So far the previews of coming attractions will not make ticket buyers race to the box office to plan for next season. Since the Boston Red Sox gave up on 2014 and dumped most of their starting pitchers they have been relying on a mostly AAA pitching staff to get through the remainder of the season.
It has not worked very well. And certainly the highlights compared to the lowlights have been scarce. Not much that has been happening on the diamond in recent months has provided the faithful with reason for faith.
Ups and downs
The Red Sox have been on a strange three-season journey. In 2012 they finished last in the American League East. In 2013 they won the World Series. In 2014 they are going to finish last in the American League East.
Boston is not a baseball town that has the patience for long-term building. Neither do the owners operate that way. Everyone wants to win and win now. But no one thinks the current cast of characters is on the cusp of becoming winners. The Red Sox roster demands a massive overhaul in the off-season.
As of Wednesday the Red Sox were 19 games under .500 and 25 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the standings. The only good thing that can be said about this season is that at least the Red Sox won’t lose 100 games. A lot of hard personnel choices must be made in the coming weeks and months. Just about everyone at International League Pawtucket, the club’s top farm team, who is thought to have any shot at a big-league career, has appeared in a Boston uniform to show what they got.
Wednesday, recent Cuban free agent signee Rusney Castillo, an outfielder just signed to a seven-year contract, was due to make his Major League debut. Obviously, the Red Sox believe he is the genuine article or they would not have invested more than $70 million in his future.
But the Red Sox need so much more – like three or four new starting pitchers. There have been rumors that Jon Lester, who played his whole career for the Red Sox before being sent to the Oakland A’s at the trading deadline in July, could return when he becomes a free agent. That would be a start.
As far as the old-guard regulars go, second baseman Dustin Pedroia will probably stick around. Designated hitter David Ortiz is 38 and saw his average drop this year, but he has more than 30 home runs and will finish with more than 100 RBIs. Big Papi has one more year on his contract.
Clearly, Castillo is going to be around. So is outfielder Yoenis Cepedes, acquired for Lester. Virtually no one is untouchable in the right trade, but amongst the young guys Brock Holt, Xavier Bogearts, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts, will be given every chance to be full-time starters. Those guys have played a lot this year, but only a few occasionally distinguished themselves.
And that’s a stable lineup compared to the pitching staff. Most of the young starters given opportunities to carve out a place in the team’s future have fizzled. Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo all look expendable.
Even star closer Koji Uehara displayed moments of mortality in recent weeks. Maybe he just caught the losing disease in the clubhouse.
There is so much work to be done to retool the only way a Red Sox fan will be able to keep up in the off-season is to install an alert buzzer linking his phone to the transactions wire.