Allow me to begin this article with something that I’m sure a lot of you have been thinking but wouldn’t dare vocalize (or maybe you would…): Thank goodness it’s the end of the baseball season.
More often than not at this time of year, the buzz around Fenway — and New England in general (except maybe west of Hartford) — carries an optimistic tune, whether that be from the promise of playoff baseball, the promise of the season’s hot prospects, or the hope that some great performers will do just as well or better the following April. With this management, however, much of that optimism is at a shortage, and for justifiable reasons.
Regarding the postseason, this is the clearest non-pandemic season in recent memory where the postseason has been written off so succinctly. It appeared very obvious around the trade deadline to me, later to some folks, and even earlier to still others, that the remainder of this season would — or should — be used a measuring stick for the developing talent we have, and enjoying the time left with the players with expiring contracts, even if one of said talents is a long way from his elite hitting form and experienced a 50% drop in home runs and 41% decrease in RBIs.
What happened after the deadline was some combination of season preservation and a waving of the white towel, and I’m not sure I’m all too pleased by the coyness and lack of commitment either way from Chaim Bloom. I’m far from the first writer to say this, but it seemed as though the combination of trading away catcher Christian Vazquez for prospects (a guy Boston truly loved and treated as their own, with acknowledgment to the commenter who checked me on that Pivetta comment last week) and acquiring his replacement in Reese McGuire while dealing Jake Diekman, who had been a net negative in the bullpen, as well as acquiring veteran presence Tommy Pham, Bloom was shuffling the deck and creating an optical illusion of a contender. But when the curtain dropped, we were left with three babies in an overcoat on stilts, or in other words, a team that went 22-32 the rest of the way. While that may be only 10 percentage points worse than the Yankees, it’s 17 percentage points worse than the Rays, and a testament to why Tampa is where they are right now. The team simply used the parts they were given — some of which Chaim Bloom himself assembled — and closed out the season strong, while looking poised for another positive performance next year.
The running gag on my articles, as well as with Red Sox fans in general, is that Boston is Tampa North with the budget acquisitions and restoration projects Bloom is known for. But at least in Tampa there aren’t so many half measures; almost half of Tampa’s current roster is still there from Bloom’s tenure as Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations. For a guy who makes trades like Popeye uses spinach, the Red Sox will likely not be able to say the same in a four-year span come Opening Day.
This game of musical chairs goes beyond the main four players I’ve been avoiding writing about. For every Christian Arroyo (a Tampa North acquisition that Tampa themselves once made), who stumbled at first but since has overperformed readjusted expectations, or for every Michael Wacha, who has come a long way from being a guy Red Sox fans shuddered at the thought of paying $7 million this season, there’s a decision to be made on guys like Matt Strahm, who’s surely seeing improvement from his time in San Diego, but who, at 30, may not be worth an investment. There’s guys like Rob Refsnyder, who fought tooth and nail to be on our 26-man roster between trips to Worcester; once he reached a productive peak, he ended up one of the very few Red Sox carrying a .300 batting average this season. There’s the polarizing Bobby Dalbec, who struck out in three-eighths of his at bats this season, a weakness that landed him in a car to Worcester, on the Mass Pike heading westbound to Polar Park himself. Although he isn’t a free agent for five years and doesn’t even reach arbitration for another two, even his biggest card-carrying fans (myself being a member) need to admit this lack of plate awareness can’t continue, or he’ll end up playing on another team. And to that point, the formation of the 26-man roster in 2023, or the possibility of replacing these players this winter doesn’t scare me. What does scare me, and what I believe will happen, is Bloom filling spots with some combination of parts that won’t move the needle at all, all while spreading an illusion of change and better days to come.
Bringing this back to Tampa, it’s clear that what Bloom did in Tampa worked to some degree, as they’re getting ready for the postseason along with harnessing a AAA Durham team that won the International League Championship Saturday night, which is to say their prospects and fringe roster players are also performing well. They also have a lot of time with relative newcomers with bright futures who are also already performing at an upper echelon level, such as the storied Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena. At 25, Shane McClanahan, who, thankfully, we will not see in this series because he’ll be resting for Cleveland, looks very promising, and probably a long-term ace for the Rays.
I feel like a broken record, but if we want the sort of success our division rival is having, we need more commitment and fewer half-measures from the front office. Think about that as we look at our best players and continue to be distracted by the fact that they’ll either be with us until they’re growing grays, or in six months they’ll be playing in Fenway in the uniform of a contending division rival.
Monday @ 7:10 PM - Rich Hill vs. Tyler Glasnow
Tuesday @ 7:10 PM - Nathan Eovaldi vs. Jeffrey Springs
Wednesday @ 4:10 PM - Nick Pivetta vs. Drew Rasmussen