Well, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Or maybe not. There are now only two teams in all of major league baseball with fewer wins than the Red Sox, after they lost their fourth straight yesterday in disgraceful fashion to the Tampa Bay Rays. The season is just two weeks old and the Red Sox are already five games out of first. If this trend were to continue, they’d finish 67 games out come the end of September. That’s not going to happen. The Rays and the Yankees are not going to win 75% of their games, and the Sox are going to improve… at least a little. Nevertheless, I don’t see the 2010 Red Sox improving that much.
It’s clear that this vaunted defense is not as good as advertised. Cameron seems to have lost a step in center field. Scutaro is becoming an adventure at shot stop. And no one respects the arms behind the plate.
And the so-called depth of the lineup has proven a delusion. The pre-season concerns about David Ortiz seem well founded despite Chad Finn’s rosie-tinted hopes. The whole lineup is in a funk with the exception of Dustin Pedroia and… gasp! Jason Varitek. It doesn’t help that Jacoby Ellsbury has been out for the past two series. (If anyone doubts the importance of having the speedy Ells at the top of the lineup, the one win in the past six games without him should make them reconsider.)
The starting pitching hasn’t lived up to its billing either. Beckett and Lackey seem fine, but Lester has been terrible, while Buchholz and Wakefield have been inconsistent at best. But I’m not too concerned here. Lester will get in a groove and it looks like Dice-K might be ready to begin contributing effective innings again soon. What worries me more is the relief pitching. There is not one hurler in the bullpen who I have confidence in when the game is on the line. And that includes Jonathan Papelbon. The bullpen is going to be a nagging concern all season.
So, to reiterate: The offense stinks, the defense is average, the catchers couldn’t throw out the first pitch at a little league game, the starting pitching is inconsistent, and the bullpen is shaky. Gulp!
Is it time to stick our heads in our ovens? Not quite. This team will get better. But it was never destined to win the 95 games that the front office deems a success. The team was a piece-meal job from the start. And we shouldn’t be surprised. Theo admitted as much when he said this year (and perhaps next year) are bridges to better teams to come. We forgot about that when he soon afterward signed John Lackey to a huge and lengthy contract.
Even when the team starts playing up to its potential, the 2010 Red Sox are at best a 90-win team… and that won’t get them a playoff spot. We have to deal with it, and hope that Theo doesn’t feel pressure to mortgage the future in an attempt to capture those extra five wins.
In short: Fans should panic. Theo should not.