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Christopher L. Gasper

These struggling Sox sure look like they’re in a dreaded ‘Bridge Year’

Aside from the steady production of Xander Bogaerts (right) and Rafael Devers, there's little manager Alex Cora (left) can trust about his roster.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The Red Sox’ losing streak wasn’t extended to six Monday. That’s because they enjoyed a day off, a respite from the ravages of a nightmarish 10-19 start that has their season going up in smoke before we fire up the grills for Memorial Day.

Not playing a game is as close to a win as they get right now.

Sitting barnacle-encrusted at the bottom of the American League East like the Andrea Doria are your sunken-cost Sox. Last season’s American League finalists are 10.5 games back of the Yankees and have one series win all season — against the Tigers, the only AL team with a worse record.


A bad start has exposed this season for what it is: A designed and designated Bridge Year for Chaim Bloom and Co., on the yellow brick road to sustainability. That narrow bridge is collapsing. Of course, the Sox can never admit they’re in a Bridge Year, even if their baseball blueprint requires it. Their public relations playbook mandates never uttering those infamous words of former GM Theo Epstein again. The truth is bad optics, and the Sox are all about optics.

Hardball hubris and ideological intransigence have landed the Red Sox, losers of seven of eight, here. The mantra of baseball ops under chief baseball officer Bloom is to do more with less-proven talent, find creative (i.e. cheaper) solutions to problems, and prioritize bulking up the minor league system over arming the big league team.

It’s the front office version of a sleight-of-hand magic trick — trying to create the illusion and distraction of contention while retooling in reality. Except, there is no payoff, no prestige, for this trick. Just an empty hand for manager Alex Cora to play and a disbelieving, disappointed audience.

The considerable resources of the Red Sox don’t buy what they used to. The Chris Sale injury was a blow — Sale appears immunized against staying on the field, no? — while they’ve constructed a team with glaring holes at closer, first base, and right field, as well as issues at catcher and second base. (More on Trevor Story later.)


I wince every time I see the Sox post a lineup with journeyman Christian Arroyo in right field; or Franchy Cordero, the left-handed Wily Mo Pena; or Quadruple A player Rob Refsynder, back where he belongs in Triple A.

Franchy Cordero takes a called strike three late in a game at Fenway last week.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Cycling through pitchers to find a closer might work in apathetic Tampa, but trying to do it in real time in Boston is asking for trouble. The psychological component of getting the final outs of a baseball game is just different in Boston, New York, or Philadelphia.

Relying on a revival from Matt Barnes, who has slipped into the baseball black hole that seems to swallow once-reliable relievers, was foolhardy. He’s 0-3 with a 7.84 ERA, unable to protect leads or throw his fastball with conviction. His channeling of Calvin Schiraldi is a key factor in the team being 3-7 in one-run games and leading the majors in blown saves (nine) with Cora reduced to reliever roulette.

You know you’ve done a poor job constructing a team when you’re talking about cloning players, as Bloom did recently when referencing Garrett Whitlock.

For a team that relies on analytics and empirical data, there’s an awful lot of old-fashioned wishing and hoping baked into this roster.


It makes zero sense unless what you’re really prioritizing can be found on the first page of the Red Sox media notes — the note in the bottom right-hand corner mentioning the Sox have five prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100.

Unfortunately, none of those prospects is big-league ready. So, we’re stuck with a transitional team in a transitional year.

In fairness, you would expect the Sox bats to awaken at some point. Boston is averaging an anemic 3.28 runs per game, 28th out of 30 teams. Only the Royals and the Tigers are scoring less. The league average entering Monday was 4.04.

If the Sox can get their offense to even a major league mean, they’ll be better than a well below-.500 baseball team that hasn’t collected a single series win at Fenway.

But there is still too much reliance on shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Rafael Devers — you know, the two guys being rebuffed on $30 million average annual value contracts in the hallowed name of financial flexibility — and there are still too many holes in the lineup.

What does the future hold for Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers?Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Sox batting order feels a bit like an unfinished house. It looks great on the surface, but then you realize the plumbing is not connected.

For example, as well as Kiké Hernández performed last season, delivering a career year in his first season in the Fens, he’s not an everyday center fielder and leadoff man.

He’s a super-utility guy. Hernandez is a career .239 hitter with a .315 on-base percentage. He hit .237 in his last full regular season with the Dodgers in 2019. This year, he’s batting .176 with a .252 OBP.


Story isn’t this bad, but he’s enjoyed a very bumpy transition from carefree Colorado to the cauldron of Fenway. It’s Awkward with a capital ‘A’ knowing he’s here as leverage on Bogaerts, his shortstop replacement if the classy Bogey, the Patrice Bergeron of Boston baseball, won’t acquiesce to another hometown discount.

Signed to a six-year, $140 million deal, Story is the largest expenditure under Bloom. Unfortunately, he’s giving off Carl Crawford vibes and giving Bloom those Ben Cherington feelings as an object of dissatisfaction and derision.

He’s batting just. 194, has yet to hit his first Red Sox home run, and strikes out more often than a besotted bro with cringey pick-up lines in Southie.

Bloom got so much right last season as the Sox surged to the ALCS. He was able to masterfully navigate parallel paths and objectives at the same time. He traded for difference-maker Kyle Schwarber and protected his precious prospects.

He survived not acquiring the starter the team needed at the trade deadline. (Check out the numbers Kyle Gibson, a trade deadline pick-up by old friend Dave Dombrowski, is putting up in Philadelphia.)

This season it’s the total opposite. To borrow a Yogi-ism, it’s getting late early for the Sox.

Bloom better hope for a Celtics-like switch-flipping. Otherwise, this year he’s built a bridge to nowhere.


Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at christopher.gasper@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.