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dan shaughnessy

This Red Sox skid seemed inevitable, and other thoughts

Xander Bogaerts was at a loss after striking out against the Tigers.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Picked-up pieces while wondering if maybe Garrett Richards has a case of the “twisties” …

▪ It was only a matter of time before the wheels starting coming off the Red Sox wagon. The reeling Townies went into Saturday’s nightcap in Toronto having lost eight of nine and 16 of 27 since July 4 — which was about the time the Sox Twitter account taunted fans and media who did not believe in the team early in the season (”Remember your tweets from the first week of the season? We do.”).

It was only a matter of time because the Fool’s Gold Sox were built on the shaky foundation of a starting rotation with more meatball artists than Mother Anna’s on Hanover Street in the North End.

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Seriously. The notion that the Sox were going to get by with the likes of Martín Pérez, Richards, Nick Pivetta, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nate Eovaldi was laughable. As a group, they overachieved in the first three months, and Eovaldi is the only one who’s kept pitching at a high level.

In his last nine starts, Richards has a 7.36 ERA. Perez is at 7.13 in his last 11, and Pivetta at 5.43 in his last 13.

Sox starters went 4-8 with a 5.50 ERA in the first 19 games after the All-Star break. This includes 11 games in which the starter didn’t last five innings.

Making matters worse, ownership/management failed to step up at the trading deadline, and the players subsequently performed like a group demoralized by leadership.

Per usual, the Sox wanted fans to think they would be aggressive (someone in the Jersey Street tower floated the false notion that the club was interested in acquiring Max Scherzer and Anthony Rizzo), but the team had no intention of pursuing the big-name talents. The Sox were not going to blast over the luxury-tax threshold and were beaten at the deadline by rivals Tampa Bay (Nelson Cruz), New York (Joey Gallo, Rizzo), and Toronto (José Berríos).

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Sox CEO Sam Kennedy mocked the Yankees at the deadline. New York trailed Boston by one in the loss column heading into Saturday night’s action.

Anthony Rizzo hit three homers in his first six games with the Yankees.Jim McIsaac/Getty

After the reeling Red Sox were pantsed by the (53-58) Tigers, 8-1, Thursday afternoon — their sixth loss in seven games — a fed-up Alex Cora said, “It wasn’t a good effort today … It looks like right now we’re a step slower.”

No Sox position players agreed to be interviewed after the sad series finale in Detroit.

They went on to lose the first two in Toronto, low-lighted by when Cora had to use a position player to pitch in the 12-4 loss Friday.

The return of Chris Sale should help. Pérez already has been bounced from the rotation. Kyle Schwarber will arrive sometime before the end of August and attempt to plug the gap at first base even though he’s never played there.

The Sox’ half-baked notion to put the 28-year-old veteran at first reminds me of the scene in “Moneyball” when Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) visits the home of Scott Hatteberg with A’s coach Ron Washington in an effort to convince Hatteberg he can easily switch to first base. Beane tells Hatteberg, “It’s not that hard, Scott,” then turns to Washington, saying, “Tell him, Wash.” And Washington says, “It’s incredibly hard.”

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The 2021 Red Sox are a rather ordinary team that played over its head for three electric months. They were a year or two ahead of schedule. When ownership/management sent the deadline message that the first-place Sox were not worth an “all-in” approach, Cora’s players responded by rolling over against the Rays, Tigers, and Jays. They scored 18 runs in seven games before going to Toronto. J.D. Martinez was down to .284 before being placed on the COVID-related injured list Saturday, and Rafael Devers stopped running out his ground outs.

Time to snap out of it. The next couple of weeks are critical.

▪ How’s this for leadership? Reporters to Bill Belichick Wednesday: “Are you willing to share whether you are vaccinated?” Belichick: “Yeah, we’re not going to get into that.”

Why not, Coach? Afraid to say anything in the defense of public health?

Sorry, but it’s hard to root for this. It’s cute when Belichick swats away questions and is “on to Cincinnati,” but this is just stupid. Cora, Brad Stevens, and Bruce Cassidy had no problem coming out in favor of vaccines. Cora has been a virtual spokesman for the vaccine, and Cassidy said Thursday, “I am fully vaccinated and healthy as a horse.”

Belichick is vaccinated (the NFL requires it for head coaches). Color me disappointed that a local leader with his gravitas won’t take a stand on this important issue.

▪ Quiz: Nine big leaguers have hit 600 homers. Name the only one of the nine who was never named MVP (answer below).

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▪ Simone Biles loses me when she tells NBC’s Mike Tirico, “It’s harder being a female athlete because, you know, everybody prays for your downfall and wants you to mess up and all of that stuff.”

Excuse me? What planet has the great gymnast been living on? Does anyone seriously think people have been praying for Biles’s downfall leading into these Olympics? NBC spent hundreds of millions promoting Biles as America’s sweetheart, the face of the Tokyo Games.

Seriously. “Everybody prays for your downfall”? She is still saying this after the global love and sensitivity showered on her in the wake of her Tokyo experience?

▪ Note to Simone: I was rooting against American swimmer and outspoken anti-vaxxer Michael Andrew. Andrew had a disappointing Games, failing to medal in all of his specialties. He’ll come home with a single medal, achieved in a relay event.

▪ I will admit taking some pleasure in the downfall of the US women’s soccer team. It’s about karma and sportsmanship. Led by glory hog Megan Rapinoe, our team gleefully ran up scores and routinely insulted opponents while winning the last World Cup. Seventeen members of that team played in the US’s 1-0 gold-medal elimination loss to Canada Monday. The US took home the bronze Thursday.

▪ Evan Fournier, We Hardly Knew Ye. Fournier has come and gone, and the only thing we remember is that he was on the French Olympic team that beat the US at the start of the Olympics.

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Short-time Celtic Evan Fournier had 28 points in France's win over the United States.Gregory Shamus/Getty

▪ Adrian Gonzalez is still the Cooler. His Mexican Olympic baseball team was sent home after losing to Israel last weekend. No word on whether Gonzalez said the loss was “God’s will.” Colleague Peter Abraham suggests that maybe nobody told the Cooler that the flight to Tokyo is quite long.

▪ Bridge Year Blues: Stevens brings back Al Horford and Enes Kanter to the Celtics, and there was talk of reacquiring Jeff Green (Danny Ainge’s trade of Kendrick Perkins for Green blew up the 2010-11 Celtic season) and even Isaiah Thomas. Why not Alaa Abdelnaby? It’s difficult to get enthused about what the Celtics are doing this offseason.

▪ Now that he’s with the Knicks, Kemba Walker can wear his Yankee hat at postgame Zoomers without fear of fan blowback.

▪ According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Duncan Robinson’s $90 million contract with the Heat is the largest deal ever awarded to an undrafted player.

▪ A Globe pressman relayed this story about the late Nick Cafardo: “My son was in the fourth grade and very sick and doctors didn’t know what to do to treat him. My son loved Jason Varitek, so I reached out to the Red Sox to see if they could get something from Jason for my son, but they couldn’t help him.

“When I reached out to Nick, he got right back to me and said he would see what he could do. Soon after spring training started, a package arrived with a note from Jason and a signed baseball with a message for my son to hang in there. Nick didn’t know me at all. My son is doing well today, and I still get a little choked up thinking about it.”

▪ Jim Palmer’s late father-in-law, Dr. Jim Earle, was a professor emeritus at Texas A&M, a Golden Gloves boxer, and a gun collector. His gun that killed Billy the Kid will be auctioned off by Bonhams on Aug. 27 in Los Angeles. On Oct. 5, Bonhams will auction Dr. Earle’s sports collection, including the Hickok Award belts of Rocky Marciano and Carmen Basilio, plus a bronzed Babe Ruth shoe from the Bambino’s days as a pitcher for the Red Sox.

▪ Quiz answer: Jim Thome. The eight 600-homer guys who were MVPs are Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Alex Rodriguez. (It was the “League Award” when Ruth won in 1923.)


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.