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The short answer: no, but they have to want it. Not just want it, but earn it. The much touted pitching staff has been a little unpredictable at times, the offense has been sketchy as well, and the injuries aren’t helping. When you can’t sweep the Orioles at home, and get swept at home by the Rays (in four games, mind you), that’s not a good sign. Once the rage of watching each game subsides, you have to wonder, are the Red Sox doomed to be just another loser in the most competitive division in baseball? Is it too early to tell? What will the final standings look like? It’s a tough pill to swallow, but there’s no use pretending that the problems don’t exist. Only by knowing what is wrong can we cure what is wrong, so why don’t we perform a diagnosis?
Once again, Big Papi has started the year colder than a penguin’s refrigerator. NESN posed the question as to how many homers Ortiz will hit this year, and one might be the best guess of all right now. Through 14 games, Ortiz is hitting .160 (8/50), with the one homer and five doubles as all he can do. That poor start is what’s benched Papi lately, leading to Mike Lowell batting cleanup as the DH Monday. When’s the last time that happened? Ortiz got hotter at the end of last year, but you just can’t count on that happening again.
Bench Ortiz for a while (good start), and if he can’t pick it up right away, pinch hit for him right away. Do it in the middle of an at bat if necessary. And be sure to tell him he’s benched because he sucks. Literally, tell him. He needs to be motivated, and tough love is potentially the only way to do it. And if he can’t, maybe a fresh start isn’t so bad. If the years and steroids are finally catching up with him, this is a good opportunity to work on some young prospects that could help.
It looks like playing left is different from playing center after all. One collision with Adrian Beltre, and Ellsbury has a set of nagging, cracked ribs that seem to be taking their sweet time to heal. So far, Ellsbury has 10 hits in 30 at bats in six games, with two steals. But don’t expect him to do much when he finally does return. These types of internal injuries take a while to heal, and with any type of serious injury, you’re never 100% afterward. At least Darnell McDonald and Jeremy Hermida have been good substitutes with Ellsbury and Cameron gone, but that’s still essentially putting Brian Dunkleman in for Ryan Seacrest for a while.
If you believe that Ellsbury won’t live up to his former potential when he returns (and what reason tells us otherwise?), then put Hermida and/or McDonald in as full-time starters. That gives you some wiggle room. Remember the old trade talk where San Diego was possibly willing to part with Adrian Gonzalez for Clay Buchholz and Ellsbury? With the huge focus on acquiring a pitching surplus in the off-season, the Sox can put Wakefield back in the rotation, still maintain a good outfield with the new guys, and get a much-needed bat, either moving Youkilis to 3rd or getting a better DH.
Boston’s starters are 4-6 this year, with Lester AND Wakefield being winless. Beckett is still unbeaten, but after Monday, I probably despise him most of all. Seriously, what kind of shootout was that? Becket has now given up 23 earned runs in 28.2 innings (7.22 ERA). Combined, Boston’s starters have a 5.56 ERA, not something good by any means. Clay Buchholz, the man whom Terry Francona has decided is the worst starter on the depth chart, has actually performed the best, with a 2.70 ERA in three starts. Buchholz still has two losses, which with a 2.70 ERA, is an indication of poor run support. He beat Kansas City, leading 8-3 after the 5th, lost to Tampa after leaving with a 4-1 deficit after the 5th, and lost to Texas after leaving down 3-0 after 6.2 innings.
Not much can be done here, unless maybe Casey Kelly can help. Without decent pitching, you can only try to out-score opponents. To that end, see Ellsbury’s diagnosis.
The relief core isn’t much better, with a combined 4.24 ERA. Papelbon may be 6-for-6 on save opportunities, but remember when he gave up a homer to Curtis Granderson in extra innings? And remember when he gave up three straight hits and nearly blew a three-run lead against the Orioles? THE ORIOLES! This staff really riles up the blood.
I repeat; see Ellsbury.
A North Korean political prisoner has a better chance of surviving, quite frankly, despite how early we are in the season. I highly doubt the Sox will part with any “beloved” pieces to acquire Adrian Gonzalez or any other big bats. I foresee the pitching staff will be used as is without any serious attempts made to improve it or even change the current failing style (i.e. Wall Street). Maybe some hits will rack up here or there, but nowhere near the amount that the Rays and Yankees will be able to conjure. At this rate, Boston will undoubtedly thoroughly embarrass themselves by season’s end; they’ll keep pushing and pushing but it won’t make a difference.
Two vital things could very well happen as a result of this season going horribly wrong. First of all, the Red Sox might very well finish .500. With 15 Yankees games still to go, as well as 14 Rays games, it could happen. Not to mention it’s our turn to face Lincecum and the Giants (in San Francisco), in addition to Manny being Manny in Boston once more.
The reason such a poor performance would benefit the Red Sox is that business practices would have to be reconsidered. The Red Sox payroll is well-known as the third biggest source of cash in the country, behind the U.S. Mint and George Steinbrenner. Buying titles works for the Yankees, but not so much for Boston. Josh Beckett got his big contract, then started throwing like crap, a similar performance to professional Drew Carey look-a-like Tim Thomas. The other big names aren’t doing any better. With a little (bad) luck, Boston will stop paying its players WAY above market value.
The second vital thing that could happen is that the Sox don’t sell out all 81 games at Fenway. This is definitely a possibility. Nobody wants to pay good money to see a losing team (see New Jersey Nets). It would certainly be strange to see empty seats at Fenway, but still good for business.
The reason this is so is because the team would be performing so poorly, fans would demand less tickets at any price. The supply of tickets is fixed, since you can’t readily remove seats from the park. At the old equilibrium, the price of a ticket was outrageously high, but people were still willing to pay. With the lower demand, a sellout wouldn’t occur, so to encourage sellouts, ticket prices would have to go down, making it easier on fans’ wallets, and further knocking the Sox’s business practices down a peg. If this last paragraph went over your head, just ask an economist, or check out the graph.
If you have to lose, you might as well go all out and enjoy it.