Monday, June 27, 2016

It’s OK to Blame Injuries for a While

Saw someone on twitter today complaining about how bad the bench was at the moment. They couldn’t believe just how bad it was. I’ve seen similar comments lately as John Farrell has done his best sending pinch hitter after pinch hitter to the plate trying to score some runs. People just can’t believe how bad the bench is. 

Why not, exactly?

Let’s look at the Sox, from Spring Training to now. Their starting third baseman went down for the season with an injury in the first week or so. The back-up third baseman is currently hurt. The utility guy who was oddly starting in left is hurt. The fourth outfielder is hurt. The catcher you converted to help out in left field is hurt. So that’s, what, four roster spots that are injured and one of the replacements for the spot is also injured. Five positions that should have a better player in them that don’t. How much organizational depth do we expect the Sox to have in order to have a fourth option at third base that’s above average? Or a fourth outfielder? Or fifth? 

If the Sox are storing Mike Trout on the bench in Pawtucket just in case five people are hurt ahead of him, I’d have to seriously question their organizational judgment. Which is why you’re left with the Red Sox calling up Mike Miller to fill an emergency hole, like they did today.

So, I can’t get too tweaked out if the Sox suddenly find themselves with some holes for a little bit. As long as the holes aren’t so bad and so long that they destroy you, it’s worth it to hold the fort for a bit.

It’s the “little bit” part that gets tricky. The so-called “collapse” in 2011 was mostly because “a little bit” became “a really long time.” So Theo’s desire to keep all of his precious prospects and weather the storm hurt them. Too many important games in September were started by people who had no business being in the majors, let alone playing in games with playoff implications. The “coast and hope” plan coasted too far. By a game.

So, the injuries to players like Panda and Carson Smith need to be addressed somehow. In this way, I think the success in the early part of the year covered for them a little bit. It was easier to try and get by when Travis Shaw was playing out of his shoes. But, once he remembered he was Travis Shaw, and definitely when he was hurt, the need for a suitable replacement became clear.

What to do? The obvious answer is to go find someone. But, who are you going to find? Not a lot of people out there shopping all-star left fielders on the cheap at this point in time. Maybe you can try to pick up a mediocre player. But, is that a big improvement? Is that worth making a deal at all?

Which leaves the “go for it” option. You’ve got some really good prospects? What can you get for them? What’s the deal for another Carson Smith? What’s the deal for a star outfielder?

Because if you don’t do that, you’re left with waiting and hoping.

I know this post doesn’t have a lot of answers. I don’t have any. But, I can see why the Red Sox don’t have any either. Sometimes losing doesn’t mean somebody screwed up. Sometimes players can’t just play better to compensate for another player’s injury. Sometimes you have to take one on the chin for a bit until Holt is ready to play. Or Chris Young. 

Sometimes treading water is the best option. But we can’t be confused by a lack of depth. We can’t be dismayed by the lack of talent. We can’t scream that Dombrowski needed to get better players. He had them. They’re just on the DL. Sometimes that’s the only answer.

You just have to hope it doesn’t become 2011.

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