The Red Sox are idle today. That's a state the front office has been in all season.
All you need to know about the Dead Sox' 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays last night is that with their season potentially hanging in the balance these are the batters manager Terry Francona sent to the plate in the ninth -- Mike Lowell, Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish, (a pinch hitter for Darnell McDonald) and Jed Lowrie, who was pinch-hitting for Yamaico Navarro.
An unwanted spare part pressed into action, an overachieving former independent league outfielder, a rookie pinch-hitting for a surprising journeyman and an oft-injured utility man pinch-hitting for a player who had been in the big leagues for 10 days. That's how a $170-million ball club goes quietly into the night.
Lowrie made the game's final out on an uncommitted half-swing. Fitting because the front office hasn't gone full out for this team this season. Francona and his players deserve better for staying within striking distance of the Rays and Yankees and creating the patina of a playoff team for the organization to sell its tickets, concessions and television content.
Last night's defeat at Tropicana Field and the series weren't just lost over the weekend. They were lost in the last month, when fatal flaws went unfixed by the front office. While teams like the San Diego Padres (Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada) and Minnesota Twins (Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes) have addressed needs, the Sox have preferred to stand pat and apply internal patches. The Padres and Twins look playoff-bound, the Sox do not.
Actions speak louder than words. Francona's actions tell the tale of a team that waited for reinforcements from its front office that never came. Besides the batting order in the ninth last night there is this incriminating evidence of fatal inaction from general manager Theo Epstein. In the most important series of the season, the Sox put Scott Atchinson into a tie game on Saturday night and Hideki Okajima, who couldn't get minor league hitters out consistently in his three rehab appearances, into a one-run game last night.
The results were expected and so is Boston's playoff plight, after a 15-12 month of August. People have been waiting since late April to write off the Sox. Now, they finally get their wish.
The Sox loss last night to the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., was a microcosm of everything that went wrong this season on Yawkey Way -- an underperforming erstwhile ace, a makeshift lineup forced by injuries, an untrustworthy bullpen outside of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.
Not a single substantive move was made to address any of these detrimental defects, and it caught up to the Sox when it mattered the most. The waiver-wire claims for Johnny Damon and now Mike Napoli are too little, too late. Those moves seem as much reactive in trying to block the potential deal of another team as proactive in trying to improve this one.
Tomorrow is the deadline to acquire a player via a waiver wire transaction and still have that player be eligible for the playoff roster. Maybe, Epstein has one last trick up his sleeve, but any addition now looks more like a public relations move than a player personnel one.
At the end of play on July 31 the Sox were 7 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East and 5 1/2 games in arrears in the wild card chase. Today, they're 6 1/2 games behind in both the division and the wild card. With both the Rays and Yankees in action tonight the Sox, who sit at 74-57, could be seven games back by tonight with 31 games to play.
Who knows where the Sox will be when the Rays come to town a week from today, but you don't need an MIT degree to know the arithmetic is not in their favor.
Even if they find a way to win their customary 95 games -- unlikely considering they haven't won more than six games in a row all season and more than four straight in the second half -- the requiem for the Red Sox will be sung. If the Yankees and Rays, both 80-50, merely go .500 the rest of the way they'll win 96 games each.
Some issues were out of Epstein's control, primarily the subpar pitching of John Lackey and Josh Beckett and the debilitating injuries to Opening Day starters Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron. That's not to mention the near month that Victor Martinez was sidelined.
But others like the bullpen lingered on like the plot of "Lost" all year. This is a lost year for the Sox, much like 2006. But even in 2006, when they passed on Bobby Abreu and the $14.6 million per year he was owed from 2007 to 2009, only to sign J.D. Drew for five years and $70 million, there were acquisitions made to attempt to address glaring problems.
The Sox made the emergency trade to usher back Doug Mirabelli after Josh Bard was overwhelmed by the knuckleball. The Sox made a waiver trade to acquire Javy Lopez to catch after Jason Varitek damaged cartilage in his left knee. At the time of Varitek's injury, the Sox were a game ahead of the Yankees in the American League East. When they picked up Lopez they were only a game back. They finished 11 games back.
It seems that Epstein surmised at the trading deadline that this team wasn't likely to make the playoffs, and thus, wasn't worth sacrificing any future assets to aid.
He may be right, but that doesn't make the Tampa series, or this season, any easier to take.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.