Thursday, March 31, 2016

Golden Main: Brock Holt

Brock Holt is a nice player. He fills in capably around the diamond, a scrappy, hustling ballplayer. Manager John Farrell announced that Holt will be the Red Sox' main left fielder. 

Last year he was the Sox lone selectee for baseball's "Summer Classic", the All-Star game. 

In the equivalent of two 'full' campaigns with the Red Sox he has six home runs and eighty-five RBI.

In the same vein, he averages about two WAR (if you divide three seasons into two). He was 49th in WAR last season, ahead of Jackie Bradley, Jr. (2.6 to 2.2) but with over 500 plate appearances, about double Bradley's. 

After the All-Star break, Holt was .265/.311/.341/.652. 

He's the guy that some will say, "I wish we had eight more of" on the field. Count me out on that one, unless someone is looking for the early 1960's Boston Red Sox. Hustle alone doesn't win ball games. Talent and hustle win ball games. 

Maybe the Red Sox and manager John Farrell will catch lightning in a bottle. Holt is a "bargain basement" player, barely above the MLB minimum (which of course any of us would love to make). At age 27, Holt is approaching the statistical zenith of his career. And he is a nice player. But "ambition should be made of sterner stuff." 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Money Can't Play"

Leaders find solutions and there's no doubt about who's in charge of the Boston Red Sox. Ownership hired Dave Dombrowski to 'fix it' and the solution can't be fielding the "highest priced" players instead of the best players. 

Yes, "sample size" matters. Nobody is installing Travis Shaw in Cooperstown or forgetting that Brock Holt doesn't wear well over the course of the marathon that is the baseball season. But if the 'eye test' tells you that they give you the best chance to WIN TODAY, that's what matters. So, if Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo sit, they sit...and get paid. 

Sports is a meritocracy, but embedded within are fragile egos and "that's not how we do it here" attitudes of "professionals". Veterans who see other veterans displaced can become petulant. "You don't lose your job to injury." But you do lose your job when your conditioning prevents you from fielding a ground ball or running the bases or when our judgment on your potential gets disproven. 

The Red Sox and manager John Farrell skate on thin ice. Baseball fans have short memories for success and longer ones for disappointment. 

Baseball players most often get paid for what they've accomplished in the past, but fans respond to what you're doing now. Should the fan who pays a king's ransom accept players who don't care about conditioning or performance once they've been paid. 

A high payroll guarantees nothing as we've seen the Kansas City Royal and even Houston prove last season. Players and management need to understand that winning might be optional for some teams but not the big market teams. And if winning isn't your priority or your emphasis, then you don't deserve OUR money. Money can't play. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dr. Cherington's Monster

"Spahn and Sain and pray for rain."

The Red Sox should be so lucky. "Price and pray..."

When the Red Sox acquired Rick Porcello on a trial basis (for Yoenis Cespedes), the heavens were unmoved. But the decision to grant a Godfather contract to the former Tiger proved the adage that 'the high cost of mediocrity' kills you.

I believe in redemption and that Spring Training performance doesn't define you, but the back end of the rotation (everything after Price) hasn't exactly boosted confidence in the staff.

Even though the Red Sox haven't lost every day, it feels that way. Maybe Rick Porcello was working on 'grooving pitches' but if he weren't then the trick's on the Red Sox as they pay down his future mansions.

At least Porcello takes the ball. After Price, Clay Buchholz has unreliable ability, Eduardo Rodriguez is unavailable, Porcello is reliably unreliable, and the best option at five might be an untested knuckleballer, Steven Wright with seven career wins. This is not exactly Palmer, McNally, Dobson, and Cuellar...or even Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

Does winning in Spring Training matter? There is some data...but it's small. Good teams tend to win regularly. We've seen the Red Sox struggle in March before and it hasn't been pretty in April. 

With so much money thrown at players these days, you wonder whether they're simply fat and happy and not so motivated. Ben Cherington is long gone; I hope they prove me wrong. 

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Private Matter

I'm not a huge John Farrell fan. I don't like the way he's handled young players, with an intransigent support of underachieving veterans. I don't believe that it's a coincidence that Betts, Bradley, Bogaerts, and Swihart flourished after Farrell's departure. Do I know there's cause and effect? No. It's just intelligent speculation. For a personnel guy and former pitching coach, Farrell has not overwhelmed there for the most part. 

But I form my opinion on what action between the lines reveals. The organizational decision to bring him back after successful struggles against cancer is totally understandable. 

But we should evaluate professional athletes and coaches on effort, personal performance, and their impact on the team. Just as we should evaluate scribes on their journalism, not on their lives. 

When family issues or personal matters arise off the field, they deserve privacy. There's no role for locker room talk, snickers, and sanctimonious argument. 

I hope that time away from the team and observation of their approach and results in his absence produces an epiphany. Most fans are rooting for Red Sox relevance in 2016. We all understand the "What Have You Done for Me Lately?" theme. 

But let's focus on rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's.