The 2017 Red Sox aren’t a World Series caliber team. This much should be obvious by this point in the season. That doesn’t mean they can’t win the World Series, it just means they’ll have to get hot and play above themselves for a few critical weeks. We’ve seen that before – I hope we can all agree that the 2013 Red Sox weren’t a great team either.
This year’s squad can’t hit for power, a critical ingredient to October baseball, and they run the bases like little leaguers hopped up on Mountain Dew. We can blame Farrell for the almost nightly disaster on the base paths, as well as for a litany of line-up and pitching decisions. But we can’t pin the team’s structural flaws on him.
John Farrell didn’t sign Panda; that was Ben Cherington. He didn’t spike Pedroia at second base; that was Manny Machado. He didn’t trade Travis Shaw for an injured Tyler Thornburg and he didn’t not sign Edwin Encarnacion or any other suitable replacement for David Ortiz; those are on Dave Dombrowski.
Sure, Dombrowski landed Kimbrel, but he also invested $217 million over seven years in David Price. How’s that working out? We knew long before his classless meltdown with Eckersley that Price was a spoiled, over-paid number two starter, incapable of performing under pressure, and unwilling to accept criticism. That was the book on him. Red Sox ownership was so worried about coddling his sensitive ego that their mouthpiece Boston Globe took time out of their busy schedule slandering Tom Brady to publish one article after the other about. What a great guy, he how works so hard, and how we should all treat him better. Dombrowski and John Henry have been poor David’s helicopter parents since the moment he arrived.
Price and Sandoval are the most obvious examples. But there are so many other bad player decisions in recent years that have shaped this ball club. The 2017 Red Sox are poorly assembled. That’s not John Farrell’s fault.
What we can, and indeed should, ascribe to Farrell and his coaching staff is the poor on-field performance of so many talented players. Forget entirely about the lunacy on the base paths that has resulted in Boston running into more outs that any other team in the league. What’s most disturbing this year is the regression of players like Bogaerts, Bradley, and Betts.
Xander is hitting 25 points below last year’s batting average, 74 points lower in OPS, has 13 fewer home runs, and 17 fewer runs batted in. He’s also committed more errors this season to date than all of last year (in 100 fewer total chances).
Bradley’s averages are comparable to last year but his power in significantly down. His 12 home runs are just over half last season’s 26 and he has driven in 33 fewer runs.
Most troubling is Mookie Betts’ decline at the plate. His .259 BA and .769 OPS are nearly 60 and 130 points below last season respectively. Last season Betts was second only to Ortiz in HRs and RBI with 31 and 113. This year he will be lucky to break the 20/90 threshold.
Bogaerts, Bradley, and Betts represent the future of the franchise. Yes, Benintendi and Devers look promising, but Betts could easily have been AL MVP last year and we once spoke of Xander and Jackie as untradeable perennial All Stars. Does anyone still feel that way? More to the point, does anyone have a ton of confidence when either of them come up in a big spot in an important game?
It’s frustrating to try and discern why Mitch Moreland isn’t in the line-up all the time. Or why a starting pitcher goes out to start the eighth inning already having thrown 100 pitches. John Farrell isn’t our biggest problem. Poor team construction is our biggest problem. John Farrell just isn’t helping.