But the Red Sox, if nothing else, obtained some important information amid their second organizational reset in three years. The knowledge helped to shape Boston’s busy offseason, leading to an even more pronounced roster face-lift and a clearer sense of direction with the club set to open spring training next week.
“Any time you go through what we went through and interspersed in between that is a year in which you win the World Series, you see the differences,” Red Sox owner John Henry said before last month’s annual Town Hall event. “So I think there are some things we can point to and will point to that we can address.”
The Red Sox’s 2014 season was a disaster from the get-go. Boston clung to life around the All-Star break, winning eight of nine, but a five-game losing streak forced the team’s hand. The Red Sox’s worst course of action would have been to stand pat and limp their way to the finish line, so general manager Ben Cherington and Co. instead made wholesale changes, setting in motion a period geared toward future-based assessments.
Was Boston’s stretch run inspiring? Of course not. The lineups trotted out over the final two months weren’t something you’d expect to see from a defending World Series champion, much less a team with one of the highest payrolls in Major League Baseball. But the Red Sox were exposed to developments they wouldn’t have been had they stayed their original lackluster course.
Mookie Betts thrived, Christian Vazquez emerged and Rusney Castillo joined the fray. On the flip side, the Red Sox learned they couldn’t afford to enter 2015 with Will Middlebrooks as their starting third baseman, with Jackie Bradley Jr. as a major leaguer and with any of their young starting pitchers penciled into the rotation.
The negatives outweighed the positives, sure, but remedying those pain points would have required a more drawn-out process had the Red Sox’s shortcomings not been so front and center at the tail end of 2014.
“You have to look back at some of the information we were able to gather on guys, and opportunities to Mookie, with Brock (Holt), getting a better understanding of Jackie Bradley and what the needs of the individual are,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said last month. “It gives us the information to go into the offseason and make the needed additions, which we have. But this is an exciting team.”
The Red Sox have since bolstered their offense with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. They’ve moved on from once coveted prospects Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo following their colorless auditions in favor of more established major leaguers like Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson. There’s no guarantee Boston’s roster overhaul is going to yield championship results, but the widespread changes — a product of lessons learned last season — are enough to create a belief that brighter days lie ahead.
“I don’t know if I’d be willing to finish last every other year to finish first every other year. I don’t know if that’s the appropriate tradeoff,” Henry said last month. “We spent a decade being consistently challenging, so it’s been frustrating two out of the last there years to basically be in a rebuilding mode midway through the season.
“That’s something that we would hope would never (happen), and we sort of committed to each other that it’s not going to happen again.”
The only thing worse than losing is losing on a consistent basis. The Red Sox might have avoided the latter fate by taking a proactive approach to changing what had become a very unpleasant situation last year.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images
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