Five Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future of the Red Sox

Ben takes a look at why it's a great time to be a Red Sox fan as he says his goodbyes.

I’ve spent a lot of time in recent weeks tearing down some Red Sox prospects and starters in order to try and give some perspective on deep and comparatively weak areas within Boston’s organization. I know I’ve put myself at risk at becoming somewhat of a Negative Nancy in the Fire Brand and Interwebs Red Sox community, but I think it’s important to put things in perspective when evaluating your favorite team. It makes the individual story lines more compelling, and it makes beating the odds even more exciting when grand slams sail over Torii Hunter, or when undrafted Independent League outfielders become staples of your team’s success.

With that in mind, I’m throwing caution to the wind this week and taking a look at five reasons it’s an incredible time to be a Red Sox fan right now. Thanks for letting me indulge as I look for a mid-January pick-me-up with baseball still a long ways away.

The future is bright. Photo by Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.net.

The future is bright. Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.net.

1) The Farm System

This is a pretty obvious one, but the Red Sox have a loaded farm system right now, and for someone who follows MiLB religiously it’s quite a treat. We’re about to see a real transition towards a younger, more flexible Red Sox team in 2014 with Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley poised to start every day, Christian Vazquez and Garin Cecchini banging on the door and Henry Owens and Blake Swihart waiting in the wings. Couple those players with a trio of talented right-handers in Matt Barnes, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo, plus the criminally underrated Brandon Workman, and it’s hard not to get giddy over this team’s immediate and long-term future.

Make no mistake – some of these prospects will fail, leaving a taste of bitter disappointment behind. But there is strength in numbers here, and many of these names, along with talented young players like Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront and Rubby De La Rosa – are going to make an impact.

2) They Just Won, Duh

Listing this behind the farm system should tell you all you need to know about how stacked the Red Sox are with prospects right now. But while it’s important to keep an eye towards the future, being referred to as “the reigning champs” from now until next October is pretty sweet, and this is a team with a legitimate chance of getting back to the playoffs. It’s amazing how quickly the fortunes of an MLB franchise can change, and that’s a point that should be reinforced given that a year ago today, we were all still cursing Bobby Valentine and wondering if the Red Sox could feasibly compete with the Blue Jays.

Boston sports fans are obviously spoiled, but 2011 and 2012 were rough for Red Sox fans, despite what little sympathy we’re likely to garner from the outside world. That the Sox are now in an enviable position in terms of current talent, financial flexibility, recent hardware and talent on the farm is remarkable, and we should enjoy it while it lasts.

3) Ownership/Front Office

The front office blew it by signing Bobby Valentine. Ben Cherington shouldn’t have traded two starting position players for Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon. The track record here isn’t perfect, but when you consider the financial dedication of the Red Sox current ownership and the disciplined approach of our new GM, Sox fans have it pretty good when it comes to leadership. Cherington played it safe with contracts and yet still got plenty of upside in 2013 in the forms of Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, and added incredible depth to the team with the likes of Stephen Drew and Ryan Dempster. Improving current iterations of a baseball team without mortgaging the future is the most difficult task any GM faces, and so far Cherington has passed that test with flying colors.

In many ways, the Punto trade perfectly exemplifies why Red Sox fans should be so happy both with ownership and the front office. John Henry and co. were willing to spend huge on the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, and then Cherington was savvy (and fortunate) enough to find a way to dump those contracts and start over. They will make plenty more mistakes along the way, but moves like signing Pedroia to an extension, getting Napoli to come back on a team-friendly deal and avoiding past mistakes by letting Jacoby Ellsbury walk – no matter how painful that decision was – all point to good things in the future.

4) The Current Legends

I spend so much time praising the next wave of talented Red Sox players that it can be easy for me to lose sight of some all-time Red Sox greats I get to watch on a daily basis right now. Pedroia is destined for the Red Sox Hall of Fame and could have a shot at Cooperstown if he can stay healthy for another five-six years. His defense is absurd, and I look forward to seeing if some of his power returns in 2014. Ortiz is the best DH in history, and if the ridiculous bias against designated hitters has dissipated by the time he’s eligible for the Hall, he has a shot at inclusion, too.

Lester falls short by those insane benchmarks, but he’s the best lefty in Red Sox history as well as a homegrown player with a terrific story, and Clay Buchholz is special when he’s healthy. Other players like Daniel Nava, Mike Napoli, John Lackey and, of course, Koji Uehara provide us with great story lines and even better talent. Ellsbury will be missed, but with plenty of talent coming up behind him and plenty of stars on the roster now, it’s not difficult to find a Red Sox player you want to hitch your cart to.

5) Xander Bogaerts

I think we all knew this was coming, but after a year of trying to provide a reasonable, balanced look at Xander, let me go out by saying this. Players like Xander don’t come along very often. The last time the Red Sox had a prospect of this caliber, we traded him for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell – a fair deal, but one that robbed us of watching an insanely talented Hanley Ramirez in his youth.

That’s not going to happen with Xander. Now, we get to watch one of the game’s next potential superstars grow, struggle and flourish under our very own eyes. We so often err on the side of protecting ourselves against the failure of prospects, and that’s a good idea, but if there was ever a time to let go, it’s now. Dream as big as you dare to dream on Xander, because the kid is special and he’s going to make an impact now. We could be dealing with a generational talent, the next in a long line of Boston legends, and I’m going to savor every minute of it.

And with that, I’d like to take a moment to let FBAL readers know that I’m moving on from Fire Brand after an awesome year of analysis, arguments and laughs. Thank you for making me a better writer, thinker and fan, and thank you for providing me a home in which to share my deepest (and dumbest) Red Sox thoughts. I’ll still be writing about plenty of baseball on the interwebs, mostly at Baseball Prospectus, and I’m obnoxiously active on Twitter so I’m easy to find. You can expect me to keep contributing to the Troll Bag, so stay in touch and I wish you all the best. Go Sox.

Categories: 2014 Red Sox offseason Ben Cherington David Ortiz Dustin Pedroia Jon Lester Xander Bogaerts

Ben is a graduate of Boston University with a degree in journalism and a love of all things Red Sox and minor league baseball. He has experience writing for Baseball Prospectus, NESN, RotoExperts, BU Today and other sites, and typically serves as an in-house MiLB writer. An editor for a business website by day, Ben likes to grill, sample IPAs and re-read Faulkner novels by night. He is an unabashed J.D. Drew apologist with a deep-seated fear of middle relievers. Follow Ben on Twitter here.

9 Responses to “Five Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future of the Red Sox” Subscribe

  1. Ryan January 13, 2014 at 3:23 PM #

    I think I speak for everyone when I say: No Sh*t

  2. GoBoSo January 13, 2014 at 4:02 PM #

    Impossible not to be enthusiastic about the Sox future. 

    They’re loaded with talent and have money to burn.   

    But like Ellsbury, Bogaerts and Bradley are Boras clients, and that makes the Sox something of a Yankee AAAA farm team, which is a punch in the gut. 

    As A Sox fan, I never watched Ellsbury play with any great enthusiasm.  I always felt I was watching a player who was primarily focused on preparing for his big payday. and that payday would be elsewhere.  And when Ellsbury finally followed money-monger Boras to free agency, the hated Yankees won the prize, 

    Personally, I am very happy to finally be rid of the Ellsbury show, although I hated to see him sign with the Yankees, and would rather have had the Sox man-up financially.  Which isn’t an entirely emotional sentiment — the 2014 Sox would be much better with Ellsbury leading off. 

    In realty, Boston so often lets itself appear to be the Yankees’ AAAA franchise. 

    The difference between the rich NY owners and the rich Boston owners is the NY owners don’t let their stars end up working for the enemy. 

    So what the Sox ownership group has to finally figure out is:  Winning isn’t only about winning the WS.  That’s just part of it.  Winning is also about not losing a great player like Ellsbury to the Yankees. 

    I’m in the minority, I know, but I’d rather have had the Sox lose to the Cardinals in the 2013 WS and sign Ellsbury.  Because as things turned out, WE still lost to the Yankees. 

    Second rate is giving your players a WS team to play on, and still players leave to play for your most hated rival.  

    So, how are the Sox going to avoid losing Bradley and Bogaerts to the Yankees five or six years down the road.

    And YES  it matters.

    Ultimately, winning should not turn into losing. 

    The Sox win it all and they still appear second rate.

  3. BenCarsley22 January 13, 2014 at 7:48 PM #

    GoBoSo I don’t know where you’ve been for the past year, but thank you for the best comment ever on my final post. I will always remember you.

  4. GoBoSo January 13, 2014 at 8:56 PM #

    BenCarsley22GoBoSo Glad you enjoyed it!  Writing about the Red Sox is kind of like being God and having to do everything I can every single day not to encase Yankee Stadium in a the world’s largest septic treatment facility.

  5. DaveP1960 January 14, 2014 at 12:49 AM #

    Hi Ben,

    So sad to hear you will be leaving…but, best to you and your future dreams!!  As for your final post…typically great!  Well thought out and delivered…but, I must address GoBoSo reply…Why would one feel the Sox are the AAAA system for the evil empire?  Did Papelbon go to the Yanks?  Sox let him walk because they have the best model in Baseball.  Stars are great as long as they still shine…but Ells will not shine 7 years from now!  Yes the Yanks spend really big, but is that the best model?  Who has the most Rings over the past 10 years?  I remember being so mad when the Yanks stole Teixeira from Boston…and how has that turned out for the Yanks? His OPS has gone down 5 straight years. ARods OPS has gone down 6 straight years. I like Derek, but he is falling apart…do we all get the picture? Spending foolishly on aging stars no longer pays off!  There are just too many young talents in the game today who have such enthusiasm and desire to enforce their growing talent.  Will Ells perform better than Jackie B this year and probably in 2015 as well?  Yes!  But I would take Jackie B for the next 5 years after that!  Sox realize you must scout…draft…develop…and then blend veterans with the enthusiasm of youth…and DO NOT overpay aging stars…:)

    Good Luck,

    DaveP

  6. Gerry January 14, 2014 at 3:48 AM #

    Thanks Ben. Job well done. You helped me clarify my thinking on a number of matters. You are on target with all five points, but you only hinted at a 6th: I can’t remember Sox pitching being so deep and strong, from Farrell and Nieves to Hinojosa and Ball. If pitching wins games, the Sox will win consistently, now and in the future. Thanks again.

  7. GoBoSo January 14, 2014 at 10:02 AM #

    DaveP1960 I looks like my post was pulled, so no sense getting into any kind of  interesting or entertaining or foolishly moronic rant…..  After all, John Henry owns the Globe, which partners with ESPN, so we have no reason to expect a truly free press that actually honors free speech…

  8. GoBoSo January 14, 2014 at 10:44 AM #

    DaveP1960

    Dave, I loaded Google Chrome and like
    magic, presto change-o, everything is here again.  So now we know that
    Microsoft must be on the outs with this here in crowd.  Either
    that or I’m too old and numb to figure out what I’m doing wrong in Windows
    10.

    Anyway, now that I have restored my credibility,
    I stand by my original stance.Whereas
    your perspective is 100% accurate and I completely agree with your every point,
    that still doesn’t make winning it all good enough in my book.

    Were I God and were I to say to you, “Son,
    I’ve got a question for you.”

    Whereupon you would fall down upon your
    knees and quake with fear and grope for words and finally say, “Hi, God,
    whatever…”

    “I can grant you one of two wishes.”

    “Way cool!!!” you blurt out, in a way high
    voice.“I wish to be Dustin Pedroia!!”
    you gush.

    “No, Dave, no.I will grant you one of two wishes.I will tell you what the choices are, and you
    pick.”

    Tears.

    “I’m sorry, Dave, I know you always wanted
    to be Dustin.But that’s now what this
    is about, so settle down a little and listen.Ok”

    “Ok…”Sniffles.

    “First, you can choose the Red Sox to win one-third
    of all World Series for the next 100 years while the Yankees win the other one-quarter.Or second, you can choose the Red Sox to win one
    world Series every ten years for the next 100 years while the Yankees finish
    last in the AL East every year.”

    “Oh, there’s not really anything real in
    it for me then?”

    “Right, Dave.”

    “That’s not fair.”

    “I am God, it doesn’t have to be fair.”

    ..

    “So pick already…”

    “What did GoBoSo pick?”
    “Door
    number two, of

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