By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
The Lying Season is about to begin across Major League Baseball, with the All-Star break coming to an end on Thursday and the trade deadline fast approaching at the end of the month. That is, of course, if you aren’t among the many Red Sox fans who believe it began in spring training when the team’s president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and second-year manager Alex Cora told anyone who would listen that the back of the bullpen isn’t a big concern entering the 2019 season.
As anyone who watches Boston baseball knows when it’s been closing time so far this year, the late-inning bouncers who are supposed to shut down opposing clubs, have instead often times have turned the eighth and ninth innings into happy hour for opposing hitters.
Whether or not you thought that Dombrowski should have spent the money and the term it would have taken to get back Craig Kimbrel – something I think Theo Epstein and the Cubs will regret in short order – there was no excuse for the Red Sox brass to take the “Where’s Waldo?” approach when it came to finding a closer.
As Sox fans so sorely know, bullpen by committee is the equivalent of bunting with the bases loaded in the first with no one out, and a bat like J.D. Martinez at the plate. It makes no sense.
However, so does the hope that Nathan Eovaldi – who just six days ago could only muster 20 fastballs in a side session in Toronto and has had the same surgery to his pitching elbow both of the last two years – will just slide into the closer’s role and make everything right for this underachieving Red Sox team.
And, oh yeah, these two surgeries to clean up “loose bodies” in his elbow were preceded by two Tommy John operations on the 29-year-old not so reliable righty.
Yet, caught up in the euphoria and epic relief performance Eovaldi gave the Sox in relief in their only loss in the World Series to the Dodgers last October 3-2 in 18 innings in the Fall Classic in Game 3 – the regularly repaired righty threw 98 pitches before letting up a walk-off home run to the immortal Max Muncy – Dombrowski decided to throw four years and $67.5 million at a guy who more than 124 innings in the last two years.
Talk about a savvy shopper, eh?
Why Dealin’ Dave – whose reputation of being unable to build a bullpen is blossoming once again in Boston – wouldn’t have approached Rick Porcello with a similar offer rather than gambling on a guy that has broken down more than the Dodge Dart I drove back in the day, is a pretty big head scratcher.
Granted Pretty Ricky is the modern-day version of Danny Darwin who hit the Cy Young lottery in ‘16, he offers much more stability to the rotation than does Eovaldi who is likely going to be in the same recycle bin as my bitchin’ ride back in the day before his foolish four-year deal is up.
If Dombrowski thinks that making a deal for a number five starter will be all that is needed in the second half to get this meandering defending World Series Champion team back on track, he is sadly mistaken.
It just proves that he and the entire organization got caught up in the “bring the band back” mentality that Sox owner John Henry admitted was flawed just before his team got gutted like a fish by the Yankees in London just over a week ago.
As then the wonder boy Epstein said following the trade that sent Nomar Garciapparra in ‘04 that brought back Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz back in return – and led to a somewhat historic moment in October of that year – this Red Sox team is fatally flawed.
And that flaw – which even if accompanied by Porcello’s luck three years ago will almost certainly not be overcome – falls at the feet of one member of the Sox front office, Dave Dombrowski.