Five things that went wrong for Red Sox
Five things that went wrong for Red Sox
The final seven weeks were a nice turnaround for the Red Sox. The outfield play was heartening and the starting pitcher was vastly improved.
But the relief was temporary, and at least as far as the standings were concerned, largely cosmetic.
The 2015 Red Sox, owners of the third biggest payroll in the game, still managed to finish with a losing record and settled in the A.L. East basement for the third time in the last four seasons.
The team sputtered in May, and by late June, had played itself out of contention. A brief hot streak right before the All-Star break raised hope, but a seven-game losing streak coming out of the break croaked them for good.
There were plenty of negatives from a lost season. Here are five:
1) Hanley Ramirez, Outfielder
Last fall, Ramirez and his agent reached out to the Red Sox and informed them that Ramirez would be willing to switch to the outfield in an effort to fit into the Red Sox' lineup.
When Ramirez showed up in Fort Myers a few weeks before position players were set to report, determined to learn the position, the experiment looked promising.
But when the season began, Ramirez's extra work at the new position inexplicably stopped. His play became laughable, with no such thing as a routine play.
By the time the idea was mercifully abandoned in late August, he was ranked as the game's worst defender. Not worst outfielder, mind you -- (italics please) worst defender, period. (end italics).
If Ramirez had continued to hit as he did in the season's first month (10 homers, .999 OPS), his "defense" would have been less of an issue. But various shoulder ailments robbed Ramirez of his power and he finished the year hitting .249 with a .717 OPS.
2) "Ace? We don't need no stinking aces."
When the Sox failed to land a true front-of-the-rotation starter, they assured everyone that they had quantity, if not quality. Clay Buchholz handed out T-shirts to that effect, suggesting that the ace would be whomever was scheduled to start on a given day.
Turns out, it was all wishful thinking.
Buchholz pitched fairly well after a poor first few weeks, but true to his history, was done in by injury and didn't pitch after the second week of July.
Rick Porcello, given an $82.5 million extension prior to his first start, got his ERA under 5.00 -- on the final day of the season. Wade Miley took the ball every five days and pitched 190 innings for the fourth straight season, but was the very definition of a back-end starter.
Justin Masterson? Terrible. Joe Kelly? Better in the second half, but not before warranting a demotion to Triple A.
Perhaps if either Buchholz or Porcello had pitched to expectations, the rotation wouldn't have been so underwhelming.
But neither did and the Sox finished 13th among the A.L. teams and by the end of the season, their best starter was 23 and didn't make his major league debut until the final weekend in May.
3) Staying with the declining veterans
Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli were each entering the final years of their contracts.
The hope was that the two, healthy again after injury-compromised seasons in 2014, would resume past form and play big roles for the 2015 Sox.
Instead, Victorino, fresh off back surgery last summer, predictably dealt with a series of nagging injuries and once again abandoned switch-hitting.
Napoli, meanwhile, struggled to stay above .200 and showed only sporadic power. His defensive play dipped, too.
John Farrell stayed with both well into July, hoping against hope that the two would get hot. Other than a week or so from Napoli, it never happened. Victorino was given away before the deadline and Napoli was dealt off 10 days later.
Had the Sox gone to Travis Shaw at first over Napoli earlier, or given Rusney Castillo or Jackie Bradley Jr. playing time instead of Victorino, there's no guarantee it would have changed the outcome of the season.
But, if nothing else, it would have gotten the Sox an earlier start on 2016.
4) The signing of Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval signed a five-year, $95 million deal with the Red Sox last winter. At the time, it felt like an overpay. By late in the season, it seemed a joke.
Sandoval reported to spring training looking like he did a year ago in San Francisco, which is to say, out of shape.
That became apparent early, when Sandoval's range was poor. Thanks to some work with infield coach Brian Butterfield, the range improved some in the second half, but by every defensive metric, Sandoval's play at third was below-average.
At the plate, he showed virtually no pop, as evidenced by his .366 slugging percentage. He gave up switch-hitting a few weeks into the season after appearing hapless from the right side.
In Atlanta, it was discovered that Sandoval was on Instagram in the clubhouse during the game.
A minor infraction, perhaps, but symbolic of the disaster that was Sandoval's first year in Boston.
5) The bullpen
Beyond the work of closer Koji Uehara - not vintage 2013 Koji, granted, but still a perfectly good major league closer -- there wasn't much to like about the relief corps.
Junichi Tazawa ran out of gas in August, flopped as Uehara's replacement and was shut down in September.
Alexi Ogando showed some promise early but faltered as the season progressed. Veteran Edward Mujica pitched himself off the team.
By the end, the Red Sox were left to choose between journeymen like Jean Machi and unproven rookies (Noe Ramirez, Jonathan Aro).
This area remains the one that requires the most attention. Only Uehara, Tazawa and lefties Robbie Ross and Tommy Layne seemingly have earned the right to return.