- Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO Perhaps the Red Sox are just as ..."/> - Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO Perhaps the Red Sox are just as ..."/>

Can The Red Sox Rebuild Daniel Bard

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“In hindsight, I slid into arrogance based upon past success.”
– Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO

Perhaps the Red Sox are just as guilty as Mr. Hastings above. Both made poor business decisions with a product that worked. It alienated customers, threatened the long term success of the business, and in both cases, created an inferior product.

Mr. Hastings broke Netflix.

The Red Sox broke Daniel Bard.

Now in fairness, Hastings made a decision that alienated users, but in reality, he was undercharging for a solid product and regardless of what the customer thought, there were no other good alternatives for said users to jump to. The Red Sox didn’t have that luxury. In Bard, they had a closer in waiting and with Jonathan Papelbon flying the coup as soon as the bell rang, the decision should have been simple. Bard becomes the closer, the role he had been groomed for, and the Red Sox dedicate the offseason to finding adequate help for the starting rotation.

But the problem with simple decisions is that simple men fumble them, and that is exactly what the Red Sox did.

Rather than take the obvious path, the Red Sox opted to spurn conventional wisdom and they tried to convert Daniel Bard into a starting pitcher. Now, Bard’s fastball and slider are devastating, but he has never been more than a two-pitch hurler and any scout with knowledge of the game will tell you that a guy with two pitches is not cut out for the rotation. It did not matter. They forced Bard to go back to the change-up, a pitch he could never throw effectively, and then began to stretch him out.

The decision to experiment with what should have been a sure thing changed the entire course of Boston’s winter. First they sent Jed Lowrie to Houston for Mark Melancon, a man that could have served as a possible closer but was better suited for a set-up role. Then they send Josh Reddick and prospect Miles Head to Oakland in exchange for Andrew Bailey, a talented closer with a history of injury problems (and history has repeated itself, but that is another post). New pieces in place, the Red Sox went out camp with the decision that Bard was in the starting five.

Despite a mediocre spring, where Bard managed to post a 6.47 ERA and a 18/16 strike-out to walk ratio, they awarded him the fifth starter role, sending Alfredo Aceves, a man with some successful history of starting,to the bullpen. With Bailey suffering another injury, Aceves was forced into the closer role while Bard got the green light to start.

Bard rewarded that decision with a 5-6 record over 11 games (10 starts), with a 5.24 ERA and a strike-out to walk ratio of 34/37 over just 55 innings. His struggles lead Boston to option the former stud reliever back to Triple-A to sort out his mechanics. After two months, his banishment to the minors hasn’t yielded any better results as he sports a 2-0 record, with a 6.41 ERA and a 27/22 strike-out to walk ratio.

The move was a outright disaster. Now the only question that remains is whether or not the Red Sox can rebuild him back to the fire-balling reliever whose three-digit heat intimidated hitters.

To do so, the Red Sox need to invoke a three step process:

1.) The team needs to admit that Bard is and will always be a reliever. They cannot “Joba” him back and forth in hopes of making Bard into something he will never be; an effective starter.

2.) The pitching coaches at all levels need to get him back to his bread and butter; the high-90’s fastball and the sharp, biting slider. Forget the change-up as an out pitch. If he ever throws it again, it becomes nothing more than a show pitch.

3.) The need to shut him down for the season. It doesn’t do Bard any good to continue to struggle with bad mechanics in game situations, regardless of what level he’s at. Hire him a pitching guru that can break him down and rebuild him in a comfortable setting away from the watchful eyes of the media. Give him a chance to get back to being Daniel Bard without having to answer questions about how long it will take him to get there.

2012 is a lost cause for Boston and Bard. Focusing on getting both Bard and the team back and strong for 2013 should replace any misconceptions of making the playoffs in 2012.

The sooner Boston and Bard put 2012 in their hindsight and keeps it in their memory banks, the better off they’ll be.