time to even consider the faint possibility of moving Bradley. I’m not saying he’s going to be the 2016 version of Bradley his entire career — chances are, he won’t hit that well, especially not for that kind of power. But he is a valuable piece for the present and future of the organization. And, oh by the way, he just had a home run in consecutive games to lead the Sox to two important wins.
“Call up Devers”
Third base has become an unmitigated disaster for the Sox this season; there’s no escaping that. Combined this season, the Red Sox third basemen have combined for -0.2 WAR, and there aren’t many signs of that position stabilizing anytime soon. Brock Holt — the presumed stopgap solution at the hot corner — left the PawSox game with vertigo symptoms yesterday. Pablo Sandoval still hasn’t begun his rehab assignment.
But I’m staunchly opposed to calling up prospects based on the needs of the major league club. That sounds counterintuitive — especially when Andrew Benintendi was called up last season under relatively similar circumstances. But Devers is not Benintendi, and this is not August. Prior to Benintendi’s call up last season, no Red Sox had been called straight from Double-A since Jackie Bradley Jr. made the opening day roster in 2013, before promptly going 3-31 and being sent down shortly after. Yoan Moncada made that same jump at the end of last season, and struggled mightily at the level, because, well, baseball is really hard.
Devers is 20, and appears to be a major piece going forward. There is no need to rush him up to Boston in the middle of May and risk the inevitable struggles that come with a 20-year-old playing major league baseball after skipping an entire level. Not everyone is Andrew Benintendi.
Eventually, this team is going to get hot, win quite a few games, and compete for the division/pennant. Until then, trust Dombrowski to shore up the roster, cut Farrell the smallest bit of slack given the thin depth chart, and wait for the run to come. I know patience isn’t our collective strength, but this team is too talented to hover around .500 all season.