At the quarter-mark of the season all of a week ago, I penned a column insisting that, despite their percolating list of issues, the 2014 Red Sox weren’t all half-bad.
The Red Sox completed one of the most disastrous homestands in Fenway Park history Thursday afternoon, when Jon Lester barfed up another couple early home runs to the Blue Jays, who rolled on to a 7-2 win. It was Boston’s seventh loss in a row. One more and Bobby Valentine can officially, rightfully say, “Hey, I could do that.”
Prior to this week, the Red Sox hadn’t been swept in a home stint of six games or longer at Fenway Park since 1994, when Boston lost a pair of series to Baltimore and Minnesota from June 8-15, part of an 11-game losing streak for Butch Hobson and Co. (the immortal Gar Finnvold took a pair of the losses). In fact, it’s only the second time in franchise history that such an ineptitude has transpired.
Your 2014 Boston Red Sox are a dirty, hot mess right now, and the most concerning part is that this current streak isn’t one that can be attributed to injuries (unless you count Will Middlebrooks, which you don’t) or bad luck (unless you count Felix Doubront’s car door attacking him, which you don’t). It may just be that this is who these guys are.
As Joe Morgan once famously said on his way out the door before handing the managerial keys to Hobson, “These guys aren’t as good as you think.” Perhaps we’re learning that all over again.
Anybody want to still argue that character and purpose didn’t have a good chunk of them winning a World Series last year? Anyone? The more we watch the Red Sox a year later, the more the theory that proposes that they were a pleasant fluke prevails. If they indeed managed to tread water through the first month-plus of the season, you can thank the Twins, Tigers, and Blue Jays for tying a rock to that heel of hope you grasped for 10 days ago.
What a mess.
Who’s to blame for a seven-game losing streak that has helped contribute to a 7-12 month of May?
David Ortiz: The easy suggestion was that once Ortiz went into some sort of slump after carrying the offense, things would get ugly. Well, over the past seven days, coming on the heels of a pair of monstrous performances in Minnesota, Ortiz had only two hits, slugging .091 over that stretch. Even the red-hot Xander Bogaerts couldn’t pick up the slack in a week in which the rookie hit .450 with a 1.350 OPS, all while losing his shortstop job to the incoming Stephen Drew. Seems to have really affected him for the worse, huh?
Clay Buchholz: Another start, another blunder for Boy Wonder, who is now 2-4 with a 6.32 ERA this season. Buchholz got the hook on Wednesday, after allowing nine hits and five earned runs over 4 2/3 innings, before he could surrender a 10th hit in a game for the third straight start. That’s 29 hits over the last 11 innings pitched for Buchholz; his latest gag sparking some keen beat writer observations that “something might be wrong with Buchholz.” Hey, where ya been? Buchholz isn’t only a shell of the promise he tantalized with last season before wrecking his neck on a pillow. He’s a black hole leading to obscurity.
Grady Sizemore: Enough. The one-time feel-good experiment with Sizemore has become an unmitigated disaster. Sizemore looks like a guy who hasn’t seen a baseball field in a decade, never mind three years, and puts manager John Farrell at a distinct disadvantage having to fill out a lineup card every night with a leadoff hitter who can’t hit leadoff. Sizemore had one hit in 16 at-bats during the current losing streak, but did walk four times, as many as Mike Napoli. As the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson notes, “If the Red Sox let Sizemore go before May 29, they’ll be on the hook for $1 million — his $750,000 base salary and a $250,000 bonus for having spent at least one day on the major-league roster. His next $250,000 roster bonus doesn’t kick in until he’s been with the Red Sox for 60 days. His first $250,000 plate-appearance bonus doesn’t kick in until he’s at 225 plate appearances — almost 100 more than what he has now.” Translation: Bye, bye.
John Farrell: Maybe there comes a point when folks in Toronto preach comeuppance, but this looks a hell of a lot more like the overmatched John Farrell that was the Blue Jays manager than the one that rode on Duck Boats last fall. It’s not all his fault, of course; general manager Ben Cherington went out this past offseason and shopped at yard sales for new tools when he should have just sucked it up and went to Lowes. Sizemore replacing Jacoby Ellsbury was a cute story line for four weeks. Edward Mujica has been a plundering waste of space. Cherington tried to sell Middlebrooks as the answer at third even though Farrell all but lost faith in the chap during the postseason, and then there’s A.J. Pierzynski, a signing that the Red Sox catcher probably can’t even explain. But the whole bunting episode on Tuesday night? That seems to suggest a manager whose head isn’t quite where it’s at when it comes to a team that needs to manufacture runs, or one that seems to think it has something to prove to you. Either way, it’s been ugly.
John Lackey, Lester, Doubront, and Jake Peavy: Buchholz may be in a category all his own, but the rest of the starting staff has been abysmal over the past seven games. The Red Sox held one lead over the 54 innings played at Fenway. One. More often than not, it was the blame of starting pitching which has gone from shaky to unreliable in the blink of an eye. Lester, aiming to be the stopper on Thursday, allowed seven runs over the first two innings, the offense went into its shell, and voila. Lackey pitched into the sixth inning without much run support against Detroit over the weekend, but not before allowing five earned runs on nine hits. Peavy gave up 11 hits in six innings against Toronto, and Doubront became a character in Stephen King’s reboot of “Christine” prior to his ugly outing and an ensuing stint on the disabled list. Paging Brandon Workman, Allen Webster.
Shane Victorino: If you have to choose one underperforming Red Sox outfielder to stick with, it’s going to be Jackie Bradley, Jr., based both on his ceiling and his stellar defense. That also makes having to endure the stink bomb seasons of Sizemore and Victorino all the more frustrating. No, Victorino isn’t still on the disabled list, though he’s played like it since returning to action late last month. He hit .136 with a .409 OPS last week, helping contribute to one of the worst collective outfields in terms of OPS in baseball. Perhaps even more frustrating is that Bob Marley has a whole catalog of infinitely better songs than “Three Little Birds” to use as walkup music. This is important.
The Sox head into this weekend’s series in Tampa Bay five games behind the Blue Jays for the AL East lead, one from the Rays for the honor of cleaning up the basement. The season is slip-sliding away, and we’ve yet to even thoroughly enjoy Flag Day.
No, they’re not half-bad. For now, at least, they are just full-on, plain atrocious.