From time to time, the Red Sox like to hit us with a shirt-ready slogan. I’ll let you decide whether the sayings are catchy or more worthy of an eye-roll, but you might remember “Do Damage” during the epic 2018 season.
That was the year they won a franchise-record 108 games and rolled the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers en route to the World Series title. Damage done. That championship, the franchise’s fourth of the millennium, was clinched 22 months ago. It feels like about 22 generations ago.
Last year, when basically the same cast of Red Sox dropped to 84 wins and missed the playoffs, the slogan was, “Turn The Page.” Last season was a letdown — so much for a budding dynasty — but that disappointing sequel is nothing compared with what the Red Sox are enduring right now.
Now, they’re just damaged, and this year turning the page inevitably reveals one more absurd and embarrassing plot twist.
The Red Sox are 6-17, a .261 winning percentage that is better than just one other MLB team (the 4-14 Pirates, at .222). They have one more win than the St. Louis Cardinals, who have played 10 games. They have lost eight in a row, allowing at least eight runs in the first six of those.
The Red Sox are on pace to go 16-44. Can you imagine that? A 16-win season for a team? Sixteen wins is half as many as Cy Young won himself in 1902, as many as Tim Wakefield had during his first season with the Red Sox in 1995, and as many as Steve Avery and Frank Castillo had in their Red Sox careers. Heck, it’s as many games as the Patriots won during the 2007 regular season.
As far as I know, the Red Sox haven’t come up with a slogan for this year, presumably because the curse words this team inspires would cause NESN to get in trouble with the FCC. Do damage? Turn the page? How about, “Oh, the humanity!”
The offense has been mediocre (4.26 runs per game, eighth in the AL), with Rafael Devers (359 total bases last year, 26 this season) looking lost and J.D. Martinez appearing to be one more bewildering at-bat away from locking himself in the video room and refusing to leave until he’s allowed to watch clips of his at-bats during games again.
Of course, other teams have a benefit that Red Sox hitters do not: They get to face this unfathomably brutal pitching staff. The 20 pitchers and two position players the Red Sox have used on the mound this year have combined for a 6.06 ERA, 228 hits allowed and just 185 strikeouts in 199 innings. They’ve basically replicated as a group John Lackey’s 2011 season (6.41 ERA, 160 innings, 203 hits), which is the worst full season a Red Sox starting pitcher has ever delivered.
This is the long way of saying the situation is hopeless for this year. Baseball-Reference gave the Red Sox on Monday an 8.5 percent change to make the playoffs and a 0.3 percent chance of winning the World Series, and I’d say that unless they can acquire that Betts fella from the Dodgers and add about nine major league-quality pitchers, the 99.7 percent chance that they don’t win the World Series is a fairly safe bet. It’s not mathematically possible, and yet I wouldn’t bet against this team finding a way to lose 100 games in a 60-game season.
Oh yeah, this is a hopeless scene. There’s really only one thing Red Sox fans can and should do right now: Embrace the stink.
We knew there was a chance we might see history in this abbreviated season. Who said it had to be the good kind? While Charlie Blackmon makes his run at an asterisked .400 season — the Rockies outfielder is hitting .437 — here in Boston we’ll be breathlessly wondering whether .103-hitting Andrew Benintendi can keep his batting average over .100 when he returns from the disabled list. We’ll watch in suspense to see if Devers will have more total bases than strikeouts (it’s currently 26-26); whether any starting pitcher will win four games, let alone five; and whether any player will surpass one win above replacement — ace lefty Martin Perez was the team leader at 0.7 before lasting three innings on Monday.
Everything is a small sample size this year, including the season itself. If you’re going to be historically lousy — did I mention the Red Sox have a lower winning percentage than the worst team in their history, the 1932 club that went 43-111 (.272)? — you might as well be lousy in an abbreviated, silly season.
So go be terrible, fellas. Make that 1932 train wreck of a team look like the 2004 champs by comparison. Chase that ignominious history, and hey, how about trying this one for a new slogan: “Bad times never seemed so bad. (So bad!)”
All right, maybe this works better. The 2020 Red Sox: It will be over soon enough.