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The Boston Red Sox 2023 Season... Should Be Alex Cora's Last
I own a diary. That's right—I said "diary," not "journal." There's a certain ruggedness to the word that most men shy away from, opting instead for the seemingly more masculine term, "journal." Well, Theodore Roosevelt, one of the toughest men to ever occupy the Oval Office, called his a diary. So, are you tougher than Teddy? Didn't think so. Every night, I jot down my thoughts in this diary, and as the Red Sox season unfolded, I found myself flipping back through its pages to trace the arc of my emotions and expectations.
My retrospective journey was, in a word, melancholy. The season commenced with little more than a flicker of hope, which was soon outshone by stark reality. However, midway through, a glimmer of possibility emerged. "Could they actually make it?" I wondered, my optimism cautiously reigniting. But alas, that glimmer was snuffed out as quickly as it had appeared.
Reflecting on the season as a whole, it panned out pretty much as I had anticipated. The Red Sox's downfall was their glaring weakness in both the starting rotation and the bullpen—essentially, the Achilles' heel that many had predicted. Let's delve into the statistics for this year's pitching staff to illustrate just how critical this issue was.
OPP BA- 6th
OPP OBP- 11th
It's tempting to point fingers, so let's begin there: Whoever within the Red Sox organization thought it wise to stretch Garret Whitlock and Tanner Houck into starters deserves a pink slip. I suspect they may already have received one. For nearly two years, I've championed the idea that Whitlock should be groomed to become the team's closer, with Houck serving as the ideal setup man. Had this strategy been employed, we could have had a rock-solid bullpen for years. Instead, the organization decided to splurge on Kenley Jansen—a decision I question. Don't get me wrong, Jansen is a borderline Hall of Famer, especially if Billy Wagner gets in (as he should). But a $16 million per year paycheck for Jansen seems excessive when those funds could have been allocated to bolster the starting rotation.
That said, I don't have many complaints about the rest of the pitching staff. Chris Sale is Chris Sale. When the books are closed on his time in Boston, fans will look back fondly on the 2018 World Series and nod in agreement that the trade was worthwhile. Brayan Bello has shown promise; he's still a bit raw but is poised to become the team's ace within a couple of years. Kutter Crawford was a pleasant surprise but isn't someone to hang your hat on.
In terms of off-season prospects, there's a buzz around Yoshinobu Yamamoto joining forces with Masataka Yoshida. Yamamoto is roughly the same age as Daisuke Matsuzaka was when the Red Sox signed him back in 2006—a move that yielded mixed results. Would I be open to a fantasy scenario where both Yamamoto and Ohtani decide to team up with Yoshida in Boston? Absolutely. But since that's unlikely, I'm wary of depleting our already thin farm system for someone like Dylan Cease. Looking at the available free-agent pitchers, none really pique my interest. If Ohtani and Yamamoto are out of reach, I'd rather the Red Sox go after "prove-it" deals with talents like Jack Flaherty and Lucas Giolito.
I don’t need to dive too deep here, but as I said the pitching was the downfall of the team this year. Here are the offensive numbers.
On the brighter side, Rafael Devers has truly earned his paycheck, showing no signs of regression after landing his lucrative contract. Even more encouraging has been the rise of young talents like Triston Casas and Jarren Duran—the latter impressing until sidelined by injury. However, this silver lining doesn't fully compensate for the dark cloud that hung over the team's fielding performance this season. The Red Sox found themselves in the unenviable position of ranking dead last in errors and 27th in Defensive Efficiency Ratio. This leads me to my second major gripe with the season: the glaring lack of a competent shortstop.
Manager Alex Cora and Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom were fully cognizant of the situation, yet their decision to sign Trevor Story—a move I've questioned from the get-go—was woefully misguided. Story was clearly not going to be ready to contribute immediately, and his overall performance has left much to be desired.
Editor's Note: For those doubting my stance on Story, I've penned four blogs pre-signing where I've elaborated on my reservations. I'll happily dig these up for anyone interested in a spirited debate.Here are the games played at SS this year for the team.
Kike Hernandez- 64
Yu Chang- 33
Pablo Reyes- 31
Trevor Story- 30
David Hamilton- 13
Bobby Dalbec- 1
Rafael Devers- 1
Once again, whoever thought this was a good idea should no longer be with the team.
This brings me to my final reflection on the Red Sox's 2023 season: Alex Cora shouldn't return as the team's manager. My reservations date back to his 2019 suspension, and they've only solidified since. With Chaim Bloom now out of the picture, a new regime is settling in, and it's the perfect opportunity to clean house. Any incoming front-office executive will likely want their own choice in the dugout, and it's time for the Red Sox to acquiesce.
Let's not overlook the facts: Cora inherited a team primarily assembled by Dave Dombrowski—a team that secured 93 wins just the year before Cora took over. While Cora did steer that roster to a World Series championship in 2018, his recent track record is hardly exemplary. The team has languished with two sub-.500 seasons in a row, hardly a vote of confidence for a manager on a contract with only one year left.
The situation bears an uncanny resemblance to John Farrell's tenure. Farrell came on board in 2013, and the Sox won the World Series that very year. However, even after back-to-back 90-win seasons, the organization decided to move on. The similarities are striking: Cora, like Farrell, may have outlived his utility to the team, despite his early successes.
If the Red Sox are genuinely considering making a splash in the market—perhaps by signing stars like Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto—a fresh start might be exactly what's needed. A complete cultural overhaul, from the general manager to the skipper, could signal to potential signees that this organization is committed to winning. But then again, what do I know?