NEW YORK — Worst to first? How about first to worst? The “turn-the-page” Red Sox at times this year look like they’ve turned the page all the way back to 2012. This is Bobby V Ball we’re seeing right now with Jonathan Herrera starring as Pedro Ciriaco.
The Yankees hit five homers and waxed the Red Sox, 7-4, at the House of Steinbrenner Saturday. The Sox have lost six of nine, fell to 5-7 overall and had a chance to wake up in last place in the American League East Sunday if the Orioles won Saturday night. The Red Sox were never under .500 in 2013.
The good news is that it’s very early and there are no dominant teams in the AL. The Red Sox are bound to compete for a playoff spot.
The bad news is . . . just about everything else.
It’s nothing disastrous, mind you. Feel free to put baseball on the shelf and check back to see where the Sox are in mid-June when the Stanley Cup playoffs are finally over. The Sox are likely to be very much in the hunt in the stunningly-mediocre AL East.
But with each day that passes we are reminded just how hard it is to win 97 games and just how unlikely that championship ride was last October. Everything had to be perfect and just about everything was perfect.
Fast forward to the second weekend of April and the Red Sox are playing what Joe Morgan once described as “dead-ass baseball.’’ Reality bites. They don’t have a leadoff hitter. They don’t hit with runners in scoring position. Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks are on the disabled list and now it looks like all-world closer Koji Uehara (shoulder) may join them on the shelf. They are running into outs, don’t have much depth, and a lot of the career-year heroes of 2013 (where have you gone, Daniel Nava, Sox Nation turns its lonely eyes to you) have come back to earth.
Let’s not forget the contract status of their best pitcher, Jon Lester. It was reported by Fox Saturday that the Sox came out of the gate with a four-year, $70 million offer to their ace. That’s a lot of dough, but Tigers ace Max Scherzer just turned down $144 million over six years and it’s looking like the Sox are testing the limits of Lester’s desire to stick around. Emboldened by their surprise success of 2013, the Sox appear ready to draw Belichickian /Kraft lines in the sand, confident that ever-grateful Fenway fans will applaud management’s fiscal sanity and abject genius.
So there. In our ongoing effort to furnish the NESN-esque “Everything is Awesome” celebration coverage that the Sox expect, we will tell you that despite what you are seeing, everything is going to be just swell with the Old Towne Team. Pay no attention to those April standings. Worry not that the Sox have dropped two of three to a bad Yankees team, after dominating them (13-6) in 2013.
“We’re doing what we can’’ said Sox manager John Farrell. “We’re trying different lineups and trying to jump-start things.’’
A jump-start would be good. The Sox have yet to score a run in the first inning of any game. Is is piling-on to mention that Jacoby Ellsbury (two more hits Saturday) is batting .372 and has been on base six times in three games against the Sox? Thank heavens the Sox didn’t waste all that dough on their All-Star center fielder.
“We’re trying to find that rhythm as a team,’’ said Dustin Pedroia, Saturday’s leadoff-du-jour entree. “We need to play better and we’ll find a way to do that. We just need to battle with our at-bats and we will. We’ll find a way.’’
After a scalding start in Baltimore, Pedroia is down to .236.
“I’ve been trying to do too much,’’ he acknowledged. “Sometimes you have to step back and let the game come to you.’’
Another example of the Sox trying too hard came when Farrell sent Mike Carp from first with Mike Napoli on third and two out while Xander Bogaerts was at the plate in the seventh. Carp was gunned down easily.
“We gambled to get 90 feet,’’ explained Farrell (Bogaerts was in a two-strike count). “We want him to try to create something. It just didn’t work out.’’
“We pride ourselves in being aggressive,’’ said Carp.
It’s hard to put a positive spin on the Lester situation. The ace was typically measured as he took questions from in front of his locker after the loss, but used expressions like, “no hard feelings” and “the way things ended.’’ Citing the Sox professed wish to keep him in the fold, he said, “I would like to think what they said is true.’’
Maybe it’s typical negotiation posturing, but one doesn’t get the impression Lester will be signed during the season. This is emerging as yet another distraction in what is looking like a difficult defense of the 2013 World Series championship.