As the 2015 "New Look" Red Sox took the field for Opening Day in early April, there was a buzz around Major League Baseball. "The Boston Hit Parade" they were labeled by the MLB. Hmmm, not so much for this season, eh? The sox looked to be okay at the start of April, then totally falling out of the race. As a baseball player myself, it's hard to blame the manager, or even the front office, because I know that any given day, week, or month can be the hardest, most difficult month of your career. For most of the new signings and familiar Sox's, that was this year (and even last). It's tough to point fingers as to why guys aren't preforming. Is it their lack of desire to win? Their security knowing they have long term deals with millions in guaranteed money? Or is it the system that the Red Sox staff put into place?
After the failed Bobby Valentine experiment, Cherington was on a mission to rebuild, and that's exactly what he did. But instead of trying to sign marquee players like Zack Greinke, or Josh Hamilton, or try and blow up the trade market, Cherington went for something that has been around the Sox for years. Identity. He signed guys that fit the package, Ryan Dempster, Mike Napoli, Johnny Gomes, and even Shane Victorino.
These guys had the grit, the toughness, the look, and the understanding of what their role was on the team. They fit into a roster with guys who had already been molded into the Red Sox culture, and who knew how to win. Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, two guys who have won a World Series (two for Papi) with the Red Sox, know what it took in order to be where they wanted to be, and were able to make the roster moves for the 2013 season work successfully.
The 2013 Red Sox not only had the talent and desire to win after the Marathon Bombing, but the iconic images from Johnny Gomes' game tying double, or Victorino's grand slam against the Tigers, and the "Fear the Beard" campaign. With the season ending as the best team in baseball, Cherington could mark the 2013 roster an ultimate success.
As for this season, Cherington went into the offseason with some DEEP pockets. Shelling out long term deals to Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, trading away Yoenis Cespedes for Rick Porcello and then penning him to 4 year $80+ million dollar contract. Signing Cuban teenage second baseman, Yoan Moncada for $31.5 million, Cherington did away with what make the Red Sox so successful in the pervious season, going for vanity and big names, rather than identity and guys driven to succeed and grind.
Watching Hanley Ramirez navigate left field is embarrassing, not only to himself, but for the organization, jogging after balls in the gap, playing the Monster and other walls around the league timidly, and worst of all giving up on routine plays. Granted, Hanley delivers some MOONSHOTS, and when at short stop or third base, is an extremely talented player. But when asked to do something new to him and something he would've chose not to do if it weren't for the $88 million with a $20+ million option.
My point is, the Red Sox identity is lost in a mix of hundreds of millions of dollars, floating around the organization. The new players won't make adjustments in order to fit their roles, like Sandoval becoming a full time left handed hitter rather than switch (killing his average against lefties) and Porcello's inability to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. The team looks flat, un-energetic, and lost at some points. Besides the bright spots of the past few weeks with some great starts from rookie Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, and the tear that Jackie Bradley and Travis Shaw are on, the Sox season could be over, and could be ruled as a disaster, with a month and some change left to go in the season.
My inner Sox diehard still believes they will get a wildcard spot, but that's only if the Sox and interim manager, Torey Lovullo, can keep them upright on the wave they are riding with now.
By Bailey Klein