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Sale of the century

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  May 18, 2010 09:17 AM

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Sell.

In the long run, maybe this disaster will end up beneficial for the Boston Red Sox. If you haven't noticed, Memorial Day weekend is but 10 days away, and the local baseball nine is an imploding mess. Following last night's latest meltdown in the Bronx, the Sox are now 19-20, 8 games behind Tampa Bay and trail New York by 6 .

But it's only...But it's only...

This is not meant to be doom-and-gloom, but a reality check is in order: The Red Sox are going nowhere.

Hey, baldy, you don't know. If the pitching rebounds and Theo Epstein gets some more pieces for the bullpen...

Yeah, that's a rich one. Pinning hope that Epstein can construct a viable bullpen is like assuming Claude Julien will win a Game 7 someday.

Really, it wasn't the way last night's game ended (Jonathan Papelbon coughing things up with a ferocity not seen since Marc Savard) that was telling about what road this team is headed down, but what happened after the game. After starter Daisuke Matsuzaka (and wasn't he just a pleasure to watch?) questioned whether he should have thrown more fastballs, Peter Abraham went and asked Victor Martinez about the pitch selection.

"He's the one," Martinez said. "I'm just back there trying to help him go through the game. At the end he's the one who has the ball in his hand. I'm just behind the plate trying to help him. At the end, he's the one who has the last word. He's the one who has the ball in his hand. I just put down suggestions and he can say yes or no."

Matsuzaka gave up five runs in the first. When asked the reason for that, the righty said, "There's one thing that I know for sure, but I'm not quite ready to share that."

And that, in a nutshell, is your Boston Red Sox. It's seems as every day passes there's another miscommunication of some sort. I mean, imagine if Terry Francona, the best in the game at keeping things in-house, let half the stuff going on in that clubhouse to go public.

If, like Bill James said recently, the Red Sox "spend an immense amount of time worrying about" team chemistry, shouldn't we wonder if this group as constituted doesn't have the know-how or, frankly, guts to step up when faced with adversity? Because when we see some semblance of that it will be the first time.

You have to wonder at what point Golden Boy John Farrell gets the Dave Wallace treatment. As overhyped as they may have been heading into the season, the Red Sox starting staff can't be this bad. Scratch that, shouldn't be this bad. And yet, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, and Matsuzaka collectively have the worst starting ERA outside of anyone in Kansas City or Detroit in the American League, where no team has allowed more earned runs than the 198 given up by the entire Red Sox pitching staff (Insert snarky "prevention" comment here.)

Unacceptable.

It's unacceptable.

I keep going back to the 1988 Red Sox for the last time I can remember a team beginning a season so dreadfully before making a run and actually winning the division. But even that team wasn't this bad record-wise. On May 18, the Sox were 20-18, and at their lowest point, 10 games out of first, they were only two games under .500. It took firing John McNamara, trading for Mike Boddicker, a sprinkling of Morgan Magic, and a heaping portion of smoke and mirrors for the Red Sox to storm past the Tigers and hang on to win the East.

Anyone who was around then can relay to the rest of you what fun it was to be a Red Sox fan that summer. Down the stretch, not so much, as Boston struggled to finish a measly 89-73, good enough for the AL Least, but its inferiority showed mightily vs. the A's in the ALCS.

If the 2010 Red Sox finish 89-73, they will be in third place. For if it takes 95 wins to win the wild card - and this year with the Rays and Yankees at the top of the heap, not to mention the Twins and Tigers in the Central, it may take more - the Red Sox need only go 76-47 the rest of the way.

When you think this team is capable of playing 30 games over .500, wake me from my slumber.

The Red Sox are in their deepest stretch of difficult competition, and have thusly responded with all the success of a BP spokesperson at an EPA convention. In the long run, maybe that allows Epstein to sell on certain guys who may have some value: Martinez, Mike Lowell...no, that's about it.

Oh, wait, it's not.

Can I ask why whenever anyone broaches the topic of trading Papelbon they're treated as if they just ripped the bubbler from the wall and busted through the window en route to freedom? (Dan Shaughnessy says today, "Forget that noise.") You might think that someone suggested they trade Nomar Garciaparra or that the Celtics could land Kevin Garnett. I know, crazy right?

Papelbon is the greatest closer in Sox history, but he's 29 and is going to be looking for record-breaking dough when he becomes a free agent after 2011. The Red Sox aren't going to give it to him. Logic though says the time to deal Papelbon isn't now, but prior to next season, lest you surrender any of his prime. Then again, he likely won't have more value than he does right now. Or Epstein may just want the draft picks he'll get by letting him walk.

It doesn't really matter, because it's not likely to happen. However, something, anything needs to be done in order to right this sinking ship.

They'll be fine. Remember, marathon, not a...

Yeah, yeah. But it hasn't been this bad in a long time. And if you want to fix it, there seems to be little wiggle room to do so.

In other news, the Fenway sellout streak will hit No. 574 tomorrow night when the Sox host the Twins, just another bit of garbage being sold to you over on Yawkey Way.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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