The 2019 Red Sox have spent the entire season trapped in a hole they dug for themselves, and just when it looks like they’re ready to climb out — they promptly fall back to the bottom of that hole. The entire season has felt like one overdramatic, incredibly theatrical, never-ending death scene.
After this latest tumble to the bottom of the hole, it feels like we may as well just beg them to not even bother getting back up.
Despite the fact that we’re five months into the season, the team has still largely failed to find consistent, sustained success…and maybe it’s time to come to grips with the fact it may not be in the cards this year. It’s been an incredibly frustrating up-and-down roller coaster ride and — despite plenty of carryover from last year’s championship roster and statistical evidence to suggest that this year’s team is better than its record — it seems like maybe we’re all just wasting our time hoping they’ll flip a switch and stay hot.
I mean, just last Tuesday this very column featured: “The baseball season is quite a long one, but oh how things can change in the course of a week.”
That was in reference to the Red Sox experiencing a costly series loss to the league-worst Orioles at a pivotal juncture, only to bounce back and take five of their next seven against the Rays and Yankees — the divisional rivals above them in the standings. With that surge, all of a sudden things were looking promising again, especially since the Sox had put themselves in position to be prospective buyers at the trade deadline.
And yet, one week later we’re here and that lede is in position to be recycled, albeit in a polar opposite direction. With another full week of games against Tampa and New York, the Red Sox once again experienced another major swing, this one seeing them drop eight in a row. It’s their longest losing streak of the year, and it’s hard not to feel like this is potentially the fall that breaks this team’s back.
Heading into Tuesday, they’re 5.5 games back in the Wild Card with 46 games left to play. That’s certainly not a mathematical elimination, but even if they do manage to sneak into the playoffs, is it worth believing they won’t once again just land with a thud?
Then: August 6, 2018: 79-34, 1st in AL East, 9.5 game lead | Now: August 6, 2019: 60-55, 3rd in AL East, 14.5 games back
No realistic fix in the cards
Perhaps the only thing even close to as frustrating as the team’s play this year is the front office’s reluctance to do anything substantial to fix it. Call it misguided confidence, ineptitude, ambivalence, complacency….call it whatever you want, but the one thing you can’t call it: successful.
Even after the Red Sox put together a strong surge that kept them in position to be buyers at the deadline, the front office did nothing. Boston was one of the handful of teams that didn’t make a trade on deadline day, and the only real consolation for Red Sox fans was that the Yankees did nothing to improve either. The only difference is the Yankees are still comfortably in first place with presumed help on the way via the injured list.
The Red Sox…uh, no such luck.
Mookie Betts had an interesting response when asked if the Red Sox players were bothered by the lack of activity at the deadline.
“Uhh, I mean … you could say ‘yes,’ you could say, ‘no,'” Betts told Ken Rosenthal. “That’s stuff in the clubhouse we can’t control. It’s from the top. We’ve got a talented group. We’ve proven we can do it. It’s just a matter of going out, executing and taking care of what we can.”
It doesn’t necessarily indicate that Dave Dombrowski has lost the clubhouse, but it’s not a completely inspiring or reassuring quote either.
I suppose you can view the inactivity in a few ways. One is that Dombrowski likes his current group and has enough confidence to stick with them, which is what he’d like to have you believe. Another is that, given their inconsistencies and positioning this year, Dombrowski said it wasn’t worth surrendering future assets for short-term improvements. And another is just that he failed at doing his job.
Regardless of the camp you fall into, did anyone look at the Andrew Cashner trade and think “thank goodness, now we’re set?” If so, his 6.94 ERA in four starts since arriving in Boston a few weeks prior to the deadline probably provided a pretty rude reality check. Pretty safe to assume he’s not the guy who’s going to right the ship.
And now you have to face the reality that there’s no fix coming, at least not from the outside. In years past, there would still be a glimmer of hope in the way of a big waiver deadline deal in August, but that’s no longer in the cards. (That’s sort of a double-whammy because if the Red Sox continue to slip, a late sale of expiring assets is also off the table.)
As such, all that’s left to do is close your eyes and ride it out with this pitching staff, which has been incredibly disappointing all year long. Whether you want to point the finger at the bullpen or the starting rotation, it doesn’t really matter — neither has really been good enough. But with that being said, this stat is pretty eye-opening when it comes to the starters:
Obviously, you look at those numbers and then at where the Red Sox currently stand and it paints a pretty clear picture of how things have gone this year. When they get remotely decent starting pitching, they usually win. But finding remotely decent starting pitching — and finding it consistently — has been more of a struggle than anyone expected.
Chris Sale once again struggled this week, losing a second straight start to the Yankees and doing so in ugly fashion. It was arguably his worst start of the season as he gave up nine hits and eight earned runs in less than four innings of work. New York has owned him this year, with his season line against the Yankees reading 0-4 with a 9.90 ERA in 20 innings of work. Brutal.
David Price also got shelled in New York, giving up seven runs on nine hits in less than three innings of work. It was inarguably his worst start of the year as he continues to go through a dip in productivity.
Those guys are supposed to be your stoppers, so to see them go out and get absolutely worked by your biggest rival in the midst of a slide at the most pivotal juncture of the year — it’s inexcusable. You can’t have that, especially when all you’re asking of them is to be just okay in front of this offense.
If you can’t even get that down the stretch, when do you begin having the conversation that maybe it’s time to just shut these guys down and get them to just start working towards a fresh start next year? If that’s not a discussion worth having right now, it’s probably one worth having very soon.
Highlight of the week
They didn’t lose nine in a row.