Who are the most important people in the Red Sox organization? It’s a simple question with plenty of different answers.
Organizations are judged by the standings, and the players are the ones who win and lose games. But executives who are skilled at obtaining players via trade, free agency, the draft, or internationally can impact a team for decades.
The manager and coaching staff are important, on some teams more than others. Then you have a large group of staff members who affect the team significantly in different ways, on and off the field.
Nobody is irreplaceable. But here’s a list of people the Red Sox are leaning on:
1. Chaim Bloom: Since being hired in late October as chief baseball officer, the 37-year-old Bloom has been presented with a series of challenges.
Alex Cora had to be let go as manager. Then Bloom met ownership’s goal to cut payroll by trading Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers. Chris Sale blew out his elbow a month later, and then a pandemic shut the game down. How’s that for five months on the job?
But this is a long-term game for Bloom. He was hired to make the Sox a more consistent, sustainable, and smarter team. That won’t happen overnight, but they’ve put a lot of trust in his ability.
2. John Henry and Tom Werner: The principal owner (who also owns the Globe) and team chairman were civic heroes 17 months ago when the Sox won a fourth championship under their watch. Now some consider them the Snidely Whiplash villains who let Betts get away.
Like it or not, resetting the luxury-tax penalties made sense. Every team, including the Yankees, has done it. The question now is, how will they utilize that new financial freedom to improve the roster?
3. Xander Bogaerts: From a clubhouse perspective, this is his team now. Bogaerts has a long-term contract, was one of the best players in the game last season, and is only 27.
4. Rafael Devers: He had a .916 OPS, 32 home runs, 129 runs, and 115 RBIs in his age-22 season. Mike Trout at that age: .939 OPS, 36 home runs, 115 runs, and 111 RBIs.
Trout stands alone as the best player of his era. But Devers has MVP potential.
5. Eduardo Rodriguez: For better or worse, he’s their best starting pitcher now. Rodriguez is 32-11 with a 3.81 ERA and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings the last two seasons. He’s legitimately good.
Cora, Price, and Rick Porcello helped push Rodriguez to this level. Now he has to take on that responsibility himself.
6. Sam Kennedy: This has been a rough stretch for the team president and CEO. Raising ticket prices in advance of cutting payroll was a tone-deaf move, and his explanation of the Betts trade came off poorly.
Kennedy is increasingly the public face of the Sox, with Henry and Werner now speaking to the media only on occasion. The Sox too often come across as insincere. Kennedy is the one who can fix that.
7. Alex Verdugo: It wasn’t his decision to be the best player coming back in the Betts deal. But it’s his obligation to make the deal look good. Some scouts think the 23-year-old can be an All-Star. Others think he’s an overrated prima donna. We’ll see.
8. Andrew Benintendi: He’s 25 and has a World Series ring and a two-year deal worth $10 million because he’s a pretty good hitter. That’s already a better career than anybody has a right to expect.
But Benintendi should be shooting for so much more. His future will rest on whether being pretty good is good enough.
9. Michael Gordon: The president of Fenway Sports Group still doesn’t have a biography in the media guide, and gone are the days when the ownership group was usually referred to as “John, Tom, and Mike.”
But Gordon, who is running Liverpool FC, has plenty of influence behind the scenes. If you had to guess who owns the team in 15 years, it would be him.
10. Triston Casas: This is probably too high for a 20-year-old who hasn’t tasted Double A yet. But Casas is a 6-foot-4-inch, 238-pound former first-round pick who has a refined approach at the plate.
The Sox need somebody they can dream on. It’s him.
11. Brian O’Halloran: I’m using the general manager to represent the baseball operations staff as a group. The Sox have talented people in place, many of whom have several rings on the mantel at home. Some will rise under Bloom, others will be replaced or seek better jobs elsewhere.
O’Halloran, who has been with the team since 2002, is a perfect partner for Bloom as he navigates Boston. Assistant GMs Raquel Ferreira, Eddie Romero, and Zack Scott are important, too. There’s also a lot of faith in scouting chiefs Mike Rikard and Gus Quattlebaum and player development boss Ben Crockett.
12. Christian Vazquez: It’s hard to find a good catcher. It’s even harder to find a good catcher who had a .798 OPS, as Vazquez did last season. Plus, he’s under team control through 2022.
13. Nate Eovaldi: The hard truth about Eovaldi is that he is 46-54 with a 4.30 ERA over eight seasons and hasn’t made more than 21 starts since 2015.
But he makes this list because he’s capable of pushing that all aside and being an ace. The Sox are his fifth team, and they’ve all thought the same thing.
14. Chris Sale: As he recovers from Tommy John surgery, Sale is signed through 2024 and is owed $115 million over the final four seasons. So he’s important even though he’s not getting back on the mound until sometime next season.
15. J.D. Martinez: He has been terrific for the Sox over the last two seasons, posting a .985 OPS along with 79 homers and 235 RBIs. But he’s also a 32-year-old designated hitter who can opt out of his deal after the season.
16. Bryan Mata: The 20-year-old righthander stormed through the lower levels of the minors last season, then had a 5.03 ERA in 11 starts for Portland. An optimist would say that the organization’s top pitching prospect should learn a lot from adversity. A pessimist would say the Red Sox haven’t developed a decent starter since Clay Buchholz.
17. Dave Beeston/Jonathan Gilula/Tim Zue: Beeston is the chief strategy officer, Gilula is the chief operating officer, and Zue is the chief financial officer. They have a lot of influence on the executive management team.
The Sox, by the way, have 37 people with “vice president” in their title.
18. Ron Roenicke: This probably seems low for the manager. But Roenicke is still the interim manager and at 63 is unlikely to be the long-term solution.
He’s the right man for this particular team at this particular time. But Bloom almost certainly has a younger, analytically inclined candidate in mind for the future.
19. Noah Song: The 22-year-old righthander had a 1.06 ERA in seven minor league starts after being drafted out of Annapolis last season, then was a shutdown reliever for Team USA in two Olympic qualifying tournaments.
Song is now serving his commitment to the Navy and waiting to learn whether he will be allowed to pursue his baseball career. If he gets cleared, Song would be a huge addition.
20. Jeter Downs: The Sox were pleased to get the talented infield prospect in the Betts deal. But he’s already been traded twice at age 21.
Red Sox starters get dialed back
When spring training came to a sudden stop March 12, Red Sox officials got together and decided the best plan for their starting pitchers would be to stay on turn and throw two innings every five days.
The hope was that would keep them sharp and allow for a quick progression to four of five innings once teams got back together.
But Eduardo Rodriguez, Nate Eovaldi, Martin Perez, Ryan Weber, and Brian Johnson have since been “ramped back” considerably, according to Chaim Bloom.
With baseball now unlikely to start before sometime in June at the earliest, staying on a five-day routine didn’t make sense. With players scattered around the country, having pitchers work off the mound for months at a time without supervision would be asking for trouble.
So it’s back to playing catch and staying loose.
“We just want to keep them in a place where they will be able to ramp up as safely as possible while making sure we’re not overtaxing them right now,” Bloom said.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ The Sox made a series of roster moves last month that didn’t seem to make sense. Five players on the 40-man roster were optioned to the minors, and only lefthander Jeffrey Springs went to Triple A Pawtucket.
Righthander Colten Brewer was sent to Double A Portland, while lefthander Matt Hall and righthander Chris Mazza were assigned to Single A Salem.
Here’s the deal: Minor league rosters were frozen at the time for inter-affiliate transfers, and the Sox had only one open roster spot at Pawtucket.
So three players were sent to lower levels. The rosters will be unfrozen once baseball starts up again, and the players will be assigned where they belong.
▪ Bloom on whether there will be a season: “We’re obviously hopeful. I don’t think anybody knows exactly what to expect. Obviously this is pretty unprecedented. But we really, really would love to play as many games as possible.”
▪ Because baseball writers are all looking to entertain their readers without games being played, Andy McCullough of The Athletic selected the best players to wear every jersey number.
The Red Sox were well represented.
Ted Williams, of course, was No 9. Cal Ripken edged Carl Yastrzemski for No. 8. Roger Clemens was the best No. 22, but not the best No. 21, as that went to Roberto Clemente.
Johnny Damon was the best No. 18 and Curt Schilling landed No. 38. Dennis Eckersley was the choice for No. 43. Mookie Betts was No. 50 ahead of Adam Wainwright. Jonathan Papelbon turns out to be the best No. 58.
Carlton Fisk, sadly, was the best No. 72, not No. 27.
The Sox also landed Nos. 76 (Jose Iglesias in 2011), 82 (Johnny Lazor, an outfielder in 1943), and 83 (Eric Gagne in 2007).
Kudos to Gattis for stepping up
With only a few exceptions, the Houston Astros have shown little remorse about cheating their way to a championship in 2017.
Josh Reddick recently responded to a Twitter troll with a photo of his championship ring. Then a few days later, as part of testimony in a lawsuit, team owner Jim Crane claimed he was completely exonerated by Major League Baseball.
Never mind that Crane hired win-at-all-costs Jeff Luhnow to run his team, then looked the other way.
So here’s to Evan Gattis, a member of the 2017 team, for taking a different path.
“What we did was wrong,” Gattis said on the “755 is Real” podcast hosted by longtime Braves beat writer Dave O’Brien and former reliever Eric O’Flaherty. “Don’t get it twisted; it was wrong for the nature of competition, not just baseball.
“We obviously cheated baseball and cheated fans. Fans felt duped. I feel bad for fans. I’m not asking for sympathy or anything like that. It was good for baseball to clean it up. I understand that it’s not [expletive] good enough to say that I’m sorry. I get it.”
Gattis, who retired after the 2018 season, said the Astros got so caught up in the paranoia about sign stealing that it felt like “warfare.”
Once they came up with their own system, the lure of knowing what pitch was coming was too much to resist.
“It’s not right," Gattis said. "It’s not playing the game right. Everybody on the team had their own opinion about it.”
Gattis had 34 extra-base hits and 55 RBIs in only 84 games for the Astros that season, then had an .858 OPS in 40 postseason plate appearances.
“You can’t feel that good about it,” he said.
Safe at home? Not so much. Rangers lefthander James Jones tore the patellar tendon in his right knee when he tripped over one of his son’s toys at their home in Arizona. Jones needed surgery and won’t be available until next season. The converted center fielder had a good chance to make the team … MLB names an American League and National League Player of the Week during the season. Here’s an idea: Until the season starts again, give those awards to a player who does something charitable. For instance, Shin-Soo Choo of the Rangers donated $200,000 to aid COVID-19 relief efforts in his native South Korea. And he made $1,000 payments to approximately 190 minor leaguers in the Texas organization to help them with living expenses. A day later, Bryce Harper donated $500,000 to three charities helping people dealing with the pandemic. That’s $890,000 in roughly 24 hours. If MLB recognized two players each week, it would encourage others to step up and add to that total. Good news like that would be welcome by everybody … College baseball coaches are going to face a roster crunch next season. The NCAA granted seniors the right to return for a fifth year of eligibility in 2021 because of the pandemic canceling most of this season. In addition, MLB cut the draft to five rounds and restricted bonus payments to undrafted free agents. That will keep many college players in school and send high school prospects who otherwise would have signed to college. The NCAA recognized that and will allow 35 players on rosters … No former Red Sox are celebrating a birthday on Sunday. So let’s use this space to pay tribute to one of his most underrated players in franchise history, Reggie Smith. Smith, who turned 75 on Thursday, hit .281 with a .826 OPS for the Sox from 1966-73. He finished second in the 1967 Rookie of the Year voting to Rod Carew and was a two-time All-Star for the Sox. Smith hit for power and average, stole bases, and was a well-above-average outfielder. His 34.2 WAR with the Sox is 15th in team history among position players, better than Manny Ramirez, Dom DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Johnny Pesky, and Fred Lynn. Smith and Ken Tatum were traded to the Cardinals after the ’73 season for Bernie Carbo and Rick Wise. Smith played 17 years in all and had an impressive .855 OPS. He also stayed involved in the game after retiring, coaching with the Dodgers and USA Baseball and now with youth players in the Los Angeles area.