Friday, October 02, 2015

Red Sox Random Thoughts (October 2, 2015)

At the end of July, the Red Sox were a disappointing 46-58 and hope was lost for what was once a promising season.

Then the changes started, first with management and then on the field.

This process began on Saturday, August 2.  The Red Sox confirmed rumors that the team's President and CEO Larry Lucchino would be stepping down from his position at the season's end and that longtime front office fixture Sam Kennedy of Brookline would be replacing him as President of the Red Sox.

Not two weeks later, on August 14, manager John Farrell announced he would miss the rest of the season after being diagnosed with lymphoma and would begin treatment for his cancer immediately.  Bench coach Torey Lovullo was named interim manager.

Following Farrell's news, the team announced just four days later that they had hired Dave Dombrowski to be the President of Baseball Operations.  Dombrowski had just been released from his contract with the Tigers and his hiring, which relegated Kennedy to the business side of things on Yawkey Way, capped off an exciting and hectic start to August.

While all of this was going on, the Red Sox finally began to play good baseball.  The last two months of the season has seen them pull themselves out of last place by going 32-23, a run which includes the major league's second best best record, 25-14, since August 18 which was the day of Dombrowski's hiring.

The Red Sox have several areas of need to address between the end of the season and the start of the 2016 campaign but the optimism brought on amidst all of the changes and a group of young stars that seems to have figured out how to win makes them a way too early favorite to compete for a playoff spot in 2016.


Sean McAdam reported yesterday that John Farrell will return as Red Sox manager in 2016 if he is healthy enough to resume the job.

I'm not buying it.

I see this as a public relations move by the Red Sox ownership, who are sympathetic to the manager who led them to the 2013 World Series and is now battling a disease that the team champions with its support of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund.

Dombrowski did not take the job of President of Baseball Operations without the power to make certain moves.  Choosing a manager is one of those inherent powers for Dombrowski's job and unless he really wants Farrell, yesterday's news reeks of saving face for Farrell.

My guess is that sometime around Thanksgiving, Farrell will make an announcement that he is not ready to return to the dugout in 2016, which will allow Dombrowksi the opportunity to choose the next manager.  Torey Lovullo has done a nice job as Farrell's interim replacement and could assume the full-time job or Dombrowski could go out of the organization.


Rich Hill, the pride of Milton, has made a case for himself as a candidate to be in the Red Sox starting rotation in 2016.

A veteran who has battled shoulder and elbow injuries that cost him the promise of a long-term career as a starting pitcher, Hill has bounced around as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen for several teams the last few years.  After getting released by the Nationals organization this season, Hill was back in God's Country working out with the Milton Legion team before quickly hooking up with the independent Long Island Ducks where he gave starting another shot.

After a good stint with the Ducks, Hill's contract was purchased by the Red Sox and he was sent to Pawtucket where he again had success as a starter.  With the Red Sox looking to go to a six-man starting rotation in September to limit the innings of rookies Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens, Hill got his chance to start with his hometown team.

In four starts, Hill has proved that he deserves a spot in some team's rotation for 2016.

He has gone 2-1 with an impressive 1.55 ERA with 36 strikeouts and just 5 walks over 29 innings. Mixing in a fastball in the low 90's with his curveball, Hill looks at age 35 like he did as a 27-year-old with the Cubs in 2007 when he went 11-8, finished fifth in the N.L. in strikeouts, and started a playoff game.

A small sample size in September for a team already eliminated from contention should not hurt Hill's chance to get the opportunity to start in 2016.  He has shown in the past that he can be a successful starter and now that he's healthy again, he is proving that once again.

The Red Sox have Clay Buchholz (if his contract option is picked up), Rick Porcello, and Wade Miley under contract for 2016 in addition to Rodriguez and Owens and they also are expected to add a top of the rotation via free agency or by trade so Boston may not be the place where he gets his chance but it was where he earned it.

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