Monday, May 10, 2010

Are The Red Sox Surging or Teasing?

Despite their recent success, it's hard to be convinced that the Sox are planting the seeds for a comeback.

The Red Sox have impressed in the last two games - beating the Yankees 9-3 and the Blue Jays 7-6. Are the slumping Sox on the brink of a comeback or are Boston fans being teased by more inconsistency? It's only ten days into May but many fans are already giving up hope for this Red Sox team. To be honest, it's gotten hard to blame them. It's difficult to stay confident after watching an outfielder take the mound against the Yankees Saturday night. ESPN's Tim Kurkjian reinforced this the next day, saying, "When center fielder, Jonathan Van Every, pitched on Saturday it marked the first time the Red Sox have ever used a non-pitcher in a game to pitch against the Yankees. That's how bad the Red Sox are going and that's how good the Yankees are going". Indeed, the gap is large between both the Yankees and the Rays, against whom the Sox are a disappointing 2-8.

Their current record is an average, 17-16, and their star pitching rotation has been anything but spectacular - giving up an astounding, 183 runs. That's the worst in the American league and third worst in the Majors, behind only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite this glaring statistic, the Boston rotation isn't as talentless as they've seemed. Many expect them to turn it around sooner or later.

However, a disconcerting truth lingers. Even when the Red Sox do eventually climb out of this hole (if they haven't begun to already), the odds aren't in their favor to make the playoffs. The Sox are 6 games behind the AL-East leading Rays and 5 behind the second place Yankees. Things may have fallen in the struggling Yankees favor last year, but the Red Sox will likely not be so fortunate. In order for Boston to have a chance at landing a Wild Card spot, they need to hope for either of the MLB's best to suffer a major collapse, which is unlikely. With that being said, many Boston fans know that the Red Sox aren't strangers to overcoming the odds.

How could anyone forget the dramatic 2004 ALCS? The series where Boston accomplished the unthinkable against the Yankees - becoming the only MLB team down 3-0 in a series to come back and win it. The mental strength and determination that sent the Red Sox to their first world series title in 86 years wasn't a fluke either. Three years later, the Sox found themselves down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians. After a loss in Game 3, David Ortiz called a players-only meeting, which helped send the Sox on a 7 game winning streak to take the pennant and the title. That's two occasions that the Red Sox looked like they were out of it, and both times they prevailed. Those Red Sox teams fought against the seemingly impossible odds and were able to come away with the ultimate prize, a world championship.

However, it's hard not to think that the Sox team we're watching today is inherently different somehow. Ortiz's play has dropped considerably since that player's meeting in '07. The once-fan favorite has lost his favor. Now, Big Papi leaves the plate to the tune of more boos than cheers. It's hard to picture the fallen power hitter leading a championship charge again.

Also absent is that team comradery which proved to be an essential element in those championship runs. Kevin Youkilis's comments (as told to Louise K. Cornetta) on his ESPN diary are revealing of a void, "Chemistry on a team is overrated on some ends. As long as you win, you can all hate each other. If guys don't get along, but you play hard on the field and go out and play the game, you can win". The fact that Youkilis would even bring this up seems to suggest a lack of team unity on the Red Sox. Whether Youkilis believes that comradery translates to wins or not, it's clear that something isn't working for this unit. It was that band of brothers relationship that allowed Ortiz to stand in front of his teammates and demand more of them in '07. With so many new faces, it's not surprising that friendships in the clubhouse haven't blossomed yet. However, the Sox don't have much time to wait.

The Sox can't wait for their players to start clicking, Ortiz to start hitting, or for their pitching to be consistent. Boston plays in the strongest division in the Majors, and the Rays and Yankees aren't primed for a collapse. The Sox have to start mounting their comeback now. If these last two wins are the start of that then I welcome it - the Sox have a lot of ground to make up.

(Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
(Youk Photo)

1 comment:

  1. Nice! You hit on great points but I'm still holding out for the surge cause it will be fun to see come together.