>Boston, MA – The Boston Colonials find themselves in unfamiliar territory. After relying on veterans to lead the team for most of it’s early existence and failing to reach the playoffs for the second consecutive season this past year while finishing with a franchise worst 67-95 record, the team now enters the 10th season of the NABCL with the 4th youngest ML roster in the entire league.
Franchise faces Nate York and Glenn Glynn are gone (though neither has officially filed their retirement papers with the league) as are many of the other thirty-somethings that have regularly filled the Colonial media guide. As a matter of fact, the only 2 players currently on the 25-man roster that are over 30 are pitchers Lee Bolick and Bo Goldstein, both 31.
Those vacated roster spots aren’t exactly boiling over with the top talent in the Boston system, however. Sure, several young promising players are here – like 24-year old Norman Harris, the team’s likely #1 C this season – who came over in a trade from Sacramento prior to season 9 in exchange for Danys Ortiz. Also here is last season’s surprise 20-20 man as the everyday RF – 26-year old Todd Haney – though he is back as the team’s 1B this season. CF Sherman Carter (27) is still young and still power-packed…and still fragile, and the rotation and bullpen will be littered with young arms like Spike Rivera (25), Derrick Wilkerson (25), Albert Zurbaran (23) and Julio Sanchez (also 23 – part 3 of the Ortiz trade).
Still, the “Top Talent” in the system is a season or three away from making an impact on the big club. Players like AAA RF Alex Ortiz, AA shortstop Marvin Vernon (also part of the deal that brought Norman Harris to Boston), AA pitcher Alex Lo, and Boston’s great International find from last season – High-A 1B Rico Parra.
These players do give Boston fans hope for a return to grace in the future, but those fans are still rightfully cautiously optimistic. The team doesn’t exactly have a great track record for turning “prospects” into “All Stars”. Drafting low each season doesn’t exactly lead to a stocked minor league system, and Boston has historically gone after Type A and Type B Free Agents which do cost the team draft picks, but only a very few “homegrown” Boston prospects have ever reached the major leagues – for any team.
If the four players mentioned above all eventually make their way to Boston, it will likely signal the successful completion of a complete about face in the franchise’s direction for team construction – from buying the top FA each season to building from within by drafting well and nurturing prospects through the system.
Boston fans just hope that the down-time doesn’t last too long; another 90+ loss season is likely….and likely to wear on the faithful. The young pitching staff took it’s lumps last season and most think, no, EXPECT that they can improve on that performance, while the (young-ish) Free Agents brought in this season – SP Brian Shuey, 3B Roger Bottenfield and utility player Chuck Canseco – should help the pitching staff, lineup and defense all make strides in that direction, as well.
Boston management has also made adjustments to the budget to allow for more International FA finds/signings and has upped it’s efforts in Collegiate and High School scouting to help make the minor leagues even more of an asset for the big club. Another Parra-like signing or two and a strong draft this season could double the # of potential ML impact players in the system.
In this “what have you done for me lately” world of sports, it is hard for a team to, 1) admit that it is time to rebuild, and, 2) pull the trigger and actually work towards that goal in a swift, planned manner. Boston GM Rick Randall hopes that the rebuilding can get them back into contention in the AL East by next season.
“I don’t think that we are that far away. The moves that we have made over the past season and a half have really set us up great for the future – and let’s not forget, the East was won by an 83-win team last season (Washington)…and they made it all the way to the ALCS.” said Randall. “We’ve cut player payroll from eighty-nine million just a few seasons ago to fifty-six million this season while at the same time doubling the overall prospect budget. If we can improve 5-8 games this season and then again 5-8 next, we are right there knocking on the door for the division once again – and this time we will be built to sustain that presence.”
Boston fans certainly hope that is the case.
Staff writer Ken Heller
© Boston Herald, 2008