By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
Prior to the two-game series in London against the Red Sox ancient rival Yankees that saw Boston and it pathetic excuse for a bullpen get pants by the pinstripes on Saturday and Sunday – granted game one starter Rick Porcello, who almost undoubtedly now will be moved at the trade deadline later this month, sucked as well – principle owner John Henry shared some thoughts about his sinking Sox entering the second half of the season with WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.
For those Boston baseball fans that were hoping that the barely defending World Series Champions would be adding to this wretched relief staff, the soft-speaking Sox owner pretty much said that’s not going to happen.
“It’s not a luxury tax issue, it’s a question of how much money do we want to lose,” he explained. “We’re already over budget and we were substantially over our budget last year and this year. We’re not going to be looking to add a lot of payroll. And it’s hard to imagine fielding a better team. If we play up to our capabilities we’ll be fine. That’s the question: Will we? We’re halfway through and we haven’t.
“It’s a worthy team because we invested. Two years in a row we have the highest payroll. It’s not a matter of investment, it’s a matter of playing well. If we play up to our capabilities we will easily make the playoffs. That’s how I see it.”
Prior to these comments, the once considered carpetbag owner of the team that calls Fenway Park home when they aren’t across the pond, offered up his feelings about once again pretty much bringing the entire band back for a title defense when that has clearly worked the last three times in his tenure when the Red Sox found themselves on top when the last out of Major League Baseball has been recorded in October.
As to the roster construction – other than letting closer Craig Kimbel walk without an adequate replacement in place – Henry had this to say to Bradford about those who were invited back from last year’s club.
“I thought that all year, but we now have had four times in a row we have struggled after winning the World Series,” said Henry regarding the vibe that things were going to start going in the right direction. “In 2014 I thought we had a lack of focus because we essentially had the same team in ’14 and finished last as we had when we won the World Series in ’13. The focus wasn’t as much on the field as it had been in ’13. We just don’t seem to be playing the way we played last year. Same team.
“My take is that maybe it isn’t the best thing in the world to bring back the same team in its entirety every time. You don’t want to break a team down. But maybe a few changes wouldn’t hurt. But the feeling is always different after you win, apparently.”
The arrogance the team – and specifically team president of operations Dave Dombrowski showed entering spring training without anyone on the roster who has proven they can pitch in the back of the bullpen with consistent success – is not only on Dealin’ Dave, but it is on ownership as well.
It’s one thing to try and ride it out and hope for the lightning in a bottle that happened with Koji Uehara in 2013, but it is another thing to see your team post the most blown saves in the league – which now stands at 17 – and hope your team plays up to it’s “capabilities”.
Sadly John, the relief staff is doing just that.
While it would be easy to argue that more is needed from the offense (How’s that $400 million deal looking now, Mookie?), there is no escaping the fact that second-year manager Alex Cora is playing Russian Roulette with the guys Dombrowski has given him to go to at the end of games, and more times than not, the round goes off when he pulls the trigger this season.
Whether it Henry holding on tight to his purse strings following a historic season, or Dombrowski once again showing his inability to build a bullpen to the baseball-watching world, both have let a team with a window that is closing more rapidly than a fat guy on the last piece of pizza at a party.
This team is toast and they know it. And seemingly, the only guys who can change that who aren’t in uniform every night, don’t have it in their budget to do so.