If you told anybody that the Boston Red Sox were only going to go 84-78 with a losing record at home finishing third place in their division after winning the World Series title in 2018, you probably would have been laughed out of any discussion concerning baseball. However, that is what happened in their title defense season. There are many reasons why they struggled, but I would like to focus on three major points. Here are the biggest reasons of why the Boston Red Sox underachieved this year :
Pitching Was A Disaster
After losing bullpen arms like Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel in the off-season, a slump in the bullpen was to be expected. The Red Sox not only got that, their pitching slumped in all forms of their rotation. Here was the starting rotation ERA at the end of the year:
- Chris Sale : 4.40 *ended season on DL*
- David Price : 4.28
- Rick Porcello : 5.22
- Nate Eovaldi : 5.99 *12 starts*
- Eduardo Rodriguez : 3.81
When Eduardo Rodriguez is the only pitcher you have who’s ERA is below four, there’s a real problem. After giving Chris Sale a massive extension in the off-season he really failed to meet expectations. Although his loss numbers are inflated due to not having a ton of run support in games, he had his fair share of struggles and is open to criticism. Meanwhile David Price let his off the mound issues linger into his pitching, including his conflict with Dennis Eckersly and his criticism of him.
Meanwhile the bullpen was just awful, with their average ERA at 4.44 through the relief pitchers/non-starters. If there was just only one reason to point out why the Red Sox were utterly dissapointing in 2019, this was it.
Superstars Not Meeting Expectations
We already reached Chris Sale in the first half of the article, where he had a major slump and injuries hampered him. But we didn’t talk about the bats. For the most part they were fine. The emergence of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Michael Chavis covered a lot of woes on the lineup, but Mookie Betts struggled in particular.
Season long? It wasn’t an awful year. A .295 average with an on base percentage of .391 are really solid numbers for the AL MVP from last year. However, it wasn’t what the Red Sox were expecting from the next biggest MLB contract to be. He had his slumps in weeks and only had a first half average of .272 and 60 strikeouts. Season long he finished with a career high 101 strikeouts. This isn’t production you want out of your star players. Now the Red Sox are in a peculiar situation with Betts. Do they trade him because they feel his contract isn’t worth it, or give the star his big deal? Sorry to bring a little off-season preview here, but with the openness of wanting to get under the luxury tax mark next year by owner John Henry, I’d say its more likely than not that not only Mookie Betts is gone, but DH J.D. Martinez opts out of his deal as well with no effort to re-sign him.
Ownership/Front Office Disputes
After winning the World Series, I think everybody inside the Red Sox organization knew that former GM and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski’s work had been done. He was hired for the sole purpose of dishing out the Boston Red Sox top prospects in the farm for big pieces to make a run at the world series. Trading Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech for ace pitcher Chris Sale was one of those moves. As well as bringing in J.D. Martinez on a big money deal, that again, he could opt out of if he so chooses. All in order to bring this team over the top. Long story short, Dombrowski was hired as a mercenary to bring a World Series title back to Boston. Not a shot at John Henry and ownership at all, teams do that all time time to focus on short term goals and not the bigger picture.
What led to the dispute then? The Red Sox were champions and on top of the MLB once again. This is just a theory here, but I don’t believe Dombrowski was invested in the future. He didn’t bring in any new arms for the bullpen after letting Kelly and Kimbrel walk in free agency, and he left the team as is not making any flashy moves, despite having the highest payroll in the MLB. I think Dombrowski was content with bringing in the same team that won last year. As we saw in 2014 in Boston’s title defense then, it seldom works out in a positive effort that way. Henry saw it coming and watched as the Red Sox GM stayed silent during the trade deadline, making one move for Baltimore’s Andrew Cashner, who finished the year with an ERA dangerously close to seven. Eventually enough was enough and Dombrowski was terminated before the season was over. It’s hard not to believe that Henry and Dombrowski didn’t see eye to eye and had different plans for the future.
Again, there’s even more reasons as to why the Red Sox just could not get themselves together for more than a week’s span. Theories and facts combined we could probably get to triple digits. But, Red Sox fans, 2019 was a bleak year and 2020 doesn’t look much brighter with Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez potentially taking off this off-season and a question mark at the GM position. Next season seems to be almost a rebuild year of sorts. Something that they could very well use, as previously stated, was their farm system. However, their best prospects were shipped off by Dave Dombrowski to make an eventually successful run at the World Series.
Photo Source : Gail Burton / AP Photo
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