August 11, 2021
Times are tough for Red Sox fans, and the tragic part is that we bring it all on ourselves.
Boston just went 2-8 on a ten-game road trip while the Rays surged ahead for the lead in the AL East and the Yankees and Blue Jays roared back to within two and three games of the second-place Sox. Apparently, this is all because the Red Sox failed to pick up Anthony Rizzo, Joey Gallo, Max Scherzer, Jose Berrios, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., or Shohei Ohtani at the trade deadline. Chaim Bloom fell asleep at the wheel and added only Kyle Schwarber at the deadline, he of the monthlong strained hamstring that the Boston sports media would have you believe will metastasize into terminal cancer within the week.
Let’s think back to April, at the conclusion of the season-opening three-game sweep the Red Sox suffered at the hands of the dreadful Orioles. Preseason expectations were low for the old town team, and half of the fanbase had penciled them in as the worst team in MLB after that series. One nine-game win streak later, all was right with the world and the Red Sox were an unstoppable buzzsaw that would be decapitating teams in October.
I don’t mean to say that losing the first three games of the season is comparable to losing eight of ten in early August. We are at critical mass right now, and the Red Sox have put themselves in a position where they essentially must win two-out-of-three versus Tampa this week at Fenway. I make the opening series comparison simply to illustrate how fickle Boston fans are, despite baseball showing us for the past 120 years that overreactions to short stretches are ALWAYS a mistake.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into what has happened over the last two weeks. The Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays made additions to strengthen their teams at the trade deadline, while the Red Sox have had no return as of yet beyond underwhelming showings from middling relievers Hansel Robles and Austin Davis. The deadline has seemed to energize every AL East team to a winning streak besides the Red Sox and those perennially pathetic O’s. As a result, Boston has gone from being 4.5 games up on the second-place Rays to being five games behind them. WTF, Chaim!!!
Momentum is very real in baseball. A struggling team can absolutely get a spiritual lift from a quality addition and ride that new, improved mindset to a hot streak. It happens every year. But you know what else happens every year?
Baseball happens. The grind happens. The unavoidable fact that you play six or seven games a week every single week for six months sinks back in and reminds everybody of their mortality. The cruel, unforgivable nature of a game based on averages rears its ugly head and bites you in the ass just as you lift one leg out of the snake pit.
Why did the Red Sox lose nine and a half games of ground over the course of only a couple weeks? How is that possible?
Because they suck! Everyone around them got better while they did nothing! I told you all along they were playing over their heads!!!
Sorry, Twitter, I beg to differ.
The reason the Sox lost so much ground at once is because they got cold while everyone else in the division got hot. Is that because of the changes each team made at the deadline? In part, sure.
Anthony Rizzo, far more than Joey Gallo, brought a well-rounded dynamic to the Yankee offense and an aggressive edge to a clubhouse full of ninnies. Jose Berrios deepened an underrated Blue Jays starting rotation that is now one of the better starting fives in the American League in spite of their shoddy bullpen. When these players walked into their new clubhouses, the incumbent players stood tall, pounded their chests, and knew instantly that they were now better teams.
Did the Red Sox make an addition like that? Certainly not. Chris Sale doesn’t even get his first start till Saturday, and Schwarber’s groin issue pushes his debut out even further than we originally thought. Does this make the Red Sox a worse team than the other three? Hell no.
Did the first four months of the year never happen? It’s not like the Red Sox lost a bunch of key players due to long-term injury. The starting pitching faltered at the same time that the bats went cold. Both of these things happen to every team, even great ones, every year. In fact, both of those things already happened to the Red Sox this season. Until late July, however, the pitching never went cold at the same time as the offense. This is the first time this season when the Red Sox have slumped simultaneously on both sides of the ball, and it could not have happened at a worse time. The whole team went ice cold just as their competition heated up.
They went cold because the front office quit on the team! Bloom knew they weren’t gonna win this year, so they punted at the deadline! The players quit because the front office quit!!!
I knew taking comments from social media was a bad idea.
Ever since the end of the 2020 season, The Red Sox mission statement for 2021 was to compete now while building for the future. When we saw how this team was assembled this past winter, specifically the pitching staff, most of us saw a third-place finish as the best-case scenario. If we were told in March that this team would be competing for a wild card spot in mid-August, we’d have been popping champagne corks.
Then the season happened.
Much like in 2013, a ragtag group of Red Sox players banded together and scratched out win after win. Before any of us knew it, the Red Sox had the best record in the American League … at times the best record in all of baseball. In a few short months, the Red Sox went from rebuilders to world-beaters. And as fortunes change, expectations change along with them.
Let’s not forget what caused us to change those expectations. Four months of grinding that included the most comeback wins in the league, a dominant offense, lockdown relief pitching, and admirable, workmanlike performances from a starting rotation that was expected to be unimpressive. Does all that simply vanish because of a bad road trip? Do the few impact players the other AL East contenders acquired suddenly negate the talent and unity of this Red Sox team?
As I said last week, this offense thrives on the production of J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers. The offense struggled so badly the past two weeks because none of those guys have been hot. That in itself speaks to just how small this team’s margin for error is. Hopefully, the addition of Kyle Schwarber after his convalescence will take a bit of the load off the trinity and deepen the team’s offensive attack.
On the other side of the ball, Chris freaking Sale returns to the hill Saturday. Talk about high impact additions that will give a team some swagger. Martin Perez being moved to the bullpen is not as great a move as Perez being moved to Siberia, but I’ll take it. With Sale taking his spot in the rotation and, God willing, Tanner Houck taking Garrett Richards’ spot, the BoSox starting five of Sale – Rodriguez – Eovaldi – Pivetta – Houck should have enough firepower to compete with any team.
The bullpen still has my confidence. Josh Taylor could see some regression to offset that scoreless streak where he was practically untouchable (baseball being baseball, of course), but I’m not going to write off a solid four months where relief pitching was a huge strength for this team because of a bad week or so. They have supported a rotation full of guys that waffled back and forth all season long.
Team-wide regression doesn’t just happen in a flash after four months of playing great team baseball. After being 24 games over .500 at the end of July, the Red Sox are not just now finally regressing to the mediocre team we thought they were in the winter. By this point of the season, you pretty much are what your record says you are. Two weeks of regression, on the other hand, is quite common.
This road trip was a speed bump that was accentuated by the rest of the AL East riding a wave of excitement and optimism after some big deadline moves. Those teams made those moves because they knew they would have to beef up to compete with the Boston Red Sox. Yet I’ve heard from a contingent of Neanderthals that believe that the Red Sox’ very own front office doesn’t believe in them, and the reason why they didn’t add at the deadline was because they didn’t want to make beds in a burning house. The theory among some is that this abandonment (I’ve actually seen that word used to describe it) offended the players, killed their confidence, and caused them to essentially quit on the rest of the season.
Let’s start by thinking about the probability of all this. The Red Sox were in first place at the trade deadline. They had begun slumping by that point, but there was no indication that their losing ways would continue at all, let alone progress into a season-killing freefall. As I mentioned above, the Red Sox were not all in on 2021 to begin the year. They were building for 2022 and beyond, while hoping to compete in 2021. So, it should be no surprise that Chaim Bloom did not burn off any of the franchise’s top prospects in exchange for a two-month rental on his way to free agency.
That’s not to say that the Sox did not seek to improve at the deadline. In fact, I still believe they did improve. Schwarber is a dangerous lefthanded power hitter with an injury that shouldn’t keep him out of action for much longer. He’s exactly the kind of bat the Red Sox need for the stretch run, and the crybabies that were so pissed about getting Schwarber instead of Rizzo will eat their words soon enough.
The Red Sox did not make any big deadline moves because Dave Dombrowski was a lazy, uncreative GM that had no interest in the future at any time during his tenure in Boston. Winning a world series in 2018 was fantastic, but I’d rather have a chance to win for five years than risk everything for one year. I have to follow this team for the rest of my life, so I’d appreciate it if they had as many shots at a title as they can get. Bloom is rebuilding the farm system so the Red Sox will have prospects to develop, both to play for Boston in the future and to trade away for major league talent when the need arises in the future.
Given the current state of the Red Sox farm system, they could not compete with the Yankees for Anthony Rizzo or the Dodgers for Max Scherzer because they could not do so without stripping their farm system of talent the way Dombrowski did before Bloom got here. Everybody who is whining about not getting a top player for a 2021 playoff run would be the first ones to whine even harder next April for the team not being able to acquire a starting pitcher for 2022 because they have no marketable assets left to trade away.
Operating for the appeasement of the loud majority of fans that will always find something to piss and moan about is a losing proposition. They will never be satisfied, and they will rake anybody that ever is satisfied over the coals as an apologist or a happy homer.
As for the players giving up over being butthurt that the organization didn’t acquire a slew of stars to compliment a team that has been in first place most of the season, let’s hope that’s not the case. Because if that is the stuff that these Boston Red Sox are made of, this team never had any hope of winning a World Series this year. These are professional baseball players. They know perfectly well how the front office’s priorities line up with their own. I refuse to believe that a team that fights as hard as they do could collectively check out over straightforward, easily relatable business decisions that were made for the long-term future of the team.
The Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays are on fire. That won’t last forever. The Red Sox are reeling. That won’t last forever either. Hot streaks, cold streaks, and regression to the mean are certainties in Major League Baseball. The Sox are too good a team to keep up their current pace, and no team is good enough to maintain the pace that the other three teams are on.
The 2021 American League East race will be a four-team dogfight until the very end. This week, each team will sink back to what they truly are: four of the best teams in Major League Baseball. None of them are unbeatable. None of them are weak.
And as always, if you’ve jumped off the bandwagon already, please stay off.
The ride is closed.