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Repair shop

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff July 30, 2008 10:28 AM

There are 54 games remaining on the Red Sox’ 2008 schedule, precisely one-third of the 162-game slate yet to be played.

To win 95 games, give or take what might be necessary to beat out the Yankees and Rays for the AL East title, 61-47 Boston needs to go 34-20 (a .629 winning percentage) the rest of the way, while the Rays need to go 33-22 and the Yankees 37-19 to accomplish the same goal.

A 34-20 mark shouldn’t seem some insurmountable task for the defending World Series champions, but the way they’ve been playing lately it could be. The Red Sox have done themselves no favors of late, sporting a 4-7 post-All-Star break record that has some fans doubting the prospect of another title run. Consider that last season, Boston hadn’t lost its 47th game of the season until Aug. 12, when it was 70-47, a nine-game differential in the win column.

Perhaps the most concerning record is that Tampa Bay is the only team of the three with a winning record within the division (27-19). So while plenty of pundits expect them to fail down the stretch with pivotal late-season showdowns against Boston and New York on tap, so far they have proven otherwise.

But back in Boston, there are more pressing concerns than worrying about what the Rays do on a nightly basis. Manny Ramirez could be gone by tomorrow (unlikely) or the end of the season (count on it). Clay Buchholz has looked more like the next Jeff Sellers than the next Roger Clemens. And Jason Varitek’s bat is now so pathetic that he’s due to be introduced to Mr. Mendoza within days.

They can't win on the road, a sweep against the pathetic Mariners their only saving face of late. They can't beat the just-got-better best team in baseball, 0-5 now against the Angels in the second half, and losers of their last seven against Arte Moreno's crew. Heck, the Sox are 1-4 since David Ortiz returned to the lineup, but he's hardly been the problem this month.

All-Star MVP J.D. Drew has hit .233 in July. Mike Lowell -- no longer in a contract year -- has apparently reverted to his former ways of second-half woes, batting .213 for the month with one home run and a whopping .287 on-base percentage. Jacoby Ellsbury's .544 OPS for the month is better than just five other AL batters. One of them is, of course, Varitek (.539).

And yet, the deadline looms and all the scuttlebutt revolves around the Sox doing nothing, or picking up 41-year-old Doug Brocail. Talk about going for it.

Bottom line, this isn't as talented a team as it was in 2007. There's no Curt Schilling to bank on come October, and while you can feel confident in doing so for Josh Beckett, the man has gotten a total of six runs of support in the last four games that he's started and the team has lost, including Friday night's showdown vs. Joba Chamberlain. Former Golden Boy Jacoby is at this point a better option than Coco Crisp and not much more. Then there is the Manny affair, which if he isn't traded by tomorrow's deadline, promises to rear its ugly head again at some point between now and the end of September.

But if they can somehow get Brocail, well darn it all, watch out...

Just because this team has far more issues than the edition of a year ago, which, of course, had its own share of problems -- remember some boneheads declared them nowhere near fit for a title at the end of August -- doesn't mean it can't make a charge at the division and catch lightning come October. It's just that so many issues seem to pop up on daily basis you half expect Jason Johnson to take the ball for them tonight.

Basically, it comes down to this: Are we on the verge of a repeat of 2006 or 2007?

At the deadline two years ago, Theo Epstein decided not to make a deal that would sacrifice future talent for the likes of Bobby Abreu and the late Cory Lidle, who both ended up on the Yankees. Despite the aggravation displayed by many Sox fans, it was the right move. The '06 Sox were a sinking ship, injuries eventually sealing the fate of the first playoff-less season since 2002.

Last season, Epstein went out and got Eric Gagne, which was an unmitigated disaster. Still, the GM showed confidence that his team was among the best in the league, and good enough to win a World Series. He was right.

In 2008, the bullpen is a deadline day concern, what with the unpredictable performances of guys like Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen, but so too is the offense with bottom feeders like Ellsbury, Varitek, Crisp, and ... wait, Alex Cora is still here? While Ramirez, Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis continue to smoke anything tossed in their direction, the lineup is becoming top-heavy. Post All-Star break, here are the batting averages of the rest of the regulars:

Lowell: .174

Drew: .167

Varitek: .194

Ellsbury: .186

Crisp: .136

Should we be surprised John Lackey nearly no-hit these guys last night?

The big bat is off the market in Mark Teixeira, who makes the Angels the most formidable team in the majors, yada, yada and so forth. He wasn't a reality here, with Youkilis likely the demand in return, but that's the sort of guy the Red Sox have been missing in this little bump, and really, despite the underperforming bats, where would you most assume they get a big bat? You've got Lowell contractually wrapped up, for better or worse. Ditto Drew. The Varitek situation is one that isn't easy to solve, the two-headed monster of Golden Boy and Coco only confounds solving that matter, and despite what we've enjoyed from Jed Lowrie, the incumbent Julio Lugo is here for two more years and $18 million. It almost makes watching Lowrie a bit depressing, because you know he can't be long for the spot thanks to the team's commitment to Lugo.

Of course, hovering over all the trade talk is Manny Ramirez, whom it seems the team would be rash to trade just over a dare and some misbehavior. From a baseball standpoint, at least. From a team standpoint in proving to the rest of the guys that that sort of behavior won't stand, he'd ideally be gone by 3 p.m.

But really, Manny is the least of this team's problems. His situation just makes it all the more difficult for the team to solve most of them.

78 comments so far...
  1. Slumps like this happen to every team, even the best. Relax. The Red Sox are a really good team and will be playing come October.

    Posted by Ben July 30, 08 11:35 AM
  1. Can someone please tell me whatever happened to Sean Casey ? Why have him instead of 4th outfielder that can hit and play first base (hello Brandon Moss).
    Give Lowell a break and let Casey play first. It is amazing that he has been so quiet.

    Posted by AC July 30, 08 11:39 AM
  1. What's your best suggestion for a (baseball) move the Sox should make?

    Posted by Jeff July 30, 08 11:42 AM
  1. Time to re-adjust the hopes for this season. The new goals are: Finish ahead of the Yankees. Somehow win 4 of the last 6 vs them so the Sox win the season series. Those are the new goals and hopes. This is not a WS contender, but that's okay, you can't win every year. But another year of bragging rights vs NYY is always appreciated.

    Posted by Jeff from Alexandria July 30, 08 12:00 PM
  1. To those who know baseball this is called a slump. Trading Manny isn't happening and i'm glad. The Sox will heat up and be in this down the stretch...so relax and start doing some chanting and praying that Lowell, Drew, V-tek and Ellsbury remember how to hit. Luckily if we make the playoffs we won't need Bucholz to start a game. But Manny's the problem cuz he was only out by 4 steps on the double play-ball Monday night instead of 3.

    Posted by Ush July 30, 08 12:23 PM
  1. I'm sorry but Theo's claim that the market for relievers and big bats is too expensive is not justified. Nady and Marte for 4 unkwown Yankee prospects??? Texeiria for Kotchman - straight up (+ an AA pitcher)?? Also, trying to get something for Manny is a futile effort - plus the money is already spent and you can't trust him down the stretch. Just go get Holliday and deal with the Manny thing separately.

    Posted by SteveP July 30, 08 12:33 PM
  1. Go after a centerfielder! Roland or Kotsay!

    Posted by Ted M. Williams July 30, 08 12:38 PM
  1. We always struggle with a .500 record in July Relax, for pete's sake
    Your World Champion Boston Red Sox are the best team in the East
    A left handed reliever would help the bullpen, though
    calm down and maintain

    Posted by rickydee3312 July 30, 08 12:43 PM
  1. It sucks that young guys can't always come right in and play top-notch baseball, but they can't all be Papelbon, Pedroia, and Lester. You have to put up with growing pains from Ellsbury, Delcarmen, Buchholz, and Hanson if you want to reap the rewards down the road. It may cost them the championship this year, it may not. Either way, however, it's necessary if you're committed to having homegrown stars.

    Posted by J-Bone July 30, 08 12:44 PM
  1. I agree with SteveP above. The Yankees ROBBED the Pirates for Marte and Nady while Tex was traded for Kotchman. The players were out there and it looks like we missed the boat. Im afraid the Tex trade may have put the nail in the coffin for the AL, but the damn Yanks are right here too. Tamp will wither. Sox need to get the bats going!

    Im not jumping ship yet, but I have my preserver on.

    Posted by bostonroger July 30, 08 12:46 PM
  1. Manny and a couple prospects to Seattle for Ichiro

    Posted by Kevin July 30, 08 12:47 PM
  1. I agree with Ben and AC. It's a slump, and all teams go through it (like the Sox getting swept by Evil Empire late last year). Casey has been a strong reserve all season. We could use his bat in the line-up a little more often, until some of the cold bats revive themselves.

    As for the trade market, who knows what we can get? None of the available "talent" is all that enticing, outside of Matt "King's Ransom" Holiday from the Rockies. I trust Theo and his 2 WS championships to make the right moves, even if it means making no moves.

    Posted by Ghost of Johnny Most July 30, 08 12:47 PM
  1. Eric,

    Finally a beat writer willing to call out the other problems on this team and not shill for ownership...anyone else in favor of trading one of the underperforming young untouchables for some help at SS, catcher, outfield, bullpen, bench?? Lay off on Manny and let's go for it this year!

    Posted by JM July 30, 08 01:01 PM
  1. Run differentials:
    Tampa Bay: 40
    Boston: 89
    New York: 41

    Not only are the Sox slumping right now, they've been getting unlucky, and the Rays getting lucky. It's disconcerting to see them play like this in July, but I'm certainly not worried yet. I'd still look for the Rays and Sox records to even out quite a bit over the next few months.

    Posted by Jeff July 30, 08 01:06 PM
  1. Epstein is Nero. Boston is burning and he is doing zilch. This is not a slump when you have a bullpen that looks like this one. Those who can't see even that simple fact don't know the game.

    Posted by Ted July 30, 08 01:08 PM
  1. The Sox have not played well all year. They have had a few nice streaks at home but when you can't win on the road, you will not be playing baseball in October. All the experts want to blame their struggles on the bullpen but it has been the lack of hitting in their losses that have contributed immensley. The Sox strength in the last five years has been their overall lineup 1 through 9. The problem with this years team is only 2-6 have shown up. Ellsbury, V-tek, Crisp, and Lugo's AB's have been so routine. Ellsbury played well in April and May and probably should have been sent back to the minors earlier this month if only they could get any kind of production from Coco. Coco should have been traded or released a long time ago. He is a great center fielder but his AB's are painfull to watch. V-tek looks tired and has had that look since the end of May but at least the effort is there. Theo failed to get a quality catcher to share time with V-tek. A right handed hitting player on the bench not named Cash would be nice to have. Moss and Carter should have had more significant playing time when Ortiz was injured. Why Francona played Jacoby and Coco together almost the entire month of June and July made no sense. If Manny is traded before the deadline, Sox Nation will not be enjoying baseball this October. His number against the Yankees have been outstanding and will not be replaced. The sad thing is his option will not be picked up at the end of the season anyway. I would not be suprised to see him playing LF for one of the New York teams next April. You can only pray it's not the
    Yankees.
    .

    Posted by peter malone July 30, 08 01:19 PM
  1. Give Buckholtz a break. Lester struggled too. If its that big of a concern, put him in the dugout. Maybe he needs to be a middle reliever too. There farm is deep in pitching. Also, we have Lugo for 2 more years, but look what we have when him and Lowell are done. Build from within.

    Posted by david July 30, 08 01:21 PM
  1. Manny needs to put this team on his back and carry them. He's responsible for the dsitractions of late, and even though we have other problems to address, Manny getting hot right now would solve a bunch of them.

    Posted by BaseballDiamond July 30, 08 01:25 PM
  1. Time to dump Manny...he is poisoning the team. Swap him for the Phillies Burrell even up.

    Posted by Max Red Sox July 30, 08 01:27 PM
  1. I agree completely. Nothing in the Sox repertoire is consistent. I don't understand why they don't get rid of Manny immediately. The only rationale has to be that what they put on the field wouldn't be worth the price of admission, but what's going on now is ridiculous, and who knows what might happen if Theo actually did something wise for a change. This team would definitely be more interesting to watch without Manny (and without Lugo, for that matter). This is a rebuilding year, but nobody will admit it!

    Posted by Harper July 30, 08 01:27 PM
  1. Columns such as this demonstrate why sportswriters should not have the Hall of Fame vote. Using post-All Star Break batting averages as the argument why the Red Sox won't win the World Series. Speaks for itself.

    Posted by Alan MacEwan July 30, 08 01:28 PM
  1. Been watching the Sox on television regularly and sat through two dismal games at Anaheim Stadium last week......here it is.....

    The hitting is absolutely pathetic. The Sox batters need more instruction. Batting coach is NOT doing the job. Players are looking at good pitches, swinging at lousy pitches and..........Coco Crisp...c'mon...swinging for the fence EVERY TIME? Jason Varitek?....how about batting from the right side of the plate where you started in Little League...you are no natural left handed hitter.....you are late on the ball, swinging through pitches and not very discriminating at which pitches you swing at and take.

    The Red Sox hitters need to swing at the ball where it is.....not where they want to hit it. That's why Pedroia has been so successful. The home runs and power will come when the contact is made.

    Get a new batting coach...cheap and easy.

    Posted by Shawn Pearson July 30, 08 01:32 PM
  1. Manny is not the problem here. If the Red Sox FO had just talked to him even briefly about his options he would not have gotten in a snit. If the other players are not man enough to play through another's players snit then they aren't ballplayers. Manny is about the best thing this team has now (despite all his antics) and he gets treated like the monster. Furthermore, if Manny is in any way a monster, he is one the Red Sox created themselves. And the idiot fans are out there booing him because he didn't run faster to first base? Give me a break. Neither did Lowell, certainly not Varitek, but let's blame Manny. He has batted in most of the runs we did get in every game but last night. but let's make him the bad guy. Theo has always wanted him gone and soon he will get his wish. Then we'll all be even sorrier and more pathetic than we are now.

    Posted by elccpa24 July 30, 08 01:39 PM
  1. They'll get back to flat mashin'........don't get the itchy trigger finger and really do damage! They have a very good team, and once Manny's gone-the sky's the limit.

    Posted by David Kergo July 30, 08 01:39 PM
  1. Manny will put up his numbers. Shut him up by picking up the first option. He'll be productive for one more year. The issues he has catching up with a good fastball aren't going to get better and his production will decline after 2009 - let him go then.

    I'm SO tired of heraring how wonderful El Capitan is with the pitching staff. Bully for him and his .200 average. If Cash isn't the answer, get the answer, but the glaring hole in his spot in the lineup is too big to ignore anymore. I will gladly take someone who is an average manager of a pitching staff for a .275 average and not an 'automatic out' in the line-up.

    I have to agree with most of the folks regarding the kids (Ellsbury, Bucholtz, etc.). This was bound to happen to them. They'll develop and snap out of it. We're also not 10 games out. If we can play out of this slump, we'll be in the heat of it in September/October. Beckett, Lester and Dice-K in a playoff series? I'll take my chances - even against the mighty, mighty Angels.

    Posted by TwinCities Sox Fan July 30, 08 01:49 PM
  1. Yankees have 10 of remaining 55 games against the Angels with Texiera.

    Sox could get a break if they can hold off Twins for wild card.

    Posted by Frederick July 30, 08 02:03 PM
  1. this is not the 2007 Red Sox by any means even though this is their annual slump, the pitching is not what it was last year, Ortiz has been injured, Manny is well what he is, Okajima is not reliable, Clay is a AAA star......

    Posted by Dave D July 30, 08 02:07 PM
  1. Drew needs to be in the 2 hole. This year and last have shown that he needs to be hitting in front of the big boppers. He can get on base consistently but he has never been a consistent RBI guy.
    Also, how come Francoma is not getting more criticism? How many more close games do they have to lose before people wake up. Last year was easy for him with Oki and Paps closing games. This year his pitching change decisions have been horrible.

    Posted by Tim M July 30, 08 02:18 PM
  1. Once Manny is gone, the sky's the limit? Wow. That's downright delusional. I'm tired of Manny's antics and I think he's hurting the team at the moment. I'm sure Manny is responsible in large part of the lethargy that Pedroia spoke of after last night's debacle. But Many leaving is not the path to success in October. That goal is going to be difficult to achieve whether Manny is here or not.

    Manny is a huge question mark right now. If he stays, will he be productive or will he quit on his teammates to get back at Theo?

    Posted by Bob July 30, 08 02:19 PM
  1. The Sox will win the division. I've watched almost every game. I've never seen a team stuggle to hit its stride and not fall apart like this one has. They have yet to have a hot streak, played a ridiclously tough schedule and are still in the playoffs if the race ended today. The yanks are on the road far more than the Sox down the stretch. The Rays are a fun club to watch (I'm watching them right now and twice the hapless Jay's have left a runner on third with no outs) but they are skating by. They struggle on the road, have no pennant race experience. End of the season they will be like last year's Brewers... out of the race and a year away. Mark this down: Angels best record, Sox win by 2 games over the wild card Yanks. Detroit edges White Sox. Yanks don't have the starters to win in a playoff (come on, Mussina can't touch any of the Angels or Sox top three starters). Angels and Sox have a historic seven game series in ALCS... We will be wishing we had the home field avantage then...

    Posted by Scot from San Fran July 30, 08 02:28 PM
  1. I disagree with all who think this is a slump. I actually think the Sox are playing at a level right now that they've been playing at all year. It's just that the names to blame have changed and somehow more losses are piling up. I think that's just what happens. A win-loss record doesn't always indicate how well the team is playing. Earlier in the year I think their record was better than level of play; now it may be about even or a little worse. I don't think run differential should be looked at though. Or if it is, there should certainly be some caveats. A few blowout games can skew the differential. Moreover I'd say a team with a large differential and seemingly disproportionate win-loss record tends to lose the close games. Which makes sense considering what I've seen the Sox bullpen do all year.

    Posted by Chad July 30, 08 02:33 PM
  1. Just wait till next year!! this one is OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVA !

    Posted by TBONE July 30, 08 02:43 PM
  1. put Buchholz in the "dugout?" how about the bullpen? Does that sound better? Geez, proves my theory on the baseball intelligence of the commenters here.

    Posted by c July 30, 08 02:50 PM
  1. I love the "Manny is spoiling team chemistry" argument, a chance for columnists and other so-called experts to equate baseball with football or basketball. I am sorry but Manny doesn't have to block for Ortiz or pass the ball to Drew. All he has to do is field his position and hit, and considering he has played in more games than anyone except Pedroia, is seems like that's what he's doing. And BTW, Pedro put up much more of a stink about his option being picked up, and the Sox obliged him a season in advance.

    The Sox field a lineup with three #9 hitters, which are whoever is playing C, SS, and CF. That is by far their biggest problem. They need more bats, not less. Middle relief is an issue but that's going to be the big issue for most clubs, you can never find enough reliable arms.

    Trading Manny would be insane, unless the Sox want to wave the white flag in the season. And maybe they do. The soy latte crowd will still fill Fenway, chant the chants, and sing the songs anyway. There's still the excitement of the 8 ceremonial first pitches as well, and the 2 words we all love to hear...

    Posted by internet_king July 30, 08 02:50 PM
  1. Slumps occur, this is true, but the latter half of this lineup has been dismal. With Teixeira already wearing a Halos jersey, the next Manny free agent replacement (Matt Holiday) won't be available until the end of next season. From a pure statistical standpoint, why not pick up Manny's option for 2009? And don't use 'team chemistry' as an excuse to avoid this measure. You think any of these players care about Manny's antics? Baseball is an individual sport. What Manny wants is security so give it to him. And if this team somehow stumbles into October, there's no one else you'd want at the plate than Manny. Can anyone say most postseason home runs? Take the emotion out of it.

    Posted by JohnBoy July 30, 08 02:55 PM
  1. They've played some hot teams of late. But as any long term Sox fan will tell you, pennants are not won in July or August. It's not like they are 10 games back.

    Starting pitching has been pretty good all year. Bullpen is inconsistent. Hitting will come around. St. Theo hasn't made a move which is probably a good thing. Other than the Nomar trade, most of his best trades are the ones he didn't make. And the drama over Manny is a yearly thing. Tampa an the Yankees have their weaknesses too. It'll be a fun couple of months

    Posted by Curtis July 30, 08 03:04 PM
  1. I say, make this trade package, Manny, Lugo, Hanson and Coco throw in 15 million cash, and get back Halladay, Fuentes, and Tulowinski from the Rockies. The cash will off set the Rockie payroll for Lugo and Coco and we save it on what we do not have to pay their guys. They are young and under control for a couple more years and then we can match up against the Angels

    Posted by Patrick July 30, 08 03:13 PM
  1. This does appear to be the annual slump, but it's been a bit longer than normal. Since May 23 the Sox are 30-28, a .517 clip. As Eric points out, they need to go .629 the rest of the way to get to 95 wins.

    It won't be easy, but the schedule is favorable. Lots of home games, and besides the NY and TB games most of the opposition will just be playing out the string.

    This team reminds me a lot of '05. Trying to repeat, but not nearly as talented (and/or inspired). Probably good enough to make the playoffs, but that's about it. Maybe we'll even lose to the White Sox again in the first round.

    Posted by DJ July 30, 08 03:19 PM
  1. This is not your 2007 Red Sox. For that matter, it's not your 2003, 1983, 1977 or even 1949 Red Sox. The last minute pick-up at the trading deadline works what percentage of the time for teams? Maybe 10%? (Somebody who has more free time can do the math on that.) Yeah, Manny is a pain to the fans who cannot believe he is such a dunderhead when he has been given so much talent, and as a reward for that talent, adulation and money. Most of us are happy with the 5% raise and the three-time-a-year atta-boy from the boss. But I say let the boys play. That's why they're a team. I don't know if Schill is around the team much, but any influence he can bring to the younger pitchers who seem to be having issues with the pressure (Is this the same Hanson that we were told couldn't miss in 2006?) Despite the news reports that some players were "seething" about Manny, let's not forget that when you are in the clubhouse working next to a guy, it's different than when you're in the stands. As long as Manny continues to hit, the players will be fine. Just for the record, I think Manny was right (might be one of the few times I agree with him) about Youkilis tossing the equipment every time he popped out. You're a grown man, cut down on the Red Bull and go get them next time.
    OK, enough out of me. Let's keep the team intact and play it down to the wire.

    Selah

    Posted by Dan from CT July 30, 08 03:30 PM
  1. A bit harsh, even for a die hard...

    Posted by Jill Smith July 30, 08 03:46 PM
  1. It's amazing the Sox can play as badly as they have been and still only be 2 games out of first (and 2 ahead of the Yanks). That says a lot about this team and I think at their best they are probably unbeatable.

    Posted by JSINAK July 30, 08 03:47 PM
  1. Outstanding dose of reality for all the Epstein sycophants and varoius and sundry apologists (pink hatters?) out there in "Red Sox Nation".

    The giggling, goofy group of fans who jumped on the bandwagon in 2004 have yet to suffer like those of us who have witnessed this house-of-cards "country club" down through the years.

    You can dress 'em up and market them any way you want, but they're still the Red Sox.

    Stick a fork in 'em - they're done.

    Posted by bigfoot July 30, 08 04:00 PM
  1. Boo f---ing hoo.

    Posted by Evil Empress July 30, 08 04:05 PM
  1. Seems like everyone is forgetting that Manny has always wanted to play for the Yankees, and he and Boras are writing the script to make it happen next year. When the Sox decline his option, the only team that will pay him - well, not the $25 mil he wants but maybe $18-20 mil - is the Yankees. For Manny it would be mission accomplished. And it may be the one and only reason the Sox STILL may choose to exercise the option in '09. That's why they should just trade him now, for anything, hoping the team they trade him to will sign him beyond this season - and keep him off the Yankees.

    Posted by Kevin Quirk July 30, 08 04:08 PM

  1. What I would love someone to answer is why Theo doesn't just dump Manny for whatever he can get? I know he thinks he needs to get proportional value in return, but what is he worth? He's a team cancer and after the season he'll walk and we'll get nothing. So why not dump him now and dip into our well of prospects and try and get the left field heir 3 months in advance? That's what we'll have to do after the season anyway?

    Posted by MUNGHERO July 30, 08 04:14 PM
  1. It just seems to me that there is a lack of desire and heart on this team. Manny is NOT all the blame. The hitting (or lack thereof) is pathetic. As I have said many times, no team in baseball leaves the bases loaded more than the Red Sox. Presently, there is not a clutch hitter in the lineup. A deal or deals need to be made, but it looks that won't happen. Oh well, there's always 2009.

    Posted by Stylin July 30, 08 04:16 PM
  1. Everyone really needs to chill out. Compared to the Rays and the Yankees, the Red Sox have by far the best schedule the last two months. The Yankees (if I remember right) have TWO west coast trips left--the Sox are done. The Sox have like six more home games left than the Rays or Yanks. It's very doubful that Lowell and Drew and even Ellsbury will continue as they have been. All you need to do is get a ticket to the playoffs, and then the starting pitching can take over. I think they still have an excellent chance of winning he division, although this whole disaster with Manny needs to be fixed in some way.

    Even if they don't win the division, it's the Sox, Twins and Yanks in line for the wild-card. We'll have to see if the Yanks can keep a run going with so many road games left. Their schedule to start August is 4 games vs. the Angels, then @ Texas, @ L.A, and @ Minnesota. Their September starts with @ Tampa, @ Seattle and @ the Angels. Then they finish with six on the road as well. They better play way better than they have. They made hay while at home against the likes of Houston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and K.C. Let's not get too excited about that club yet.

    Posted by DallasSoxFan July 30, 08 04:22 PM
  1. I agree with the view that the Sox have done all right considering all the circumstances. They have a very good chance of making the playoffs. Mr. Wilbur, you have a sky is falling predisposition most of the time when I read your stuff. The glass is always half empty if you know what I mean.

    They may not win it if things don't come together, but they'll still be very competitive. They very well could win the division, and although the Angels look impressive and it looks challenging, the Red Sox'll have a good shot to get through. The season to me is not a failure if they do not get to the World Series. It's about being very competitive and having a real shot at it.

    They have internal options and possibilities without overpaying for a mediocre player at the trade deadline. They could very much use one of the centerfieders finding his hitting stroke (Ellsbury the more likely candidate). Okajima, especially, and rest of the bullpen are settling down and haven't been as bad as routinely characterized. The starters have been fine and Buchholz is not that far off, a victim of his defensive support and simply pitching in some bad luck, and although it may not come together for him this season, it certainly could. Colon may help them yet over the last six weeks.

    Cheer up Mr. Wilbur, things could actually work out pretty well and Manny could even be back next year (we should all be hoping for that, if winning and an entertaining team are the objectives – as they say, don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff blown out of proportion, mainly by the media).

    Posted by Steve Z from Edgemont July 30, 08 04:28 PM
  1. We are giving up three or four inings per game when it comes to the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th batters. You won't win many games when you have 12 automatic outs and only 15 remaining outs to produce runs.

    Posted by Beto July 30, 08 04:33 PM
  1. Why the hell does Manny get away with this crap? He is adistraction and none of us were raised to act like children. Manny is a child and the child should be sent away. He is a distraction. New life now might inspire the other bats to get hot and his teammates might be inspired to play the game of baseball once again. Let the child leave and then he can cry in some other city. Bring in a ball player that wants to play baseball in the best sports city in America.

    Posted by Mike M. July 30, 08 04:37 PM
  1. Please everyone.... Winning two Championships in a row was almost idealist!!! Contacts, performing commercials, attending local dinners is what New Englanders wanted to see!! Injuries, age of players, and a little less athletic drive was eventually going to happen. We adoring and hungry New England sports fans live on extreme highs and lows. I remember when all of the sport articles were how good the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics were going to be for years. WIN! WIN! WIN! Athletics is the only true Reality Show!! Actual highs and lows occur. Yearly the trade deadline comes and goes without much fan fare. Athletic teams require tweaking throughout the season. Sometimes common sense is required of us a fans. Please remember, all of the teams will improve again! Please remember! The REd Sox are still contenders !

    Posted by J.F. Kayajan July 30, 08 04:46 PM
  1. This team looks like it struggles but always fights hard every night. Even when losing a game, they play hard. That's the most you can ask from your players.

    Ortiz will start to hit and it will spark this team, you watch.

    Posted by massta July 30, 08 04:46 PM
  1. As lackluster as it appears the Red Sox have been playing of late, and especially since the All Star break, the laws of baseball and statistics says that all those guys who are hitting badly in July will start to hit better. Item 1: The statistics bear out that the Sox, overall, still have one of the top offenses in baseball (if not, perhaps, the most balanced lineup in the Major Leagues). Item 2: Our pitching isn't as bad as everyone thinks it is.The Sox are 5th in the AL in era at 3.84, and except for Oakland, the 2, 3 and 4 teams aren't much ahead. Item 3: Run differential -- sorry, Chad, but run differential is a better indicator of how a team is playing than won-lost record, and ours says we should be three wins and three losses better than we are. Item 4: Schedule - favors us the rest of the way with lots of home dates against lots of mediocre teams. It does appear as though the team is lacking some intensity on the field, but that's how it often appears when you're losing. Psychologically, the team needs a spark, no question about it -- a big, come-from-behind-win or a playoff pitching performance from Beckett tonight, or something. But Papi's back and all the indicators are there. As easily as the Sox have lost seven out of their last 11, they could just as easily rip off 16 wins out of the next 20 games. Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way. They're due to get hot.


    Posted by Steve July 30, 08 04:48 PM
  1. You failed to mention one fundamental issue that Epstein must be thinking about. They are going to play the last two months without a first rate short stop. Cora is on the downside of this skills and never had an arm. Lowrie is a kid learning the position and probably does not have the range or the arm to stay there. Two months is a long time with that set up. Lugo is far better defensively than either of them.

    Posted by Thomas McCarthy July 30, 08 04:50 PM
  1. Eric Wilbur...continuing to top yourself at every turn

    you are as bad as it gets in a major market in this country sir...which is saying a lot

    Posted by Dante July 30, 08 04:55 PM
  1. I would love to see Manny Ramirez in pin-stripes, if not to further complete the demise of the Shmuckees, at least to see that the "donkey doo" on his head go. Hey Manny and all you Idiots with dreadlocks, especially white people, unless you're Rasta you look stupid!

    Posted by jumbybird July 30, 08 04:56 PM
  1. Spot watching three AL East contenders play last night was interesting. The “O’s” pummeled NY despite the Yanks starter having prior decent stats. They’re starting to come around. Their “young” talent (less PD whose been relentless) looks better than the Sox.

    The Rays beat the Toronto ace Roy Holladay 3-0 the night before and won again last night 3-2. If most of your readers expect the Rays to melt, don’t be surprised if it’s the Yanks and Sox battling for the wild card slot come September

    Posted by Jay July 30, 08 04:57 PM
  1. and people are concerned with Manny? 3 RBI's the other night & we only scored 5 ... and lost.

    Posted by B Jenkins July 30, 08 05:37 PM

  1. I too believe this team will get in the playoffs. Just so you know manny "don't" want the options picked up, that is the problem LOL. I would love to have him back but if managment don't ( and who could blame them) then give him some official paper about not picking up his option. I am sure we will see a more energetic manny at that time. If you want him back (and who could blame them ) then sign him to his 4 year contract for about 80- 90 mil and move on into the playoffs for the next few years. NY will certainly get texiera in the off season so there will be no big bat out there. Manny is not the problem and if he is give me 9 more like him.

    Posted by AL July 30, 08 05:40 PM
  1. What is the chance of making youk the every day left fielder signing a big time 1st basemen in the winter and saying good bye to Ramirez? Can Youk become a leftfielder?

    Posted by Marty July 30, 08 05:46 PM
  1. One could write a book about this. The bottom line in this season is that the hitting hasn't done it's part. Last night was a great example. Notable exceptions being Pedroia (who is showing why he was ROY last year), Youkilis who is every much a gold glove (and bat), not to mention leader than the guy who tried to deck him (Manny), and Papi when he's been healthy. On the other hand, Jason Veritek, may be a terrific defensive catcher, but his batting has been an ABSOLUTE JOKE. If he keeps hitting like he has been, he'll be a hasbeen, and the C on his uniform will be for "Choke". Also don't blame Ellsbury, as this kid has been a gold glove in Left Field IN MANY WAYS than Manny could ever imagine. Maybe Magadan the hitting coach isn't working out, or the middle relievers have been a definite problem. Bottom line is, that Manny is a distraction, and this team for a core group hasn't lived up the to the billing, and there needs to be some changes, or some butt kicking. If no changes come tommorow, or otherwise, forget October, and get ready for the Patriots.

    Posted by Dan from Maine July 30, 08 06:02 PM
  1. Here is a reasonable trade. Package Manny, he is a cancer and approaching the precipice, Ellsbury, his stroke looks pretty weak, and one of the young relievers, Del Carmen or Hanson, both worthless stiffs, to the Mets for Beltran. He costs what Manny does, solves the center field hole for 3 more years and provides a measure of protection for Big Papi. The Mets would jump at this

    Posted by Chuck Lasher July 30, 08 06:53 PM
  1. I'm not convinced NYY really helped themselves all that much with Pudge. I'm not sure catching was a hold for them, yeah Molina doesn't hit much but he's great defensively. Farnsworth is a meltdown waiting to happen but has pitched better recently. They may have plugged a hole that didn't need plugging and may have opened another one in the process. Joe and Dale were just questioning the Tigers mindset, I'm not sure it made sense for either team.

    Posted by Jeff from Alexandria July 30, 08 07:30 PM
  1. Great article, the Sox have a lot of problems. Im tired of some pundits thinking the Manny distraction is causing all there problems. The Sox are playing awful right now, thats why they are losing.

    Posted by mike July 30, 08 08:01 PM
  1. Boston has thrown in the towel. This Manny-trade BS has got on everyone's nerves. Count the season over as far as I'm concerned.

    Posted by DisapPOINTed July 30, 08 08:13 PM
  1. Hansen & Del Carmen have had enough time. Are we supposed to wait until their old enough to collent Social Security Benefits for them to be consistent useful arms for a team that will contend. And, this team needs a shortstop in the worst way, in the off season, they should try to buy out Lugoat.

    I hate to see Manny go, but if they can make a sensible deal like getting Burrell for him it would make sense. Do you trust this guy the way he shut it down in 2006. And, Beckett is not distinguishing himself tonight as the ace when they really need him. Its a gauranteed third place this year.

    Oh, and Coco Stale is useless, just a 4th outfielder at best. A Theo mistake.

    Posted by Terrible T July 30, 08 08:23 PM
  1. sox look so flat ....They need a shakeup

    Francona looks like he is waiting to see Hazel May

    Posted by johnnyc July 30, 08 09:55 PM
  1. See yaa later Manny...you don't deserve to play in Boston. You've worn out your welcome.............

    Posted by numnuts July 30, 08 10:01 PM
  1. it,s over r.s.nation.you had youre goodtimes.the angels just prooved it.i cant wait for the day when manny smacks it over the monster,holds that pose,than listen to the boos of the fenway croud as he rounds the basses in a non red jerssey. hopefully against pappybon.whoos youre daddy boys.

    Posted by ron striker July 30, 08 10:17 PM
  1. I have watched the rays more than once this season,i don't think they are
    going to fold.the wild card may not even come out of the east, if that happens does
    anybody think the yanks or sox will fire somebody?

    Posted by paul July 30, 08 10:39 PM
  1. Well, it is hard to win every single year. This is no longer the inevitable crashing down of another dream in a string of 80 seasons in a row. The Red Sox are the DEFENDING CHAMPIONS and they still have enough players with enough experience to have a good shot at the playoffs for the final 8 weeks. It looks very bad now, since the Red Sox are not playing well and the Angels and (largely) Yankees are. And because poor playing on the field heightens dissension and perceived dissension in the clubhouse. Players went through awful slumps in 2007, but we don't largely look back at Drew hitting a total of 6 balls hard in 7 months, we look back at the Grand Slam in Game 6 and at this past June. Winning a few games in a row, expected against the eventual run of bad teams the Red Sox will face soon, will improve the perception of the team. I refer everybody to the 200 blog pages of consternation surrounding the Celtics two months ago when they were struggling against the Cavs. The law of averages shows that a good team that is not injured eventually finds its water level. Who did the Red Sox lose from last year to this one? Curt Schilling and essentially no one else. The Angels and Rays are demonstrably better and that is worrying. The Yankees are not better--they were about 45-20 coming down the stretch last season. The really scary projected teams--the Tigers and Indians--are not better either. So the Red Sox just have to start playing better. A catcher who can get more than 3 hits a week or a trustworthy 7th inning pitcher wouldn't hurt either. But this is not a true picture of the Red Sox and their talent (which is among the best in baseball)--this is a picture of a team in a massive team slump, and the conclusions that we are jumping to because of it.

    Posted by Milltycoon July 30, 08 11:24 PM
  1. Everyone just needs to calm down and and be reasonable. 1) Baseball is a game of momentum; every team has it's ups and downs (remember when the Diamondbacks had the best record in baseball?) 2) Before you suggest that Theo trades, releases, or demotes the entire line-up back to AAA, it should be noted that J.D. had a spectacular June, Ellsbury is still a great fielder and didn't hit .353 in the majors last season by accident, Mike Lowell was the World Series MVP for goodness sake, and, well, excellent catchers who are good hitters are hard to come by. If Pedroia doesn't hit well in the next three weeks, should we be calling for his head too? 3) You call blame the hitters all you want, but in how many games has there been at least one inning where the Sox pitchers gave up three, (four, five, six...) runs? Answer: a whole lot. Oh, and the name is Hansen (sen), not Hanson. 4)For all those who claim that Manny is bad for the team, do you really want to watch him hit home runs for the Marlins? Really? He may be a clown, but he's our clown. 5) If the season ended today, the Sox would still be playoff bound, so why panic? And if worse comes to worse and there is no October for Boston, hey, it's already football season.

    Posted by VJ July 30, 08 11:51 PM
  1. The Red Sox haven't played well consistently all year. I was on this same board at the end of May talking about the lack of pitching and the fact that these guys just could not even BUY a hit off of good pitchers, and I was basically told to "shut up. It's early, it's early!" At that point, I declared that I would be back after the all star break, and then we'd see who was right and who was wrong . Well, here we are, and the Red Sox are not at all a world championship team. They looked unbelieveably pathetic tonight. An embarrassment to themselves and to their fans. To top it all off, they want to trade one of the top players that we have, not to mention in all of baseball. Manny's right, the Sox do not deserve to have him on that team any longer. He has done so much for Boston. And what about "lugging to first base" the other night? The press was all over it. OK, and what did Mike Lowell do at the very next at bat? Lugged to first base! But I heard not a peep about it. Get off of Manny's back. Without him, the Red Sox have zero chance of even coming close. With him, they at least still have the chance to be in it.

    Posted by Sheri July 31, 08 12:01 AM
  1. First, Manny is not lazy. He's one of the hardest working hitters in baseball. Granted, he doesn't work on his fielding very often, but he does play the wall well. Second, he has brought all of this on himself - the McCormick thing, sitting out with the knee, all the recent comments and everything else. I love Manny being Manny, but stuff is different - he wasn't having fun - he was being destructive.

    Lastly, don't hate on Theo and the FO. They have delivered 2 WS (with a lot of help from Manny). They treated Nomar, Damon, and Pedro well while they were here. Nomar certainly sulked during his last year here and it took a LOT of guts for Theo to trade him. Also, Damon and Pedro were offered great contracts - the teams from NY overpaid them and they took the money. So all the people saying they are racists or disloyal are plain wrong. They simply put an accurate value on their players and didn't overpay for past performance they weren't likely to duplicate.

    Posted by Mike July 31, 08 04:50 AM
  1. Good analysis except for one thing - you forgot about the manager. Francona is the proverbial 'players' manager' - dedicated to the veteran ballplayers to a fault - at the expense of ballgames. It's this imbalance that moves him to continue to keep Varitek's bat in the lineup even when he has options (pinch hitting for him in late innnings, esp. in critical situations), eschewing the opportunity to insert Sean Casey into the lineup during Mike Lowell's slump, etc. etc. Francona may have won the affections and loyalty of his players, but at what cost? Achieving such loyalty should be a means to an end, but with Francona, it is the end itself.

    Posted by koolkat July 31, 08 07:48 AM
  1. I don't think we have to worry yet. When the Manny situation is finalized [with him either staying or going] the team will right the ship. Even with our struggles against the Angels I still can't rate them very highly. They have no one either in that lineup or in that starting rotation that scares me so if we do meet them in the playoffs it should be another sweep. It's the same feeling I had when that Pats met the Chargers in the playoffs a couple of years ago- on paper it should've been a Pats loss but...they're the...Chargers. And the Angels are, well, the...Angels. The Sox clearly have to be playing better than this to make a run in 2008 but they don't even need to be hitting on all cylinders to be the best team in the AL and probably all of baseball.

    Posted by PatsinDC July 31, 08 10:05 AM
  1. Get rid of Manny, just like we got rid of that last loud mouth, parting fat guy..what was his name...Oh Yeah BABE RUTH

    Cruse of Manny, anyone????????????????

    Posted by Get Rid of the Loud Mouth July 31, 08 10:22 AM
  1. manny has brought personality and color, not to mention close to 300 homeruns and two rings... sox should have extended manny two years. and then moss is your starter and keep hansen... now they have no moss, no manny, and no hansen! sox dropped the ball!!!

    Posted by jc July 31, 08 05:16 PM
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