By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
When the Red Sox limped out of Baltimore last Sunday – losers of two of three to an Orioles team that is vying for the not so coveted title as the worst team in baseball – only the most laundry loving baseball fan in Boston actually believed that second-year manager Alex Cora’s exceptionally pampered club had a chance to defend their World Series title from the year before with much dignity at all.
Entering the season, vice president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski decided to pretty much bring back the band that won a franchise-record 108 regular-season games and the teams fourth title in the last two decades – overpaying for postseason stars like journeyman pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (4 years, $67.5M) and World Series MVP, and fellow transient Steve Pearce (1 year, $6.25M) – yet neglecting to find a suitable replacement for former closer Craig Kimbrel in the process.
Granted, Kimbrel was anything but reliable – especially in the postseason – in his final year in Boston, but his presence at least provided steady roles for the other relievers in the Red Sox bullpen.
And whether you want to point to the lackadaisical approach that Cora and his crew took to his second season as the Sox skipper entering spring training. His “not turning the page/writing a new chapter” tact exposed his inexperience in the position, and the kid-gloves handling of his starting staff led to the worst first-half start of his newly extended ace Chris Sale.
Despite showing frailty in both his two seasons in Boston entering September, Dombrowski saw fit to sign him to a five-year, $145M extension which will have John Henry’s club paying the not so stout starter through 2024 – at least it’s assumed he will be for the duration of his deal – which is so far from the foolish frugality that his club chose to take with Jon Lester a few years ago, it’s laughable.
Yet, for as many of those who watch the team on a consistent basis and were ready to pull the plug after the abomination that was the loss of the Baltimore series last weekend, Dombrowski’s back of the bullpen deficient club pulled themselves up from their silk-lined bootstraps and put a hurting on the two teams ahead of them in the AL East, winning five of six against the Rays and the Yankees.
In doing so, they thereby put a lighter to the nether regions of their boss as the trade deadline approaches this Wednesday.
Your defending World Series club has spoken, Dealin’ Dave, it’ time to get them a closer.
If there is anyone that actually thinks that Eovaldi is the guy to fill this role on a championship-caliber team, please don’t Bogart that joint and pass it along, please.
To quote a former caller/felon from sports talk radio back in the day when Boston was known as “Loserville”, “he’s tall and he has a strong arm.” And for as much as these words rang true regarding former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, so do they apply to Eovaldi. The difference is, Bledsoe never had multiple surgeries on his throwing elbow and was actually pretty reliable physically until the Jets Brian Cox sent him to silly street, which opened the door for some guy named Tom Brady.
Even Cora admitted that Eovaldi is not the team’s first option for the 9th inning, saying in his interview on WEEI’s OMF drive time show this past Thursday that “anyone paying attention to the team knows who’s been our closer.”
Does anyone with any baseball sense really think that a team with Workman as their closer can will a World Series Championship?
If your answer is anything but a resounding no, I’m sorry to say, your opinion really doesn’t matter.
Your team has finally shown a willingness to fight. It is up to you, Dave Dombrowski, to solidify the back of the bullpen so that they will have a legitimate shot to defend their title this fall.