Utterly shocked to find my call for the youth movement answered in the month leading up to the All-Star break, but this is how the Red Sox now respond to talent surging up from Triple A. They did the same last year, giving Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Rubby DeLaRosa and Xander Bogarts a shot at making the team. Workman and Bogarts made a difference down the stretch, justifying the faith of the parent club.
Now come the killer B’s: Bogarts (again), Bradley, Betts and Brock (Holt), bringing some bravado to the flagging Red Sox. With the exception of Bogarts, they are all risks. The club can afford them, because it have nothing else on the bench. I’m really hoping most of them prove themselves before Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks come along to take their place. They are, after all, the future of a team that reached its prime in 2013. Victorino is a winner, but a very fragile one, and Middlebrooks has almost used up his “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.
While they were at it, they decided to bring on Christian Vasquez and ditch A. J. Pierczinski, thinking this would at least be a defensive upgrade. Vasquez is a bigger risk because he also has to gain the confidence of a pitching staff used to veterans calling their games. So far he has looked up to the task, and how could he have a better mentor than David Ross?
Think of the future if Vasquez, Bogarts and Bradley fulfill heir potential: the Red Sox solid up the middle for another decade. Traditionally this has not been the strength of the team. Their catchers and shortstops have always been known for hitting more than fielding. Those positions have been a revolving door for a decade. A strong presence up the middle would transform this team.
The final “B” is Brock Holt. What a great name for a baseball player or maybe a quarterback or a decathalon champion! He may not be the second coming of Jacoby Ellsbury, but he fills the lead-off spot with flair. He looks like trouble at the plate and he is. He is patient and aggressive, shows some speed and can bunt. He has played every position except pitcher and catcher since coming up to stay, and those positions don’t seem out of reach. He brings what the Red Sox have so badly lacked in the first half of the season: confidence and energy.
And this is what we see in the newest Red Sox recruits: confidence and energy. Yes, Bogarts is looking a little shell-shocked lately, but no one doubts what he can do. John Farrell treats them all like they belong here, and soon most of them will know that. Maybe Victorino will send someone packing, but time is on the side of the Killer “B” ‘s (and “V”). Whatever happens to the Red Sox this year, the next generation has arrived.
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?
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.