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Another thought or two on soccer and the Red Sox

A few thoughts on soccer and the sorry state of the Sox, left behind in Vermont while the author lounges on the beaches of southern New England (or in movie theaters, depending on the weather).
First, one last visit to the women’s soccer World Cup. A lot of credit for the U.S. team’s late surge was given to the tactical switch in the formation that allowed Carli Lloyd more offensive freedom, and no doubt that played a role in the successful Cup run.
However, that change also coincided with Coach Jill Ellis choosing to bench all-time team leading scorer Abby Wambach, and that decision might have been an even greater factor. Wambach, at 35 still a brilliant player and finisher, could no longer run with her incredibly athletic teammates. Her presence on the field until the China quarterfinal had proven to be a weak link in deploying the high-pressure, quick-strike style that best suited the team’s roster.
It was not a coincidence the U.S. Women’s National Team came alive late in the tournament with Wambach leading the cheers, not the attack.
At the same time, major credit to Wambach for accepting what was best for the team as difficult as that must have been. Class through and through, for her and for her teammates in recognizing her leadership and allowing her to jointly hoist the trophy.
And couldn’t the USWNT have lent Lloyd to the USMNT for the Jamaica Gold Cup game last week? The men couldn’t finish a sentence.
Now, onto the Sox. First a minor gripe. For years, Major League Baseball scouts have been saying Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly’s stuff might make him a valuable bullpen arm. After the July 22 game in which he allowed three homers and four earned runs in 5.1 innings, Kelly, now 27, had started 25 games for the Red Sox with an earned-run average of 5.16.
I know the Sox executives think they are smarter than everybody else, but it’s long past time to put Kelly in the pen, where his 97 mph fastball could be effective in short stints, and where the Sox desperately need help.
As for the Sox executives being smart, that is the same crew that spent $10 million on broken-down Justin Masterson instead of using that cash to bring back Andrew Miller (last seen closing brilliantly for the Yankees) to Boston, where he preferred to play. And traded useful and cheap starting pitcher John Lackey for Kelly and injured first baseman Allen Craig, who has hit a this-is-not-a-typo .130 for the Sox and is now toiling in Pawtucket.
Sox General Manager Ben Cherington has also given $82.5 million to Rick Porcello (5.79 ERA 2015, 4.44 career); proffered a contract extension to mediocre lefty Wade Miley after trading two potentially useful bullpen arms for him; signed Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to huge free agent deals (I am in the minority who can live with the Ramirez signing); spent $72 million on Rusney Castillo, a 27-year-old Cuban free agent who could not make the Opening Day Roster; and botched the Jon Lester negotiations.
Now, the fact is the Sox are done for this season. Stick-a-fork-in-them cooked. Hoping they will leapfrog three teams in the division to a Wild Card berth, never mind the teams in other divisions, is like Bobby Jindal or Ted Cruz thinking they will be president some day.
Ideally, Sox owner John Henry would just give the job to someone else at this point. Cherington somehow caught lightning in a bottle in 2013, but it looks more and more like the remnants of the Theo Epstein regime carried that team, plus the overpaid players Cherington signed (Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli) to three-year, $39 million contracts had one good year left in them before they turned into pumpkins.
But it’s time to cut bait and think about what can be done to the current team to improve for the future.
To start with, move Kelly to the pen; move out Victorino, Napoli, Craig, Daniel Nava and maybe even Miley and get whatever you can; insert Brian Johnson and knuckler Steven Wright into the regular pitching rotation and see what they can do; call up Jackie Bradley Jr. and Castillo (as soon as he is healthy) and give them a prolonged chance; and put Ramirez, a former shortstop, on first base and see if he can handle that job.
In short, it’s time to think about the long term and trust the fans to be patient after three championships in 11 years. It’s insulting to us to hear Cherington say the following last week after the Sox lost eight of nine games: 
“I don’t think anything about the last 10 days changes the general direction we want to go. We need to find ways to improve where we need to improve and get to a good team as quickly as we can.”
No, the Sox need a different “general direction,” one that includes a new vision. 

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