Bradford: This waiting game is making things complicated for Red Sox

Rob Bradford
February 15, 2018 - 7:38 am photo

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's only been a few days, but there seems to be a growing theme in the world of the Red Sox clubhouse. It was one that Chris Sale echoed Wednesday.

"I like exactly where we're at right now," the pitcher said.

Then, about an hour or so later, Dave Dombrowski got on the same bench Sale sat on to issue his proclamation, offering a similar tone.

"I go out every morning, I have a cup of coffee, I sit at a Dunkin Donuts and I bet you I have about 10 people a day that talk to me. And it’s really split. So your pulse, you must hear that and probably that’s a louder voice but people are very supportive, don’t do anything if you think it’s unwise," the Red Sox president of baseball operations said, adding that the message from random individuals over breakfast is, "Don't do anything unwise."

Has he talked to players about the idea of adding? "No," Dombrowski said. No matter. We have.

It's not as if these guys are saying the Red Sox will be throwing away their money if J.D. Martinez comes to town. They like to win, and this is a guy who will help them do that. But there is also clearly an insulated view of 2018 from these players, one which pounds the notion that this group will be just fine, as is. 

"We basically, for the most part, have almost the same team that we did last year and we were the best team in our division," Sale added. "I know people like to talk about this and that, but we were the best with what we have, so I think we're right where we need to be."

But there are a couple potential problems with how this all is transpiring.

First, the deeper the Red Sox get into spring training with this group, the more uncomfortable things are going to get. Teams are molded in these days, with the understanding that signficant turnover has already been executed months before. As each moment goes by at JetBlue Park, the players will be circling the wagons around the idea that Mitch Moreland is their guy, and Hanley Ramirez can be 2016 Hanley.

Like it or not, there is a very real desire among these players to prove 93 wins was the basement of what this group can do. This is not David Ortiz bemoaning the lack of Nelson Cruz midway through spring training in 2014. Everyone knew the upside of Grady Sizemore and Mike Carp wasn't good enough. There is a different expectation with this group.

"We’ve never been through this," Dombrowski said. "I would ideally love to have everybody here today. But I dont have unilateral control of that so I just think you just have to keep taking a pulse of what’s taking place and continually analyze what’s going on. And really, maybe there is somebody who has more spring trainings but not many, and this is just unique in that sense. So if I told you that everybody was healthy and Hanley was coming out and looked like the guy two years ago, Pedey is looking like he’s bouncing back, all of a sudden your situation is a little bit different so you continue to analyze what’s going on."

Loyalty and optimism are all well and good. But haven't we learned about the dangers of relying too heavily on projections?

They tried to do it with that starting rotation in 2015 (although that at least produced some memorable "He's the ace" t-shirts). And last year, the assumption was that everybody was going to take a step forward to make up for the loss of Ortiz. It's a dangerous game.

Dombrowski has said that their analytics truly point to this collection of players taking enough of an upturn to be good enough. OK. But where in the calculations does it account for having that middle of the order presence which makes every pitcher work three times as hard, while allowing everyone else in the lineup to breathe a little easier? The Yankees have three of those guys. Right now, based on 2017 -- which, sorry, is still what we have to go by -- the Red Sox don't have any.

The Red Sox can certainly win a signficant number of games with this roster. Still, we have to understand that, as Dombrowski said, this is uncharted territory. That's even more reason why we should look out for potential landmines.

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