By Ted Gay – @TedG63
It’s panic season in Boston. It came early this year. The small but loud percentage of hoopleheaded Sox fans who can’t let a single negative thought pop into their heads without transmitting it for the world to absorb are seemingly shocked the Sox have not continued to play .900 ball. Despite the constant panicked postings the truth is the Red Sox are far ahead of a pace that would put them in the playoffs. The bad news is they have 99 problems and John Farrell ain’t one.
Ninety-nine is an obvious exaggeration but there are some worrisome performances beginning with Christian Vazquez. His lack of offensive production can be tolerated if his defensive skills remained strong but those numbers have tanked this year. He is currently allowing four runs above what an average catcher would allow, his defensive runs saved was +18 last year and is at -19 this year. The mysterious relationship between pitchers and catchers cannot be quantified via numbers, but it would have to be the best in baseball to make up for Vazquez’s bad stats. The season is young and many players have put the first seven weeks of the season behind them and had great years. Vazquez needs to begin righting his ship now because unlike JBJ there is no alternative who would be an improvement.
Blake Swihart’s quiet spring has shown he is not the answer. His agent, Brodie Scoffield’s demanding a trade is either very, very smart or very, very dumb. Swihart has no value and is likely to be DFA’d when Dustin Pedroia returns. His listless start against the A’s was his last chance to show he could contribute. If Swihart is cut loose Scoffield can at least try to convince a suitor that it was due to the player’s demands and not his performance.
Speaking of very, very dumb things Carson Smith broke Crash Davis; first rule of pitching by using his literal million dollar arm to express his anger when he threw his glove with such force it caused a subluxation of his shoulder. Throwing something, or hitting something, with your pitching appendage is like a porn star putting his member in a wood chipper. His value as a porn star is nil, as is Smith’s as a pitcher. The difference is Smith is part of a team while the porn star is a free agent unless you belong to a lucrative porn star fantasy league where your first round pick sticking it in a wood chipper is a killing blow.
Smith’s injury makes rookie manager Alex Cora’s task more difficult. He has already broken Crash Davis’ second rule, never pitch Matt Barnes in the eighth inning with a one-run lead against a contender. Unfortunately for Cora, he does not have a lot of choices to hand the ball to in a close game. The great savior Tyler Thornburg has only had one good season in Milwaukee. Hector Velasquez has been a pleasant surprise but has not been tested in the late innings. Right now Red Sox Nation only has faith in Craig Kimbrel and a limited amount in Joe Kelly. While Cora has been bashed for his bullpen decisions sometimes a manager hands a pitcher the ball and tells him to do the job. How much do you blame the manager when the pitcher can’t accomplish the task?
I hate to admit that I am beginning to agree with Webmaster Terry that Mookie Betts should not be hitting leadoff. But I am loathe to move either him, Andrew Benintendi (an ancient Pequot name that translates into “He Who Runs Into Outs”), Hanley Ramirez or JD Martinez out of the first four spots. Currently, the Sox worst hitter is batting in front of their best. Perhaps hitting Edwin Nunez, Dustin Pedroia or Brock Holt, whoever is manning second or subbing at third on a particular day, bats ninth. This move and flipping Benintendi and Betts would give Mookie the potential for more runners on base when he hits. Moving up Vazquez, who is scraping the bottom of the Mendoza line may seem counterintuitive but many groundbreaking ideas are.
Mitch Moreland has earned the first base job. He is a bigger threat against right-handed pitchers but he hits left-handers better than JBJ hits underhanders. Not starting Bradley Jr. is a loss defensively but that is offset by the upgrade of Moreland over Ramirez at first. Rafael Devers’ wrong way rockets have a better chance of being snared by Moreland than Hanley. Moreland will never be a Wilbury but his bat in the lineup every day gives the Sox the best chance at winning.
Despite these issues, the Red Sox rose, and then they fell, the Yankees fell, and then they rose, and the two teams will continue this dance all summer and maybe deep into October. It has been 14 years since both franchises fielded teams this talented. It is going to be a fun summer if you keep clear of the hoppleheads and allow yourself to enjoy it.
ICYMI: EPISODE 46 OF THE AVIDBOSTON PODCAST!!!
OAKLAND SERIES RECAP!!! CARSON SMITH INJURY/CONTROVERSY!!! JBJ/SWIHART TRADE SCENARIOS!!! AND MUCH MUCH MORE!!!
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