A disappointing finish to say the least, but the 2016 Red Sox season must be defined as a success.
The bats went silent and their pitching fell far short in the series with Terry Francona’s Indians, but while the former skipper was basking under the waterfall of beer and champagne in the tightly knit quarters of the visitors’ clubhouse, Red Sox fans across the region should take solace in knowing that this team overachieved, and is in excellent shape for the future. If we’re all being honest, making it to the postseason given the makeup of the team was a win. It’s easy to look the end result and start throwing stones, but let’s look at the full body of work and the true picture of this season is perfectly clear.
Coming out of spring training, the team had one, yes one, legit starting pitcher. David Price was coming off a tremendous regular season in 2015 and expectations were sky high that he’d be the leader the Sox didn’t have last year. For three and a half months he gave the nation mediocrity at best and while he deserves credit for turning it on over the final 6-8 weeks, his overall performance leaves a lot to be desired.
Rick Porcello was awful last year. 9-15 and an ERA just under 5. Fans were hopeful, but certainly not excited about they’d get from him, and to make matters worse, Porcello couldn’t get out of his own way in spring training. He started four games, gave up 29 hits, 4 homers and 17 earned runs for an ERA of 9.77. Not the kind of numbers that exude supreme confidence. To his credit, he had a tremendous year. The likely CY Young Award Winner was spectacular, but he couldn’t get it done in October either.
Clay Buchholz hasn’t had a winning season since 2013. If it’s his arm, his leg, or his wing, he’s been injury prone and hasn’t been able to answer the bell consistently. Ask 100 fans on the street outside Fenway and 99 of them would tell you that Buchholz isn’t a guy you can count on when the chips are down. And yet to his credit, he pitched well down the stretch helping the Sox see October for the first time since their World Series run of three years ago.
Steven Wright was nothing more than a journeyman pitcher prior to this season. Eduardo Rodriguez certainly showed promise last year, but the jury was still out as to what kind of pitcher he’d be and what impact he’d have on the staff as a whole. Craig Kimbrel came in as a legit closer, but his production has gone down in each of the last three seasons. 50 saves in 2013, 47 in 2014, down to 39 last year and only 31 this season. So while we all had aspirations of seeing the proverbial shutdown closer, Kimbrel was anything but.
And did we all really think that the killer B’s would be so killer? Betts, Bogaerts and Bradley proved during the final two months of 2015 that they will be the future of this team, but a worst to first reprise did not appear to be in the cards when the team left Florida. Lest we forget, Hanley Ramirez. He was written off by the fans and the media as an outcast. He came in to play left field and was a disaster. No one thought a move to first base would improve his performance and over the first half of the season, many called that one correctly. But he had an incredible second half and was one of the key cogs in the Sox machine that secured their playoff spot.
Twelve years ago, there might have been a celebration after last night. The season might very well have been viewed as a solid success. But when you win three championship in 10 years you’re expected to be competitive for a championship every year, and that’s why the 2016 version of the old town team won’t get the praise that it deserves for performing beyond its expectations and actually giving the nation something to be excited about given its back to back last place finishes. I think Dave Dombrowski, in a private moment, would tell you that he didn’t see this team winning it all. How could he and be honest about it? Price has not won a playoff game as a starter, the lineup, outside of Ortiz and Pedroia has virtually no playoff experience and Farrell has proven to be a very average in game manager, and that’s being generous. Dombrowski did announce that Farrell will return in 2017, but also said that he and the ownership would need to discuss his option for 2018 so clearly, Farrell has a short leash.
All of that said, when the club broke camp in March, many of the pundits still predicted nothing more than a third place finish in the division. Four of ESPN’s litany of analysts had the Sox winning the pennant but none had them winning the World Series. Sorry Nation, it just wasn’t your year, but when the dust settles you should look back with your glasses half full. The Red Sox of the future are going to be competitive. Their core of Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, and now Benintendi is rock solid, and if Dombrowski can improve the pitching staff both in the rotation and the bullpen, you’ll be looking at a team that’s poised to win again, and win often.