It’s only May 8th, but the Boston Red Sox are 7.5 games back on the
division leading Tampa Bay Rays, and 6.0 games back on the wild card
leading New York Yankees. With a record of 15-15 (and potentially 15-16 if
the rain slows down today and the Yanks hold on to win), and having only been
above .500 for two days in the first month and a bit, it’s pretty obvious to everyone in
the AL East that if the Sox want to compete, something drastic has to happen – and it
has to happen soon, or I might just start watching Major League Soccer instead.
You can argue that the Red Sox are starting to put it together. Having swept the
Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers with strong bats and strong
pitching. J.D. Drew, Victor Martinez, and Adrian Beltre seem
to be coming together at the plate. Even David Ortiz has been smacking a
couple out of the park in the last week. Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester,
and John Lackey have seemingly started to come together. Daisuke
Matsuzaka is back from the DL and has shown signs of strength and weakness,
and even Josh Beckett had a great start to his game against the Yankees
last night, at least until he fell apart. There are signs of light at the end of the tunnel.
Then again, they were swept by the Rays at home over a four game series. They
were even swept by the Baltimore Orioles in Fenway South, and are 2-4
against a team that has been amongst the worst in baseball not just this year, but for
a long …. long time – a team the Sox have beaten 15-17 times per season almost
every year in recent history.
Offense isn’t necessarily a problem. During the off-season, talk was about a
dominant pitching staff and defense, with a relatively weak offense. So far, it’s been
the other way around. The offense has given it’s fans an average of about 5 runs a
game. In the mean time, the pitching staff has an ERA of 4.68, with 13 un-earned
runs crossing the plate. Furthermore, The Red Sox are 1-5 in 6 games they sent to
But why is everyone in Red Sox Nation worried about the future outcome of this
season? Yes, the Rays are 22-7. The Yankees are 20-8. The Blue Jays are 18-13,
2.5 ahead of Boston for third place in the division. But look on the bright side – it’s
only May 8th. Jacoby Ellsbury is injured, as is Mike Cameron. The
lineup is being shuffled continually. The pitching staff needs to find their groove. It
will happen. Eventually everything will come together and they’ll start to win again.
Beckett, Lester, and Lackey are all proven aces. Buchholz and Dice-K are strong,
strong pitchers. Beltre will find his niche at the hot corner. Ellsbury will come back
and start causing hell at the top of the lineup. The 2010 Boston Red Sox are better
than the 85-win team they appear to be at the moment.
Let’s put this season in perspective. This time last year, the Yankees were 14-15,
4.5 games back of the leading Red Sox. But starting on the 13th of May, they won 9
in a row, ultimately ending with a 103-59 season and a World Series ring. Similarly,
the Red Sox started the 2009 season with a record of 2-6, and then went on a
13-game winning streak for a final record of 95-67 and a Wild Card championship. It
can still come together. There’s still time, but this is what needs to happen:
- Stop losing against the Yankees and Rays – In 8 games against these
two teams, they’re 1-7 … all at Fenway, where they seemingly can’t lose against
any other team as long as they show up for the game.
- Start Pitching Like You Mean It – The aces on the mound will come
together and start throwing 7+ innings per game. They’re too good for it to not
happen. Buchholz and Dice-K will add a good compliment to the three J’s, and
the bullpen will come back together, especially when Bonser comes back to put a
cap on his great spring.
- Improve Defense – Beltre has 7 errors so far this season (only 14 for
him through all of last season), so he needs to improve if we have a chance of
winning. But he’s not the only problem. Martinez needs to improve his throw to
second to intimidate potential thieves (although the pitchers need to help). The
offense needs to get healthy once again and do their thing.
- Get Back Ellsbury – Jacoby is well-known as one of the best lead-off
hitters in the game. Guaranteed to steal bases, walk, and hit at a .300+ clip, he’s
essential to a good Sox team (not that Scutaro isn’t doing a great job in his
absence). Darnell McDonald, Jonathan Van Every, Bill
Hall, and Jeremy Hermida are doing a good job in the absence of
Ellsbury and Cameron, but you just can’t replace those two players in any
Do that, and we’ll be fine. Besides, the Yanks will fall, right? 🙂 Burnett can’t go two
seasons without an injury, and Vasquez will be a beautiful Yanks disappointment this
At least one can hope, right?
Today’s physical in Arlington came up with a radial collateral ligament
tear in Mike Lowell‘s right thumb. Some Red Sox fans feel this is a
bad situation, whereas others are jumping for joy now that Lowell is sticking around
in Boston. He is scheduled for surgery just after Christmas, and should be out for
6-8 weeks. In other words, he should be healthy for Spring Training, and while his
throwing programs may be halted, the rest of his training program should be able to
go on as per usual, preventing him from a long recovery. Personally, I see this as a
blessing in disguise, and this is my reasoning:
Lowell comes back in Spring Training and gets traded some time into the
year: If this happens, either we can make the trade for Max
Ramirez again, as double jeopardy doesn’t apply in baseball, or Epstein
could look to another team that needs a decent DH. His value should be higher if
Boston will still front the bill and he has proven himself to be healthy. If Max
Ramirez was indeed a potential trading piece for Adrian Gonzalez,
Epstein will find another way to get the prospect, or he will rearrange his
bargaining chips and find another way to Gonzalez.
Lowell comes back in Spring Training and stays with Boston for the entirety
of the year, playing 3B: If this happens, Boston keeps the offensive
power of Lowell, while sacrificing the speed he lost last year, and taking a risk with
his rumored decrease in defensive ability (which could become increasingly more
true if his hip gets any worse). With the increased defense on the left side thanks
to Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron/Jacoby Ellsbury, it
shouldn’t be TOO much of a problem for the team. Who knows, maybe he’ll pull
the hidden ball trick out of his hat a couple times this season to make up for his
lack of physical ability (he’s
done it twice before, afterall).
Lowell proves to be a liability in the field and sits on the bench: If
this happens, either Casey Kotchman becomes an everyday starter at
first and Lowell sits on the bench, or Epstein has to work out a trade for a decent
corner infielder during the season. The best way to account for this is to find said
corner infielder before the beginning of the season and make Lowell work for a
starting spot. However, I’m happy with Kotchman as a defensive replacement if
Lowell doesn’t work out, as his strong defense will solidify the infield.
Lowell turns into a part-time player in the field: If this occurs,
Lowell would play fewer games, meaning Kevin Youkilis would play 3B
on occasion while either Kotchman or Victor Martinez would find more
time at 1B, potentially meaning Jason Varitek could find more time behind
the plate. While I don’t feel Varitek should be behind the plate any more than
necessary, it’s not a terrible alternative if Lowell can’t play everyday anymore.
Lowell could also be used off the bench as a pinch hitter in crucial situations,
which we all know he tends to thrive in.
Lowell platoons with David Ortiz as the DH: It was proven
last year that Ortiz sometimes has trouble with quality pitching nowadays, so why
not sit Lowell on the bench and use him against certain starters, or LH pitchers?
Platooning these two players gives you the most optimal DH situation every game,
and leaves a power hitter on the bench in case you need that bat later on in a
game. Also, with Lowell being a DH, you get the capability of platooning him at 3B
whenever someone else needs a day off, while keeping him fresh as well.
In my mind, the only bad thing that can come from this is that you’re stick with a $12
Million man sitting on your bench and/or eating up a spot on your 25-Man Roster that
could be used for another arm in the bullpen or a more capable utility fielder.
Although, the 25-Man Roster can be altered throughout the season, and others will
almost definitely get injured, so it’s not really an issue.
As you can see, it’s win-win for everyone in Red Sox Nation.