Spring Training is all about narratives. It’s also about getting a team of 40-something players ready for a grueling schedule that involves traveling thousands of miles and playing hundreds of baseball games during the hottest season of the year, but it’s mostly about narratives. Some have merit, some are more interesting than realistic, and others exist only in the mind of Dan Shaughnessy. The narratives floating around Red Sox camp this year run the gamut of stupidity, and what type of blogger would I be if I didn’t rank things. Let’s dive in.
LEAST STUPID/ONES I’M ACTUALLY KINDA INTO
Blake Swihart is going to make the 25-man roster.
Admittedly, it hasn’t gotten to this quite yet. BUT IT SHOULD. Swihart is doing really well in early March, which is absolutely always an indicate of how well he’ll perform over the next eight months. Still – it’s fun to see Swihart put together a run of good baseball, no matter what the calendar says. As it stands, there’s not a whole lot of power coming off the Red Sox bench (unless you think Hanley Ramirez is coming off the bench, which I think would be news to him). I think there’s a real case to be made for Swihart getting turned into a version of Brock Holt with power, and I’d be supremely here for it. He’s out of options, so something’s gotta give. I’d never put it above Dave Dombrowski to trade prospects, but Swihart playing a notable role for this team this year would be a delight.
The clubhouse is more relaxed.
This is by no means an indictment of John Farrell. Farrell managed the team to a World Series title; he had his limitations, but teams can do much worse than John Farrell. But from a personality fit, Farrell was always better suited for 2013’s roster. As the Jon Lesters and the Jake Peavys and Shane Victorinos gave way to the Mookies, Xanders, and Andrew Benintendis, it became increasingly clear that it was no longer a great fit. Say what you want about his in-game decisions, but Farrell’s disconnect with the increasingly-young core lost him the job. Judging from the half-dozen reports about clubhouse culture this spring, players seem happier. Alex Cora brings in a reputation as a players’ manager, and it genuinely seems like people are enjoying themselves more. Maybe all these happy feelings go away when Spring Training gets old in like three days, but happy teams are fun teams.
PRETTY STUPID/ONES I GUESS I GET BUT EH, I DON’T KNOW
David Price is corrupting the younger players.
I want to state on the record that I think this falls much farther under the first half of this category than the second. Price and his beef with the local media is well-documented, and both sides deserve their share of blame. Since I am not in the clubhouse after every game and do not live in Boston and do not actually cover the Red Sox, I obviously also don’t know what goes on in there. But Price is, by all accounts, a fantastic leader. Every team he’s been on has gone above and beyond to make that known. The Red Sox have always had a leader, the beat just didn’t like him. It goes without saying that it’s not appropriate to ambush a reporter or team employee on a plane, but do we really think Price is telling the other players to do that? Is Price really letting Rafael Devers know that the best way to deal with the local media is to stage elaborate, season-long beefs with people who write about you every single day? Price is an immensely talented pitcher and noted leader, so he can tell the younger players whatever they want for all I care.
The clock’s ticking for Xander Bogaerts.
I get it, I really do. I wanted Bogaerts to hit 30 home runs too. Nothing makes you delirious like a power-hitting shortstop prospect. Fans have spent his entire career getting angry that his standup doubles weren’t home runs. He was hurt for most of last season and “only” hit .273/.343/.403. You don’t have to look too far up the lineup to see an example of someone else whose power developed later in their careers, so it’s worth holding out hope. But in the meantime, let’s not sit around getting angry that Bogaerts is only pretty good.
EXTREMELY STUPID/SO STUPID THEY DON’T WARRANT A 2ND TITLE
The Red Sox are boring this year.
Chris Sale, David Price, Mookie Betts, Craig Kimbrel, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers all play for the Red Sox. Andrew Benintendi does too. Their lineup is just one of the best power hitters in baseball surrounded by a bunch of young players who were top prospects. Their rotation has two Cy Young winners and Chris Sale. One of the three best closers in baseball pitches for them and his
silly posture theatrics are generally fun. They’re going to play in 300 nationally televised, heavily-produced games against the ’27 Yankees incarnate this year. If these Red Sox are boring, I suggest inserting adrenaline directly into your heart.
Photo by Kim Klement — USA TODAY Sports