Well, here we go again. Time to start that ultra- marathon known as the baseball season. In large, multi-sport markets such as Boston, New York, or Chicago, baseball never actually ceases to be a major topic of discussion despite being relegated to a back burner on the old hot stove. But now, with the start of Spring training, the newspapers and airwaves seem to explode with an endless variety of Red Sox related issues. I thought I might now begin to share some of the hotter ones with you.
THE OLD, NEW GUY IN TOWN:
I’m sure that if you were paying any attention at all to the goings on at the Fenways last summer, then you already know that there was a shake up in the hierarchy there. Dave Drombowski was put in charge of operations, Larry Lucchino was retired, and GM Ben Cherington’s role was reduced to the point that he “chose” to leave. So what makes this such a “hot topic”? His approach. This is the 59 year old Drombowski’s first Spring training in charge, and his approach as compared to his much younger successors, is decidedly more hands on, and very much “old school.”
That should not come as a surprise considering that he broke in with the Chicago White Sox, under the legendary owner Bill Veeck. It seems that Red Sox owner John Henry had come to the conclusion that they had become too addicted to the Bill James/ “moneyball” approach to assembling a team, and was not at all happy with the product that they had put on the field over the past two years. I doubt they will totally abandon it, as it did help in bringing multiple championships to Boston over the past decade or so, but Drombowski has already said that he plans on going back to relying on in-person scouting and less of a dependency on stats. One way or another, Red Sox Nation will expect results, and soon.
As you can well imagine, with the signing of David Price and the emergence of young stars such as Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, expectations are running high in these parts, and any kind of a slow start will be damaging to the careers of several key individuals. The phrase “short leash” has been used so often in the media, especially in regards to manager John Farrell, that you would think you were dog kennel. I was surprised that he survived last season as I was one of those who thought that he should have been let go in the Spring in the hopes of jump starting what had been a badly under performing team. When the team went 28-20, under interim manager Torey Lovullo following Farrell’s cancer diagnosis, there was much speculation that there would be a change made during the off season. Now it’s open to debate as to whether the improvement was a result of the presence of Lovullo, or that key youngsters began hitting their strides, but Drombrowski still surprised many by bringing Farrell back for 2016. He did, however, hedge his bet a bit by resigning Lovullo to what is a fairly substantial contract for a bench coach.
The manager is not alone in feeling the potential tug of a metaphorical choke collar, as both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval need to get off to strong starts as well or else they could end up doing more watching then playing. I’m sure there is only so much contract that D.D. wants to eat, but he has already said that they have other options and won’t be afraid to utilize them. I also would expect that patience is running a bit short with pitchers Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly, both with a world of talent, but each with a tendency to get hurt. Maybe there is a package deal in the making?
After an off season filled with glowing reports on how hard Sandoval and Ramirez were working, and how much better they looked, neither one of them showed up looking any better then when they had left. The 29 year old Sandoval is listed as being 5’11”, 255 pounds, and looks heavier. The media has fallen all over itself trying to come up with new metaphors to describe his condition. At 6’2”, 235, the 32 year old Ramirez looks more like a professional athlete, but is still a good 10 pounds over what the Sox wanted him to weigh.
I can’t help but think that Sandoval’s contract should have a “Santa” Clause in it that says if he weigh more than Santa Clus, it should cost him money. It’s just a thought…
Next time out, more “HOT TOPICS Part II, RISING STARS”.
- The “Roger That” Edition - February 28, 2017
- The “Nice Ring To It” Edition - February 3, 2017
- The “Shaken, Not Stirred” Edition - January 17, 2017
- The “Malcolms in the Middle” Edition - January 11, 2017
- A “Catching Up, Following Up, and Weighing In” Edition - December 31, 2016
- The “Cannon and Flowers” Edition - December 21, 2016
- The “Farm, for Sale” Edition - December 10, 2016
- The “Tebucky Jones Tribute” Edition - November 13, 2016
- The “World, Serious” Edition - November 1, 2016
- The “Easy Come, Easy Go” Edition - October 18, 2016