Given ample chances to inspire belief, these Red Sox either couldn’t or didn’t

Xander Bogaerts eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the Red Sox dugout.
Xander Bogaerts had a sandwich in the dugout Sunday at Fenway Park while the Blue Jays finished their three-day meal of the Red Sox. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff


On Sunday afternoon, NESN named David Ortiz its Star of the Game. A 46-year-old man who spent nearly all of its three and a half hours in a suit, 200 miles to the west, and who only appeared at Fenway Park during the 8-4 loss as the team showed snippets of his Hall of Fame induction speech on the video board.

A more succinct summary of the on-field weekend you will not find. And, for that matter, probably the right call.

Ortiz was, shockingly, clutch in Cooperstown. His overarching message was a beautiful one about belief. In yourself, and in the power of belief in others.


“When you believe in someone, you can change their world. You can change their future,” Ortiz said.

It would be lovely to dovetail that with these Red Sox, still just three games out of a playoff position, still with two-plus months to get themselves into the October derby where anything can happen. Did they not flounder last July and August only to turn into something special?

Sorry. I can’t. At least not today, after as dispiriting a weekend as I can remember. That may not just be due to my advancing age, a week of breathing soup air, and most of my thoughts involving my lawn’s newfound Desert of Maine impression.

On Friday, the Red Sox allowed 27 runs in six innings, then a 28th to break a franchise futility record that had stood since sports pages were illustrated by cartoonists. On Saturday, Rafael Devers — their saving grace, and the one guy they can sign to forgive all the rest — became the 14th man on their injured list before they were punked by Alek Manoah.

On Sunday, they trailed by five in a half-inning and made three errors, which doesn’t even include Jeter Downs hitting a runner with a throw and Hirokazu Sawamura losing first base attempting a cover play.


“Yeah, we have moving parts, but slow the game down, catch the ball, throw to the right base,” Alex Cora matter-of-factly told reporters about his Red Sox. “The brand of baseball we have been playing is awful.”

Increasingly, this is blowing back on Chaim Bloom, even among those who understand that 14 players is more than half a major-league roster. And it’s a number that doesn’t even include J.D. Martinez, who’s missed three games with back spasms. Or, for that matter, Triston Casas at Triple A, who just returned this weekend after missing 10 weeks and has left the first-base situation in Boston to necrose.

Brayan Bello may be great one day, but he’s not ready for the majors. He’s nevertheless gotten three starts during a record 23-game run in which the patchwork Red Sox rotation hasn’t earned a single victory. (The Sox are 6-17 since Rich Hill’s win in Cleveland on June 26, with a 6.83 team ERA.) Jarren Duran isn’t either, his repeated insistence that we just don’t understand that center field is hard undercut by the fact we’ve been watching him play it for a month.

Bloom doesn’t need cover to operate, but he certainly has it after the last two weeks. Getting whatever possible for Martinez and Nate Eovaldi? Who could blame him right now?


“At the end of the day, this is what we have and this is what we are,” Cora told reporters Sunday.

The blame pie is an endless buffet, and just about everyone not named Devers gets a piece. Xander Bogaerts, his .313 average and .831 OPS sparkling among MLB shortstops, has seven RBIs and six extra-base hits his last 30 games. He has just 38 RBIs for the season despite batting with more runners on base (269) than all but two other AL players — Alex Verdugo, who has 49 despite an ugly .679 OPS, is first.

Does that mean trade him before he opts out of his remaining three years and $60 million? I can’t help but see a nightmare scenario where the Red Sox let Bogaerts go, can’t find common ground with Devers — the Matt Olson baseline for contract talks just screams, “Maybe he’s stupid enough to take this” — and end up with neither.

All bets are off then.

But all bets are off for the next nine days as well. Castigating these Red Sox for crumbling on themselves when the moment came calling doesn’t feel entirely fair, because they are without an entire rotation of starters, half a bullpen — hey, a Matt Barnes sighting! — Devers, Trevor Story, and more.

But they are what they are, in Cora’s words. And if that translates them to chips in the pursuit of the next great Red Sox team, well, they certainly didn’t inspire enough belief that they were worth much more than that.


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