The Red Sox are in crisis, and time is running out for Ben Cherington
Following a 10-19 May which dumped them deep into the American League cellar, there is a Red Sox meltdown brewing. At this point, with Boston possessing the fifth-worst record in baseball, we are looking at something much more worrying than a simple slow start, something much more serious than a sporadic underperformance. Quite honestly, we are looking at 51 games of unspeakably bad baseball, and stretching back to last season, 18 months of abject failure on the part of management to build a team befitting Red Sox tradition. Ultimately, we are looking at an institutional crisis on Yawkey Way.
Just take a look at the current roster. For a team that cost $184 million to assemble, the Red Sox have a disproportionate share of defects and deficiencies. Hanley Ramirez is signed through 2018, but his defence is so bad as to be nearly unplayable. Rusney Castillo is a raw neophyte being paid like a proven superstar. And prospects such as Blake Swihart and Xander Bogaerts have either been grossly overhyped or severely rushed on the road to Boston. Meanwhile, David Ortiz is lost at the plate; Koji Uehara is showing signs of age; and not a single hitter seems capable of producing with runners in scoring position. As for the starting rotation? Well, there is not enough ink in my pen to discuss that again.
But, if this Red Sox team seems bad on paper, it is even worse on the field. Boston currently ranks 23rd in the majors in runs scored, 25th in slugging percentage, 26th in WHIP and 28th in ERA, despite possessing the third-largest payroll. The Sox were recently swept by the Twins, before losing three of four to the Rangers in Texas, including some of the sloppiest baseball I have seen from a Boston team. In fact, the Rangers series, capped by Josh Hamilton's walk-off heroics, felt like a new nadir for the Red Sox – a nadir that certain members of team management were fortunate to survive.
Which brings us to general manager Ben Cherington, who after years of poor decision-making is really starting to feel the pressure in Boston. Admittedly, his work in constructing the 2013 world champion Red Sox was legendary, but hitting on so many successful free agent signings in one winter looks to have been an aberration when judged in the context of his wider portfolio.
Since November 2013, the Red Sox’ moves have been terrible. They let Jacoby Ellsbury sign with the Yankees and attempted to replace him with Grady Sizemore. They failed to pay Jon Lester his true market worth and watched him join the Cubs. And following a dismal 71-91 showing in 2014, they invested astronomical sums of money in decidedly shaky investments like Castillo, Uehara, Pablo Sandoval and Ramirez, who is already breaking down two months into a four-year deal. Pitching, concurrently, has been a sorry afterthought in recent years, with Clay Buchholz becoming the awkward ace of a team whose general manager is struggling with the magnitude of his position.
Ultimately, there is a panicked transience to everything the Red Sox do nowadays, whereas the mid-2000s dynasty we all so fondly recall was built with calm intelligence. Basically, after years of trying, Ben Cherington has failed to succeed Theo Epstein in honing a Boston baseball juggernaut. Accordingly, as the Red Sox crisis deepens and October baseball fades further from view, it may finally be time for John Henry to clear the decks and get back to basics. It may be time for a clear out.