The 2015 season has been in shambles nearly from the beginning for the Boston Red Sox. Languishing in or around last place for much of the year, the misery has been punctuated by a string of unwelcome circumstances. Although the campaign will not be remembered fondly by most fans, there are still glimmers of hope that are getting increasingly brighter and are beacons of untold possibilities for the years to come.
Usually, there’s no need to look past consistent losing for the source of a bad season. However, Boston fans have also endured a steady stream of bad news. Popular World Series heroes Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino saw their level of play drop so significantly that they were traded away in different deals last month. Popular manager John Farrell was recently diagnosed with lymphoma, and general manager Ben Cherington and long-time team president Larry Lucchino announced their resignations. The most recent cherry on this melted sundae was the sudden announcement that popular television play-by-play man Don Orsillo was not having his contract renewed following the season. This seemingly capricious move immediately created widespread outrage among fans, who are seeking some tangible explanation for the change.
This team won the World Series just two years ago but are now facing their second straight last-place finish, and third in four years. Fortunately, one does not need to be a Pollyanna to see some of the emerging positive signs among all the negativity. In the smoldering embers of what is now a laughably optimistic start of a depressing year, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for what the future holds.
The Front Office Shake Up: Cherington, who had essentially spent his entire baseball career working in various capacities with the team deserves plenty of credit for his good work, which culminated in the surprise title drive in 2013. However, he was also a bit of a gambler, declining to spend “big bucks” on pitching—deemed too much of a fiscal risk, yet spending nearly $200 million combined on free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, who have both played like busts in the first years of their respective deals. He had four years to enact his philosophies and strategy as general manager but the extreme feast or famine results necessitated the recent change.
Although a new permanent general manager has yet to be named, the team is in a good position to find a replacement. They have already brought former Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski on board to serve as the new team president, and have also added former Los Angeles Angels GM Jerry Dipoto as a special advisor for the rest of this season. If one of those two doesn’t take the job, their influence and acumen will be good leverage in finding the right candidate.
The Kids Are Going to Be Alright: Although the Red Sox have been near the top in most organizational farm system rankings in recent years, it feels like it’s been a while since a high-impact youngster has developed into a star. One silver lining for the team’s overall poor play this year has been the increased chances created for prospects to see the field. To date, one would be hard-pressed to say that their overall performance has been anything less than encouraging and in some cases, downright impressive.
Despite being in his third major league season, shortstop Xander Bogaerts is still just 22. In addition to drastically improving his defense, he has also become an offensive force, to the tune of a .316 average on the year, and a .338 mark since June 1st. Once the right-handed hitter’s power develops, he will have turned into the all-around impact player fans have been waiting for since he starred in the minors as a teenager.
Outfielder Mookie Betts (also 22) converted quickly from the infield, and is already a Gold Glove caliber glove. He has also shown power and speed (12 home runs and 17 stolen bases), and has also seen his bat heat up as the season has worn on, as evidenced by his .292 batting average since the start of June.
Fellow outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo have both experienced the roller coaster between being hot prospects and potential busts over the past couple of seasons. That now appears to be over as they are both running on all cylinders. In addition to superb defense, both have been scorching hot in the second half of the season (.309/.394/1.048 and .352/.387/.955 batting average/on base percentage/OPS slash lines respectively). At this point, a 2016 outfield of them and Betts is starting to look like a potential impact group.
Not to be outdone by their batting brethren, there have been young pitchers making noise as well. Southpaw starters Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens are just 22 and 23 respectively but have shown as much poise and results as anyone in the Boston rotation this season. Rodriguez has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 11 of his 16 starts, while Owens is striking out nearly a batter per inning and recently shut down the Kansas City Royals, the team with the best record in the American League.
In the coming weeks the Red Sox will likely lose more games than they win. There will probably be more mistakes than what is usually considered acceptable. There could even be more news that upsets fans. What will also continue are the bright rays of the future that should be getting easier to pick out through the muck and mire of the 2015 season. Boston fans, it’s been bad, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Keep your chin up and your eyes firmly gazing forward and you’ll be able to get through these tough times.
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