Brothers and sisters of the carmine and navy persuasion, I have suspended disbelief and suffered Clay Buchholz and friends long enough. It’s time to acknowledge the truth: The Red Sox have played 89 games. Seventy-three remain. And yet it’s all over but the tradin’.
Not only will the reigning World Champions miss the postseason, but they’ll fall out of contention without offering much suspense. Hell, they already have, and the midsummer exhibition to determine homefield advantage for the World Series hasn’t even been played yet.
I’ve overstayed my time on this lonesome bandwagon. I now recognize that presumed “turning points” are just aggravating detours to the same destination: the bottom of the AL East.
I no longer wonder why they keep losing, why so much that went right last year has gone wrong (they really are worse at every position), why they can’t hit with runners in scoring position.
Know what I wonder now? How they won seven in a row at one point.
This championship defense has been no defense at all, and not much offense, either. No need to tune up the duckboats this summer. It’s going to be desolate October at Fenway this year.
Oh, yes, I am with you now.
I am out on the 2014 Red Sox.
I’m out like 20 of the 23 batters who faced obscure White Sox righthander Scott Carroll — it is Scott, right? — Monday night. I’m out like David Ortiz trying to stretch a wall ball single into a double. I’m out like Dustin Pedroia trying to swipe second base in an ill-conceived attempt to provide a spark while trailing yet again.
I’m out like A.J. Pierzynski against a first-pitch change-up with the bases loaded, like Xander Bogaerts against an 0-2 slider, like Stephen Drew against pretty much every pitcher and every pitch.
I suppose you’re wondering what took so long. I’ve got my reasons, and I think they’re legitimate. For one, the core of this lineup deserved some benefit of the doubt. The Red Sox led the majors in runs scored by 57 — an enormous margin — over the No. 2 offense last season, and roughed up a conga line of aces in the postseason.
The pitching, save for Buchholz’s weird inconsistency and a couple of other occasional issues, has been good, dependable, even quite often excellent. If the hitters, cold at once, got hot at once … well, look out.
It’s apparent now that a collective hot streak won’t happen. David Ortiz and Mike Napoli are fine, but Dustin Pedroia has become a singles hitter, Shane Victorino doesn’t play, Daniel Nava has nine RBIs, the kids have struggled epically for prolonged stretches, and there are about four guys in the lineup on a daily basis who should be hitting ninth.
My second reason for patience until, well, today, is a broader one. I’m so sick of the culture — driven by some fans, but especially, insufferably prevalent via social media and conventional media — that sacrifices context for instant overreaction.
There is an absolute sprint to be the first to declare something — a season, a prospect, anything — as overrated or finished or never good in the first place. The habitual naysayers take gleeful satisfaction in reminding you that this is going much worse than you expected and casually suggest that the World Championship was a fluke and this is who the Red Sox really are.
I loathe that approach so much, but it’s lucrative, and it will never change until the masses put the willfully miserable on mute.
While that majority — I hope it’s not actually a majority, but it sure feels like it — races to be the first to identify and shout about a disappointment, with the requisite checks arriving from various media outlets, it makes scarce those of us who actually attempt to be patient, accumulate knowledge, and offer perspective. Sometimes that leads to the voices of reason supplying more patience than the team deserves.
I never want to become one of those disingenuous, unaccountable carnival barkers. But I can also admit when I see a lousy baseball team, especially when I’ve seen that lousy baseball team lose 50 times in a “Groundhog Day” manner before the All-Star break.
Not that I blame you for abandoning this submerged dinghy — this Red Sox team is too feeble to be called a ship — well before I did. It was just a little more than a week ago that I grasped at one more potential turning point, the back-to-back wins against the Yankees that brought the Red Sox back home for a 10-game stretch at Fenway on an optimistic note.
Then they got stomped by the Cubs, who possibly have more talent in Triple-A then on their subpar big league roster, and followed by enduring two more tough losses to the annoying Orioles, and there was no more faith to be kept.
This homestand seemed like a chance to salvage something. Instead, it has been confirmation that the Red Sox are getting worse. Hold your nose as we take it month-by-month:
March/April: 13 wins, 14 losses, minus-12 run differential
May: 13-15, plus-2
May qualifies as the good ol’ days at this point, because…
June: 12-16, minus-25
And July so far: 1-5, minus-15 already
The way this is trending, August and September should be a Bobby V.-level blast.
Actually, check that: It’s not going to be that bad by any stretch. The pitching is still pretty good, and the likes of Pedroia and Napoli aren’t about to go into Operation Shutdown. Fifty games — and the season — have been lost. But all is not lost.
What needs to happen is that Ben Cherington must start paring off the veterans who have no future and not much of a present with the Sox.
Eat the requisite cash and trade Jake Peavy to the National League, where he’ll surely go 7-2 down the stretch for the Cardinals or Pirates. Send Jonny Gomes to a contender, where he can retroactively take credit for their winning record. Pierzynski has played adequately, but he symbolizes a lot of flaws with this team. Move him along — DFA him if that’s how it must go — and bring up Christian Vazquez, a spectacular defensive catcher.
Play Vazquez. Bring Rubby De La Rosa back. Give Jackie Bradley Jr. (.269/.347/.358 over the last month) a daily chance to prove he can be the starting center fielder for the next half-dozen years. Let Xander Bogaerts play some shortstop and make the necessary adjustments at the plate. Get Mookie Betts out there every day.
Keep building that bridge to the next great Red Sox team. And even as we endure this not-so-great-Red Sox team, don’t allow yourself to be deceived into believing last season’s excellence was a fluke. Ignore that noise. That’s just the miserable among us retroactively trying to justify being so ridiculously wrong.
Yes, this year’s cause is lost. But context should not be. Good times aren’t too far ahead, or far behind. They’re just not coming around this particular October.