The Nation: In or out?

Inconsistency, injuries, and poor offense. Those have been the three primary factors in a surprising and disappointing season up until this point. The Red Sox now sit at 38-44. Most likely in any other year, a 38-44 record in the AL East would be a death sentence, prompting the unfortunate bearer of the record to be in utter sell mode by June 30 and beyond. But that’s not the case this year. And that’s not the case right now, at least, not yet.

We’ve all been frustrated with this Red Sox team. They’ve made even the best of Red Sox nation bang their heads against a wall at some point (I have probably issued myself future brain damage due to the amount I have done this year). However, there’s a HUGE bright side to all the underperformance issues: We’re only SIX, yes, SIX games out of first place behind Toronto. Not only that, but let me paint a little brighter picture for those skeptics. The Blue Jays have a losing record for June. The Orioles and Yankees have been anything but impressive. And let’s not forget those dreaded Rays, who are beyond last place. Still need some more positivity? Okay. Mookie Betts. “What?! He’s played one game!” Yes, he has. But this kid can hit. He’s going to hit. He’s going to help. The Red Sox cranked out 12 hits last night, he had one of them. Maybe him being in the lineup will spark more offensive outbursts from a team that literally couldn’t buy a run on most nights.

There’s still more to be done though. We return home after a less-than-spectacular road trip to face teams like the Cubs, a perineal losing team (sorry, Cubs fans. I mean no offense), and the O’s, giving us a chance to take ground and gain even more games in the standings. This homestand will be the most telling of the year. If the Red Sox can come away with a winning record against their opponents on this homestand, I expect Ben will be making calls to find some upgrades and hopefully get enough to push us over the hump to October. If we fail at home this time, I expect you’ll be seeing a new Red Sox team, one full of rookies getting their shots to prove themselves, as the veterans (some, at least) will be on other teams and we, the fans, will be sitting at home watching someone else try to win the World Series.

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The Nation: On the road again

2 runs. A subpar pitching performance from Jake Peavy. And more uncertainty surrounding the Red Sox. After sweeping the Twins at home, the team has found no success on the road… Again, winning only one game against the A’s before losing to Seattle the last two games (in which the Mariners have scored a combined 20 runs). Now, at 8 and 1/2 games back of the Blue Jays, what’s going to happen?

I believe Farrell will strongly consider moving Peavy to the bullpen, even if it’s temporary due to how well Workman and De La Rosa have been pitching. Let’s not forget the huge uncertainty about Clay either. Should he continue to struggle once he returns, he could also be a candidate to be replaced, if for a awhile, anyway.

Still not hitting. The Red Sox led the league in runs last year en route to a World Series title. This year, aside from Brock Holt and the occasional clutch hit from Ortiz, no one is doing their job at the plate. I’m not saying these guys aren’t trying because we all know they are. But it’s not working. There is literally no production anywhere in this lineup aside from the two I mentioned earlier. Stephen Drew is ZERO for his last 23. AJ is atrocious, he left NINE runners on base during his at-bats. You could literally roll the ball to the plate and this guy would swing at it. Pedroia is struggling and only hitting .265, not a great average for a number 3 hitter (which he’s not suited for, but I’ve already ranted about that). Ortiz is batting .253, his worst in years. Things are not going well for the Red Sox. The pitching will be fine, I can assure you of that. As for the hitting? It’s almost July. The excuses of cold weather and needing more time to settle in are long gone.

Bottom line: if the Red Sox do not acquire a good, not average, hitter to put in the lineup, expect a yard sale in mid to late July.

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The Nation: Where it went wrong

No, I’m not giving up on this team. I don’t care if we’re 20 games below .500 and in last place. I don’t believe in giving up on the Red Sox. However, this season has been anything but exciting to see as a fan. From a band of bearded brothers who found ways to win to a band of guys who don’t have an identity and seem lost on the field. Why? Why is an identical roster, similar to the 2013 team, struggling so badly? I try not to place blame on anyone, but I have to do it now. Blame the GM. Blame Cherington.

In the offseason, the Red Sox lost two key elements to their championship team in Ellsbury and Salty. Ellsbury is a game-changer (yes, I cringe commenting him now that he dons pinstripes) and a true table-setter at the top of the lineup. Along with that, his speed makes him a very valuable asset offensively and defensively. Salty, while not a superstar by any stretch, had a level of comfort with the pitching staff that A.J. cant replicate.

Okay, so we lost two key guys, no big deal, right? Wrong. The problem with losing two great players is that Ben did NOTHING to replace them. Sure, he signed A.J., who has been anything but a good fit. And he replaced Ells with a feel good experiment in Sizemore (I’m not criticizing Grady, I love the guy and I think he did well considering the situation) and JBJ, a kid with a great defensive skill set who has yet to prove he can hit at this level. Again, I’m NOT downgrading this guy, I do believe he will develop more offensive abilities over time. He was rushed to be a savior in center field.

In the offseason, there were plenty of guys who the Red Sox could have used this year. Let’s start with a center fielder. How about trading for one, Ben? Or moving Vic to center and signing Beltran? Nope. Okay, well what about at catcher? Why not take a gamble on McCann? When Ortiz retires, he could DH and play some first for us. Forget it. Cherington signed guys like Mujica, who showed late last year that he wasn’t worth a roster spot. And let’s not forget AJ, the “swing first, ask later” catcher who has been nothing but a sour note to this team.

Blame the team, blame Farrell if you must. As for me, I’m blaming Ben.

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The Nation: A Failed Experiment

By now you’ve probably heard the news: 3 time all star Grady Sizemore has been designated for assignment by the Red Sox.

After a two year absence due to major injuries, Sizemore returned to baseball with a huge uncertainty over him. He came out in a bang, impressing even the hardest skeptics with his play in spring training and early April. Unfortunately, the gold-glove center fielder could only show glimpses of his past glory. After hitting a disappointing .216, the Red Sox bid farewell to the man once regarded as a gift to the baseball world. Sizemore, 31, will have to attempt his comeback somewhere else. As for me, I hope he can regain some of what he lost and I hope that the charismatic smile that he boasted in his glory days returns once more and that he finds his success. The man deserves it.

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The Nation: Moneyball or misguided?

Big spending, big contracts, big free agents, big trades. This is what the Red Sox have strayed away from, especially since Ben took over as the GM. Terrible deals like Carl Crawford’s are long gone, and learned from. That’s great, yes, but I’m a little concerned. Here’s why:

We aren’t the Oakland A’s. We don’t have to entirely rely on unknowns and a great farm system. We DO have money, and plenty of it. Ben has shown major reluctance to spend this money or expend a few prospects in order to drastically improve the Red Sox. Sure, he signed Nap, Vic, Gomes, and Drew (Yes, Stephen Drew) and these guys have been great in the big picture (Vic, when healthy, and Drew when consistent). But what about the big name players that we used to covet and pursue? Nada. Nothing. The Red Sox are trying to overhaul their identity as a big spender and trying to become the newest addition to the Moneyball ideal.

I’m not saying this is entirely a bad idea, in fact, I like the idea. But there’s one major problem: we have money, we should use it. I’m not suggesting to become the Yankees and buy every single available free agent, but I am saying we should do more, as evidenced by our record that signifies we didn’t do enough in the offseason. Instead of trying to put our money and effort towards resigning our phenomenal center fielder, Ellsbury, we go after a bust in Edward Mujica. Instead of going after Brian McCann or even bringing Salty back, we sign A.J., who has done more harm than good (in my opinion). Instead of upgrading the outfield, we let it become the WORST in the major leagues in terms of offense. We have a great farm system stocked with potential stars that will be playing in Fenway one day. One day, not today. So, come on, Ben. I like that you’re trying to play it safe and let the kids get their chance, but we needed more than that this year, and the record proves it. Again, I’m not saying this team is bad and won’t compete in the end, I’m just saying there were steps that weren’t taken in order to prevent the chaos and uncertainty that is the 2014 Red Sox up until this point in the season.

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The Nation: What frustrates me the most

My last blog was all about one thing: emotions. Not getting too high after a win or too low after a loss. Today, however, after seeing the Red Sox fall to Cleveland for two straight games, at home, mind you, I have to vent a little bit.

The pitching is inconsistent at times, yes. The defense has been laughable at points, of course. The outfield? Let’s not even go there. My biggest problem is that we’re missing something that is essential to a team’s success: a great hitter.

Before you stop reading, (thinking, “wow, he’s an idiot! We have David Ortiz, Mr. October himself along with the Pedroia”) let me get my point across. The Red Sox do not (in MY opinion) have a true number three hole hitter. I’ve always been told that the number three hitter in a team’s lineup is the most consistent and has three universal traits: contact, power, and at least an average speed (this is not always the case, of course. The first two are the big ones).

Currently, we are forcing Dustin Pedroia to hit third. Am I saying this is an atrocity? Absolutely not. I’m saying he should fill another spot in the lineup, preferably batting second. Pedroia is a good hitter. No denying that. He also hits for average for the most part. He even has an average running ability for a guy who is rather small. What does he lack? Power. Pedroia has three homeruns this year. Nothing that inspires fear in opposing pitchers. This is not a knock on Pedroia, it’s a knock on the fact he is hitting in a spot better reserved for someone else.

Who is the someone else, you ask?

Ortiz, right?

Not necessarily. Here’s why:

Age. Ortiz is approaching the dreaded four-oh in age. He’s still a fearsome hitter. He’s still just as clutch as he was in 2004. He still inspires defenses to apply the shift when he steps into the box. However, I like where Ortiz is hitting now: fourth. My biggest argument for this is because IF we could ever get the first three hitters on base, Ortiz could drive them in because he IS clutch. This would also force pitchers to give him more to hit (assuming Napoli is still hitting behind him). If the bases are occupied, the shift is less likely to be executed, giving way to Papi getting more hits to the right side of the field and driving in those runs in the process.

So what should we do?

In my honest opinion, I believe Xander Bogaerts will fill the three spot IN TIME. Not immediately, he is obviously still developing and his power will greatly increase in the future. If the Red Sox aren’t comfortable with that option in the future, they should go outside of the organization to acquire another all-star caliber hitter, even if for a short term. My suggestions:

Matt Holiday (Cardinals, outfielder)

Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies, outfielder) [if he is fully healthy]

Matt Kemp (Dodgers, outfielder) [Also another case of if he’s fully healthy]

And the longshot, Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins, outfielder) [I probably have a better shot at becoming an astronaut than this does of happening]

Agree with me? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts and why. As always, thanks for reading.

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The Nation: Mood swings

After a horrible road trip that ended with two wins and seven losses, the Red Sox returned to the friendly confines of Fenway Park, where they’ve heated up as of late, winning the last 7 games here. So, after so much pessimism and gloom from the road trip to the elation and good feelings after winning two straight, how exactly should we, the fans, feel right now about this team?

The answer is somewhat simple. Keep your feelings neutral for the moment. I’m not suggesting to be completely emotionless. I’m saying don’t go into “give up” mode after a loss and don’t go into extreme joy with a win. Try to stay in the middle. Of course, be happy with the wins, and be disappointed by the losses, just don’t take either to the extreme right now for one reason: it’s June. We still have over 3 full months to play this game and figure out where we stand. Sure, we’re not where we want to be, but that can change very quickly. Save your more critical judgements for late July, where the Red Sox will either be a buyer or a seller. Until then, keep the faith high, and the emotional roller coaster on a somewhat steady track. We’re gonna be okay. As always, Boston Strong.

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