August 3, 2021
The Red Sox were swept in a three-game series for the second time of the season this past weekend, killing off their World Series aspirations and plummeting the team into a bleak future of darkness and despair.
At least that’s what one would assume based on the reaction I’ve seen to this weekend’s poor showing in Tampa Bay. As soon as Manuel Margot corralled JD Martinez’ pop out to end Sunday night’s game, the Red Sox bandwagon became considerably lighter.
It’s no secret that social media and the Boston sports media are the absolute lowest rungs of humanity, so the slapdick kneejerk reactions came as no surprise to me. In fact, Sunday night’s loss made me dread the resulting dreck I’d have to read as a result of the sweep far more than it made me dread the remainder of the season.
As I’ve noted before, being a baseball fan is all about riding the waves of the season. Never getting too amped up during a winning streak and never getting too down during a losing streak. One week you win six in a row, the next week you lose four in a row. One week you score seven runs a game, the next week you score four runs total over the course of four games.
Call it the law of averages. Call it the law of diminishing returns,. Call it a marathon rather than a sprint.
But when you have a team as talented as the 2021 Boston Red Sox, it’s never gonna be too bad for too long. The trick is not constantly jumping to conclusions, or else this 162-game roller coaster will drive you insane.
Let’s think about what happened this weekend. The Red Sox were swept on the road by the defending American League champions. The Rays have been hot for a couple weeks now, winning 11 of their last 16 games. In mid-June, however, following Tyler Glasnow’s season-ending injury, they endured a seven-game losing streak that most fans thought was the beginning of the end for Tampa Bay’s season.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, had not lost four games in a row all season until this past weekend. And this four-game losing streak has come immediately on the heels of a stretch where they had won six out of seven.
Baseball is not the NFL. One win, even one series in late July/early August does not make or break a season. The Red Sox and the Rays are both very good, but even the best teams in the league lose sixty games a year. Those wins and losses occasionally come in bunches.
Of course, it wasn’t just being swept by the Rays that has prompted the degenerate lowlifes to dive off the wagon this weekend.
The trade deadline has come and gone. The Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays all acquired high profile players that have improved their teams. The Red Sox also acquired a big name, but he won’t be healthy enough to play for the next couple weeks. For some reason, a lot of ignorant people feel that Kyle Schwarber’s minor hamstring strain has turned him into a steaming turd of a pickup in comparison to the players the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays procured.
Before the deadline, the Yankees were a team that couldn’t manufacture runs, couldn’t move runners along, couldn’t run the bases, and brought very little energy to the diamond every day. They’ve scored 100 less runs than the Red Sox in 2021. They had a lineup full of righthanded hitters that did little else offensively besides hit home runs, walk, and strike out. They combated this by adding Joey Gallo, the poster boy for doing nothing offensively besides hitting home runs, walking, and striking out (albeit from the left side of the plate).
Gallo brings more of the same dull, three-outcome offensive approach that has left the Yankees mired in mediocrity all season long. He’s good for a bunch of walks, about 40 homers a year, and solid defense, but you won’t see him scratch out too many clutch RBI singles when his team really needs them. Big games are won with big hits against good pitching in high-pressure situations, and Gallo has only one 100-hit season in his career.
The Yankees also added Anthony Rizzo, a very good all-around player that the Red Sox reportedly coveted as well. Rizzo is a proven winner and team leader, and there is no doubt that he will bring a more dynamic element to an incredibly sluggish Yankee offense.
The Blue Jays bolstered their pitching staff in a big way, adding impressive two-time All-Star Jose Berrios to their rotation and three-time All-Star closer Brad Hand to their bullpen. With these pieces added to their pitching staff and the endless line of thumpers in Toronto’s lineup, the Blue Jays are now an even scarier team than they have been all season long.
As for the Rays, they added one big piece by scooping up ageless slugger Nelson Cruz from the Twins. Cruz gives the Rays an intimidating force to slot into their lineup of no-name underdogs that continually defy logic by scoring runs and winning games at an unconscionable rate. The Rays have very little top shelf talent, but they play hard for each other every day just like the much more talented Red Sox do. That’s what makes Tampa Bay so good, and that’s why the Rays have been battling with Boston at the top of the AL East standings all season long while the Yankees have been watching from the sidewalk with their mittens pressed against the glass.
The Rays are incredible. Tyler Glasnow, an elite starting pitcher and Tampa’s undisputed best player, will be undergoing Tommy John surgery that will keep him sidelined until sometime in 2023. Chris Archer, Tampa’s former ace before Glasnow hit the scene, has pitched a total of four innings in 2021. The Rays currently have 15 pitchers on their Injured List. They have more pitchers on their Injured List than they have on their active roster, yet they keep finding ways to MacGyver wins together using paper clips, elastics, and Bubblicious. Division rival or not, that is versatility and mental toughness that you can’t help but respect.
What deserves absolutely no respect is the attitude of Red Sox fans that are poised to leap off the Tobin Bridge because of their recent skid.
Have most of the players that the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays just acquired done well in their first few games since the trade deadline? Absolutely. Will those players all dominate for the rest of the year? Of course not.
Anthony Rizzo was hitting .248 before the trade deadline. Joey Gallo was hitting .223 (he’s already whiffed six times in four games as a Yankee). Nelson Cruz is (allegedly) 40 years old and is hitting .167 so far as a Ray. Without factoring in last year’s Covid-shortened season, Jose Berrios averages under 150 innings pitched per year (he’s already at 127 in 2021). Brad Hand is as meh as closers get.
Kyle Schwarber is also a flawed player. However, the newest member of the Boston Red Sox is even more dangerous at the plate than either Gallo or Rizzo.
The Red Sox used zero top prospects to acquire Schwarber, a lefthanded power hitter with 25 home runs and 53 RBI in 72 games this year. He’s gone deep as many times as Gallo and nine more times than Rizzo while playing 25% less games than them. Yankee fans are cheering about getting so much lefty pop at the deadline, but Schwarber is flat out better offensively than either of New York’s deadline pickups. So why are Sox fans screaming about the Yankees improving so much while the Red Sox supposedly did nothing to improve at the deadline?
Is it because Schwarber is injured? The guy has a strained hamstring that he will reportedly recover from in two weeks. Has Boston’s offense struggled for the last couple weeks? Absolutely. Could they use Schwarber right now? Of course.
The Red Sox have depended almost exclusively on JD Martinez, Rafael Devers, and Xander Bogaerts for their offensive firepower this year. Each Red Sox hot stretch this year has coincided with one, two, or all three of them being locked in at the dish. None of them are really stroking it right now, and the offense has suffered as a result. But I fully expect that to turn around any day now. You simply can’t keep three hitters with that much talent down for long. The trinity has led this offense to 530 runs this year (4th most in baseball), 104 more runs than the Yankees (25th most in baseball). Ya think they can find a way to hold out for two more weeks until reinforcements arrive???
Schwarber will give the Sox a second lefthanded slugger to compliment Devers, which will lengthen the lineup considerably. I’ll put Bogaerts – Devers – Martinez – Schwarber – Renfroe against the heart of any other batting order in baseball.
And here’s a question for people crying about the Red Sox not trading for a stud ace like Max Scherzer.
Who was Boston supposed to give up in order to snag him? The Red Sox farm system was gutted a mere two years ago so Dave Dombrowski could spend his afternoons on the golf course and not spend time finding creative solutions to problems. Chaim Bloom is still building up a minor league system that was barren when he got here. The Red Sox quite simply could not afford to trade away what few intriguing pieces they currently have on the farm for a two-month rental like Scherzer. In the real world, you don’t get to trade your trash for someone else’s treasure.
And let’s not forget about the undisputed biggest in-season pickup of this Major League Baseball season.
Chris Sale will be donning a Red Sox uniform once again in a few weeks. Remember him?
Aside from the Dodgers’ acquisition of Scherzer, there’s not a team in baseball that could bring in an elite starting pitcher on Chris Sale’s level for the final stretch of the season. Sale has a brand new, fully healthy bionic arm. He’s mowing down minor league competition during his rehab starts. And he’s on his way back to The Show to do the same to big leaguers. And nobody can dominate Major League hitters for a couple months the way Chris Sale can.