Over the past couple of days, Red Sox fodder has been interesting to say the least.
You either fall on the side of 1) “they stink, it’s a lost season,” to 2) “wait a minute, there’s a long way to go, the starting rotation is starting to come alive, don’t panic.”
Tending to lean toward No. 2. One caveat: they can’t mess up this week against the Angels and the Yankees.
The Sox are 11-14, which is horrible. It’s a surprise, quite frankly, because most people (I’m one of those Most People) expected the Red Sox to be their usual 95-win playoff team. They still might be. Consider last season’s standings (and I know last year has nothing to do with this year). The Yankees were 15-17 and started 0-8 against the Red Sox and went on to win 103 games and the World Series. Yankee GM Brian Cashman remembers quite vividly the trashing of the team at the time and the questioning of him spending so much money on CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, who got off to slow starts. How did that turn out?
The Angels were 25-25 and went on to win 97 games . OK, much easier division to dig yourself out of a hole.
The Twins were 57-62 on August 18 and went on to win the AL Central in a dramatic one-game playoff against the Tigers. Ditto.
The Philadelphia Phillies started 16-16 and went on to win 93 games and the NL East title and NL pennant. They were always a sleeping giant.
The Rockies were 20-32 on June 3rd, 15-1/2 games behind the Dodgers before winning 92 games and the wild card. Cinderella, Cinderella.
The Red Sox had a mini slump really early, starting 2-6 before rattling off 11 straight games and winning their usual 95 and making the playoffs. Steady.
How about Red Sox 2010, what we will say about them?
Door No. 1: “Theo Epstein wasn’t kidding when he said this was a bridge year – a bridge to nowhere.”
Door No. 2: “What a team. They overcame a slow start and won the division and the World Series.”
The Red Sox have two interesting examples in their own division last season. The Yankees overcame the 15-17 and rolled. The Rays started 11-16 – which is really close to Boston’s start, and never were able to recover enough to make the playoffs and won 84 games. The Rays were also a team with few resources who could do little about their poor bullpen. While the Rays still have a few issues, they’re looking like a solid team right off the bat. They would need to be able to hold off injuries as they did in 2008 to continue their nice run.
So how should we look at the Red Sox right now?
On the plus side, should we consider the starting five in the rotation could be very good? Daisuke Matsuzaka didn’t fare well in his first outing back, but last season the Red Sox got a few of those stinkers from Brad Penny and John Smoltz and still won 95.
Should we take into consideration that the Red Sox have had their two starting outfielders – Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron – out for a long time? Are we seeing the value of Ellsbury in his absence (And how long will it take those ? The result of two starters being out has led to all kinds of lineup combinations and a lack of continuity and production save for a couple or few Darnell McDonald Moments.
Can we assume Adrian Beltre will be the All-World third baseman at some point? I always felt that Beltre was having problems adjusting to the difficult Fenway infield, but he’s been an equal opportunity flubber. At least he’s hitting.
The David Ortiz issue is huge. In this pitching/run-prevention team he MUST be a force because you have to have the ability to hit three-run homers like the old Earl Weaver Oriole pitching/run-prevention teams. Was the two-homer game Saturday a tease? Is his confidence returning? And if it isn’t, when do the Sox move on?