The 2016 season has proven to be the season of competition for the Boston Red Sox. Manager John Farrell has set a new tone for his team, deciding that playing time will not be decided by paycheck, but by power. This decision is clearly evidenced by the benching of Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo.
Pablo Sandoval has sure hit the headlines this Spring Training. After the worst season of his career, Pablo sauntered into JetBlue Park with his eyes set on third base. However after a slight back injury and only 10 hits in 45 at-bats, Farrell had other plans.
Thursday, Manager John Farrell announced that Travis Shaw would be the starting third basemen for the Boston Red Sox. Shaw’s sharp defense and .333 batting average out-shined Sandoval’s $17.6 million dollar paycheck. Farrell noted:
My focus is on the guys that are in uniform, not what’s attached to them or what their contract states. We’re all about evaluating, and what’s best for our team.
So, what will Panda do next? Whatever he possibly can to fight for third base. After chatter about Panda’s inevitable disappointment, he responded by admitting his defeat and promising his rebound. Panda confessed:
It was a competition and I tip my cap to Travis. He won it. All I can do now is try as hard as I can and get better. That’s all I can do.
This is indeed the season of competition. But thirdbase is not the only contest. With Hanley Ramirez’s disappointing season in the outfield in 2015, and transition to first base for 2016, left field has been left wide open.
The Sox had their hopes that Rusney Castillo would step up, but after a tough transition from Cuba to the United States, John Farrell felt otherwise. Castillo’s impressive career in Cuba earned him a $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox in 2014. But a disappointing Spring Training (with an average of.204) opened the position.
Farrell decided to award left field to 2015 All-Star, Brock Holt. Holt has been a key utility player for the Sox and has earned left field. Farrell commented on Holt:
His importance on our team continues to grow with each passing month just because of the versatility. Setting that aside, he’s a good player. There’s the utmost confidence to put him at any one of seven positions on the field and that’s’ a rarity. Not to mention that his at-bats are consistent. He’s maybe one, if not one of our best, our top two or three baserunners on our club. He’s grown in his own confidence and he’s done one hell of a job.
John Farrell is clearly putting together a competitive team, regardless of salary. Sandoval and Castillo starting on the bench mean a combined $28.1 million riding the pine. So how does that make the players in the clubhouse feel? Will this competition for positions prove to be destructive in the clubhouse or constructive on the field? Only time will tell.
Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, is taking Farrell’s side. When asked about Farrell’s lineup decision, Dombrowski reassured:
I think it’s important for the players in the clubhouse to know that’s the manager’s job and responsibility. If he thinks that gives us the best chance to win, then he has my support.
This Red Sox 2016 season will prove to be an intersting one! Perhaps a little healthy competiton is just what these Sox need!