If you’d just returned from a mission to Mars and I told you the Boston Red Sox were playing a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles while the first-place Tampa Bay Rays were losing two out of three to the Kansas City Royals, you’d probably think the Sox would gain ground in the standings.*
That’s certainly what I would have thought, especially after the Sox seemed to have gained some momentum after sweeping the Jays in Toronto.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way as the Sox were swept — SWEPT!!! — by the Orioles and actually dropped a further game behind the Rays, after losing Sunday’s game in 10 innings.
This is not how championship caliber teams play. The Sox fail to get key performances when they need them. Or when they do (such as Daniel Bard’s brilliant relief appearance in yesterday’s game), someone else drops the ball.
Basically, this team has no core strength. Its starting pitching is beginning to come around, but is still not worth the big money Theo is paying them. The offense has been spotty, and rarely does anyone other than Darnell McDonald get a clutch base hit late in the game. The vaunted defense actually turns out to be a weakness of the team (second most errors in the league). And the bullpen. When one relief pitcher puts out a fire, there’s always another one to come along and add gasoline, as Jonathan Papelbon did yesterday.
The Red Sox are now seven games back of Tampa Bay, five and a half games behind the Yankees, and one and half games behind Toronto.
The good news for the Sox is they should be getting Jacoby Ellsbury back in the lineup soon. He will help in the outfield, but more importantly the Sox need him at the top of the order. Mike Cameron will be back soon too, though I wonder how much he brings to the table. Other scuffling batters look to be coming out of their April haze (i.e. David Ortiz and J.D. Drew — we’re still waiting on Victor Martinez), so I expect the offense to get better in the coming weeks.
So it is still a little early to write this team off, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing if they find themselves out of the running as the trading deadline nears. They may be able to trade a few players to help enrich the farm system, something they need to do. I could see Papelbon, Ortiz, and possibly even Dice-K being shipped out before the end of July…
But really, it is too early for that kind of talk. Remind me to get back to it around the middle of June.
*That is, you’d probably first say, “You mean the Devil Rays, right? And what the hell are they doing in first place?!” And then you’d think the Sox would pick up a game or two.