Glass half-empty: The Red Sox are 46 games into the season, remain four games below .500, and with every step forward seem to take one horrific Joe Kelly start. I swear half of the reason he is on this staff is to make Clay Buchholz look stable and consistent.
Glass half-full: Even after Tuesday’s feeble-hitting loss to the Twins, the Red Sox have 116 games remaining in the season and can — hell, let’s say will — make the playoffs if they follow these three easy steps along the way …
But wait! It’s actually four steps. But signing almost-43-year-old Manny Ramirez to be Hanley Ramirez’s defensive stunt double in left field is such an obvious transaction that it requires no further elaboration, agreed? Agreed. Finally, something we all approve.
OK, now for the three easy steps …
1. Maintain the patience and faith in the core of accomplished and/or promising hitters that constituted what we regarded as one of the best lineups in baseball entering the season.
That doesn’t mean manager John Farrell — whom I wish would plant his cleat on his team’s collective backside more often — should resist doing juggling struggling hitters. David Ortiz should not bat third against lefties, and Pablo Sandoval should bat no higher than, oh, 10th in the order if he ever attempts to bat right-handed against left-handed pitchers again.
Wednesday’s subtle lineup changes, such as dropping Ortiz to fifth, were a reasonable if initially ineffective attempt at jolting some life into this bunch. And you will notice that Sandoval got hit batting left-handed against Twins southpaw closer Glen Perkins. Perhaps the message has been delivered.
We’re overdue for the offense to deliver, but it is going to happen, you will see. Despite current appearances, this is a versatile, talented lineup that has had something go wrong with virtually every hitter. I’m not one who believes everything evens out in baseball — it’s simply not true, and a cliche often used as a way to explain away the unfair imbalances of luck.
I do believe good players off to lousy starts generally do find their true level over the course of the long season, and the Red Sox across the board are under-performing. They are 11th in the American League in runs, averaging 3.89 per game. Words to mark: They will skyrocket up that list, and soon, presuming Hanley Ramirez’s shoulder heals without a DL stint. The signs of life for Mike Napoli and Xander Bogaerts (anyone who suggests trading him for Troy Tulowitzki should be banned from all forms of communication) are sustainable, and they are only the beginning.
2. Trade for Cole Hamels and recall Eduardo Rodriguez from Pawtucket. Profit .
There’s no further need to discuss Hamels, agreed? We’ve been bouncing his name around in this context pretty much since Jon Lester decided to sign with the Cubs.* General manager Ben Cherington has progressively shape-shifted their bullpen into an intriguing group, especially if Matt Barnes continues to gain prominence and Koji does his Koji things.
But the rotation? That’s adequate at best, and one can’t help but wonder where it would be had Lester taken Boston’s offer. An ace changes everything with this rotation and this ball club. One ace, one stopper, one pitcher who can go six or seven games over .500 the rest of the way could make all the difference in a division in which 86 or so wins might be enough to win the thing. They will get one, and Hamels still makes the most sense.
(* — By the way, if you think Lester’s old team can’t hit? He’s 0-for-21 this year, and now hitless in 64 major league plate appearances. To put it another way: He has two fewer hits against left-handed pitching this year than Sandoval has from the right side.)
As for Rodriguez, he has a 2.98 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 48.1 innings in eight starts for the PawSox. I do not think it would be presumptive of him to reach out to Joe Kelly and see if he might want to rent his Pawtucket apartment from him starting in June. Rodriguez is hard-throwing lefty. Rodriguez could arrive in Boston and announce he wants to be a righthanded knuckleballer like Steven Wright and he would not be any less consistent than Kelly. Man, did the Sox get hosed a half-dozen different ways in that John Lackey deal.
3. Remain in the AL East for the rest of the season. No mid-season divisional shifts just to flex your new commissioner muscles, Rob Manfred! Got it? If Bud Selig were still the boss, he’d probably be trying to move the Brewers back to their AL East origins. The division is such a mass — and a mess — of mediocrity that for as poorly as the 21-25 Red Sox have played, they are only 3 games behind the 24-22 Rays in the top spot.
I have to admit, yet again, that it is aggravating that so many around here all already in full-blown glass-half-empty, let’s-blow-it-up mode already mode. I expect that from the serial sports radio shriekers, for whom worst-case scenarios and sky-is-falling cries from the soap box are especially lucrative.
As my default mode is semi-informed, contrarian optimism — and if you want to call me a beacon of light and hope, well, isn’t that awfully kind of you — I recognize that there have been unfulfilling endings if not entire seasons in recent years. We had the collapse in ’11, the disastrous Bobby V. can’t-spell-Schwinn-without-win nonsense in ’12, and last year’s inward collapse of pretty much the entire roster. There’s been plenty to bitch about with justification.
But they also won a World Series just the year before last, if I do recall, and World Series championships are so hard-won that they cannot ever be dismissed as a fluke, no matter how stupid the success makes the season-long doubters look. To be the last team standing after 162 games and three playoff rounds is luck as much as winning a marathon is.
The 2013 season was a reminder — a recent reminder — that patience around here too often means waiting for the worst-case scenario to happen.
It’s such a drag, and amid the howling, the main point is missed:
With these 2015 Red Sox, the worst-case scenario has already happened. There are plenty of games left to play, 116 of them to be precise, and with the proper repairs and good play from good players, it will get better soon.
I’m not saying this season is ending with a champagne shower. All I’m saying is don’t forget to refill that glass once in a while.