David Price claims that throwing at hitters is part of the game. That’s arrogance for a guy who never has to face a pitcher with a 95-hour fastball. With the advent of the designated hitter, the “purpose pitch” should be disallowed in the American League, and perhaps in all of baseball as well.
It takes no skill or guts to plunk a hitter with a fastball. Given that the batter has no defense except to hit the ball back at the pitcher, it takes cowardice. It is the equivalent of a sucker punch. For David Price to assert that he has the right to throw at a hitter to send a message it takes a smug sense of privilege that some, but not all, pitchers assume. They hold the ball, no one else. They control the game. Let the batter beware.
When Brandon Workman threw behind a Tampa Bay hitter in retaliation, that was the only defense David Ortiz had, other than rushing to the mound to clobber David Price. Workman was ejected for retaliation, but what else could he do to defend his hitters? Hitters are expected to stand up there as living targets, while pitchers throw with impunity?
When pitchers are struck by a batted ball, we feel compassion and hope they are not hurt. Even hitters may approach the mound to express their well wishes. No one wants a pitcher’s career or season shortened by a batted ball. No one would say he deserved to be hit or that he would be more careful how he pitched next time.
For some reason hitters are not extended this care or concern. They are expected to step into the batter’s box and accept whatever is thrown at them. Of course, some pitches are mistakes. You can see that right away, because the pitcher shows immediate remorse. But some pitches can only be interpreted one way: I don’t like you, and I want you to fear me.
Anyone with the control of a David Price, should never hit a batter. He has the power to maim or kill another person with the speed and accuracy of his fastball. He has a responsibility to use it for good. To use it to keep the hitter thinking about what pitch is coming, not whether it is coming at him. Throw it inside or outside, but not where the batter is standing. He has a right to stand there without expecting to be intentionally hurt.
David Price is a Hall of Fame pitcher approaching the level of Bob Gibson, another headhunter. Gibson was the incarnation of the arrogant pitcher, who thought he owned the entire space from one batter’s box to the other. He scared the piss out of a generation of hitters. But Gibson had to hit, and he expected to take his lumps along with every hitter. David Price will never have to do that unless he reaches the World Series.
Price should not be allowed the privilege of hitting another batter. The next time should be an ejection, no questions asked. He is the one who thinks himself above baseball, because he exploits the unreasonable advantage given to pitchers. Baseball needs to put him in his place.
Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogarts, Brock Holt, Brandon Workman, Rubby DeLaRosa: the future. Jake Peavy, Chris Capuano, Edward Mujica, Felix Dubront, David Ross, A.J, Pierczinski: the past. With the right combination of youth and experience, the Red Sox were World Champions in 2013. With the past overtaking the future, they are in an agonizing tailspin.
At this point we can say the Red Sox are in transition, and it is time to bring on the future. Whether it is too late to contend in the American League East is still open to conjecture, but the retreads the Sox have brought in to make the transition are thin with wear. Bring on the future.
The Red Sox began courting the future in 2013 when they brought up Brandon Workman and Xander Bogarts for the stretch run. Actually Workman was a sub in the pitching rotation earlier, but he pitched with confidence and aggression from the start. He came up attacking the strike zone and has proven himself as a Major Leaguer since then. Bogarts took no one by surprise, but he showed amazing poise in the post-season. The Red Sox did not shy from using both of these young talents in the World Series.
This year they committed to Jackie Bradley, despite his weak hitting, and when the hitting began to gel, sent Grady Sizemore packing. Brock Holt is going to displace either Daniel Nava or Will Middlebrooks, because he is the answer to the lead-off question. Holt has improved every time he came up from Pawtucket and finally proved he was indispensable. Rubby DeLaRosa finally proved he could control his awesome stuff and looks like he might stay with parent club this time. Every one of these players might be languishing in Pawtucket, if the Red Sox were dazzling the American League East, but they have been utterly beatable in the first half of the season.
So 2014 has become the transition year both for the Sox and their young talent. They might even consider bringing up one of their young catchers and let one of the old guys prepare them for the big time. Both Ross and Pierczinsky are liabilities at the plate, but could mentor a young catcher to take over in 2015.
To make room for Workman and DelaRosa, the Sox could send Dubront to the bullpen, release Peavy and give Bucholz one more chance at the rotation. Bucholz deserves a chance to pitch healthy to see if he can return to his 2013 form. Peavy’s skills are in decline. The chances of his rebounding from his dismal start are slim to none.
So bring on the future. Let’s give the new Red Sox a chance to develop and see what happens. How much worse could it be?
The flocks have gathered for Spring Training, and it looks like the Red Sox are happy with the pitching staff and pitching prospects they have. Ubaldo Jimenez has signed with the Orioles, and the Yankees captured the pitching prize of the season in Tanaka. The Sox will match up with them with John Lester, Clay Bucholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Dubront and a cast of young, hopeful candidates.
No one in the rotation could be defined as a workhorse, with the possible exclusion of John Lester. They are not unfamiliar with the disabled list, especially Bucholz, who has yet to prove his arm has a full season in it. In spite of these questions the Red Sox seem to have a personnel strategy that runs counter to the American League East— bring on the youngsters!
The Red Sox have stocked their pitching staff with a number of home grown starters, considering Lester, Bucholz and Dubront, and they appear to have faith in the starters of the future in Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Drake Britton, Rubby DeLaRosa, Anthony Renaudo, and Matt Barnes. Workman has already proven he can start in the Majors. He is good enough to replace anyone at the bottom of the rotation. And Webster seems to be on the brink of gaining some composure to go with this astounding curve ball. And the others appear to be bonafide contenders. So the odds of coming up with two more starters out of Spring Training are good.
The exit of Ryan Dempster is a signal to all of these prospects that arms are for hire in Fort Myers this spring. That is a good signal to send to young pitchers, who need to feel that their time is now. They have the opportunity to join the staff of World Champions and a manager who knows pitching talent. A vacancy is just what the Red Sox needed to get their attention and get them on the fast track to the Major Leagues.
I was perturbed by the Red Sox’ inaction in the pitching market over the winter, and I think they are taking a risk now by depending on unproven pitchers. But I like the risk and I like a pitching staff that has roots in the farm system. It shows confidence in the drafted talent, the coaching in the system, and in the principle of loyalty. The Red Sox may yet prove that team loyalty is not an outmoded concept and that the young arms have realistic hopes of throwing for the parent team as soon as 2014.
This is belated praise for the architect of the 2013 Red Sox: Ben Cherrington. Perhaps he stood on Theo Epstein’s shoulders, but what he did in one off-season outshines any year under the Epstein regime.
Look at the box score of the final World Series game: who drove in the six runs? Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Stephen Drew, all free-agent signings by Cherrington. Victorino was one of the most-criticized signings, but without him the Red Sox are probably not even American League Champions. He is the definition of a money player, and one who gives up his body to winning every game.
What about the signing of Koji Uhehara after Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were already in the bullpen? Probably no way to predict what role he would have on the 2013 Red Sox, but maybe a hunch paid off. The word was that Uhehara had an expiration date and could not be counted on for regular bullpen duty. That was no deterrent to Cherrington.
Less dramatically the trade for Jake Peavy surely paid off at the end of the season, as Clay Bucholz never fully recovered and Ryan Dempster became increasingly unreliable. Cherrington sacrificed Jose Iglesias in a three-way trade to bring in Peavy. Then we watched the early-blooming Bogarts make us forget Iglesias. Iglesias will be a full-time gold glove winning shortstop some day, but he might never have gotten that chance on the Red Sox with Bogarts breathing down his neck.
I’m not sure what role Cherrington had in bringing Brandon Workman from Double-A ball to pitching the middle innings of the World Series, but it was shrewd choice. The Red Sox have always promoted young players very cautiously, perhaps allowing them to languish in the Minors. Ryan Lavarnway is in danger of dying on the vine. But Workman had the confidence and aggressiveness with batters that the Red Sox needed throughout the playoffs. That mindset promoted him past the Allen Websters and Rubby DeLaRosas, who could not pound the strike zone.
And of course, Cherrington brought back John Farrell, who managed this menagerie with consummate shrewdness and sensitivity.
Arguably the loss of any of these role players might have brought the Red Sox up short in their run for the World Championship, which suggests that Cherrington was prescient, the most important role player of all. Pretty amazing for one year’s work.
I’m looking forward to the Cherrington years.
Oh, by the way, Ben, could we make a good run at Jacoby Ellsbury?
I’m through second-guessing John Farrell. The man has “gut” intimations that defy numbers or logic, and they mostly have worked magic in the 2013 World Series.
Choose the players with the lowest averages on the Red Sox and place them in critical roles, and you have Farrell’s formula for success. Bat Jonny Gomes against right-handed pitchers, and he makes the difference in Game Four with a three-run homer. Start the defensive-back-up catcher, David Ross, in three out of five games, and the dude bats in the winning run in Game Five. Start the woeful Steven Drew at shortstop and watch him plug up the infield and execute miraculous double-plays. Start the youthful rookie Xander Bogarts at third and watch him work pitchers for walks and take pitches to right field, when they venture into the strike zone.
Meanwhile you bench players with proven talent during the regular season: Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamachia, and Daniel Nava. They have all started a couple of games, and they produced long at-bats and extra-base hits, when they did. (Except for Saltalamachia, who has slumped in the post-season). But they had to wait their turn, while the .220 hitters led the way.
Farrell deserves credit for his management of the middle innings pitchers as well. The starters and closers are no-brain decisions, but who to bring in for the fourth, fifth and sixth innings? So far Brandon Workman and Felix Dubront have proved nearly invincible in those roles. Probably they are logical choices for middle innings, but give him credit for seeing the vulnerability of Morales and Dempster and removing them from critical positions in the bullpen.
Bringing young talent like Bogarts and Workman along has been a specialty of the Farrell administration. Previous managers would never trust Pawtucket recruits in roles like this, but Farrell and his staff have hand-picked these rookies and turned them into Major Leaguers in a few short months. It shows not just an eye for talent, but for courage and maturity as well. For every Bogarts and Workman, there were several that did not make the cut this year.
So second-guessing is out of season for October. The World Series is not finished, but the record after five games is superb. Whatever hunches Farrell has left to play will be my hunches, too.