I don’t know about you, but I’d consider getting swept by the Cubs - outscored in the three-game series, 20-10 and embarrassed in the finale, 16-9 - the absolute rock bottom in this bottomless pit of a Red Sox season.
For real, this time.
What an utter disaster the Red Sox have created for themselves. Hate to break it to you, but anyone still holding out hope that this team can still make a run, at either the division or a wild card, is either delusional or simply can't see past the wicked awesome glow in their special edition "Sweet Caroline" glasses. The Red Sox are what they are, an overmatched group that can’t go head-to-head with decent pitching by the opposition because of their inability to discover any semblance of consistency in their lineup. It really doesn’t get any more complicated than that.
As for the reasons why Ben Cherington and the front office didn't try to fix the situation in time is a bit more of an equation to solve. The Red Sox desperately needed a bat, and instead the franchise was fixated on bringing in Stephen Drew for $10 million to upgrade over Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. Either the amount of runners left on base just doesn’t compute, or Carmine is having a nice chuckle over all of this at his owners’ expense.
And so, here we are. With a Red Sox loss against the Orioles Friday night (weather permitted), coupled with a Rays win over the Tigers, Boston can find itself in last place in the American League East by the time Independence Day comes to a triumphant-less close. They are nine games under .500 for the first time since May 25, the final day of a 10-game losing streak from which they have never recovered. Hell, on this date under Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox were 42-39. Two years later, they are one loss away from being 10 games under .500, a feat even the bumbling Valentine didn’t accomplish until September.
“There’s a full half-season to go here,” manager John Farrell said after watching Brandon Workman, Felix Doubront, and Junichi Tazawa get torched on the mound Wednesday night. “We recognize fully where we are in the standings and what our record indicates. We’ve got to continue to work at that.”
No. No, you don’t.
Let’s hope Farrell is spinning those words for the sheep who still think there might be a chance, because any logical follower of the game understands that it’s time for the Red Sox to sell on this season for the future. See who wants Jon Lester. Find out who wants to take a chance and extend John Lackey. Discover if there are any takers on a veteran catcher who tends to hack at the first pitch when he’s not hacking at the demeanor in the Red Sox clubhouse.
Really, it's a blessing in disguise just how bad the Red Sox are. Any lingering hope might have led to the team trying to improve itself for the stretch run instead of bathing itself in reality.
Here are the players currently on the 40-man roster for which I wouldn’t entertain trade discussions: Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and Workman. That’s it. Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Lester, Koji Uehara, Jake Peavy, Doubront, and Mike Napoli? Get what you can for the lot of them. If it comes down to value difficult to turn down in the cases of Pedroia and Ortiz, you thank them for the fun times, and move on. Emotions only get in the way of making the most difficult decisions. Hopefully some rival general manager out there will test whether or not Cherington can truly have a heart of stone.
What’s the use in not selling? So that Ortiz can grumble about the schedule and how the world is against him, at least until he conveniently comes down with a mid-summer injury that lands him on the shelf? So that we can tick away the pitches, innings, and starts that Lester has remaining in Boston before he finds greener pastures elsewhere (Guess here is the Bronx)? So that Dubront can get by on the potential that everybody tries to sell that he has, even as he gets whiplash because of the bullpen role that he feels just isn’t suited for a guy of his caliber? So that Drew can be a reminder of how the front office went out and got a defensive solution for a problem screaming for offense?
The season is a lost cause, and frankly, the more time the Red Sox don’t spend realizing that it’s time to cut bait the more frustrating it becomes. Cherington has hemmed and hawed on the situation, proclaiming that the trade market just isn’t quite there yet with the July 31 non-waiver deadline coming up in four weeks. But that sort of analysis seems to make little sense when you are the trade market. The Red Sox are open for business, buyers take note. No reasonable offer refused for most guys. Knock Cherington’s socks off if you want the guys in glass cases up on the shelf. They’ll take some negotiating.
Generations to come will marvel at how the Red Sox won a World Series in the midst of what will possibly be two last-place finishes in the AL East, but now is about making franchise-altering decisions. Boston has a lot of pitching to sell at the right price - some of it at any price at all. But when you hit rock bottom, there are even harder decisions to make. Maybe getting swept by the Cubs makes them a little easier.
The Red Sox are certain sellers. The sooner everybody admits that, the sooner the chance for them to sell high on their commodities.
But if the front office moves at the same pace and ferocity it did in order to fix what ails the Red Sox in 2014, I wouldn’t expect much.
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