The Red Sox and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Off-season

The offseason sucks. This is as certain as death or taxes. Each year baseball falls from the excitement of the World Series into the seemingly bottomless pit that is winter. Each year we hit that bottom like a ton of bricks. There’s a few different things that can be the bottom of the pit, and it varies from fan to fan. Maybe truck day is enough to get you going. Or maybe the phrase “pitchers and catchers report” sends tingles down your spine. Maybe it’s seeing video of a bullpen of your team’s big offseason acquisition. Or even the inevitable flood of tweets claiming a player is in the best shape of his life.

Whatever it is, spring training revitalizes every fan. It’s an opportunity to forget about the dark months without baseball, and to instead look forward to the many months of baseball to come. For Boston fans, however, this offseason will be harder to move on from than most. Each story that came out this winter was another blow to the fan base’s collective being Now, things just don’t feel right. Am I excited about the upcoming season? Of course. Is that excitement different from every other year? Absolutely. Let’s take a stroll down misery lane and look back on exactly what got us here.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, I want to address a counterpoint that could undermine this entire article. That point being the overall success that the Red Sox, and thus Red Sox fans, have experienced in recent history. It could be argued that 4 championships over the last 20 years nullify anything bad that happens. This simply isn’t true. Winning a World Series is fantastic – it’s why the sport is played. Yet, it does not change the fact that what happened this offseason sucked. That said, I, and every other rational baseball fan, would happily bear through this offseason in exchange for a World Series, but it is still an unfortunate time. That said, let’s get into the timeline.

Monday, December 9th, 2019

The first note in this symphony of anguish is perhaps both the worst and least talked about part of the Red Sox’ off-season. Boston icon and former Boston College Baseball Player, Pete Frates, passed away from his battle with ALS at just 34 years old. Pete’s story is one beyond the scope of this article, but he undoubtedly touched millions of lives through his activism in the community. Through the ice bucket challenge, Frates helped to raise over $100 million to fight ALS. Steve Buckley put it best when he said, “Pete Frates, the greatest athlete in Boston history, has passed away, per family. What a great fighter. He will never be forgotten.”

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

Jon Heyman reported that Gerrit Cole had come to an agreement with the division rival New York Yankees on a record setting deal. The Red Sox were already coming off of a disappointing season in which the Yankees won the division while the Red Sox were mere spectators in October. They were hoping to right the ship in 2020. This blow made doing so that much more difficult, as the 103 win Yankees added the best pitcher in the American League from the previous season. 

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Before most in Boston had even finished their morning coffee from Dunkin’, at 9:01am EST, Ken Rosenthal reported that former Red Sox starter Rick Porcello had reached an agreement with the Mets on a one year deal. Is Rick Porcello a good pitcher? That’s debatable. He certainly wasn’t in 2019, but that doesn’t mean he won’t bounce back to contribute quality innings for the Mets. Is he going to contend for another Cy Young? Probably not. But the blow of losing Rick Porcello comes from more of a sentimental place rather than a competitive one.

Rick won a Cy Young award with us. Regardless of whether or not you believe he deserved it, he still won it. His 2016 was a special season. This is an extremely old school way of looking at things, but each time Rick took the mound in 2016 he gave the team a chance to win. Every 5th day, as a Red Sox fan, I was pretty damn sure we were going to win. That does not mean a whole lot in a vacuum, but in hindsight, with rose tinted glasses, it means a whole damn lot. Even more importantly, Rick won a World Series with us.

Anytime a player from a championship winning team leaves, it stings a bit. Rick was a damn competitor in that postseason. He gave quality innings out of the bullpen. He did everything he could for this team. Frankly, I don’t care that Porcello sucked in 2019. He did a lot for this team, and he will be missed. Rick Porcello is one of those guys I’ll always root for, and I’ll be doing just that whenever he toes the rubber in Queens this year. 

By lunch time, the second bomb would drop. At 12:35pm, the Baseball Tavern announced on Facebook that they would be closing their doors. Personally, I never went to the Baseball Tavern, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to go once I turned 21 after hearing the many stories on the Section 10 Podcast that take place in the Tavern. As someone who never went in, I don’t feel qualified to speak on what it truly means for this place to close, but I do know that the aforementioned podcast does an excellent job of doing so in Episode 303, “Thank you Rick, Thank you Baseball Tavern”. It’s clear that this bar was a special part of the Fenway experience for many, and its’ closing marks the end of an era.

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal published a story on the Athletic accusing the Red Sox of illegally stealing signs, not unlike the piece that the pair released earlier in the off-season accusing the Astros of doing so in 2017. The entirety of this scandal is far beyond the scope of this article. However, the Red Sox were now implicated, and received appropriate backlash. The MLB soon announced that they were launching an investigation into the allegations against the 2018 club. At this point, while the investigation is not complete, most in the baseball world expect that the investigation will not have found anything seriously incriminating. Even the accusations themselves were a far cry from the level of cheating the Astros attained. Despite this, the story still led to consequences.

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

Alex Cora was fired. It was unfortunate. It was his involvement in the Astros’ scandal, not the Red Sox’ that led to his termination, but he is gone just the same. The degree of said involvement is up for debate. There have been reports that he was the mastermind behind the whole system. There is also a good bit of evidence that he, along with Carlos Beltran, were simply scapegoats for the Houston team, as they were no longer with the club. There is evidence on both sides of this debate. I tend to believe that the truth is somewhere in between the two stories, while leaning towards the scapegoat theory. Regardless of how we got there, the team was now without a manager. They were without a manager for a long time. When pitchers and catchers reported to spring camp, there was no manager to whom they could report. Former bench coach, Ron Roenicke was eventually named interim manager for the 2020 season. Alex Cora had been a beloved and respected manager in Boston, and his absence will be felt this year. 

Monday, February 10th, 2020

It became official. Mookie Betts is gone. David Price is gone. I wrote extensively about Price leaving Boston in my last article, and I wrote about my thoughts on the idea of trading Mookie Betts back in January. None of my opinions stated in those have changed since, so I won’t rehash them in too much detail here, but rather a quick summary. Mookie Betts never should have put on a different uniform in his career. David Price is a World Series hero. Both of them will be missed dearly, and their absence will be felt each time the team takes the field in 2020.

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Brock Holt is gone. It’s difficult to explain exactly what that means, because frankly, it doesn’t make any sense. If you just look at Brock Holt’s baseball reference page, you won’t understand his impact. He has a career 92 OPS+, and has never cracked 110 in a season. He’s never played in more than 130 games in a season, which is both in part to his role on the team and battling injuries. He was an All-Star in 2015, but that really says more about the mediocrity of the 2015 Red Sox than it does Brock’s ability.

Brock was a glue guy. He was a clubhouse guy. He made sure everyone was in a good mood and loose. He helped get the best out of the players around him. He was a fan favorite. He was an active member of the community, constantly helping the Jimmy Fund. His son Griff became an icon in the city of Boston despite not yet being old enough to enroll in kindergarten. Brock will be missed dearly. Thank you Brock.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Chris Sale’s health is once again in question. Sale, when healthy, is a top 5 pitcher in baseball. He’s the best strikeout artist in the game today, possibly ever. But that “when healthy” stipulation is a big one. It is now being reported that Sale experienced discomfort in his elbow after throwing his first live BP session of the Spring. He is set to get an MRI, the results of which will be sent to Dr. James Andrews, who might as well be known as ‘Dr. Tommy John Surgery’ in baseball circles. This is not the first time Sale will consult Dr. Andrews, and none of their previous meetings have resulted in TJS, and there seems to be no reason to suspect that this one will be any different. Regardless, this is another painful moment in an offseason full of strain for Red Sox fans.

Sale won’t be ready for opening day. Meaning the rotation now looks to be headlined by Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi. Martin Perez now slots in as the #3 pitcher. The last two spots most likely go to AAA guys like Ryan Weber and Tanner Houck. What this does more than anything is demonstrate how important it was for the Red Sox to get some pitching back in the Mookie deal. They did not. Now it’s not a question of whether the rotation will be solid or not, but rather just how bad will it be? Rodriguez is a great pitcher. Eovaldi, when healthy, has shown flashes of greatness, but has been far from consistent throughout his career. Everyone after those two is fortunate to just be on a major league roster.

The Red Sox now enter 2020 in a really weird spot. They could conceivably still contend for the postseason. A lineup with Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez is going to do damage. Not to mention Christian Vazquez, Michael Chavis, Andrew Benintendi, and Alex Verdugo who have all shown an ability to contribute meaningfully with the bat. A healthy trio of Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez has the potential to be a killer top of the rotation. Yet, many projection systems have the Red Sox as a middling .500 ball club that will miss the postseason and I can’t blame them. The pitching staff is full of question marks and the offense just lost its’ biggest weapon. This off-season was really bad. But, now it’s over. All we can do now is be happy that baseball is back.

Featured photo: Cut 4/Twitter (@Cut4)

Matt O'Halloran

CS Student at UMass Lowell; Analytics for UML Baseball; Twitter: @matto20

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