Famous broadcasting calls came to mind when Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons grounded into a double play to end the Red Sox’ 10-game losing streak Monday. I imagined Russ Hodges screaming, “The Red Sox win a game! The Red Sox win a game! The Red Sox win a game!’’ I remembered Al Michaels exclaiming, “Do you believe in miracles? Yessss!’’ And then I thought of the late, great Ned Martin who would have said . . . “Mercy.’’
Our long regional nightmare is over. The worst-to-first-to-worst Red Sox of 2014 rallied from a 6-1 deficit to defeat the Braves, 8-6, at Turner Field/Fenway South. Thankfully, the Sox are not going to bring a 12-game losing streak to Fenway Park for Wednesday’s return of the life-changing, Curse-busting, World Series championship team of 2004. That would have been truly embarrassing.
It’s healthy to step back and see that we are only 50 games into a 162-game season. The Red Sox are likely to still be in last place when they return to Fenway, but falling eight games behind in May isn’t insurmountable. General manager Ben Cherington took questions in the Sox dugout before Monday’s game and reminded us that the season is not yet over.
But the blame pie is large and a few myths need to be exposed.
Myth No. 1: The Sox are losing because of injuries.
No. This horrible start is not because of bad luck in the trainer’s room. Tampa’s pitching rotation was slaughtered by injuries. The Orioles had to play a month without Manny Machado, and Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Tommy Hunter all have been on the disabled list. Three Yankees starters have gone on the DL. The Red Sox have no such excuse. Felix Doubront, Shane Victorino, and Mike Napoli went down last week, but over the first 40 games of the season, the Red Sox were the healthiest team in the division.
Myth No. 2: The 2014 Red Sox don’t need to apologize for this early slump because this is not the same team as last year.
Baloney. No baseball team comes back with the same 25 guys. The Sox certainly allowed themselves to be gutted up the middle, but last time I looked at my scorecard Boston had 20 guys who earned championship rings last year. The Sox have the same starting rotation they had all last year. The same closer. The same setup guy. David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Napoli, Daniel Nava, David Ross, Mike Carp, Xander Bogaerts, and Will Middlebrooks were all part of the glory last October. They all share the blame now.
Myth No. 3: The Red Sox have a great farm system.
Baseball America loves the Sox’ farm system. The cult of local seamheads loves the Sox’ system. Maybe it’s all true. Maybe everyone is a year or two away. But where is the help now that they need it? Clearly Bogaerts is going to be a good major league hitter, but outside of Pedroia (who came to the bigs in 2006) and Bradley (.193 this year) none of the Sox’ other everyday players is from the system, and there is no help available at this dire hour.
Myth No. 4: The swap with the Dodgers in August of 2012 was the greatest trade in the history of the Red Sox, and the Dodgers were complete fools to make that deal.
I know it’s swell that the Dodgers relieved John Henry of all that payroll. It enabled the Sox to sign a bunch of veterans to short-term deals and triggered the World Series push of 2013. The Dodgers took Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh (No-hit) Beckett off our hands and relieved the Sox of more than a quarter-billion in payroll obligations. But why are the Sox significantly under the luxury tax threshold this year, and why are they low-balling Jon Lester? And how long before Allen Webster is ready? Is it too much to ask for any return on the playing field? Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, James Loney, Jerry Sands, and Ivan DeJesus came to Boston in the deal. Three of them are long gone. We keep hearing that Webster will help soon, but August will mark the two-year anniversary of the deal and it’s yielded nothing personnel-wise. Payroll relief is only great for fans if the Sox keep spending. And believe it or not, LA folks (flush with TV money) are pretty happy with that swap.
Myth No. 5: The Red Sox did not object to Yunel Escobar taking third base with a five-run lead in the eighth Sunday; they were only bothered because Escobar was chirping at the Boston dugout.
Apologists have tried to re-frame this narrative, but Sox manager John Farrell, coach Torey Lovullo, and catcher David Ross all said they were bothered by what they considered a breach of etiquette. It’s clear that when Escobar foolishly challenged the Sox dugout, he was returning fire. Ironically, less than 24 hours after the Sox groused about Tampa breaking hardball’s unwritten rules, the Sox erased a five-run deficit in a single inning in Atlanta. Evidently the Braves got the memo that you’re supposed to stop playing when you have a five-run lead against the Sox.
The dust-up in St. Pete was an indication the losing streak was getting to the Sox. For a moment, they were pathetic. They forgot who they are.
On Monday in Atlanta, they remembered that they were once a team that scoffed at a five-run deficit.
And now the losing streak is over. Mercifully.