It’s not hard to connect the dots.
The Red Sox spent July surging in the standings and arrived at the trade deadline with some of their players pleading for reinforcements to bolster their chances of contention. When the team added little — just a minor move for second baseman Luis Urías — the players collectively heard the wail of a sad trombone.
The team, in turn, responded with a dreadfully uninspired 2-5 stretch entering Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the Royals to fall five games behind the Blue Jays in the chase for the third and final wild card spot.
Does chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom think there’s anything to the notion that his team’s performance had suffered due to a post-deadline letdown?
“I hope not,” said Bloom. “I try not to take away from how anybody feels. Certainly, culture and intangibles matter. We believe that really strongly and I think that’s been reflected in a lot of the veterans that we’ve brought in over the time that I’ve been here.”
Even so, Bloom downplayed the notion that his team’s performance took a downturn because of the Sox’ relatively quiet deadline. Efforts to link how teams play after the deadline to the transactions that precede it, he suggested, tend to be misleading. (Left unsaid: The Sox also lost the three games prior to the deadline, when it was still unclear if the team would add, subtract, or neither.)
“There’s examples every year of teams that pushed a lot of chips in or didn’t, who quote-unquote bought or sold. And everybody thinks certain things are going to happen because of that. And sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t,” said Bloom. “It’s not really something I pay a lot of attention to, because every year there are examples and counterexamples, and it doesn’t seem to really line up in any predictable fashion with what people think is going to happen.”
Certainly, there are members of the team who wanted to see the club be more active in supplying reinforcements — particularly pitchers — by Aug. 1. It’s also the case that the Sox have not been nearly as sharp this month as they were during their impressive July run.
The quality of plate appearances has declined, with a decreased walk rate (6.4 percent in August, down from 8.0 percent for the year), fewer foul balls on tough pitches to elevate opposing starters’ pitch counts. The team is averaging 3.7 pitches per plate appearance this month, down from 3.9 previously.
Closer Kenley Jansen allowed that the team needs to re-establish the sharp focus that allowed it to push within reach of the Blue Jays last month. But on a personal level, he didn’t feel the team’s moves and non-moves had impacted his performance.
“I’m not going to focus on what we could have done,” said Jansen. “If Chaim made a move or if he didn’t, my job is, whenever I’m in the ninth inning, when my name is called, I’ve got to go out there and do the job.
“If we [had gotten] help, great, we get help. Awesome. But they built this team where, I don’t think they brought me in just to build for the future. You bring a guy like me in and [Justin Turner] in when you’re trying to win,” said Jansen. “I’m not going to focus on what we could have done.”
Turner, likewise, dismissed the idea that the Sox’ recent lackluster play had been a result of the trade deadline. He noted that other teams who were buyers at the deadline — most notably, the Angels — have gone into funks in the aftermath of deals.
“[The Angels] made lots of trades. They lost their first six games out of the break. Just because you trade for some people doesn’t equal wins. Doesn’t work that way,” said Turner. “Everyone is all over the Dodgers because of the players they traded for. No one could have predicted that, right? It’s easy to be like, ‘Oh, look at these idiots. The Dodgers are geniuses. Look at what they did.’
“There’s no way of knowing, ‘If we would have done this, this might have happened.’ It just didn’t happen. So there’s no point in answering the ifs. It’s [the media’s] job to write about the ifs, and it’s our job to not give two [expletives] about the ifs, because that doesn’t help us win baseball games.”
Ultimately, regardless of whether players were pleased, displeased, or indifferent to the team’s actions at the deadline, the Sox do not believe the outcome of the season needs to be defined by what transpired, or didn’t, on Aug.1.
“It’s up to us. We’ve got to stay focused. We’ve just got to regroup. We showed that we can beat [anyone],” said Jansen. “We still have time, but it’s time to go.”