Playing nine innings while wondering if Chris Sale is longing for the career stability of a crash-test dummy …
1. If something can be both unbelievable and fitting at the same time, then the news Tuesday that Sale would miss the remainder of the season after breaking his right wrist in a bicycle accident certainly qualifies.
Sale’s season, most likely, was already over after an Aaron Hicks line drive busted his left pinkie July 17, while the lefty was working his sixth inning of the season. The bike crash removes all suspense, and you feel bad for the guy as much as you can feel bad for someone who by season’s end will have earned $90 million to pitch 48⅓ innings over the past three years.
Jed Lowrie, J.D. Drew, and Jacoby Ellsbury could get into a three-way collision and they wouldn’t suffer as many injuries collectively as Sale has had since 2019.
2. There’s a temptation to declare the five-year, $145 million extension that Sale signed in March 2019 to be (cue ominous music) The Worst Contract In Franchise History. I can’t go that far, not yet. Not when this franchise paid Rusney Castillo $72.5 million, only to watch him summer in Pawtucket for five years. Or when it gave Pablo Sandoval $90 million to hit .237 with 14 homers in 161 games over three seasons. Or when it gave Carl Crawford $127 million to regress before its eyes.
Hey, Sale is still salvageable. He has two years left on the deal, and he looked pretty good in his 5⅔ innings this season. If he can avoid getting run over by a steamroller, maimed by a leopard, or assorted other bizarre injuries that could only happen to him, he can still be a very good pitcher.
3. Can’t say I understand what Chaim Bloom was trying to do at the trading deadline. In totality, with all emotion taken out of it, I suppose it worked out OK.
Christian Vázquez was one of the few Red Sox playing up to his abilities, but as well-liked and professional as he was, those abilities were probably a little overrated. Eric Hosmer is a league-average first baseman, which means he looks like 1984 Don Mattingly compared with the clown parade the Red Sox had at the position before he was gifted here by the Padres. Tommy Pham is the kind of adequate righthanded-hitting outfielder they should have acquired three months ago. Reese McGuire has been decent as Vázquez’s de facto replacement.
In sum: Bloom traded a respected player, made the roster incrementally better, and inspired no one.
4. Bloom is always going to aim to improve the team on the margins, to upgrade in small ways even if it means a roster churn of faces unfamiliar to the fan base, and I get that. It’s worked for the Rays, and he will find a few John Schreibers here and there.
But improving on those margins isn’t going to fly in the clubhouse when you’re simultaneously sending off players who are, at least, perceived to be part of the core — as Vázquez was among his colleagues — without getting big league help in the trade.
If Bloom is going to continue to make moves like the Vázquez-for-prospects swap with Houston, or the offseason Hunter Renfroe-for–Jackie Bradley Jr. deal, which was driven by the two minor leaguers the Sox acquired, some of these kids need to start profiling as something more than utility players.
5. Anyway, the biggest frustration with Bloom should not be in regard to the deadline. It should be that he approached this season as though last year’s success was either a mirage or inconsequential to his big-picture plan. The Red Sox were two wins from the World Series last year, and the “Fire Bloom” cacophony should remember that.
We also probably don’t acknowledge enough how injuries have altered the roster.
But there is no excuse for leaving this team so short in right field, in the bullpen, and at first base for so long. The Red Sox were an excellent team last year. Perhaps that was a surprise. Perhaps it was an overachievement. But Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Nate Eovaldi, Rafael Devers, and so on deserved the chance to prove that they could be an excellent team again. The front office didn’t give it to them.
6. Jarren Duran doesn’t deserve the golden opportunity he is getting. He has tools, but we need to stop making excuses for his mistakes as though he’s some raw kid. He turns 26 next month. He’s older than Devers. He’s four months younger than Alex Verdugo. And he’s less than four years younger than Mookie Betts and Bogaerts.
I hope he proves me wrong on this, but his ceiling as a player appears to be Darren Bragg 2.0, if Bragg only selectively hustled.
7. Bradley should not have been a polarizing figure for Red Sox fans. Yes, he was crazy-streaky even when he was productive, such as when he hit 26 homers and drove in 87 runs in 2016. And he struck out too much.
But he was the best defensive center fielder the Red Sox have had in my lifetime, the MVP of the 2018 ALCS, he always played hard, and he was exceptional in the community. Pretty easy guy to root for, I’d say.
8. What is Bloom’s best trade so far in his tenure? Has to be getting Nick Pivetta — who has been slightly better than league average with the Red Sox — and fringe prospect Connor Seabold from the Phillies in August 2020 for the husks of Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman.
His worst trade? Well, you know. Trading Betts to the Dodgers for Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong was the equivalent of swapping a dollar for a quarter, a random loose button, and a bottle cap.
9. Fine, if you want me to say it, I’ll say it. I miss Dave Dombrowski. Your turn now.