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Scattered thoughts after an abysmal season comes to a close

There’s a lot to digest.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

It’s over. The 2020 Red Sox season can’t hurt us anymore. The general consensus coming into this bizarre, shortened season for the Red Sox was that they’d hang around at the bottom of the playoff race, hovering around the .500 mark. That indeed would have been enough to hang around in the postseason picture, but the Red Sox were worse than expectations. While more than half the league takes part in postseason action, Boston will be at home to watch with the rest of us. Even in a shortened season that was undeniably atrocious, there’s a lot to unpack. In the immediate aftermath of the year, here’s what is at the forefront of my mind.

  • I have to start with the fact that there was a season to begin with. Those who have been reading along all summer know there were multiple times I called for the season to be shut down or to not start at all. Kudos to the league and the players for getting their shit together and making it this far, with little reason to be concerned they’ll be able to make it through the postseason. I legitimately did not believe this was going to happen, but they did what they had to in order to make it happen. Good for them.
  • All of that said, my stance hasn’t changed. I still don’t think the season should have been played. I still think that, when this was all getting started, they were taking valuable testing and getting rapid results at a time when many in the country couldn’t get tested at all and those who could had to wait obscene amounts of time to get the results. I don’t think we were in a position where we needed a distraction as a nation. In fact, I believed, and still believe, that was the last thing we needed. But it happened, and I don’t bemoan it too much. There were people who made money that otherwise wouldn’t have that very much needed it, and personally I didn’t have to worry about my job being eliminated for three months. In an obviously stressful time for the world, that is no small thing. I will just say, without getting into the personal specifics from my life, that this season never felt right to me and still doesn’t. Because of that, I never got fully in on this season, and it wasn’t because of the Red Sox record. I tried my hardest not to let that seep into my writing and I hope it didn’t, but that’s where I stand.
  • Okay, that part is out of the way. Now onto the rule changes. I’m going to do a full post on this at some point this week so I won’t go too in-depth, but it was a pretty mixed bag. Universal DH? Yes please. Three-batter rule? More good than bad, but generally barely noticed it. Seven-inning doubleheaders? No thank you. Expanded playoffs? Get all the way out of here. Batter on second in extra innings? Still say no, but I didn’t hate it as much as I thought.
Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images
  • I want to take a second to talk about Ron Roenicke. I think the Red Sox probably made the right decision moving in a different direction, as I assumed would be the case basically no matter what. They probably had to win a playoff series for them to seriously consider bringing him back. And, to be clear, there was plenty he did with which I disagreed. I think they can do better. That said, he had no chance of success this year and nobody would have succeeded with this roster. On top of that, it seemed like his calming presence was his best quality, and it’s hard for a personality-driven manager to succeed in a year where he can’t interact the same way with his roster. Furthermore, he seemed like a genuinely great guy and I think he got way too much misdirected anger this year. I don’t know what comes next or if there’s more coaching in his future, but a team will be lucky to have him on their staff in some capacity.
  • Alex Verdugo exceeded my expectations. I’m never not going to be bitter over the way he made his way here and I’ll always have a difficult time actively rooting for him like a true favorite because of the allegations from his days in the minors, but as far as a player on the field he was easily the best player on the roster. And while he won’t ever be the guy he’s replacing, there’s no doubt he looks every bit the core piece that Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts are.
  • Another guy who somewhat quietly had a huge year was Christian Vázquez. Maybe it wasn’t that quiet, but by wRC+ he was actually better than 2019, finishing this season with a mark of 115. Sample size is clearly an issue and he did it differently than last year, but he continued to be an excellent all-around player at a position that is harder to fill than any other in the lineup. I suspect his name will be speculated about in trade talks this winter, but I really hope they keep him around for a long time.
  • The rotation is a mess, and it still is. There were very real positives. Martín Pérez was more serviceable than I expected. Nathan Eovaldi, when healthy, was even better than 2018. Tanner Houck looked incredible. Even Nick Pivetta softened me up a little bit. That said, there’s still a long way to go with big questions for all of those guys as well as Eduardo Rodriguez. If the Red Sox want to field a competitive rotation next season, they need to make at least two significant additions. On the podcast I threw out the names Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker, but the specific players are less important than the tier. Buy-lows aren’t going to cut it.
  • Speaking of roster-building, I have a hard time not believing in Bloom. I don’t really give him as much credit for the draft as others — that’s a conversation for another day, but GM’s generally get too much credit for drafts — but he won me over in a big way at the trade deadline.
  • The NESN booth was fantastic this year. Three-person booths are usually incredibly difficult to pull off, but this group made it work. Eckersley and Remy were both phenomenal, and I even give Dave O’Brien (who I’ve criticized plenty in the past) did a really impressive job navigating their conversations and stepping back when needed. Over a full season it’s not realistic to have all three every night for various reasons, but as much as possible they need to stick with that booth.
  • If that was really it for Jackie Bradley Jr., I’m really going to miss him. I’ll have plenty more to say if/when he officially signs elsewhere, but he’s on the short-list of my all-time favorites in my time watching the Red Sox. I’m glad we got to see the good version to close out the year.
  • I said it at the end of yesterday’s recap, but I’ll say it again here. Thank you all who followed along all season. It’s hard to overstate how important you all are for me and the site. In a season like this, it’s always terrifying that people are going to complete tune things out. You all not doing that and coming back every day was a huge relief to me in what has obviously been an incredibly stressful time for us all.