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Archive for the tag “Clay Buchholz”

Sticking with Clay

Photo coutesy of nesn.com

The Red Sox won the 2013 World Series without an ace. Jon Lester? John Lackey? Good pitchers. But not aces. Not anymore. Boston did, however, boast a deep, talented staff that, by and large, stayed relatively healthy last season. Lester’s regular season was far from elite (109 ERA+), but he did elevate in game in the second half. Beginning on August 8, the big lefty started ten games. He threw 70 innings and produced a 2.19 ERA during that stretch. Lester went on to pitch brilliantly in October. In the fall, he was the ace of spades.

No one will remember Lester’s inconsistent regular season. Instead, they’ll back on 2013 and point to the magnificent final month of the season he put together. It takes a special type of pitcher to do what Lester did in the postseason–4-1, 1.56 ERA, 29 strikeouts in 34.2 innings. Clay Buchholz is a player who possesses that same ability to go through stretches of unadulterated dominance. His upside, talent, and contract render him a commodity that is virtually untradeable.

Beat writers, radio talk show hosts, and bloggers are not demanding that Ben Cherington sell Buchholz to the highest bidder. No one is saying that. But there has been chatter that Buchholz represents a solid trade candidate given the Red Sox’ surplus of pitching combined with frustration over the slender righty’s lack of durability. Many of these points are correct in and of themselves, but bundling them together in order to reach the conclusion that Buchholz should be shipped out of Boston is borderline ludicrous.

Buchholz is really, really good at baseball. Even Buchholz’ harshest critic will quickly concede that the Texas native is extremely talented. There’s no debating it, and it’s been that way for awhile around here. Too often, however, the discussion around Buchholz focuses on his inability to stay on the mound. The value he brings when he is pitching actually ends up getting lost in the fray. Get ready for this — Baseball Reference has Lester’s WAR at 3.0 in 2013. Buchholz, who threw 105 less innings than Lester, earned 4.3 WAR. It’s actually sort of unreal. Basically, when Buchholz was on the mound last season, he was better than just about everyone else. And that is absent of any exaggeration. There is no doubt that he raised his level of performance from April to June in 2013. He went 11-1 in 12 starts, punching out 81 batters in 84.1 innings. He posted a 1.71 ERA during that span while his opponents couldn’t get above the Mendoza Line. The way he manipulated the baseball for those two months was truly something special.  But pitching at an extremely high level is old hat for Buchholz. Since 2010, the right handed starter has compiled a 46-19 record to go along with a 3.15 ERA. Over those four years, he averaged 138 innings with a 135 ERA+. He has put together 12.7 bWAR since 2010.  To put that into perspective, Zack Greinke, during that same four-year stretch, had 111 ERA+ and 12.3 bWAR. Greinke will make $128M over the course of the next five seasons. Buchholz’ contractual situation is quite a bit different.

If the Red Sox choose to exercise their team options, the highest annual salary that Buchholz will earn over the next four years is $13.5M. That will be during the 2017 season. As television money continues to surge into the game and the cost of pitching remains extremely high, Buchholz is primed to be an absolute bargain for a team that is flush with young pitching prospects in their organization. In 2014, the wiry righty will make $7.7M. If he’s healthy — and all reports indicate that he will enter Spring Training that way — it won’t take Buchholz very long to earn his salary in terms of WAR. He jumps to $12M in 2015, his age 30 season, and remains relatively cheap still. The Red Sox hold team options in 2016 and 2017 that are worth $13M and $13.5M, respectively. Should Buchholz’ health woes begin to outweigh the value he brings when he takes the mound, the Red Sox can simply cut ties after the 2015 season ($250K buyout). The way his contract is structured, even if he suffers a catastrophic injury, it is virtually impossible that Buchholz ever becomes an albatross on the Red Sox’ payroll. Conversely, if things break right for Buchholz, the Red Sox will have a player who has the ability to be the best pitcher in baseball for the next four seasons at a price that will make GM’s around the game drool. No matter what, until he puts together a season that resembles more 2010 and less 2012, health will always be a question that looms over Buchholz.

Durability, or lack thereof, is something that may very well plague Buchholz his entire career. His frame is not conducive to bearing the load required to shoulder a 34-start season. He is injury-prone. There’s really no way around it. Throughout the course of the second half of the season last year, Buchholz received a tremendous criticism for his lack of toughness. He dispelled that notion during the World Series. Buchholz wasn’t close to being 100 percent in Game 4, but he yielded one run — which wasn’t earned — over four innings. And it’s likely that no one will remember his effort. If those four very solid innings came in relief, it’s likely that his performance would have much more memorable. Nevertheless, Buchholz’ level of “grit” may not match his ability, but it’s significantly closer than most fans would like to believe.

No player is untradeable. But the value that Buchholz brings to the Red Sox makes him a player that is worth guarding, unless a deal comes along that Cherington cannot refuse. Given his fragility, it’s hard to see a team blowing the Red Sox out of the water with an offer. In the end, it’s probably best to stick with Buchholz and hope that he is healthy for an October run, whether it is in 2014 or 2017. If that happens, the rest of the league, heck, the rest of baseball, will be in for quite a show.

A Timely Champion: How a game in April told us a lot about the 2013 Boston Red Sox

Photo via wcvb.com

The Red Sox won a game in early April on a cool, cloudy day against a division rival by a score of 3-1. It was one simple game plucked out of the first week of what is a long six-month regular season. There were no extra innings. There were no walk-offs.

Sitting in the right field bleachers on April 8, Opening Day at Fenway Park, I had no idea that the performance I was witnessing would, in many ways, come to epitomize the eventual 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.

I believe that the members of this year’s Red Sox team genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. Furthermore, I’m confident that the guys in that clubhouse truly cared about one another–a trait that Terry Francona often highlighted as being vital to any team’s success. There is no doubt that the 2013 Red Sox possessed a unique blend of character, camaraderie, and yes, chemistry. Sometimes, however, teams that are labeled as possessing good chemistry often have their talents overlooked. Teams bereft of talent that bulge with chemistry don’t win 97 games, and they certainly don’t win championships.

When an average pitcher does not have his stuff on a given day, there is a good chance that major league hitters will make him pay. Conversely, when a pitcher who is supremely talented, like Clay Buchholz, lacks his usual sharpness, there is still an opportunity to be successful. April 8 was one of those days for the slender righty. Against a relatively tough Orioles lineup that featured excellent hitters like Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones, Buchholz tossed seven frames, punched out eight batters, and earned his second win in as many starts. By all accounts, he was masterful on that spring afternoon in Boston. Here is what Buchholz said after that game: “I didn’t really have one thing that was working the whole day. [I] Was up in the zone, couple of balls hit early that would’ve gotten out stayed in the park. Other than that it was sorta a grind there for a little bit.” Must be nice, right?

Players — the actual guys who put on the uniform — routinely tell us about the importance of chemistry, so who are we to dismiss it simply because we can’t quantify it? Nevertheless, talent, for me, always wins out. Give me talent before anything else. And this Red Sox team provided us with plenty of it.

In 2011, the Red Sox possessed a talent-laden roster. On paper, they looked like an absolute wagon. Theo Epstein and Co. added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to a core group of quality players that was already in place here. For much of the season, things seemed to click. The vast majority of the 2011 campaign was actually wildly successful, but no one will ever remember the good days of that summer (on August 9, the Red Sox were 29 games over .500). Instead, fans will recall a dreadful September in which the team went 7-20, relinquishing a nine-game lead for the only Wild Card spot, and, of course, chicken and beer. All of those things may be true, but the focus shouldn’t be on Bud Light and Popeyes. The proverbial finger should be pointed directly at that team’s lack of depth.  Kyle Weiland started five extremely meaningful games (three came in September) for the Red Sox in 2011. The righty was, as you might expect, absolutely awful (7.66 ERA in seven appearances). He last pitched in a major league game in April of 2012. The fact that Weiland played a legitimate role in the Red Sox season and subsequent collapse is rather embarrassing. Ben Cherington, who was the assistant GM of the Red Sox in 2011, had a keen understanding of the importance of depth when he assembled this year’s squad.

On April 8, when Buchholz was finished baffling Orioles batters, he turned things over to Andrew Bailey who looked excellent in his first two appearances of the season. Bailey kept rolling, punching out two of the three batters he faced. Joel Hanrahan pitched the ninth inning of that game, allowing one run. It was clear that the Red Sox had identified their setup man and closer. Of course, no one knew that the pair of hard throwing right handers wouldn’t throw another pitch after July 12.

When a team loses its all-star closer to a season-ending injury, they’re usually not able to replace him with another former all-star who is a proven back end of the bullpen piece. But that’s exactly what the Red Sox did when Hanrahan went down with a torn flexor tendon, and they were able to turn to Bailey. Ultimately and somewhat unsurprisingly, Bailey was lost for the season and required surgery to repair his shoulder. John Farrell turned briefly to Junichi Tazawa before handing the keys to the car over to Koji Uehara on June 26. Uehara never gave them back as he accumulated 21 regular season saves and seven in the postseason. He made sure to collect hundreds of high fives along the way.

There is no doubt that Cherington knew what he was doing when he added Hanrahan and Uehara to a bullpen that already had two guys who possessed arsenals that lend themselves to the closer role. Bailey was a proven closer, and Tazawa is an excellent pitcher who rarely walks a batter and has the ability to throw in the mid-90′s. Heading into the season, a case could be made that there was some redundancy in the Red Sox bullpen, but, because of that depth, they were able to overcome attrition and turn what easily could have evolved into a weakness into a legitimate strength.

Depth is something that general managers can build. To a certain extent, they can control it. Could Cherington have splurged, gone out and signed a sexy free agent, like Josh Hamilton? You bet. But it would have limited his ability to infuse talent around the diamond and build depth in certain areas. David Ross, Jonny Gomes, and Uehara are three good examples of players who Cherington could have simply passed on without getting a ton of pushback from the fanbase. Timeliness, on the other hand, is a characteristic that general managers do not have much control over, but most good teams seem to find a way to come up large in big spots.

Wei-Yin Chen was matching Buchholz blow for blow, frame after frame. The Red Sox offense was essentially lifeless. Chen was dealing. Then Dustin Pedroia led off the bottom of the seventh inning with an infield single. Mike Napoli then jolted a ball to center for a double. Will Middlebrooks followed with a strikeout for the first out of the inning. Daniel Nava stepped in, batting from the right side. He took a ball and fouled off the next pitch. Chen’s third offering was clobbered by Nava. When the ball landed beyond the big green wall in left, it was 3-0 Red Sox. A game and an afternoon that had been a pitcher’s duel in every way suddenly and indelibly changed because of one well-timed swing.

Nava, the man who delivered the deciding blow that day, is a player who likely wouldn’t have been in the lineup that afternoon if David Ortiz had been completely healthy at the beginning of the year. Ortiz would have been the designated hitter. Gomes would have moved out of the DH role and slid into left field against the southpaw. But because of the Red Sox outfield depth, Farrell had the ability to use the versatile Nava in left that day. An undrafted former independent league standout, Nava’s talents are often overlooked because of his remarkable story. In reality, Nava is a very good ballplayer. He finished eighth in the American league with a .303 average, and his .385 OBP was good for fifth among AL hitters. And on this day in early April, Nava was incredibly timely.

The 2013 Red Sox are going to be remembered as an unlikely champion, a group of guys who loved baseball and beards. But for those of us who watched this team everyday, we’ll recall them as a talented, deep collection of players who had a knack for getting the timely hit. Time after time after time after time.

Saying Thank You

Photo courtesy of bostonglobe.com

Clay Buchholz hasn’t thrown a pitch in a game since June 8. That’s over two months ago. 70 days, to be exact. Buchholz was 28-years old went he tossed his last pitch against the Angels back in the early part of the summer. The slender right hander will eventually take the mound again in 2013, and when he does, he will do so as a 29-year old.

It’s been awhile.

Before Buchholz went on the shelf, the Red Sox were 38-25. Since June 9, they’ve have gone 34-27. The Red Sox were in first place when Buchholz was injured in early June. They’re in first place as of Saturday afternoon. Buchholz’ teammates have picked him up. They did more than just weather the proverbial storm. Imagine if the Red Sox fell precipitously standings during Buchholz’ absence. Let’s say they tanked. It would’ve gotten ugly. The silly summer-long sports talk radio comparisons between Buchholz and the always tough-as-nails Patrice Bergeron and the laundry list of injuries he played with during the Stanley Cup playoffs would have been replaced with much more venomous rants, blaming the righty for refusing to pitch at less than 100 percent.

Sure, Buchholz has been and will be the butt of a few jokes. He hasn’t helped himself throughout this process, either. When a pitcher feels discomfort (not to be confused with general soreness) in his shoulder, it’s unreasonable to ask him to pitch until he feels completely healthy. It’s probably not unreasonable to ask him to refrain from vocalizing that to the media. Nevertheless, throughout this nine week process, Buchholz has been adamant that he wants to be 100 percent the next time he toes the rubber.

I don’t blame Buchholz for wanting and waiting to pitch until he feels totally healthy. His arm is his meal ticket, and it’s not like he’s saving his bullets for a huge payday either. He isn’t facing free agency for quite some time. Buchholz is a pitcher with a big arm who doesn’t have the frame to match it. He needs to feel healthy and confident when he pitches. It’s understandable.

So here we are. A clean bill of structural health from Dr. James Andrews has provided Buchholz with the necessary peace of mind he needed. Since then, he’s completed a couple of solid bullpen sessions. The plan is to throw another high intensity bullpen on Saturday before facing teammates in a simulated game. From there, the righty will head out on a minor league rehab assignment for a start or two. After that, barring any setbacks, Buchholz will be ready to rejoin the Red Sox rotation.

And he owes his teammates a big ‘thank you.’

I’m not looking for Buchholz to go around the Red Sox clubhouse shaking his teammates’ hands for picking him up during his absence. I am, however, expecting him to pitch well. He has the ability to help carry the Red Sox to an American League East title. He elevates them from a playoff contender to a legitimate World Series contender.

I don’t see Buchholz filling out any thank you cards to anyone, but if he can recapture his early season form for two months, no one will remember the nearly three months he missed.

That would serve as the best ‘thank you’ of all.

Silver Linings

Photo courtesy of nesn.com

The Red Sox are in the middle of a critical stretch which includes ten games against the Yankees, Rays, and Orioles—three teams within the division that possess solid pitching and records over .500. It’s a heck of a way to start the second half of the season for a team that could use a bullpen piece or three.

Monday night’s loss, as deflating as it felt at the time, shouldn’t be perceived as anything more than it was – a divisional loss against a hot team. Matt Moore was absolutely fantastic. Nothing more to it.

In fact, as losses go, this one was not a particularly bad one. It was actually an excellent demonstration of how the Red Sox have been able to play at or around .600 baseball for most of the season when no one believed that they could sustain that level of success before the year began. And that’s before Jon Lester decided to post a 93 ERA+ through his first 20 starts of the season, and Clay Buchholz’ status went from Cy Young candidate to Missing in Action.

This team is deep. Last night reinforced that point.

With Buchholz on the shelf until at least some time in late August, the Red Sox have turned to 24-year old Brandon Workman. The tall Texan began the season pitching with Double-A Portland before receiving a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket in early June.

Meanwhile, Allen Webster, despite his eye-popping stuff, failed in his attempts to claim Buchholz’ rotation spot. In six big league starts, Webster posted a robust 9.57 ERA while walking 4.8 batters per nine frames. He simply was not ready. Alfredo Aceves filled in admirably at times, but the Red Sox have deemed his on-field performance not worth the baggage that comes with being, well, Alfredo Aceves.

Enter Workman.

Including Monday night, he has made two major league starts. His line? 12.1 innings pitched, nine hits, four earned runs, three walks, and a 2.92 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting a meager .214 against him. Workman carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the A’s in his debut, and he settled down last night against the Rays after a shaky first inning. Both Oakland and Tampa Bay would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, so it’s not as if Workman has faced the Astros and the White Sox in his two starts. In fact, the Rays are behind only the Orioles, Tigers, and Red Sox in team OPS in the American League. The A’s are more towards the middle of the pack.

Webster was not ready for the majors. Workman, on the other hand, certainly appears equipped to contribute down the stretch.  He deserves a ton of credit for working hard and performing well, but the Red Sox front office should be commended for building the organizational depth up to the point where the team can confidently pluck guys like Workman from their farm and expect good results. We’re only two summers removed from this, after all.

Now, as the deadline approaches, the Red Sox are in an interesting position. They do not have any glaring holes on the roster with the exception of the bullpen, an area where pieces should come easily and at a relatively inexpensive cost. They could pursue a starter, like Jake Peavy, to fortify the pitching staff and move Workman to the bullpen. Or the team could decide to pass on the starting pitching market at the deadline and only look to augment their bullpen.

To be honest, I’m fine with either choice. My ambivalence towards the situation derives from knowing that the Red Sox finally have enough depth in the organization to support a quality team in Boston.

And despite the loss, last night was a perfect example of just that.

Happy Lackey Day

Photo coutesy of bostonherald.com

Every single day you spend on this earth is a gift. But some gifts are simply better than others.

John Lackey will toe the rubber for the first place Red Sox today at 4:05 PM, and things just couldn’t be better.

Kind of crazy, right?

Clay Buchholz, far and away the most talented pitcher on the staff, has pitched 18.2 innings in the past two months. Your Opening Day starter, Jon Lester, has been worse than a league average hurler. Lester’s ERA has ballooned since his hot start to this season and now sits at a bulbous 4.58.

And yet, the Red Sox are 59-39. In first place. Playing north of .600 baseball.

Huh?

It really is quite remarkable how the team has been able to sustain such a high level of success without Buchholz pitching and with Lester being relatively bad at baseball.

Last night’s starter, Felix Doubront, deserves a great deal of credit (I could write a separate piece on how fun it has been to watch the young lefty right the ship after a dreadful start to the season. Check out his numbers since May 16. Go ahead. I’ll wait). But it is Lackey who has assumed the role of Team Ace. He is the horse. He is the stopper.

Since May 19, Lackey has made 11 starts, roughly a third of a starting pitcher’s season. In those games, Big John Stud compiled a 2.32 ERA while punching out 66 batters in 73.2 innings. During the stretch, Lackey has held opposing hitters to a stingy .219 average.

He passes the eye test too. The burly right hander looks in command on the mound, dotting his fastball and going to his secondary stuff when necessary. Lackey’s delivery is free and easy. To put it simply, he is pitching with a healthy arm that he trusts. An argument can be made that this is the first time Lackey’s pitched pain-free since arriving in Boston in 2010.

When Big John takes the mound today at Fenway against the New York Yankees, he will bring with him a 2.78 ERA, a mark that is good for fourth among American League starting pitchers. He trails only the great Felix Hernandez, the portly Bartolo Colon, and the superb Hiroki Kuroda.

In years past, Sunday night’s C.C. Sabathia, Lester matchup would be tabbed as the best duel of the series. But not this summer. Not this series.

Instead, it is Lackey taking on Kuroda today at a steamy Fenway Park, and it should be a lot of fun.

Update: Lester will not pitch Sunday night. Dempster will go in his place in order to get the lefty a bit more rest.

Red Sox, Yankees, and the Importance of Pitching

Photo via bostonglobe.com

Have the Yankees gotten outstanding performances from throwaways like Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells, and Lyle Overbay? Absolutely.

But that doesn’t tell the real story behind their surprising 30-23 start to the season–a season where the shiny toys like Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez have spent most, if not all of their time, collecting dust on the shelf. Hell, even their band-aid third baseman, Kevin Youkilis, has spent quite some time on the disabled list (he’s made just 72 plate appearances).

It’s much more fun to talk about Hafner and Crew, but in reality, it has been the Yankees’ pitching that has stepped up in the absence of so much offensive firepower. C.C. Sabathia has been reasonably good. Hiroki Kuroda who is roughly 100-years old has been stellar as the Yanks’ early season ace, and their bullpen, especially the backend, has been quite effective with David Robertson and the ageless Mariano Rivera serving as the anchors.

Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox have hit relatively well in 2013. Heading into the weekend, the Red Sox league Major League Baseball in runs scored at 274. The Yankees? 218. The Twins have plated more runs than the Bronx Bombers, while playing in two less games.

The Yankees, despite lacking the usual amount of thump in their lineup, have been able to win a bunch of games because of their pitching. They are tied for second in the American League with the Tigers in team ERA at 3.66. That’s pretty darn good. And the Red Sox are right there with their rivals. A team ERA of 3.79 in the AL East is nothing to be ashamed of.

These two teams meet this weekend for the first time since Opening Day. The Red Sox in first. The Yankees in second. They’ve won a combined 63 games, and it is due in large part to guys like Sabathia, Kuroda, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz. It’s fitting that all four of them are scheduled to pitch over the next three nights.

It should be fun.

Red Sox, Blue Jays: What to watch for

Photo via weei.com

The pitching matchups. The Red Sox, on paper, have the upper hand on the 9-17 Blue Jays in each of the three games during the series. Jon Lester will take the mound on Tuesday–opposed by Brandon Morrow. Clay Buchholz draws Mark Buehrle on Wednesday, while Ryan Dempster will take on either Josh Johnson or J.A. Happ. The Jays’ starting pitching, like much of their team, certainly does not lack talent, but the Red Sox hurlers are absolutely rolling right now.

Lester’s demeanor. The big lefty is an emotional guy. And he has no problem admitting that. However, I firmly believe that when Lester doesn’t get a close call (or two or three) he can let his emotions negatively affect his pitching. I’m confident that John Farrell has had discussions with him about showing up umpires while he is on the mound–like he did during his last start on Wednesday. It just doesn’t help your cause as a pitcher. Nevertheless, as long as Lester is pitching well, I don’t care if he gives the umpire the finger (seriously don’t do that — you’ll get ejected). But when his antics begin to affect his ability to execute his pitches — that’s when it becomes a problem.

Jose Bautista is back. The powerful right handed hitter did not play in any of the three games against the Red Sox earlier this month due to a minor ankle injury. He will be back in the Jays’ lineup this time around and is 10-45 against Lester with four home runs to his credit. (Side note: Brett Lawrie is back too. And he is an important player. I also really appreciate his hard-nosed approach to the game).

Jose Reyes is not back. He is nursing a severe left ankle injury suffered in mid-April during a game against Kansas City–a devastating blow for a struggling Blue Jays team. Reyes, as he so often does, showed us why the Marlins, the Jays, and a myriad of other teams salivated over acquiring his services as he blistered the baseball around the Rogers Centre in Toronto during the early-season series against the Sox. The guy is an elite talent at a primer position. We’ll wish him a successful recovery, but we certainly won’t mourn his absence during the next three games.

— (Keeping up with the theme) Shane Victorino‘s back. Literally. His back. It’s sore. According to reports, there is only inflammation present, and, by all accounts, the Red Sox are determined to keep Victorino off of the disabled listed. It’s worth noting that Jackie Bradley Jr. was back in Pawtucket’s lineup on Tuesday serving as the designated hitter. That is a solid indicator that Victorino will in fact be able to avoid a trip to the DL. However, he will not be in the lineup on Tuesday night. Daniel Nava has served admirably in right field.

The closer situation. Joel Hanrahan was officially activated by the Red Sox today. Although Farrell has not formally disclosed who will work the ninth during the next save situation, he has indicated enough to make fans believe it will be Andrew Bailey who gets the ball.

If that is the decision, I agree with it. Bailey, by and large, has been outstanding in Hanrahan’s absence. His stuff plays in the ninth–his fastball has shown a tremendous amount of life. And when he is healthy, he has proven to be excellent. For now, I would leave Bailey alone and ride things out.

Update: CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam reported that Farrell informed both Bailey and Hanrahan that Bailey would remain the closer. Look for Hanrahan to work a few low leverage situations as he is eased back from his hamstring injury.

Appreciating a Good Start

Photo courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

“Every aspect of the game we’re playing well. We’re running the bases well, swinging the bats, pitching well. It’s a positive start for us.” – Shane Victorino

It’s hard not to agree with the new right fielder. The Yankees lineup is depleted. We get it. But hey, the Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and the rest of the Red Sox aren’t responsible for making the schedule. They’re responsible for playing the games.

And so far, they are winning them.

It’s sort of too bad that most Red Sox fans don’t allocate as much energy towards celebrating when their team does well as they do when they play poorly. The Red Sox simply could not afford to start the season playing the same terrible brand of baseball that fans have come to expect during the initial part of the year. The 2012 Red Sox spent so much time digging themselves out of holes — whether it was a three or four-run decifict at the beginning of a game or a 1-5 start to the season — that when they finally got their metaphorical head barely above water, there wasn’t enough in the tank to sustain it. As a team, they needed to stop reacting to a punch. They needed to punch first.

So far, this year’s version of the Old Town Team has answered the call, and we should be very happy with that. But there is still a sense of pessimism because the Yankees’ lineup is watered down. I get that. The Bronx Bombers are beat up. Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson are cogs in a machine that is used to cranking out crooked numbers night in and night out. Without them, the Yankees lack muscle.

But that’s not the Red Sox’ problem. I can’t imagine Joe Girardi and his boys felt bad any of the times they beat up on the Sox last season on their way to churning out 95 wins in an extremely competitive AL East. They saw a fractured, oft-injured Red Sox team as an opportunity, not an asterisk. This year’s Red Sox should feel the same way about the early season version of the 2013 Yankees.

So it is perfectly fine to feel good about your team. They’ve won a couple of ballgames. Be happy. You’re not a fanboy. You’re not getting ahead of yourself. The Red Sox have games on their schedule. They have to play them, regardless of who is (or is not) in the opposite dugout.

My Thoughts on John Farrell

John Farrell was officially hired as the 46th manager in Red Sox history on Sunday. Ben Cherington and Co. got their man. And Sox fans should be happy about that. Here’s why.

This time last year Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos wanted Clay Buchholz in exchange for John Farrell. It was just one year ago that the Jays’ front office thought that Farrell was worth a pitcher who is good and has the potential to be a legitimate front of the rotation starter. The Red Sox obviously rebuffed the Blue Jays’ request and hired Bobby Valentine. One year later, the asking price dropped considerably as the Jays accepted infielder Mike Aviles in exchange for their manager who still had one-year remaining on his three-year deal. Detractors have pointed to Farrell’s questionable in-game management (overly aggressive on the base paths) and the disruptions within Toronto’s clubhouse. It is accurate to say that there are fragments of truth buried in each of those two criticisms. However, the fact remains that just 12 months ago the Jays thought very highly of their former skipper–enough to demand Buchholz in return.

Farrell knows the demands that come with managing a baseball team that plays in Boston. There are no surprises here. Farrell served as the pitching coach from 2007-2010. He oversaw a staff that won a World Series, and one that went all the way to Game Seven of the ALCS. He knows the landscape, the demands, and many of the players. Familarity, coupled with two years of separation from the tumult in Boston, makes Farrell a nice fit.

The hiring process was completed relatively quickly. This could have carried on for awhile. Figuring out compensation for a manager or front office executive is never easy as we saw with the Theo Epstein to the Cubs saga last year. The Red Sox, however, were able to acquire Farrell in a reasonable amount of time. This will allow them to begin the process of assembling their 2013 squad immediately. And that, of course, is the most important part of the offseason.

Farrell was the unanimous choice by everyone involved in the selection process. That means John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and, most importantly, Ben Cherington agreed that Farrell was the best choice. Remember that that was simply not the case last time around. Cherington did not want Valentine. Lucchino did. Lucchino won. There was dysfunction from the beginning. Things go smoother when everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Is Farrell perfect? No. Does he have his warts? Yes. Most importantly, is he the right man, at the right time for the job? Time will tell. In the meantime, there is no doubt that his hiring has restored a sense of order, a feeling of confidence about the future of this team–something that players, brass, and fans alike can appreciate.

Advice for the Red Sox: Farrell, Morales, Ortiz

It’s not that these September games don’t matter at all. There is plenty of room for evaluating guys like Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway, and Ryan Kalish. However, every move that this organization makes going forward must be done with an eye towards the future. The 2012 Boston Red Sox are officially about the 2013 Boston Red Sox

Here are nine pieces of advice for a ball club in desperate need of putting its best foot forward.

—Do what you have to do to pry John Farrell from the Blue Jays. If Toronto’s GM Alex Anthopoulos demands a player like Clay Buchholz or even Daniel Bard (yes, that Daniel Bard), you move on–because that’s ridiculous. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Farrell should be the top candidate to replace Bobby Valentine.

—Bring David Ortiz back on a one-year deal. I love these tough-talkers who call into radio shows and proclaim how they’re sick of Ortiz, how he’s a baby, and the Sox need to move on. Get real. I wouldn’t necessarily offer him arbitration, but Ortiz has to be the anchor of that lineup next season. And remember: A pissed off Ortiz is a productive Ortiz.

—Sign Cody Ross this offseason and never let him play right field again. Ever.

—John Henry must empower GM Ben Cherington. He is an intelligent, qualified executive who deserves more autonomy. If that means somehow lessening the importance of Larry Lucchino, so be it. Wins are more important than selling commemorative bricks.

—Give Franklin Morales a fair shot to start in 2013. I’d go to battle with that guy as my fifth starter any day of the week.

—Integrate some patience this offseason. The Red Sox have gotten away from their bread and butter–taking pitches, working the count, and wearing down the opposition. You can get away with a couple of free swingers like Will Middlebrooks, but for every young, anxious hitter, you need two players who are willing to take what is given to them. ESPN’s Jeremy Lundblad explores this in more detail here.

—Trade Jacoby Ellsbury in the offseason. Fans will undoubtedly gripe, but it is the best decision. Here is why.

—Find a way to harness Alfredo Aceves. He is undoubtedly volatile, quirky, and, at times, troublesome. But he is a weapon, a guy who can pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen, spot start, or even close an occasional game. If he proves to be detrimental to the team, cut bait.

—Do not be afraid of bad publicity. When discussing the idea of firing Valentine before season’s end, WEEI’s Rob Bradford advocated the idea by saying “rip the band-aid off.” I don’t necessarily agree with firing Valentine now, but Bradford’s point is actually a good one. This organization has gotten away from what is most important: Assembling a quality team that is capable of playing consistently good team baseball. Are there going to be bumps in the road along the way? Sure. Rather than compromising what is best for the franchise in order to avoid a few potholes, hit them head on. Face the music and learn from the mistakes.

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