On Thursday the Red Sox front office sent a message when they fired Juan Nieves. Perhaps it was a message that they're sick and tired of watching the pitching staff get beat around like a bunch of indy league players. Perhaps they were just trying to save a failing experiment.
One thing is for sure, they were sending a message. Proof is in the fact that Edward Mujica was sent packing along with Juan Nieves. Since it was an off day, and the Sox were heading to Toronto for a series with the Blue Jays, do you think Mujica and Nieves were at least relieved that they didn't have to go through customs? It's unclear if Mujica's 4.61 ERA would set off any alarms as he passed through the border.
At the time of his release, Mujica was, numbers-wise, the worst performing member of the 2015 Red Sox bullpen. No one else came close that had any regular playing time. The closest to the worst, Robbie Ross, has a sub 4.00 ERA. However, releasing Mujica sends a clear message to Red Sox players. Sure, the coach is taking some blame, but sucking isn't going to work for long. The message is pretty clear. Suck less. Do better. Play like you're not a recovering last place team.
There will probably be players looking over their shoulders. Clay Buchholz, tomorrow's starter, better hope the Red Sox don't decide to leave him in Toronto if he throws another stinker. The positional players are probably safe. Mike Napoli and Allen Craig aren't doing so well, but they're also not crippling the Red Sox chances every time they hit the field. Okay, that might be up for debate.
Frank Viola played for the Red Sox and Blue Jays. By the time he joined the Red Sox he was a bit removed from his Cy Young winning, World Series MVP days of the Minnesota Twins, but he also wasn't too bad. He logged over 200 innings, and won 24 games over his first two seasons. Still, if you look at Viola's Wikipedia page, his Red Sox days fall under 'Later Career'. The only highlight was a shared no hitter and ending his third season with the Red Sox by requiring Tommy John surgery. It took Viola into his 'Later Years' to reach Mujica Status. I just made that up. There isn't a real Mujica Status, but it's a real thing. It's that time when a team has decided a player is not quite good enough. That they're actually better off without the player being around. Viola was a World Champion!
After becoming a free agent is the off season of his final year with the Red Sox, Viola joined the Blue Jays in 1995, though he never played for the team that went on to lose 88 games. The Jays released him from their AAA team, and the Cincinnati Reds game Viola a chance in the late summer reclamation project along the way to the NLCS. Due to giving up 20 hits in 14.1 innings, Viola didn't make the postseason roster and didn't stick with Cincinnati either. His last stop was a second engagement with the Blue Jays. Viola was inserted into the rotation in late April, and was released at the end of May that year. Despite his best efforts, Viola didn't save the 1996 Blues Jays from avoiding another 88 loss season. Viola was essentially Mujica'd. That team didn't seem to learn anything from the dumping of a inadequate player, but then again that team had eleven different pitcher start at least 1 game during the season.
So what's the point here? That players come and go, but whether or not it has any indication as to whether a team is any good for the rest of the season is much murkier. I'm freakin' hoping the Red Sox don't have a Toronto season ahead of them.