Gerrit Cole

Why you should have cared about Thursday's Red Sox game: Better draft pick, season's most bizarre play

Rob Bradford
September 18, 2014 - 6:01 pm

PITTSBURGH -- Want to look at the Red Sox' three-game sweep at PNC Park with a glass-half-full mentality? Here you go: The Red Sox might be moving down in the standings, but up in the draft order. With their 3-2 loss to the Pirates Thursday night, the Sox are now the fifth-worst team in baseball. That would mean -- because of the Astros' compensatory pick due to not signing Brady Aiken -- John Farrell's club would be drafting No. 6 overall. That, in case you forgot, is one spot higher than the disastrous 2012 season yielded. (The Red Sox tabbed high school left-hander Trey Ball with that selection. Ball went 5-10 with a 4.68 ERA in 22 starts in Single-A Greenville this season.) The Red Sox (66-89) will still have a chance to move up in the order with nine games to play, sitting one-half game in front of Minnesota. There is also the scenario where teams could leapfrog them with supbar final weeks, with the Astros (67-85), Cubs (68-94) and White Sox (69-83) all within striking distance. How important is getting a pick a few spots closer to the top of the heap? The Pirates' starter Thursday night should have offered that reminder. Gerrit Cole -- who finished his seven-inning stint allowing two runs while striking out seven and not walking a batter -- was the first overall pick taken in the 2011 draft. The No. 6 pick that year? That would be Anthony Rendon, who went to the Nationals. Rendon has been arguably the Nats' best position player en route to their NL East crown this year.

"The system is set up that it'€™s an enormous advantage to finish last," Rangers GM Jon Daniels observed on WEEI's Hot Stove Show this summer. "We have an incentive to lose on some level and nobody wants to acknowledge that and nobody builds their team thinking to lose. In the NBA, you finish with the worst record, you'€™ll still have to go through the lottery. You'€™re not guaranteed to pick first. In baseball, not only do you get to pick first, but then you get a bigger draft budget for your pool so you actually get the access to the top player, but you also get the advantage of moving money around and more money to spend throughout the draft."

OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT THURSDAY'S GAME: -- The Red Sox' inability to drive in key runs surfaced once again, this time in the ninth inning of a one-run game. With pinch-runner Jemile Weeks at third base and Daniel Nava at first, Will Middlebrooks came to the plate with nobody out. Middlebrooks hit a slow roller down the third base line that bounced right into Weeks as he dove back into third base. The ruling was that Weeks was out, leaving runners on first and second. It was a play neither Farrell (who came out to argue, but was told it wasn't reviewable) nor third base coach Brian Butterfield could recall seeing. "I've never seen that in my life. Never seen that play," the manager said. "Fitting." "That'€™s the first time I'€™ve ever seen that, that'€™s for sure," said Butterfield, who reiterated it didn't matter if Weeks was on the bag when he was struck with the ball. "We'€™re in a situation where anything firm, going on the ground, take us out of a double play, that'€™s the verbiage. Anything soft, and Middlebrooks runs pretty good, that'€™s a really challenging play for the third baseman. Jemile made the right move '€¦ He made the right move. But that was the first time in my life I'€™ve ever seen that happen. Sometimes when it rains it pours." Added Weeks, "I didn'€™t anticipate it going foul. I anticipated it pretty much going either way. It was coming pretty much right in front of me at first so I'€™m guessing the way he hit it, it kind of spun and came at me a little bit. So my natural instinct was to do what I was told, get back on a slow chopper. I tried to get back as fast as I could and I didn'€™t think it was going to come right on top of me like that." Jackie Bradley followed by fanning on a called third strike, with Christian Vazquez punctuating the squander by grounding out to second base. Despite the failure in that situation, Middlebrooks and Vazquez joined Nava in collecting two hits in the game.