Cerullo: Red Sox fans have plenty to be thankful for this holiday

It hasn’t been an easy year to be a Red Sox fan. The club fell short of expectations again to finish last for the third time in four seasons, and in September the club fired chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and played out the string amid a never-ending run of rain delays.

It was pretty hard to watch at times, but the good news is for all that went wrong the Red Sox appear set up for success going forward.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few things Red Sox fans have to be thankful for this holiday.

Casas and Bello stepping up

We’ve been hearing for years about how the Red Sox are building towards the future, and this year two former top prospects made the leap and established themselves as genuine franchise cornerstones.

Triston Casas, Boston’s first-round pick in 2018, won the starting first base job out of spring training and shook off a slow start to establish himself as the middle of the order threat he was always billed as. The 23-year-old was one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball during the second half and finished the season with 24 home runs, an .856 OPS and a third-place Rookie of the Year finish.

And Brayan Bello? He was the only pitcher on the staff who could reliably take the ball every fifth day and pitch deep into the game. The 24-year-old finished with 157 innings over 27 starts, and though he strangely struggled in day games, Bello gave Red Sox fans a lot to get excited over.

Veteran signings delivering

Nobody is happy about the team’s final record, but you can’t say a number of the veterans brought in to help turn things around didn’t live up to their end of the bargain.

Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin, for example, helped turn one of baseball’s worst bullpens into a genuine strength. Jansen was every bit as reliable closing out games as his track record suggested, and Martin delivered one of the best seasons by a relief pitcher in club history, even earning a Cy Young vote. Both will return in 2024 and should ensure the Red Sox bullpen remains among the best in baseball.

Justin Turner and Adam Duvall’s futures in Boston aren’t so certain, but if they prove one-and-done with the Red Sox then fans should be grateful for their contributions. Turner was a clubhouse leader, one of Boston’s best all-around offensive producers and always seemed to come through with a big RBI in the clutch. Duvall brought his patented power and for a stretch seemed to single-handedly keep the Red Sox in contention.

Not all of Boston’s signings worked out, but those four were worth every penny and one can only hope whoever the Red Sox add this offseason turns out just as well.

The pitch clock

Let’s be honest, even when the Red Sox are good they haven’t always been the easiest team to watch over the years. For almost two decades running the Red Sox have consistently averaged among the longest game times in MLB, which has often meant games stretching well past 10 p.m. on weeknights, making it difficult for people who have to get up early for work or school the next morning to stay up for the whole game.

The Red Sox still averaged the fourth-longest games in baseball this past season, but thanks to the pitch clock the club also shaved 26 minutes off its average from 2022, going from 3:11 to a much more manageable 2:45. You could really feel the difference in the ballpark too, games moved at a crisper pace and there was much less unnecessary downtime.

Polarizing as most rule changes in baseball tend to be, the pitch clock was a home run.

No Devers drama

Remember how stressful 2022 was? The whole season was played under the shadow of Xander Bogaerts’ looming departure and all anyone talked about was how the Red Sox couldn’t keep their homegrown stars.

Wasn’t it nice to at least not have to deal with all that again this year?

The Red Sox signing Rafael Devers to a long-term extension last winter kept what turned out to be a disappointing season from spiraling into an intolerable one, and now instead of the discourse surrounding the club being dominated by Devers’ free agency, we can focus on more productive conversations like which starting pitchers the Red Sox should add.

A fresh start

Speaking of tired narratives, the Red Sox decision to move on from Chaim loom should hopefully allow fans to also move past some of the doom and gloom that have defined these past four years.

The sense that the Red Sox value prospects more than big league talent? The belief that Boston won’t be a player at the top of the market? The club gave fans good reason to believe those things before, but now? We have no idea.

Time will tell if Craig Breslow turns out to be a good hire, but for now his arrival brings a breath of fresh air and a new world of possibilities. Could the Red Sox spend a boatload of money on a superstar? Why not? Could they swing a monster trade nobody sees coming? Who knows? But one thing we can say for sure is fans have reason to dream big again, and that’s truly something to be thankful for.

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