The Red Sox have finished last in the American League East three times since 2012 and almost certainly will again this season. They’re 17-31 with 12 games remaining.
But for the first time in decades the Sox are worse than bad. They’re irrelevant.
A thoroughly likable Celtics team starts the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday against Miami. The new-look Patriots won their first game and face the Seahawks, Raiders, and Chiefs over the next three weeks.
The Sox, meanwhile, are one of a handful of teams with no realistic chance at making the 16-team postseason tournament Major League Baseball is conducting this season. Their season has dissolved into an endless series of transactions involving borderline big leaguers.
When righthander Tanner Houck makes his major league debut at Miami on Tuesday night, he’ll be the 45th player to get into a game. That’s only two fewer than the Sox used over 162 games last season.
There’s nothing the Red Sox can do to change the outcome of this lost season. But here are a few suggestions to make the final days productive ones:
▪ Play Bobby Dalbec every day — The Sox were off on Monday and have next Monday off. There’s no reason to give the 25-year-old rookie any more days off.
Every plate appearance adds experience he can use to build for next season. If Dalbec proves to be a reliable player, at least 2020 will have accomplished something.
▪ Shut down Nate Eovaldi — The righthander is lined up to start Thursday. Let him pitch that game then send him home.
Eovaldi has been on the injured list at least once in five consecutive seasons. He has two years and $34 million remaining on his contract and there’s no reason to take any chances with his health.
▪ Alternate Michael Chavis and Yairo Munoz at left field and second base — Both are candidates to be utility players next season and need more experience in the outfield. Let these final two weeks be a competition.
Munoz is an interesting player. He’s 13 of 34 in nine game with six extra-base hits and has started games at six positions in his career. He’s somebody who should get as many at-bats as possible in the time left.
▪ Try Alex Verdugo at different spots in the lineup — He has shown he can hit leadoff. Try him hitting second or third a few times and see how that looks.
Verdugo has hit second twice and has yet to hit third. If manager Ron Roenicke needs to push J.D. Martinez down a few spots, so be it. He checked out of this season weeks ago.
▪ Release Dustin Pedroia — That sounds harsh, but it’s not. Pedroia’s career has clearly come to an end because of his battered left knee. But he is signed through 2021 and will take up a spot on the 40-man roster all winter. It’s time to have that settled.
The Mets released injured David Wright when he had two more years on his deal. He collected his money and the team regained the roster spot. Wright and Pedroia have the same agents — Sam and Seth Levinson — so it should be easy to come to an agreement on this.
The Sox should release Pedroia and, at the same time, name him a special assistant, the same post Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, and Tim Wakefield all have. Schedule a day for him to be honored in 2021 and let everybody move on.
▪ Announce Roenicke’s status — Roenicke managed this season on a one-year contract and had everything going against him from the start. He never had a chance.
Roenicke has spoken in recent weeks like a man who expects to be managing next season, but ownership has been quiet on the matter.
If Roenicke is staying on, give him a new deal. Otherwise make a clean break as soon as the season ends. He’s 64 and has earned the right not to twist in the wind once the season ends.
It’s not impossible, but it’s highly unlikely Alex Cora is going to return. Chaim Bloom has consistently said there was a reason it was decided Cora had to go and that hasn’t changed.
Bloom undoubtedly has a list of candidates he’d want to talk to and the sooner that gets going, the better.
▪ Cut ticket prices for 2021 — Sox management completely misread the room by raising ticket prices after missing the playoffs last season. Then came the Mookie Betts/David Price salary dump and it looked even worse.
It ultimately didn’t matter, as fans weren’t allowed at Fenway this season. But sometime soon the Sox should announce a reduction in prices for next year with a promise of quick refunds if the pandemic keeps the gates closed.
The Sox badly need to rebuild their relationship with the fan base. I think they underestimate how aggravated people are with them.
▪ Let’s hear from John Henry — The principal owner (and owner of the Globe) has not taken questions from reporters since Feb. 17, nearly seven months ago.
There are certainly plenty of issues to discuss.