By: Jake Perda
As we all know, the Boston fans and media are as reactionary as they come in the sports world. If their team strings together a couple of disappointing losses, the sky is suddenly falling and the demise of planet earth is imminent. On the other hand, if the Sox can win a closely contested game via some solid work from the bullpen and a clutch blast by unsung hero, the fans automatically put themselves into the mindset of “World Series or Bust”. This has clearly been the case over the course of the last two weeks as the popular opinion surrounding the team has gone from “These guys is a bunch of unlikeable choke artists like the 2011 team!” to “Wow, this is like 2013 all over again! Fire up the duck boats!”. As opposed to continuing to live on such reactionary and extreme ends of the spectrum, here is how you should really feel about this team moving forward.
I want to say that fans should feel cautiously optimistic, but I believe that’s a bit too mild. At this point in the season, Red Sox fans should be 20% cautious and 80% optimistic. As we were all hoping, the additions of Eduardo Nunez and Rafael Devers have provided a major spark for this offense. Of course we have to mention the fact that since their arrival to Boston, Devers and Nunez have hit .389 and .469 respectively, with 3 home runs a piece. However, their impact on the offense's production goes beyond what they have done as individuals. Whether the guys around them feel like they are fighting for their spot in the batting order, or feel more confident after seeing these two guys torch opposing pitchers, something has seemed to click with hitters in the lineup (Betts, Benintendi, Moreland, etc.) who hadn’t had much success throughout the month of July.
Despite the narrative that the Sox bullpen is unreliable and sub-par, as a unit, they are third in the Majors in ERA, sixth in batting average against, and have issued the 4th fewest walks. It is understandably hard to feel great when the game’s on the line in the 11th inning and you have to rely on Heath Hembree to come in and shut down the opposing offense, but teams have gone deep into the postseason with much less. I hate to compare this team to the 2013 Red Sox because they are two entirely different teams, but I will say this: The 2013 Red Sox went through the playoffs with a “three headed monster” of Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, and Koji Uehara at the back end of their bullpen. Not to discredit the incredible 4 year run that Koji had in Boston, but those are not the three most intimidating names I’ve ever heard. Now, you look at this years team who has Addison Reed and Matt Barnes in addition to Joe Kelly and Carson Smith being on the verge of coming back. These are 4 viable 8th inning options that can bridge the gap to Craig Kimbrel who, despite some recent hiccups, has been one of the most dominant closers in baseball this year. In a day and age where so much emphasis is put on having a bullpen stacked with power arms at the back end, the Red Sox, when healthy, have one of the best in the game.
It is blasphemous to say that this team isn’t going to be a World Series contender down the stretch. Following the multitude of mediocre stretches that this team has gone through this year, people forget that this team was constructed to win now. We did not call up Rafael Devers to give him time to develop; we called him up because he is our best option at third base at this point in time to help us win games and make playoff run this season. The fans, but more importantly the players, have to realize that we are currently in year 1 of a 3 year window in which the young, talented core of this team will be together. This is not the 2011 Red Sox team; this is not the 2013 Red Sox team; this is the 2017 Boston Red Sox, and they’re a lot better than people think.