BOSTON (CBS) — Spring training is in full swing down in Fort Myers for the Boston Red Sox, and with that comes the optimism that accompanies every team around this time of year.
Unless, of course, you’re Tony Massarotti.
The 98.5 The Sports Hub host joined Steve Burton and Dan Roche on Sports Final on the eve of the first full-squad workout, and he was asked if president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski did enough in the offseason for the Red Sox.
Mazz’s answer was pretty straightforward.
“No. No. He whiffed,” Massarotti said. “[Giancarlo] Stanton was out there, he missed the boat, he whiffed on it.”
Massarotti said that missing out on Stanton doesn’t necessarily doom the Red Sox in 2018, but the reported “tepid” interest in a game-changer like Stanton didn’t help the team. The Yankees swooped in and acquired Stanton in exchange for Starlin Castro and a pair of young prospects.
“I’m just telling you in terms of adding power, they whiffed. They missed the boat. Stanton was the guy they should have gone after, and they missed it. J.D. Martinez is no Giancarlo Stanton.”
Of course, the Red Sox did win their division last year, and with David Price returning healthy, they’re still very much in position to fight with the Yankees for that crown in 2018. But what stood out last year was a lack of leadership in the first Red Sox season since 2002 without David Ortiz on the roster. Are the members of the young core of this team now ready to assume more leadership responsibilities?
“With [Dustin] Pedroia being out [as he rehabs from knee surgery] at the beginning of the year, I actually think there’s an opening there,” Mazz said. “I think there’s an opportunity now because there’s a void.”
Both Roche and Massarotti agreed that Mookie Betts, entering his fifth MLB season at age 25, is in the best position to really become the team leader. But Roche said it’ll likely take more than just one guy.
“I think Betts, [Xander] Bogaerts, [Jackie] Bradley Jr., Pedroia, those guys should be your leaders,” Roche said. “But not just one guy, as we heard Pedroia say. You can’t replace David Ortiz, but it’s time for those young players to step up here and take it to that next level if they’re going to have success in the playoffs here in Boston.”
Mazz said it’s all about Betts.
“To me, Betts is the guy. It’s gotta be him,” Massarotti said. “He’s the best combination of personality and talent. Bradley’s got some of it in him too, in terms of leadership skills, but I just don’t know if he’s a good enough player. How do you get on someone’s tail when you’re hitting .235? I just don’t think it works. … Betts to me, Betts has got the personality, Betts has got the ability.”
For Roche, it’s not just about the leadership on the roster. The impact of new manager Alex Cora could be the single most important aspect of the 2018 season and beyond.
“The future of the Red Sox and this season rides on one guy this year. It’s not [David] Price. It’s Alex Cora,” Roche said. “He’s brought in to get the young guys to develop, grow, relax, do what they need to do, hit the opposite field, become the players they are, and create a culture around that team where it’s fun to come to the park every day, it’s fun to play baseball, it’s fun to be on a team, and fun to win. If he doesn’t, free agents next year — [Bryce] Harper and all of those big guys — won’t want to play here. If he does, there’s a chance they could lure one of those free agents.”