|Francona Wins Big in Return to Fenway||Connelly’s Top Ten: Rask Falls on Face||Bruins Lose 4-3 in OT as Rangers Fight to Stay Alive||For the Bulletin Board: Lundqvist’s “Lucky Bounces,” Savard’s “#ByeByeTorts”|
It’s over. The time has come to move on from everything the 2012 Boston Red Sox were supposed to be and the unfortunate reality we’ve witnessed over the last few months. After losing two of three against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, the Sox are 55-57, 10.0 games back of the first place New York Yankees and 5.5 games back of the two wild spots.
So mathematically the season is not over. With 50 games remaining on the schedule, 33 games are against teams with records above .500. Ten of the games against the teams under that mark are road games, including this four-game series in Cleveland, a team which recently suffered an 11-game losing streak–a streak the Sox would have certainly been destined to end themselves given the way this year has gone.
Nine games remain against those first-place Yankees, six of which will be played in New York. Of course, that might actually be an advantage for the Red Sox, who are now an abysmal 29-34 at Fenway Park. Nearly the entire month of September features Boston’s rivals from the American League East. So while 5.5 games back of a wild card spot doesn’t seem like much, the obstacles remain.
The second wild card technically adds an additional playoff spot, however the reward is far less than previous wild card winners. With the two wild card teams playing an all-or-nothing one game playoff, even if the Sox went on a run to gain one of those spots the team would be at a tremendous disadvantage compared to division winners. Usually 90 wins gets a team into the playoffs, and that number appears about right this year based on the success of other teams. Boston would need to go 35-15 over the remainder of the season in order to reach that number.
The reasons why the team has struggled as much as they have are numerous. From the underperforming and injured stars to the management and front office chaos, the team has been in disarray since last September. And unlike most problems on most sports teams, there doesn’t appear to be a clear solution to create a turnaround anytime soon.
Entering this year Jon Lester was supposed to be a reliable starter with the abilities of an ace, entering the prime of his career at age 28. Instead the southpaw has made 23 starts, with a 5-10 record and 5.36 ERA. In 14 home starts Lester has just two victories. Opposing batters are hitting .317 against him at Fenway Park. And perhaps the worst part has been Lester’s inability to identify a specific problem. After most poor outings, the pitcher who was once regarded in the same class as Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia is at a loss to find an explanation for his struggles.
Josh Beckett has been the subject of ridicule from both fans and the media for several disappointing outings this year. After surrendering eight runs to the Rangers on Wednesday in just five innings, Beckett is 5-9 with a 4.54 ERA and has been booed off the mound at Fenway in each of his last two starts. Like Lester, Beckett has only two home wins and has shown few signs of turning his season around.
The key reason why it feels like the end is near for the Sox is that idea that nothing is close to changing. For weeks the team has hovered around the .500 mark, never going on a run to show a glimpse of potential or losing enough games to really be out of contention. But the clock is ticking with just those 50 games remaining, and it’s difficult to think anything can change.
Sure there have been success stories of course, as any individual can have a great season no matter the success of the team. David Ortiz was an MVP candidate before his heel recent heel injury, Adrian Gonzalez has looked like a much stronger slugger recently than his power outage in the first half, and even Carl Crawford looks like the player the team signed to a $142 million contract before last year.
Yet the offense has rarely been the problem, the Sox lead the majors in doubles and are up there in just about every other offensive statistic. The pitching on the other hand has been disastrous because of both Beckett and Lester. Again some positives exist, primarily the effective discovery of Franklin Morales as a starting pitcher. Morales is 3-1 with a 3.06 ERA in six starts, creating a strong argument for the pitcher to retain his spot in the rotation.
Unfortunately the odds are not on the Sox side when it comes to a postseason appearance this year no matter the success stories. They serve the sole purpose of enticing interest in the 2013 season, when the ceiling for any ball club is through the roof. There will remain those who will hang on until the team is officially eliminated from postseason contention, but the time has come for the majority of Sox fans to recognize a lost cause when they see one. Of course this is baseball where anything can happen, we learned that last September when the Sox collapsed were sent home on the final day of the regular season.