Here’s a list of guys that have 2 things in common. I’ll see if you can guess what those two things are:
Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Allen Craig, Jake Peavy, Mike Napoli, John Lackey, Joel Hanrahan, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford,
Well the first thing is obvious, all of these guys have had or are having less than stellar careers with the Red Sox. What's the second thing? We'll get to that.
The Red Sox struggles over the past few years are well documented. Surrounding an enigmatic World Series cahmpionship in 2013, the Sox have been terrible for a long time. They are currently dead last in the American League. They have finished last in the AL East twice in the 3 years prior to this, save the aforementioned epiphany in 2013. The year before (2011) was the infamous collapse that will forever be known as the "Chicken and Beer Incident." This has led everyone from Tony Mazzorati to Nick Cafardo to Lou Merloni of all people to denounce the Red Sox talent evaluation process. While I respect the level of insight and professionalism that these men bring to their respective professions, I can't fathom this viewpoint for the life of me.
As my opening argument, I present the second thing that all of the above players have in common: they were all much better before the got to the Red Sox. In fact, many have had good careers after they left the Sox too. To put this into perspective, imagine the kind of player that the Red Sox could be reasonably expected to acquire that would fill the current voids on the team. On the offensive side, how about this guy: career .300 hitter, 3 time all star, 2 time silver slugger who very nearly won an MVP a few years ago. Has an injury history, but shows game-changing ability when healthy. Average fielding ability, but only 30 and would make a terrific DH in a year or two when Big Papi hangs up the cleats. Do you want that guy? I do. That's Hanley Ramirez.
Not your cup of tea? How about this guy: A career .296 hitter, 4 time all star, gold glove, silver slugger. This guy actually did win an MVP. He's averaging 50, yes 50, stolen bases a season over the last 9. The respectable Gordon Edes said that calling him a game-changer would be "understatement." Oh yeah, he's only 29. You want that guy? Heck yeah. That guy is Carl Crawford. See where this is going?
Fine, fine, bad luck with the hitters. But the pitching sucks, right? We need a younger guy. I'm thinking a 25 year old kid who throws 180-200 innings a year. He just came off his best season in the majors in which he posted a 3.43 ERA. Not bad. WHIP is around 1.3, strikes out roughly six batters per nine innings. Solid middle rotation guy. Not an ace, but young and with good stuff. Might turn into a number 2 eventually. Want that guy? His name is Rick Porcello.
Or maybe you'd rather have a veteran, someone with some experience. Let's take a 31 year old pitcher with some pretty good numbers instead. He's 102-71 with a career 3.81 ERA. In his career as a full-time starter, he has never posted less than 163 innings and has eclipsed 198 five times. In fact, he has 14 complete games under his belt. He doesn't give up a lot of home runs and he strikes out seven per nine. A few years ago, he was third in Cy Young voting during an all-star season. I want that guy. His name is John Lackey.
I could do this for EVERY SINGLE PLAYER on that list. And this is not me spinning numbers. These guys were legitimate all-stars, MVPs, Cy Young candidates, ROYs, Gold Glovers, Silver Sluggers. They led the league in stolen bases, ERA, batting average, innings pitched, etc. Sometimes they were international prospects like Rousney Castillo, who was also renowned by many teams outside of Beantown. These are players every team wants. And when the Red Sox get them, they suck. Why?
Well, this is where many people will blame the talent evalutators. After all, the players above have spanned 3 head coaches, numerous hitting and pitching coaches, not to mention 2 general managers. Can any of them be to blame? Maybe a little. But let's consider another glaring flaw in the Red Sox system.
Until this season when we were tantilized by the dynamic trio of Bogaerts, Betts and E-Rod, how many legitimate prospects have the Sox called up lately? The Golden Age of Lester, Buchholz, Pedroia, Papelbon is long gone. How many prospects have worked out? Become all stars? How many are still on this team, for crying out loud? We've been force fed Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick and Jackie Bradley and Daniel Bard for so long that we start chanting hall of fame every time a rookie doesn't fall flat on his face. The Red Sox player development is terrible. Despite having a consensus top-five farm system, the Bosox are in dead last and the Paw Sox are bottom dwellers too. Everyone in the baseball world agrees that the Red Sox have talent. If the Red Sox talent evaluators suck, so does everyone else. The talent is there. Period.
I'm not totally sure what the problem is. I'm only here to tell you what it's not. I think a problem this deep goes all the way to the top. I'm thinking the problem is with Henry, Werner, Lucchino and whatever system they are cramming down the throat of their subordinates. I have no evidence to support that, it just seems like the fish is rotting from the head. That's not to say they are incompetent. There are many players who can succeed here. Players like David Ortiz, Koji Uehara, Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon have all done considerable better in their Red Sox careers than anywhere else. Dustin Pedroia has thrived in the time he has spent here. It works for some people. But it's becoming increasingly obvious that it only works for a small group.
Maybe 2013 wasn't a fluke. Maybe that was just exactly the right group of guys for this system. Maybe this current methodology can actually work. It just needs the right players. One thing is for sure, though, this isn't it. There's a wealth of wasted talent to the field at Fenway. Either the players need to change, or the system does. Personally, I'd like to see the system change. Either way, let the talent scouts do their job. They're doing it fairly well.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below and follow me on twitter @daneriker