Red Sox

Five days, six starts, no wins -- how the Red Sox rotation has destroyed this season

Five days, six starts, no wins -- how the Red Sox rotation has destroyed this season

The reality of the 2019 Red Sox season can be boiled down to one sentence: the starters never gave them a chance.

Forget about the bullpen, the struggles with runners in scoring position, the trade deadline letdown. This last turn through the rotation neatly encapsulates everything wrong with the starters, how they collectively failed at every turn, and why this remains such a massive concern moving forward, because news flash -- without changes, we'll be having the exact same conversation in 2020.

Want to know where this season went to seed? Let's take a stroll through the last six games, one starter at a time, and find some answers.

Rick Porcello: Rays 8, Red Sox 5
Hours after the trade deadline turned out to be a dud, Porcello delivered one.

After allowing a run in the first and smashing a pair of dugout monitors in frustration, Porcello went out in the second and served up a pair of homers -- a leadoff shot to Kevin Kiermaier and a three-run blast from Austin Meadows. It was one bad inning in a season full of them.

The former Cy Young Award winner suddenly looks like a pitcher whose low-90s stuff simply doesn't play anymore. He's 9-8 with a 5.74 ERA and trending in the wrong direction. The only reason he's 4-2 since June 23 is because the Red Sox seem to score 10 runs every time he starts. His 9.35 ERA in that span suggests he has needed every run.

Porcello is in the final year of his contract and loves Boston, which is no small thing. He's also a clubhouse leader. But intangibles mean nothing when his starts turn Fenway Park into the world's largest pinball machine.

The Red Sox already felt deflated because of the deadline. By the time Porcello was done, they were reeling.

Andrew Cashner: Rays 9, Red Sox 4
The Red Sox acquired in an acknowledgment that Nathan Eovaldi was done for the season. Eovaldi's absence has simply murdered the bullpen, thanks to three months of three-inning starts made by the likes of every Josh, Ryan, and Hector to roll through Pawtucket.

Cashner was supposed to provide stability, based on a breakout age-32 season that saw him go 9-3 for the woeful Orioles. Red-flag alert: he has posted only one other winning season in his 10-year career, and his stuff isn't exactly electric. Redder-flag alert: the Phillies reportedly passed on him over makeup concerns.

In four starts since joining the Red Sox, Cashner is 1-3 with a 6.94 ERA. The ERA would be worse except for a scoring change from this loss to Tampa Bay Cashner appeared ill-equipped to handle the bright lights of the pennant race, allowing seven hits and five walks in 5.2 innings. He botched a chopper in front of the plate that was generously ruled a single, forced in a run with a walk, and crossed up catcher Sandy Leon for a passed ball that scored another.

Say hello to the big deadline acquisition. It turns out he's no savior.

Eduardo Rodriguez: Yankees 4, Red Sox 2
On the list of disappointments, E-Rod rates as least objectionable. He leads the staff in wins (13), innings (135.1), and ERA (4.19). He has pitched into the seventh inning 10 times. He opened as the fifth starter, and were he still in that role, he'd be having a hell of a season.

Unfortunately, he's kinda sorta the ace at the moment, and it does not suit him. Case in point: Friday night in New York.

J.D. Martinez gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead in the first with a two-run homer, sparking hopes that the offense would once again go nuclear on Yankees pitching. But first there was the little matter of the bottom of the frame, and Rodriguez imploded.

Two walks and a single loaded the bases with one out, and then Rodriguez badly missed with a fastball that was supposed to be up to Gleyber Torres. It caught too much of the plate and then all of Torres' barrel, sailing out to left for a back-breaking grand slam.

Rodriguez righted the ship, but the damage had been done. The demoralized and broken Red Sox never mounted a serious threat, and their lost weekend was off and stumbling.

Chris Sale: Yankees 9, Red Sox 2
If there's one person responsible for the travails of 2019, it's Sale. Signed to a $145 million extension to be the stopper, he has instead leaked like a sieve, with the Red Sox losing 15 of his 23 starts. He delivered his most embarrassing outing in Yankee Stadium in a performance that illustrated the futility and frustration of his season.

With two outs and two on in the fourth, Sale found himself just one pitch away from escaping with a 1-1 tie. That pitch never came. He allowed five consecutive hits, including a three-run homer to D.J. LeMahieu before being lifted. He ended up being charged with seven runs in the frame, and eight in the game.

Making matters worse, one of the most accountable players on the team finally lost it and blasted home plate ump Mike Estabrook for a blown strike three call on Gio Urshela earlier. Never mind the rockets that followed off the bats of hitters like Breyvic Valera and Brett Gardner, Sale blamed the umpire. He ended up being ejected before complaining some more in the postgame about how the umps must be held to a higher standard.

It was a terrible, terrible look for the guy who's so confident in his stuff, he never shakes the catcher: put down whatever sign you want and I'll blow the guy away.

Not anymore. Salvaging him will be the greatest task for 2020.

Brian Johnson: Yankees 6, Red Sox 4
What's there to say? The replacement starters stink. Pressed into service by a doubleheader, Johnson lasted just three innings in his return from the IL. He allowed eight hits and luckily only three runs. If he hadn't started, someone like Ryan Weber would've posted the exact same numbers. Let's just move on.

David Price: Yankees 7, Red Sox 4
While it's tempting to draw a line at Price's pointless resuscitation of his feud with broadcaster Dennis Eckersley, his struggles actually predate that stupidity by more than a month. Since beating Tampa, 5-1, on June 8 and striking out 10, Price has looked barely pedestrian.

He's 3-3 with a 6.55 ERA and has reached the seventh inning exactly zero times. And this from the guy we've been calling the ace all season. His struggles reached a nadir on Sunday night.

With two outs in the third and the Red Sox leading 1-0, Price collapsed like Sale the day before. The next seven batters went homer, double, double, single, double, single, walk, before manager Alex Cora made another long trudge to the mound to remove yet another starter who hadn't even give him three innings, let alone five, let alone seven or eight.

Price's ERA shot to 4.36 -- its highest point since April 6 -- and his record fell to 7-5. So much for holding all the cards. Now they're scattered to the wind and Price is trying to see if he can recover 52 for a full deck.

That's five days and six starts where the Red Sox never had a chance. Want to know why 2019 has unfolded in such a disappointing fashion?

There's your answer.
 

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MLB players not accepting Rob Manfred's apology after calling World Series trophy 'piece of metal'

MLB players not accepting Rob Manfred's apology after calling World Series trophy 'piece of metal'

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred tried more damage control on Tuesday.

After referring to the World Series trophy as a "piece of metal," Manfred apologized for the disrespectful comment after receiving plenty of backlash for his choice of words.

“I referred to the World Series trophy in a disrespectful way, and I want to apologize for it,” Manfred said at a press conference at spring training in Arizona. “There’s no excuse for it...It was a mistake to say what I said.”

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Several MLB players already are upset with Manfred's handling of the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal and many past and present Astros opponents have criticized the commissioner's penalties against Houston as far too lenient.

Manfred reference to one of baseball's most prized possessions - known officially as The Commissioner's Trophy - as a "piece of metal" only added more fuel to the fire, with current Chicago Cubs and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, in particular, infuriated by the commissioner's words.

“That’s somebody that has never played our game. You play for a reason, you play for that piece of metal. I’m very proud of the three that I have,” Lester said, according to Associated Press. “If that’s the way he feels, then he needs to take his name off the trophy.”

Former Red Sox infielder and current WEEI radio host Lou Merloni also had some choice words for the commissioner. 

"Well, I'll say this. I had some time to think about it and no, I don't accept his apology because I think it's ridiculous," Merloni said on Boston Sports Tonight. "The trophy is called The Commissioner's trophy. He is the commissioner of Major League Baseball and to utter the words it's a 'piece of metal,' to me, is a slap in the face for people who played this game forever, well before he was the commissioner of this league. There are people for whom winning a World Series championship changes their lives. There are people that lose a World Series changes their lives.

"The closest I got was an ALCS. I never got to play in one. I never had an opportunity to win one. There's a lot of guys who have won many, and we praise them for it... they're in the Hall of Fame for it. To sit there and to basically minimize what the World Series trophy is, what this represents, to me, is inexcusable. So, you can apologize all you want, but he never should've uttered those words in the first place. I think it's a disgrace."

If Red Sox acquire Wil Myers, here's why fans should love a deal they'll want to hate

If Red Sox acquire Wil Myers, here's why fans should love a deal they'll want to hate

FORT MYERS, Fla. — At this rate, we might need to rechristen them the Boston Rage Sox, because every move they make fills their fans with fury.

If bloodshot eyes, balled fists, and foaming mouths impact one ability, however, it's to see clearly. And so let us explain why a seemingly indefensible trade for overpriced Padres outfielder Wil Myers actually presents our first encouraging view into Chaim Bloom's vision for the future.

The rumors out of San Diego -- an organization that leaks like a sieve, god bless -- are that the Red Sox and Padres remain engaged on Myers, a former Rookie of the Year who has fallen on hard times since earning his lone All-Star berth in 2016.

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San Diego's goal (per the Union-Tribune) is simple: dump as much of the $61 million remaining on Myers' contract as possible in order to enable a run at an impact bat like Cincinnati's Nick Senzel.

Here's the part where Red Sox fans might lose their minds. Just days after moving former MVP Mookie Betts and Cy Young Award winner David Price to the Dodgers in order to slash payroll, would the Red Sox really take $30 million right back in the form of Myers, a lifetime .251 hitter coming off the second-worst OPS (.739) of his career?

Yes, but Myers is hardly the point (despite Bloom's familiarity with him from their days in Tampa). What really matters is that the Red Sox would also receive a package of prospects likely built around right-hander Cal Quantrill (son of former big leaguer Paul), as well as slugging catcher Luis Campusano.

In other words, Bloom plans on using the team's considerable financial resources to buy prospects to replenish a strip-mined farm system. It's exactly the kind of move he was hired to make, and it's how one of the game's driest reservoirs of future talent can be replenished on the fly.

It may sound defeatist and incongruous now — dump David Price's salary just to pick up Myers'? — but the approach makes perfect sense. When the Yankees conducted their great purge in 2016, trading Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova in the span of four franchise-altering days, they had one goal: adding young talent.

In return, they received Gleyber Torres (part of the Chapman deal), who's already a two-time All-Star and borderline superstar at age 23, as well as a host of other prospects. Justus Sheffield (Miller) and Erik Swanson (Nova) were used to acquire left-hander James Paxton from the Mariners. Former No. 4 overall pick Dillon Tate (Beltran) went to the Orioles for Zack Britton. Outfielder Clint Frazier (Miller) is a defensive butcher, but his bat (12 HRs in 225 ABs last year) still plays and gives him value at age 25.

Those acquisitions allowed the Yankees to reload with young, cheap talent, which in turn created an avenue for New York to spend lavishly on right-hander Gerrit Cole this winter.

The presence of catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielder Aaron Judge meant the Yankees boasted a better minor-league talent base than the one Bloom inherited, so Boston's turnaround won't be as instantaneous, but this is how it starts.

I won't pretend to know if Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, Connor Wong, Quantrill or Campusano are can't-miss stars. That's where you trust Bloom's track record in Tampa as an evaluator. What matters right now is volume, and the more prospects Bloom can add, the better.

Quantrill isn't technically a prospect anymore. He was chosen eighth overall in the 2013 draft out of Stanford and rose through San Diego's system as a consensus top-100 prospect. He went 6-8 with a 5.16 ERA during his big league debut last year and would step right into Boston's rotation, which remains in need of a fifth starter.

Campusano, meanwhile, took a giant leap forward, hitting .325 with 15 home runs at High A. Whether he's the future, or simply capital to make other moves, doesn't much matter at the moment. The Red Sox need replenishment, and if Bloom wants to buy it, that's what's known as an effective use of resources.

So while it may be tempting and even a little cathartic to lose your mind if the Red Sox acquire Myers, pay attention to the rest of the package, because that's where the deal will be won.