I’ve noticed the Red Sox’ beards for a while now. Haven’t said much about them because I was waiting to see if there was some higher purpose to them beyond team bonding and image-crafting. Maybe some charitable thing? Maybe solidarity with a friend or fan suffering from some illness? I don’t know. Stuff happens and you don’t want to mock things if there is a deeper story behind it.
Nope. No deeper story. John Tomase of the Boston Herald talked about the beards yesterday, and it’s just about team bonding and image crafting. Jonny Gomes says it like this: “We have the beards. It’s not surprising at all that winning teams have some kind of quirky chemistry.” Then Tomase takes it here:
In the wake of 2012’s natural disaster, the Red Sox replaced half their roster. They jettisoned the dour, know-it-all Adrian Gonzalez and the overwhelmed Carl Crawford and imported half a dozen veterans who knew how to win, and who not only weren’t afraid of the pressure of playing in Boston, but wanted to be there.
Who, yes, has been a nice addition. And it’s certainly the case that the Red Sox have been a fantastic team this year thanks in part to all sorts of good moves and good fortune in the form of players getting healthy. Where would this team be without Clay Buchholz and John Lackey? Where would it be without a healthy Dustin Pedroia? How great a pickup has Shane Victorino been? There is all sorts of praise to be thrown around.
But I guess it’s not enough to praise the moves of the front office and the execution of the players and their new manager. We have to go through “get players who know how to win” stuff. But of course Tomase is right. Just look how bad off that Dodgers team is with Gonzalez and Crawford. They’ve infected the whole bunch!
Or maybe winning is about more than one, easily identifiable thing like beards and losing is about more than one easily identifiable thing like “dour, know-it-all” attitudes.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.