It’s safe to say at this point that the Red Sox newfound philosophy of “bringing up the kids” did not go as planned.
Red Sox rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. looked to be promising contributors going into the season. Bradley earned his starting job in spring training, while Bogaerts proved himself more than deserving of manning shortstop with his 2013 post-season campaign. Each were expected to carry their weight in what, on paper, figured to be one of the better lineups in the American League.
Starting the kids seemed like the right gamble to take this year, after the magical 2013 season. We all expected that there would be some small bumps in the road with the continual development of the youngsters. What we did not expect was a bump that was just about as big as the 2014 season itself.
With a good start to September, Bogaerts’ batting average is now up to .237 to go along with 37 RBIs. Perhaps the worst part has been the dismal .147 batting average with runners in scoring position, and an even uglier .115 batting average with RISP and two outs – a totally different player from last years postseason campaign to say the least. Bradley Jr., while playing an elite center field, owns a .213 batting average of his own, and at times has really struggled to produce at the dish before his demotion in August.
It’s hard to tell whether the blame is put more on the Red Sox organization or the players. Take Bradley Jr. for example. With the recent rumor that Bradley Jr. was deemed “uncoachable” by not being open to the idea of working with the hitting staff to change his swing, it’s unclear the truth behind the matter and who is at fault here. Maybe Bradley Jr. displayed some stubbornness, or maybe the hitting staff unnecessarily toyed around with his swing one too many times, which Bradley Jr. reportedly said a week before his demotion in August.
Similar situation with Bogaerts, and his early season struggles at shortstop. The Sox told the 21 year old to shift over to third base in favor of Stephen Drew. The move was not exactly a vote of confidence for the Rookie, as he hit .135 while playing third base upon Drew’s arrival at the beginning of June. Maybe the move was premature, or maybe he really didn’t have the mental toughness that was called into question.
My opinion is that it is fair to give much of the blame to the Red Sox front office- not so much for what went on during the season, but for the situation. And by that, I mean they were hurried up to the big leagues. They just weren’t ready yet, and it showed. Their weaknesses were exposed. The pressure got to them. They were immature, unprepared and underdeveloped. So much so, that their lack of experience played into how they handled each’s respective struggles. What’s most frustrating is that these guys have the potential to be great players, and we certainly have seen flashes of this season.
We can only hope that if the Red Sox continue to go the route of integrating the kids as part of this organization’s future, they’ll know when they’ll be ready to call them up and for how long. You can’t risk this again with the likes of Marrero, Cecchini, Owens or Barnes, who was called up on Monday. A team with the fourth highest salary can certainly buy both big league caliber player and the time to develop its farm system.