Red Sox

Chris Sale's injury is only the start of a potential catastrophe in the Red Sox rotation

Chris Sale's injury is only the start of a potential catastrophe in the Red Sox rotation

BOSTON -- It turns out Dave Dombrowski flunked a test with only wrong answers, unless you count nihilism, and who chooses that? It would be like sitting for the SATs and immediately setting the Scantron sheet on fire.

Was Dombrowski really supposed to walk away from every member of a World Series-winning rotation? Of course not. But it's looking more and more like he shouldn't have kept any of them, either. That's what Starfleet cadets would call a Kobayashi Maru -- an unwinnable scenario that may very well cost Dombrowski his job.

Saturday's news that erstwhile ace Chris Sale is headed to the injured list with elbow inflammation surely set off the hull breach alarms at Fenway Park. Not only has Sale endured a trying season -- posting the worst record (6-11) and ERA (4.40) of his career -- but his $145 million contract extension doesn't even kick in until next season.

Next on Sale's agenda is a visit Dr. James Andrews, the famed orthopedist. Sometimes those exams yield good news, like when David Price learned about his unique Wolverine elbow, which has mostly held up since 2017. But Andrews is often a harbinger of Tommy John doom, which means we must steel ourselves for the possibility that Sale doesn't pitch again until 2021.

Nothing like writing off Year 1 of a nine-figure investment. The issue extends well beyond Sale, though, because outside of cost-controlled left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, every member of the rotation looks like a bad investment. The Red Sox will feel the repercussions of those decisions for years to come, with the unreliable and overpaid trio of Price, Nathan Eovaldi, and Sale on the books through 2022, 2022, and 2024, respectively.

We can't sit here and say no one saw this coming. Those of us who hated the Sale contract when he signed it this spring pointed to the way last season ended, with the left-hander virtually useless for the final three months because of a shoulder injury. He closed out the World Series, but it's telling that the Red Sox weren't comfortable using him until they had built a four-run lead in the ninth.

Owner John Henry had long opposed long-term contracts for pitchers in their 30s, at least until he blew the John Lester negotiations in 2014. Since then he has committed $217 million to Price, $145 million to Sale, and $68 million to Eovaldi, who doesn't turn 30 until February, but came with more red flags than a Chinese military parade.

Price represents a sunk cost at this point, and at least he played a starring role in last year's title, but the odds of him becoming more durable over the final three years and $96 million of his contract feel remote. His misanthropic behavior has turned off members of the organization at every level, but good luck moving on from that money. Despite his ability, he might as well be radioactive, especially with wrist tightness sending him to the IL and durability concerns following him like Pigpen's cloud of dust.

Then there's Eovaldi. For eight years, he delivered more promise than results. Then came three magical weeks in October, when ability and opportunity coalesced into a run of dominance that transformed him from a fringe free agent swingman to a starter in demand. The $68 million contract he signed is probably triple what he would've commanded if the Red Sox had missed the playoffs.

The Eovaldi deal felt like an overpay based on the emotion and euphoria of a title. The Red Sox ignored not only a history of arm surgery, including two Tommy Johns, but one of mediocrity, too. Eovaldi's lifetime ERA of 4.22 and strikeout rate of 6.9 suggested a pitcher whose results never matched his talent.

He lasted only four starts this April before undergoing yet another surgery to clean loose bodies out of his elbow. He has bounced around the bullpen since returning and is now being used as an opener, no one's idea of a good use of $17 million.

The only pitcher Dombrowski got right was Rick Porcello, whom he never seriously considered re-signing. The 30-year-old right-hander is statistically one of the worst starters in baseball, and the Red Sox will look to upgrade his rotation spot this winter.

Unfortunately, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that Dombrowski's best approach would've been entirely impractical: let Eovaldi walk, watch Sale pitch out his contract, and try to find takers for Price and Porcello.

With the Duck Boat tracks still fresh on the warning track and champagne still soaking everyone's hair, Dombrowski decided to bring the band back.

It's hard to blame him, but oh man, has it cost him.

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Hey, 2019 wasn't a total washout -- at least we got to watch Rafael Devers

Hey, 2019 wasn't a total washout -- at least we got to watch Rafael Devers

The 2019 season may feel disposable, but there's one reason we'll look back on it fondly -- Rafael Devers.

Just as Nomar Garciaparra gave 1997 meaning and Mookie Betts ultimately made 2015 worth suffering through, Devers has stamped 2019 as a campaign to remember, even if everything else about the team's performance we can't forget soon enough.

In Wednesday night's loss to the Giants, Devers made history by blasting his 30th homer. Still only 22 years old, he joined Xander Bogaerts as the only teammates with 30 homers and 50 doubles in a season.

He did it with a screaming line drive into the first row of seats in the right field corner to break up Jeff Samardzija's no-hit bid with two outs in the sixth. The swing was quintessential Devers, a vicious rip on a fat cutter that left the park at over 111 mph.

It's the kind of swing we've seen him pulverize mistakes with all year, and it suggests even better days lay ahead.

"He's put it all together," said manager Alex Cora. "The most important thing is that he's not pleased with what's going on with us. That's the most important thing. He can go 0 for 6 and we win and you always see him smiling on that line until the game is over. Or we win and he doesn't make a play, he puts his teammates in a bad spot, he's upset about it. I think it was the game he went 6 for 6 in Cleveland, he was upset because he didn't make a play. And that's who he is and we're very proud of him. That's the mentality that we have to have as an organization. Be a winner. It's funny because the other day he's like, 'Oh this is the first time I'm not going to be in the playoffs' I'm like, 'Dude, you only have two and a half years in the big leagues so you'll be OK.' But he made some adjustments in the offseason and it's paying off."

For his part, Devers was happy to reach home run No. 30, which came 15 days after No. 29.

"I wasn't that anxious about 30 home runs," he said. "I was just trying to make contact on the ball as usual. It wasn't something that was really on my mind. I just made the adjustments I needed to make. I know it's been a while since I've hit one. Watching film, seeing the adjustments that I needed to make in order to do that, but really making contact.

"I had to just control the strike zone more, figure out my pitch selection, what to swing at because that's really what I struggled with," he added. "I was still confident at the plate. It was really what I was swinging at that caused all the issues."

Devers noted his close relationship with Bogaerts and what it meant to join him in the 30-50 club.

"I'm extremely happy, especially for him," he said. "He's one of my closest friends. To be able to do that with him feels really special for me. Obviously we just have to continue to play the game together and try to break as many records as possible. It's pretty special."

Special is a good way to describe Devers' 2019. Amidst a sea of injury and underachievement, he managed to shine with an infectious enthusiasm and joy that gave this forgettable season a reason to be.

Next up in 2020: marrying individual achievement with a return to the playoffs.

"Obviously this isn't the season that we've envisioned for our team," Devers said. "That's something that sticks with me more as opposed to personal accolades. I'm just glad some of my other teammates are achieving milestones for themselves as well."

Alex Cora explains why Red Sox shut down David Price>>>

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Highlights of the Red Sox' 11-3 loss to the Giants

Highlights of the Red Sox' 11-3 loss to the Giants

FINAL SCORE:  Giants 11, Red Sox 3

IN BRIEF: Jeff Samardzija no-hit the Red Sox into the sixth inning and Boston was held to six hits, one of them Rafael Devers' 30th home run, in an 11-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. It was the 2,000th managerial win for the Giants' Bruce Bochy. BOX SCORE

RED SOX RECORD: 79-72

HIGHLIGHTS

A YAZ-TO-YAZ FIRST PITCH:

1st inning:
Yastrzemski walks, moves to third on Belt's double to center, Pillar grounds out to short, scoring Yastrzemski (1-0, SF).

Vogt hits a two-run homer off Chacin off the right-field foul pole on a 0-and-2 pitch (3-0, SF).

3rd inning:
Pillar hits an infield single to third and steals second, Vogt walks, Crawford doubles to right, scoring Pillar (4-0, SF).

6th inning:
Devers homers off Samardzija to right on a 3-2 pitch (4-1, SF).

7th inning:
Holt singles to center (Abad replaces Samardzija on the mound), Bradley Jr. reaches on an infield hit to shortstop, moves to second on M.Hernández's single to center, León singles to left, scoring Bradley Jr. (4-2, SF).

8th inning:
Pillar hits an infield single to shortstop, moves to third on Dickerson's single to right, Rickard pinch-runs for Dickerson, Vogt hits a sacrifice fly to center fielder Bradley Jr., scoring Pillar (5-2, SF).

Rickard steals second (Brewer replaces Shawaryn on the mound), Adames hits an infield single to second, scoring Rickard (6-2, SF).

9th inning:
(Velázquez replaces Brewer on the mound) A. Garcia doubles to left, Yastrzemski singles to center, scoring A. Garcia (7-2, SF).

Vogt grounds into fielder's choice at second, Yastrzemski scores (8-2, SF).

(Weber replaces Velázquez on the mound) Crawford reaches on fielder's choice plus an error by shortstop Bogaerts, Belt scores (9-2, SF). 

Adames singles to left, loading the bases, Dubon singles to right, scoring Vogt and Crawford (11-2, SF).

Bradley Jr. homers to left off E. Franco on a 1-2 pitch (11-3, SF).

UP NEXT:
Vs. Giants, Thursday, 1:05 p.m., NESN
@Rays, Friday, 7:10 p.m., NESN
@Rays, Saturday, 6:10 p.m., NESN
@Rays, Sunday, 1:10 p.m., NESN

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