Here we are on the last day of August. The Red Sox are seven games behind the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees, who are tied for the division lead, which means the Sox are also seven games out in the wild card hunt. The odds are long indeed that the Sox can come back from that much of a deficit with just 31 games remaining to be played.
Especially with the team the can field every night. If you could convince me Josh Beckett and John Lackey would start pitching to their pay scale, I might have a little more confidence, but when the only two really reliable starters are Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz — and even a brilliant pitching performance like the one Buchholz gave on Saturday doesn’t amount to anything when his team can’t hit or think.
It is easy to blame the Sox season on the unremitting list of injuries they’ve endured. But the problem goes deeper. The starting pitching — as alluded to above — has been inconsistent at best, and its hard to blame much of that on injuries. The bullpen has been abysmal, and injuries have had nothing to do with their performance. For much of the year, the fill-in players have done a pretty good job, but it seemed to me that Theo Epstein’s options for bringing in quality replacements for the injured were limited by two factors: 1. His unwillingness to part with any significant prospects; and 2. the bloated payroll that pushed the Sox into Luxury Tax territory.
All of which leads me to think this season was a marketing ploy from the start. The front office had no intention of doing what was really necessary to win a pennant. They just wanted it to look that way, so they could put fannies in the bleachers. I guess you can’t blame them for that, but I can blame them for stupid free-agent signings — i.e. John Lackey and Mike Cameron, who will be taking up over $25 million in payroll in 2011. Add in Josh Beckett and between the three of them we’re looking at over $40 million — that’s for your fourth and fifth starter and a 38-year old center fielder.
I was going to blather on further about the troubles ahead for the Sox, but it’s just getting me depressed, so I’ll end on a positive note: I have enjoyed seeing the fill-ins contribute this year. Bill Hall, Darnel McDonald, Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish have been fun to watch. They’re heroics have made an otherwise sorry season memorable. Thanks guys.