This is the reality. The Red Sox are just 16-22 since the All-Star break, a pathetic 6-14 in the month of August. They are coming off a demoralizing five-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees in which the pitching staff allowed 49 runs, an average of almost 10 per game (Though to be fair, Mike Timlin might argue the Sox offense should have scored 11 per game to help out a bit).
Manny Ramirez is channeling Wade Boggs, whining about official calls in a time when none of that should matter. Coco Crisp has exposed himself to be about as much of a franchise center fielder as Dwayne Hosey ever was, a point made even further as Johnny Damon reminded Fenway Park how good everyone forgot that he was. Josh Beckett's "stubbornness" apparently prevents him from throwing anything but his flat fastball.
Injuries have devastated the Red Sox. From Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, and Keith Foulke to Alex Gonzalez, Trot Nixon, and, yes, Matt Clement. How badly would you rather have seen him on the mound Friday in place of Jason Johnson?
Rudy Seanez, a mistake since Day One is gone. Jon Lester remains green, his potential already being doubted by a fan base that demands results. Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen may or may not be big league pitchers, but they're all the Red Sox have. For the first time under the new ownership, the Red Sox are a sinking ship with no end in sight.
What a mess. So, really, Bobby Abreu was going to fix all this?
Theo Epstein and the Red Sox's financial decision to not make a deadline deal for Abreu and Cory Lidle has developed a misconstrued vitriol amongst Red Sox fans, an anger that is even more fresh after watching Abreu (10 for 20) and Lidle (picking up the win in the final nail contest) do their work against Boston this past weekend. But after watching this team over the past week even, it's foolish to think that Abreu would have bounded into Boston like some sort of Superman to the rescue.
In New York, that is precisely what he is. Difference being, the Yankees have about one-fifteenth of the issues the Red Sox have surrounding them.
Abreu is the final piece in what is suddenly a ferocious Yankees lineup. He's the glue that gets Derek Jeter to Jason Giambi, and allows Alex Rodriguez to slide down into a more threatening five-hole. Doug Mirabelli said after yesterday's game that the Yankees' lineup might not get any better, even with the impending returns of Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui. He's probably right.
In Boston, Abreu would have been a nice addition as the No. 5 hitter that the Red Sox have lacked all season long. Lidle would have been certainly better than Jason Johnson at the back end of the rotation. And then…
Unless Epstein could have also found a way to overhaul the entire bullpen at the deadline, the Abreu deal would have been an extremely expensive failure. As much as Sox fans want to criticize the team for not making a costly, $17 million move for the books next season, arguing that they pay the most exorbitant prices of anyone in the league to watch this underachieving squad, the baseball ops people don't set the price gouge.
Frankly, they can't care about you having to fork over $100 for that rickety seat you remember paying $25 for just a few seasons back.
To make a deal that will cost that much is to be handcuffed by the Yankees, the exact problem this team is trying to get away from by developing its own core of talent. If the Red Sox made the deal, they would have done so primarily to keep Abreu from the Yankees, a $17 million decision that would have limited what they can do for next season. You want $17 million dedicated to Abreu or perhaps investing it in some pitching that can help solve this team's fatal flaw?
Long-term cost effective plans like those of the Braves, the A's, and the developing one of the Tigers have been done on a core philosophy of strong pitching. In the offseason, the Braves are likely to dangle Andruw Jones in exchange for young pitching with which they can begin to rebuild the aspect that made them dominant for 14 seasons. Let's just imagine the Sox can pry Jones away for the likes of Beckett and Crisp, say, instead of the Lester-Craig Hansen it would have taken last month. Maybe the Astros are still interested in Jones for Roy Oswalt. Now, you have the guy that caused so much of fervor at the deadline, and you kept a kid who might be a 15-game winner next season. And because that kid is under your control for the next few seasons, you can afford to give Oswalt the $15 per season he's looking for. That's pipe dreaming of course, but similar scenarios will arise.
If you feel the need to blame Epstein for something, there remains plenty on the table. There are plenty of mistakes, ranging from still paying Edgar Renteria to Julian Tavarez to Crisp to the potential one we can already smell with the baseball ops seeming obsession for Julio Lugo. There was the rash decision to give up on Josh Bard (.325 batting average, .404 OBP) and Cla Meredith (1.05 ERA) to bring back Doug Mirabelli (.197).
Their failure to move at the deadline was born out of knowing the team wasn't good enough. Blame them for that. Not for failing to make it worse with another hasty, reactionary move.
Where do they go from here? They're 6 ½ behind the Yankees, four behind the White Sox in the wild card hunt. It took a weekend of complete embarrassment for many Red Sox fans to realize that it's over for 2006. Few remain, waving their foam finger until the elimination bell sounds. But those who have actually watched this team the past 5 ½ weeks are even more cemented in their knowledge that the Red Sox are not going to be playing come October.
If the Red Sox continue at the pace they've played at since mid-July, a .421 winning percentage, they will finish the season with 85 wins, their lowest win total since 2001 (82). Perhaps that's apropos.
That season of utter failure and inner sniping is the very embodiment of what many fear could happen now with this crew. And with Ramirez on the verge of laying down for the rest of the season, Timlin laying blame where it's not deserved, and players such as Beckett not living up to their enormous potential, the possibility flickers, waving in the wind with each compounding loss.
It's over. We told you as much last week. What we all witnessed was a thoroughly embarrassing weekend, but not totally unexpected.
There was no quick fix for this disaster. Don't blame the Red Sox for that.
Blame them for the mess to begin with.