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Sox Therapy
— Where Thinking Red Sox Fans Obsess about the Sox

Friday, September 25, 2020

Party Like It’s 1975

For the first time since 1975 the Boston Red Sox completed their home season without ever having me in attendance.  I suspect that my absence was not noteworthy (though how cool would it be if Sam Kennedy* called me up and said “hey, here are free Opening Day Monster seats next year, we missed you”) but with just three games left I figure we can do some talkin’ about the state of the Sox.

Thanks for the Memories - If last night was Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s final home game at Fenway Park it was a hell of a ride.  He had a small but useful role on the 2013 squad and then was excellent for the 2018 team. In between he was simply the Robert Parish of the Sox.  Remember The Chief?  He’d score 30 points one night, pulled down 20 rebounds the next and when the season was over he’d have averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds.  JBJ was the same way.  He’d go 2 for May then in June put up a .450/.550/.650 line and in the end would wind up around .240/.320/.400.  Of course on top of that would be his world class defense with the occasional superlative play but it was his radar like ability to hone in on fly balls where he made difficult plays look routine.  In 2018 he added the ALCS MVP to his ledger and whether the Sox were a last place team or a first place team he was always a player and a person who was easy to root for.

I think JBJ’s tenure is important because it highlights the importance of focusing on the now.  In 2013 there was a lot of concern that the Sox would lose a year of control if he started the year with him.  Of course all the concern about 2019 or 2020 went out the door as he yo-yoed between Boston and Pawtucket his first couple of years before settling in to be the player he was.  And I think we can agree that while it was nice to have him here for 2020 it’s not like his presence made a tangible difference.  Long story short, while it’s important to consider the future, win today is more important.

Thanks for the memories JBJ.  I think we all have our memories of him.  I’ll share one little one that you probably missed.  After the Sox won the division in 2013 I hung out as the players celebrated on the field and brought champagne back to spray the fans (Koji was particularly adept).  I remember JBJ at one point sitting on the wall by the on deck circle taking it all in.  You could almost see him thinking “yeah I played a small role, but someday I’ll be the one in the middle of the party.”

Living Up To Expectations - I think we can agree that Alex Verdugo has done everything we would have wanted.  BB Ref has him 3rd in WAR and even if you (like me) feel a bit of skepticism over some of the advanced metrics this year an .881 OPS (13th in the AL) from a good base runner and top flight defender is not to be dismissed.  He is a very good player and does it with some style and swagger that is fun to watch.

Credit Where It Is Due - I was critical of manager Ron Roenicke early in the season.  I did not feel he was making a positive impact even while recognizing that the Sox were/are a bad team and Connie Mack wasn’t going to turn them into a playoff team.  Having said that I think he deserves credit for the way the club played.  They did not go in the tank (when they certainly could have) and kept playing hard.  After the Yankee sweep early on dropped them to 6-17 they went 16-18 the rest of the way (so far).  I am not suggesting that this is a brilliant performance and I am still not to enthused by Roenicke but he deserves credit for that.  Similarly the Sox were able to bring some young players along; Bobby Dalbec, Tanner Houck, Ryan Weber to be useful and I think Rafael Devers snapping out of his early funk is also down in part to the manager not overreacting.

Big Bobby - OK look, Bobby Dalbec strikes out a LOT.  It is going to be difficult for him to maintain that and succeed (yeah, don’t think the .429 BABIP is sustainable) but I have an optimism for him that I never had for similar players like Will Middlebrooks or Michael Chavis.  The big thing with Dalbec is that he can go the other way with power.  His approach at the plate looks like it can work unlike Chavis who has to completely sell out on his swing or Middlebrooks who had that “I can’t see and I won’t wear glasses” thing.  I am not for a minute suggesting he will turn into Aaron Judge but in a similar 2016 call up Judge fanned in 44% of his plate appearances over 27 games. Dalbec has fanned at a similar rate in his first 20 games.  I think he can be some version of Chris Davis/Mark Reynolds who can contribute at the lower half of the order.

Black and Tanner - It is only two starts but so far Tanner Houck has impressed.  From what I’ve seen at worst I think he can be a solid reliever.  That frisbee breaking ball is virtually unhittable for righties and for lefties if he is willing to throw it with conviction it can be a nasty pitch diving in at their back foot.  He’s got one more start this weekend and I look forward to seeing him one more time. 

Thanks for reading this season. What are your thoughts on the Sox?  I am fairly optimistic that the path to contention is not especially long.  Next year may be a bridge too far but 2022 is feasible.  We’ll keep writing this winter as events warrant and I’ll do an LDS, LCS and World Series edition of The Imperfect Schedule series I’ve been doing.  Be safe and well and get out and vote!

* Hey Sam Kennedy, you can also register at BTF for free and send me an email through the account here.  Just sayin’.

Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: September 25, 2020 at 10:25 AM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. villageidiom Posted: September 25, 2020 at 11:25 AM (#5978703)
Black and Tanner
I like the notion of a TV show about the odd couple of Bud Black and Tanner Houck.

Thanks for the memories JBJ.  I think we all have our memories of him.
His ski-jump thing as part of the postgame celebration with Mookie and Benintendi throughout 2018 was unfathomable, but he gets bonus points for creativity and spirit.

Yeah, most of my stand-out memories of JBJ involved not his defense - probably because "extraordinary" became routine - but when he was locked in on offense. Man, when JBJ was on it felt like the team was unbeatable.

I am not suggesting that this is a brilliant performance and I am still not to enthused by Roenicke but he deserves credit for that. 
This is fair. They eventually played to their potential, after a horrible start. Righting the ship is an important aspect of managing, and that they did. (They righted it to a mediocre level, but that was the general expectation to begin with.)

I am fairly optimistic that the path to contention is not especially long. 
A lot of it depends on the health of their starting pitching. But they can make some moves this offseason to beef up the roster.
   2. villageidiom Posted: September 25, 2020 at 11:55 AM (#5978709)
So here are the dollars coming off the books this year:

-$14.3 million: Rusney Castillo. It wasn't counted toward the threshold, but money is money.
-$11.0 million: JBJ.
-$ 4.4 million: JD Martinez. If he doesn't opt out, his salary going forward is actually lower than in 2020 (pandemic pro-rating aside).

In additional payments, Eduardo Rodriguez will enter his final year of arbitration, and Devers enters his first. Barnes, Peraza, and various flotsam will also hit arb. And Vazquez and Benintendi get a combined $5 million in raises. Let's say that's $15 million worth of additions. Combined with the reductions above, and noting they're already $10 million under the threshold this season, and assuming the typical economic landscape for teams rather than (waves hand) whatever this is, then they have $15 million in "extra" cash to spend... and about $12 million under the threshold. If Martinez opts out, then they can make a bigger set of moves - but they'd need to, in order to replace him.

Ostensibly the biggest additions they make next year are Sale and Rodriguez. I think they'll try to shore up the farm and the bullpen, and figure out how to handle LF (if they bump Benintendi to CF) among the players they have now. Frankly I think Chavis has failed his audition out there.
   3. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: September 25, 2020 at 12:09 PM (#5978713)
Black and Tanner

I like the notion of a TV show about the odd couple of Bud Black and Tanner Houck.


Not sure I'd recommend going with that title in an Irish town like Boston...
   4. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: September 25, 2020 at 01:14 PM (#5978729)
$ 4.4 million: JD Martinez. If he doesn't opt out, his salary going forward is actually lower than in 2020 (pandemic pro-rating aside).


For luxury tax purposes the contract doesn't change right?
   5. villageidiom Posted: September 25, 2020 at 02:35 PM (#5978744)
Right. Luxury tax amounts for his contract are already baked in at AAV. But as I said regarding Castillo, money is money.
   6. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: September 25, 2020 at 04:38 PM (#5978786)
In between he was simply the Robert Parish of the Sox. 


Bradley wishes his NBA comp is Parish. Parish is in the HOF.
   7. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: September 25, 2020 at 04:45 PM (#5978791)
I like Dalbec, especially since I learned that he's a converted pitcher. He can become a better hitter. I'm optimistic about him.
   8. Nasty Nate Posted: September 25, 2020 at 04:48 PM (#5978794)
Robert Parish has the record for games played, I think. So that makes .... Pete Rose the Robert Parish of baseball?
   9. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: September 25, 2020 at 04:59 PM (#5978796)
I don't think so. If longevity is the only measure, sure, but Parish was an all time great offensive and defensive player. He didn't score as much as Wilt because he had Bird and McHale and Dennis Johnson on the floor with him, as well as Danny Ainge, who was no slouch, you know.*

Parish wore out his opponents by running them into the ground. He ran better than most big men, of not all of them. He consistently beat them down the floor, all game, every game. He put tremendous pressure on defenses, which often left someone else like Bird or McHale open for easy buckets. Parish was the second greatest Celtic center, after Russell. Parish was better than Cowens, who also was great. Parish was 7'1". Enormous.

*Ok ok...he was a tremendous slouch.
   10. Nasty Nate Posted: September 25, 2020 at 05:43 PM (#5978803)
Alright, Yaz it is.
   11. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: September 25, 2020 at 05:55 PM (#5978805)
Better, but it still undersells Parish. Parish was voted a top 50 all-time NBA player. Granted it was in 1996 and there may be a few guys since that would make that list, but Parish certainly wasn't in the bottom 10 of the original 50.
   12. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: September 25, 2020 at 08:35 PM (#5978832)
It’s not quite true to say Dalbec is a converted pitcher. He was a good college pitcher but was the regular third baseman at Arizona. The Sox drafted him as a third baseman. My recollection is that he had a lot of success on the mound in the CWS after being drafted by the Sox.
   13. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: September 26, 2020 at 08:42 AM (#5978897)
Fat Panda is off the books finally as well. Sox had to pay him $5M this year.
   14. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: September 26, 2020 at 03:37 PM (#5978994)
It’s not quite true to say Dalbec is a converted pitcher. He was a good college pitcher but was the regular third baseman at Arizona. The Sox drafted him as a third baseman. My recollection is that he had a lot of success on the mound in the CWS after being drafted by the Sox.


If we get 5 to 7 good years out of him, I'd be happy. And I think it's a good possibility.
   15. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: September 26, 2020 at 05:25 PM (#5979011)
Yeah, my main memory of JBJ is that first time when he suddenly went on a huge tear after never looking like a major league hitter.

2013 (107 PA): .189/.280/.337
2014 (423 PA): .198/.265/.266
2015 through August 8 (71 PA): .121/.254/.172
Remainder of 2015 (184 PA): .294/.366/.613

Or, if you really want to cherry pick:

8/9/15 - 9/7/15 (90 PA): .446/.489/.952

I recall at the time there were articles about how unprecedented that hot streak was, given how bad he had been for his first ~600 major league PA.
   16. Darren Posted: September 28, 2020 at 11:08 AM (#5979355)
I thought you attended one game this year. I saw you in center field, jumping around and throwing hats at people.
   17. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: September 28, 2020 at 11:27 AM (#5979358)
On the advice of my attorney I have no comment.

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