For the Red Sox to contend for a playoff spot, here are the top 10 things that must happen in the second half this season:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury must recognize his importance to the team and be the spark that gets the offense working.
2. Carl Crawford must hope his elbow holds up and he can do the things with his legs, his bat, and his glove that the All-Star Crawford once did.
3. Jon Lester must assume the ace role. He doesn’t appear that far away.
4. If the Sox are going to keep him, Josh Beckett needs to get back to the things that made him so good for so long. Find something to make baseball important to him again.
5. Adrian Gonzalez may have just had an 18-game hitting streak, but the Gonzalez the Sox need is the one who comes up with big hits, who hits balls over the Green Monster, and who hits for the power that has characterized the majority of his career.
6. Will Middlebrooks must find a way to stay in the lineup. His righthanded power is hugely important and he must justify the faith that has been shown in him by Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine by trading Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox.
7. A trade. With so many teams bunched up, it would seem a well-timed deal involving a player or two who can impact the rotation or lineup could also separate the Red Sox from the competition. There seem to be luxury-tax concerns by ownership, but competing for someone like Cole Hamels or Matt Garza (and we’ve been told that Felix Hernandez is probably not available) would give this team a jolt.
8. Andrew Bailey could be added to the bullpen just at the right time. The bullpen has been terrific, but bullpens tend to wear down. Bailey could be the fresh arm that’s added to the end of the pen. Daniel Bard could provide an inspiring story if he could overcome his lack of control and also be added to late-inning relief.
9. More youth? It may be difficult, given that Kelly Shoppach has performed well as the backup catcher, but it seems a waste not being able to take advantage of Ryan Lavarnway’s bat. While the catching prospect has not hit for the power he did a year ago, he is hitting well. There’s also nothing wrong with trying to find a way to get Jose Iglesias’s glove on the major league roster, even if he’s coming off the bench or spot starting. Defense is important in the late innings and he could provide that.
10. The continued success of David Ortiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Cody Ross, their three power bats, is vital. Nothing beats a three-run homer, except a grand slam.