By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Today, we have one word for the Red Sox – and one word only:
That said, the Red Sox may not really have to, if only because what they’re doing now is proving to be quite sufficient … assuming the goal is losing. Last night’s defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays was the Sox’ fourth in five games, leaving their record at a dreadful 6-12. They are 1-7 against the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, the top two teams in the American League. Since the start of last season, their record against New York and Tampa is an embarrassing 13-33.
Yes, the Sox have had some injuries. Without question, they have had some bad luck. But they are also miles from being World Series contenders again, particularly after Dave Dombrowski did to them exactly what he did to the Detroit Tigers.
You want proof? Dombrowski was fired by the Tigers in 2015, when he left Detroit’s player development system in ruin. (The Red Sox promptly fired Ben Cherington and hired Dombrowski within weeks.) Detroit has since posted the worst record in baseball since the start of the 2016 season with a roster and organization that Dombrowski burned to the ground without winning a world title.
Now Dombrowski has done to the Red Sox what he did to the Tigers – albeit with a world title this time – though he inherited a Red Sox roster that was already splattered with young talent. He used the Red Sox the way he used Detroit, which can’t help but make you wonder whether he’s one of the great Sugar Daddies of all-time.
Talk about lovin’ `em and leavin `em, swapping out one 25-year-old wife for the next. When it comes to jumping from one lily/money pad to the next, nobody in baseball does it quite like Sugar Daddy Dave.
But we digress.
The Red Sox are a mess, folks. And there are no simple fixes here. Even if Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez come back healthy next year, the Red Sox are woefully short on young talent overall and young pitching, in particular. The best way to get it is through the draft, which brings us back to the idea of tanking, whether you want to call it that or not.
Did the Red Sox intend to tank this year? No. Certainly not this bad. But like it or not, they’re now in contention for one of the top picks in the draft. Boston currently has the worst record in the American League and second-worst in all of baseball – to only the sad-sack Pittsburgh Pirates – and one-third of this truncated season is basically in the books. We all know it isn’t going to change much. From here until the end of September, the best thing the Red Sox can do now is to start getting some assessment of the young players on their roster and in the system – people like Jonathan Arauz and Tanner Hauck, among others – and end up with a very high pick in the draft, assuming the commissioner doesn’t intervene and foil the plan. (That’s a story for another day, but Rob Manfred could theoretically dictate the draft order in an abbreviated season. Nonetheless, it seems unlikely.)
While you’re pondering all of that, consider this: the Red Sox have never had the first pick in the draft. That’s right, never. Even the Yankees have picked first, but never Boston. In fact, the Red Sox have never selected higher than third, something they did in 1967, when they chose right-hander Mike Garman. Since that time, they’ve been in the top 10 on only three occasions – in 1993 (Trot Nixon, 7th), 2013 (Trey Ball, 7th) and 2015 (Andrew Benintendi, 7th). (The Sox also had the 12th pick in 2016 and chose left-hander Jay Groome, who currently looks like a bust.)
Now, the Red Sox being the Red Sox, the last flurry the high has borne decreasingly little fruit. Ball has been a colossal bust. Benintendi seemed headed for a career similar to that of Nixon – who was a good player, not a great one – until he started going backwards last year. Now it’s starting to look like he, too, may be a relative bust, especially when Alex Verdugo (who has a similar skill set) already looks like a better player. And Groome had character issues from the start, then underwent Tommy John surgery.
So, what are the Sox to do? Good question. Incredibly, the Sox are far better served to stay at the bottom of the AL East than to even consider the top at the moment, which is downright scary. For all of the good that the John Henry ownership group has done during its time here – breaking an 86-year drought is no small thing, after all – his ownership tenure will be marked by as many last-place finishes (four) as world titles if the Sox finish in the dungeon this season. And finishing last is something the Sox did only once (1992) in the 69 years before the Henry group purchased the team, the kind of drought that didn’t need a flood of futility.
The worst thing the Red Sox could do now, after all, is precisely what Dombrowski did – throw money at any problems.
And if that’s what you’re thinking, well, no thanks.
I’d rather tank.