WASHINGTON — Is it bad form to be worrying about the 2017 Red Sox before they’ve even played a game?
I write these words as someone who is all in on the ’17 Sox. I love that young outfield. Love the starting pitching. Love what Dustin Pedroia brings cheap baseball jerseys to the table. Love that Pablo Sandoval has dropped those unwanted pounds and seems serious about rejuvenating his career.
For these and other reasons, I’m already on record as predicting the Boston Red Sox are going to take out the Cubs in the mother of all World Series showdowns.
So why am I so worried when there’s nothing to be worried about?
Because there have been some troubling hiccups this past week, that’s why.
Let’s begin with this cheap Tyler Thornburg jersey issue. The new Sox reliever has a shoulder impingement that’s going to land him on the disabled list to open the season, and it may have something to do with the program he was put on after being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers.
I’m not here to discuss the nature of the shoulder program, or to throw stones at the Red Sox’ training staff. But what troubles me is that it was Thornburg who talked about the shoulder program, which is why Sox beat writers quizzed manager John Farrell and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski jersey about it.
Farrell originally brought up the program. Then writers asked Thornburg about it and he openly discussed it. That was March 10.
Memo to Farrell and Dombrowski: Don’t whine at the beat writers for asking you questions about statements made by your own players. They are not attacking your training staff. They’re asking follow-up questions.
My own attempt to get Dombrowski to comment on the team’s ham-handed handling of the Thornburg case was met with a message from the team’s PR staff that Dombrowski is “done talking about the shoulder program.”
It was communications I wanted to talk about. But since Dombrowski didn’t want to talk, we’re left to wonder why the Sox are suddenly being so . . . sensitive. This is mindful of the dark days when the John Harrington crowd was running the Red Sox and Dan Duquette was in charge of baseball ops and everyone right down to the ushers was moody and defensive. If the Sox want to go back to pulling that crap, good luck with that.
And speaking of sensitive, wholesale team jerseys and let’s get to my second concern about the ’17 Red Sox: Is Hanley Ramirez ever going to play first base again?
Talking with reporters about the shoulder injury that has prevented Ramirez from playing a single inning at first base this spring, Farrell ladled out the good news that Hanley was throwing from 100 feet the other day down in sunny Fort Myers. The manager then repeated that he expects Ramirez to log some time at first base when the Sox travel to Detroit following the season-opening three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Fenway Park.
When I asked Farrell to expand on that answer, he said, “We would expect him to be ready and we anticipate and are hopeful that by the Detroit series he’s capable of doing that.”
Am I the only one who thinks Hanley Ramirez is looking forward to being a full-time designated hitter and doesn’t really want to play first base anymore?
Let’s remember that it took a full-throttled organizational effort to get Ramirez with the program last year. Ramirez was OK at the position — OK, not great — and had a monster offensive season. The Sox now have Mitch Moreland to play first base, but the expectation is that Ramirez will play the position when the Sox are facing a left-hander.
If the Sox can’t get Ramirez to log occasional time at first base, that’s a problem. If he does play the position but with none of the commitment he showed last year, that’s an even bigger problem. It would mean that Hanley’s plan is not in sync with the organizational plan.
Lastly, there’s the David Price situation. No blame is being assessed here. If he’s hurt, he’s hurt. But if he’s out for an extended period of time — even if it’s only late May — that means the starting rotation isn’t as deep as we thought.
The 2017 Red Sox are still stacked.
Yet the hiccups are stacking up. Keep an eye on them. And hold the Red Sox accountable . . . even if it makes them uncomfortable.