Brock Holt earned an "A" for "All-Star" during the season's first half. (Photo courtesy USA Today Sports)
Ben Whitehead Contributing writer
Each year, the Midsummer Classic brings the baseball season to a halt as the league's brightest stars shine on one stage.
Unlike the past when the American League roster was littered with Red Sox, the lone selection in 2015 was Brock Holt. That might be all you need to know about this year's Old Towne Team, but we're here to analyze a little deeper. Without further ado, here are the grades for the Red Sox at the 2015 All-Star Break.
All things considered, this team has stunk it up on this side of the ball. The talent and potential is there. Remember, this team was being talked about as having one of the best lineups top-to-bottom in MLB during Spring Training. But a .257 team average (surprisingly 4th best in the AL) and 376 runs scored later, and Red Sox Nation has been left hanging, waiting for this squad to explode. Hanley Ramirez bombed his way through April, but bombed out the month of May. He currently has 19 home runs to pace the Sox, followed by three others with double-digits - David Ortiz (15), Mookie Betts (10) and Mike Napoli (10). Perhaps the scary thing is that Betts is tied with Napoli in that category - both scary good for Betts and scary bad for Napoli. Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts are each batting just over .300, but the heart of the order (Ortiz, Ramirez, Napoli and Pablo Sandoval) are all under .275, with Ortiz at .231 and Napoli an appalling .193.
Bottom line: We've seen glimpses of hope. Consistency will be the key for the remaining two-and-a-half months. If 1-9 can put it together and get on a roll, watch out.
This grade should probably be higher because we all knew what to expect, we are getting what we expected, and yet, we somehow are expecting more. Huh? Fact: Clay Buchholz was a No. 3 at best behind Jon Lester and John Lackey, and behind Lester and Josh Beckett before that. Now, he's upgraded to ace status by default. Rick Porcello, the biggest pitching acquisition of the offseason has under-performed (5-9, 5.90 ERA). Wade Miley leads the staff with 8 wins. The best pitcher this season has been a guy who started in Pawtucket in Eduardo Rodriguez. He's one of two starters with an ERA under 4.50 (the other being Buchholz). Justin Masterson was injured and sent down and Joe Kelly was just sent down. Everyone this side of the Boston Harbor knew this team needed to go get a true ace (ahem, Cole Hamels) to anchor the rotation. But we'll get to the Front Office grades a little later. Relief pitching hasn't been a strength, nor has it been a weakness. Koji Uehara seems to have found himself again and that will help the bullpen settle in.
Bottom line: As with the theme on offense, consistency from starting pitching can put this team over the top. One good start followed by one bad start won't get it done.
If not for a few mishaps in left from Ramirez, this is probably an A. We've seen some absolute web gems from Betts in center and solid play around the diamond has kept this team from completely falling off the face of the earth.
Bottom line: We're gonna leave this alone for now, as the defense has hardly been the reason the Red Sox are in last place in the division.
Yes, I, for Incomplete. We're not giving up on John Farrell. And let's be honest, how much can we blame on him for the players not producing? We have a hard time faulting a manager for putting the best lineup out there and getting little results nightly. As quick as everyone was to anoint Farrell as the savior in 2013, many folks are now turning their backs to him just a season-and-a-half later. He didn't get dumb overnight. He let go of a pitching coach early in the season and made a seemingly good hire; at the least, the pitching staff has started to string some good outings together. Hitting-wise, something needs to click. No offense to All-Star Holt, but when he's got the third best average on a team with Ramirez, Ortiz, Napoli and Sandoval, that's not a good sign.
Bottom line: If Farrell and Co. somehow manage this team to a winning record, even without making the playoffs, we'll give him a passing grade. If the team collapses down the stretch (barring the team being blown up at the trade deadline), two straight way sub-par years starts to fall on his shoulders.
Front Office: F
Alright, Ben. No, I'm not talking to myself in the third-person. I'm calling out Ben Cherington. Well, not so much calling him out as simply begging for him to do something to give this team a boost. It just feels like the right move is going to send this team soaring. A piece is missing. What it is, well, we've already hinted at one huge void *coughStartingPitchingcough*. There's a reason we're behind a computer screen and he's sitting in the front office of a Major League Baseball club, but aside from catching lightning in a bottle in 2013 with a roster of misfit players, Cherington has yet to make the splash. We thought it was getting Ramirez and Sandoval in the offseason. Had he coupled those signings with an ace, the feeling here is this team would be at the top of the standings, not the bottom.
Bottom line: It's a long season, but it's quickly shortening and the trade deadline is just weeks away. At just 6.5 games back and starting to put it together, will Cherington buy or sell? It's only the mid-term, so the chance to earn an A is still on the horizon. As we all know, though, it's slowly fading away.