The Major League baseball season can hardly be compared to the fastest two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby (actually, Red Sox-Yankees games are often the slowest 4-and-a-half hours in sports), but the way the Red Sox have come out of the gate, a comparison to last week’s Derby feels appropriate.
Before the Derby, there were three or so horses thought to have the best chances in an otherwise wide-open field. Lookin’ At Lucky was one of those horses. The same can be said for the race to the American League Pennant; there was no consensus sure thing but a few clear favorites. The Red Sox was one of those teams
Lookin’ At Lucky got locked up against the fence right away and was simply never a factor in the race. The Red Sox look to be suffering a similar fate as the second week in May has just begun and the Sox could be toast.
The old baseball adage that Pennants can’t be won in April and May, but they sure can be lost is true. However, can a Pennant be lost in November through February?
Mathematical elimination will not be a topic of conversation until September, but functional elimination is a subject that is fair game right now. What is wrong with this team?
There are injuries to be sure, but the returns of Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury will only help marginally. In fact, the players stepping up in their absence have mainly acquitted themselves nicely. The problems run deeper.
Presumably there are some chemistry issues on this team, but which ones were avoidable and how deep do they run?
David Ortiz’s natural decline through the aging process was bound to cause some uncomfortable clubhouse moments, because the guy is the poster boy for two World Series Championships. He has earned his keep, and it has to be almost impossible to engineer a truly graceful and perfectly timed transition from star-to-contributor-to-former-player status. Everybody from Theo Epstein to Terry Francona gets a pass on this chemistry problem
Mike Lowell did an outstanding job for Boston as the salary “throw in” trade for Josh Beckett. He is a complete professional, and while in many cities that term is a backhanded compliment and nothing more than a synonym for “journeyman,” around these parts it conjures up images of Bob Cousy, Larry Bird and Ray Bourque. That is not to say that Lowell is in their company with respect to Hall-Of-Fame success, but like those three, he gave a dollar’s effort for a dollar’s pay.
He was traded in the off-season to Texas, but he failed his physical. This is borderline malpractice on the part of the Sox. Teams spend millions on gathering every bit of information humanly possible on any decent player over the age of 13 around the world. The Red Sox couldn’t ascertain whether a player sitting in their own clubhouse for several years was healed enough to pass perhaps a rigorous, but certainly standard, MLB team physical?
That mess immediately put stress on Lowell’s replacement at 3rd base, Adrian Beltre. Lowell is enormously popular with his teammates and without any lobbying from Lowell, there must be a faction that wants to see him back at 3rd. The tension is neither Beltre’s nor Lowell’s doing, but a natural result of a botched trade.
Then there is the situation at catcher. Team Captain and beloved Red Sox Nation figure Jason Varitek is now the backup to Victor Martinez, except when the ace, Josh Beckett, is on the mound. Huh?
Martinez is expected to take over as the new leader of the pitching staff, but he will never be working with that staff’s leader? There is a clear reason; Martinez is a weak defensive catcher. That being the case, how can this be the team’s answer after an entire offseason to address it?
The Red Sox had to make a decision in the offseason. Do we go with the old guard for one more year or do we turn it over to the next generation of Red Sox?
Unfortunately, the team went with “yes.”
The result has been a seemingly mismatched group of players seeing their performances ebb and flow from series to series.
There is plenty of baseball remaining in this season for the Sox to turn it around. It will come down to whether there is enough baseball left in this team.