DETROIT – Only Houston and Tampa Bay have worse records than Boston in the American League. This helter-skelter team is now five games below .500, and if this doesn’t smooth out, the stories we write about obtaining outfield help – or any help – will be moot.
It’s such a strange team.
When they lose 10 straight we think they’re out. When they win seven, there’s hope. Now they’ve lost three to the hot Cleveland Indians, and there’s doom and gloom again.
We can all understand the year after a championship syndrome, but this is closer to 2012 than 2013. Maybe the Red sox will turn things around, but maybe they’ll have to re-tweak this team, much like they had to with the 2012 team.
When you speak to scouts who watch the Red Sox, they have about as many answers as the rest of us. Here’s a look at some things those on the outside and those on the inside of the organization point to as problem areas:
1. Clay Buchholz. Buchholz got this team off to a great start last season with his impeccable performance. He was completely the opposite to start this season, and that left the Red Sox with one less elite pitcher to shut down the opposition.
2. Disruption in chemistry. Not many believe the Red sox should have signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a $155 million contract, but he was part of the fabric of that 2013 team. You lose Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Dempster, and Stephen Drew, and that has taken its toll.
3. Stephen Drew. Want him. Don’t want him. Want him. There was a lot of inconsistency in the Red Sox’ approach to the shortstop. Wanting him was the right choice, but the feeling among the players is they should have wanted him from the beginning and should have kept negotiating rather than hand the job to Xander Bogaerts. Then Bogaerts was told the team was committing to him as the shortstop, and then they pulled the rug out from under him when there were early signs that Bogaerts wasn’t going to cut it defensively. But then he got better.
4. Will Middlebrooks. The Red Sox continued to cling to the hope that Middlebrooks would be their other righthanded power bat to compliment Mike Napoli. It never materialized, and more injuries occurred as well.
5. Jackie Bradley Jr. Fun to watch in the field, but so painful to watch at the plate. He’s been better lately, but the Red Sox simply have had no production from center field, and the outfield in general.
6. Grady Sizemore. Both Sizemore and the Red Sox feel they see signs of Sizemore busting out, but every time you think that, he slips back.
7. Daniel Nava. Also part of the fabric of the 2013 team, but his performance simply isn’t anywhere near what he gave this team last season. We’ll see if, with more plate appearances, he can get that back.
8. Edward Mujica. This free-agent signing hasn’t worked out. He’s been a game-ender with an ERA of more than 7.00. The Red Sox loved his work through August of last season in St. Louis, where he was dominant. They got the September Mujica that the Cardinals eventually gave up on. The Red Sox have another year at $4.5 million awaiting them on this player.
9. Shane Victorino. Injured a lot in the early going and has not been able to give the lineup the spark that Ellsbury could. He has also not been able to provide the Gold Glove defense the Red Sox have needed in that position.
10. Mike Napoli. Nagging injuries have limited him. He expects to return this weekend, but the finger he dislocated along with leg issues have curtailed the power the team desperately needs out of him.
If you believe the Blue Jays are going to continue to dominate the division, the Red Sox can’t have any more prolonged losing streaks. If this helter-skelter pattern continues, it will be wait ‘til next year.
They are going into Detroit where the Tigers are struggling. The Red Sox may feel it’s a good time to face the Tigers and the Tigers may feel it’s a good time to get going again against the Red Sox.
One of these scenarios will take place. If the Red Sox continue to lose it may be a free-fall for them.
The only solace they’ve taken from this, as catcher A.J. Pierzynski has pointed out, is that the effort, desire to win, and all of those intangibles are positive. But the intangibles have to turn into wins, because at the end of the season, wins are all that matter.Follow Nick Cafardo on Twitter at @nickcafardo.