The problem with the Kevin Plawecki decision


It's easy to dismiss the late-night see-ya-later the Red Sox gave to Kevin Plawecki.

The Red Sox already had two catchers they wanted to prioritize playing, and a spot on the 40-man roster for a look-see at reliever Franklin German needed to be freed up. This has become all about 2023, and Plawecki - a free agent-to-be - simply wasn't going to be part of that plan.

Simple, right? Only for those who don't understand how building a winning baseball team works.

While it is only three weeks to go in the 2022 season, one could make the argument that Plawecki's presence was more important than ever. Major league newbies were starting to flood the Red Sox clubhouse, each trying to find their way. And when it comes to a tour guide, there would have been no one better than Plawecki, who was the bridge between pitcher and hitter, young and old.

Yet, instead of prioritizing Plawecki over the likes of Abraham Almonte (insert head scratch), the Red Sox were left with an impromptu middle-of-the-night farewell party in front of the catcher's locker.

"I learned over the years how it works. You’ve just got to be honest with the person and tell him how it is and there’s a lot of emotions but at the end," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "You grab a beer, you sit with the players and you hang out for a little bit. That’s what we did yesterday. There was a big group just hanging out with him which tells me a little bit about this group. For the up and downs and the struggles and all that, we care about each other and the baseball part of it is the baseball part of it, the family, quote unquote atmosphere, is real. And it was fun just to hang out with them and talk to them in a more relaxed environment with our guard down and it wasn’t about winning ballgames or calling games or being in last place in the East. It’s about being real and we were very real yesterday."

For many in that clubhouse, it was too real.

This is what you should realize when listening to the reaction regarding Plawecki's departure: The voices expressing the biggest concern over the move are the veterans - like Nathan Eovaldi and Rich Hill - who understand the business of baseball, and the importance of roster construction better than most.

Talking to prior to Saturday's game, the usually measured Eovaldi made very clear how he viewed the transaction involving his spring training housemate.

"Unfortunately, I had already l left. I didn’t realize that we were going to be letting him go. It was a shock to me," said Eovaldi of the late-night decision to move on from Plawecki. "So I was already at the house when I found out. I talk to Kevin all the time. We lived together in spring training the last two years. I know his family, his kids. It’s extremely difficult. I felt like everything he has done for the organization and the player he is, it’s unfortunate to see him go, especially on those terms, with only three weeks to go in the system. I haven’t talked to Chaim or anybody else to get the true reasoning behind it. I was disappointed when I heard the news.

"I think it just goes to the type of player Kevin is. He’s the one teammate you want in the clubhouse. The type of guy he is and the selfishness that he has. He is trying to do everything he can for the team. I have had a lot of catchers who value hitting more than they do catching. I feel like when you’re a catcher, it’s the same as a pitcher. It would be like me being disappointed that I didn’t get hits and taking that out on the mound for me. I think he does a really good job navigating the pitching staff. He understands his role, as well. He understood he wasn’t an everyday guy with us. I feel like he could be somewhere. He knows his role and just being able to navigate the pitching staff. Just the player that he is. He comes up with all the fun stuff. He had the home run cart. He always has the radio on the road. Playing music on the bus. Things like that. Keeping everybody lively in the clubhouse. He’s always trying to help the younger guys. He’s doing everything you want on your team. So for him to be let go, especially this time of year, is disappointing or me."

The pitcher continued, "I understand it’s a tough decision, but you want to build a championship around guys like that. Guys who are going to do what it takes to win ballgames and do whatever they have to do to help the team win, and I felt he was doing that. We had (Kyle) Schwarber last year, and Hunter Renfroe and certain guys like that. There are the guys that do the little things right on the field and off the field when you’re in the clubhouse. It’s hard to find a player who interacts with both pitchers and position players. Sometimes you can be a little divided. But when you have guys like Plaw, Renfroe, Schwarber. All of those guys were extremely good guys in the clubhouse. I think sometimes that goes a little further than productivity or whatever on the field. To me that was a very difficult one, to lose a guy like him even where we are in the season in the last few weeks."

And then there was Hill's comment after the 9-0 loss.

"It was very difficult. Throughout the clubhouse, it was a tough one for everybody," he said. "What everybody sees out in the field and in the dugout, but what you don’t realize is the humanity side of this game. We’re not just all numbers. We’re human beings. And removing a guy like that from the clubhouse is a big hit for a lot of guys. I would say everybody in here. I know he will be OK. I’ve been through that situation plenty of times in my career. Just reinforce to him that things are going to work out. He’s a great clubhouse guy. He’s a great player. And he should be OK."

As important as it is to find the right arms for next season, and integrate rookies into the big-league lifestyle, it is equally as important to set the proper tone.

There will be time for Chaim Bloom to find the next wave of clubhouse voices - much like Ben Cherington did heading into 2013. And the presence of Eric Hosmer is a step in the right direction.

But there is a tone that can be set for these final 17 games. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, their latest note seemed dramatically off-key.

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