By: Jake Perda
Yes, it’s only May. The Red Sox and their fans have no reason to be hitting the panic button this early in the season. But you’d have to be downright stupid to ignore the fact that this team is in trouble right now. The Red Sox are currently 37 games into a 162 game season, and they have already suffered enough injuries and encountered enough issues to last them an entire season. Let’s try to break this down and see what’s going on.
At this point, they have 6 players on their 25 man roster that I feel confident are going to help the team when they step on the field. Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Craig Kimbrel, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Andrew Benintendi. That leaves us with 19 guys who you can never be sure of what they are going to give you. Even out of these 6, Sale and Rodriguez can only be on the field once every 5 days, and Craig Kimbrel is only useful if the rest of the team can manage to keep it together for the first 8 innings. Therefore, the 60% of the time that the Red Sox do not have Sale nor E-Rod on the mound, they have a grand total of 3 reliable guys at their disposal to try to get the ball to Kimbrel.
The most glaring issue seems to be the rotation. With Drew Pomeranz leaving his last start after 3 innings with the same tricep injury that he suffered earlier this spring, we have been given yet another question mark do deal with. If Pomeranz misses any time, we may be forced to endure at least 1 cycle of a rotation that includes Brian Johnson AND Henry Owens/Hector Velazquez. And even if Pomeranz does make his next start, who’s to say that he won’t re-aggravated his tricep in the first or second inning and force the Sox into yet another bullpen burning situation. Not to mention, our Cy Young Award winning #3 starter has already surpassed his loss total from 2016, and currently has a WHIP (1.34) that nearly doubles Chris Sale’s (0.77). It was obviously a bit far-fetched to expect Porcello to be able to repeat his performance from last season, but it hurts to see him go from being a dominant force in the American League to a guy who can’t keep the Tampa Bay Rays in the yard. The silver lining here, if there is one, is that David Price is expected to be back with the team within the next 2-3 weeks. That being said, Price may still require Tommy John surgery, and regardless of whether or not he does, he still may not pitch any better than he did last year.
Of course we have to mention the black hole at 3rd base. We have officially gotten to the point where Deven Marrero is our starting 3rd baseman. DEVEN FUCKING MARRERO. It doesn’t even matter that he can’t hit because at least he can field a groundball. That’s more than Pablo Sandoval, Marco Hernandez, and Josh Rutledge can say. Speaking of Pablo, he is supposedly beginning a minor league rehab assignment soon. Call me pessimistic, but I don’t see any reason why the Red Sox should even give him another chance to start him at third. He had a good spring training, struggled to hit above .200 in the first month of the season, and then got injured. It’s time to accept the fact that he is a defensive liability who does not provide any value to the team.
Outside of Craig Kimbrel there is nobody in the Red Sox bullpen who I’m comfortable giving the ball to in a high leverage situation. Sure, Joe Kelly has a pretty decent ERA, but I’d rather steer clear of a guy who averages north of 4 walks per 9 innings. Matt Barnes was supposed to be the 8th inning guy, and he’s been arguably their worst reliever since he was given that title. At least Robby Scott has been throwing the ball well, I guess. But what good does that do if he can only pitch to lefty batters. The same goes for Fernando Abad. If the Red Sox need a shutdown 7th or 8th innings, their best option is to mix and match depending who’s due up for the other team that inning because there is nobody in this bullpen that can be trusted to record 3 straight outs in order to bridge the gap to Kimbrel. I’ll save my Carson Smith/Tyler Thornburg rant for another day, but to this point, we’ve essentially traded Wade Miley, Travis Shaw, Mauricio Dubon, and Josh Pennington in exchange for 2 ⅔ shutout innings from Carson Smith and 7 ⅔ innings of Roenis Elias in which he posted a 12.91 ERA. Just let that sink in.
Lastly, I just want to acknowledge that the Red Sox lineup needs to step up right now. I can live with Xander Bogaerts going homerless for 33 games because it’s his job to get on base. I’m perfectly fine with Xander playing the role of a table setter because we have guys like Betts, Benintendi, and Ramirez who are supposed to be driving him in. I’ve said it since before the season started; without David Ortiz, the Red Sox lack a major home run threat in their lineup. Therefore, they can’t put runs on the board via a bloop and a blast like they used to. Now it’s going to take 3 bloops and a line drive in the gap. So far this season, they’ve done a pretty good job at getting the bloops, but they’ve been leaving those guys on base far too often. The only way that they're going to be able to win games consistently is if their entire lineup can start clicking. This means that “Mitchy Two Bags” needs to stop being “Mitchy Swing At Every Fucking Pitch Over My Head For Strike Three”, Jackie Bradley Jr. needs to start making solid contact, and the Red Sox need to give Christian Vazquez a chance. Vazquez is hitting .364 in 17 games, and Sandy Leon is hitting .240 in 22 games. In what world should Leon be getting more playing time?
The Red Sox need to get their shit together. Sitting in at 19-18 may not seem so bad, but merely squeaking into the AL Wild Card Game is not what this team was constructed to do. This team was built to win a World Series. But if this trend continues, the team and their chances of accomplishing such a feat really seem to be falling apart.
Photo: (Boston Herald)