There’s fun in watching these Red Sox play follow the leader
SEATTLE — These are strange days for the Red Sox. They are in first place in the American League East. They are likely to be in first place when they return to Fenway against the Royals Friday night.
But John Henry’s team has been taking on water since just before the All-Star break. Going into Tuesday night’s game and the major league debut of Rafael Devers, the Sox had dropped 11 of 17. There’s been a power outage, a gaping hole at third base, and some well-publicized bad behavior. A team that’s been characterized as a tad “boring” (NESN ratings were down 20 percent in the first half of the season), has finally become a topic of discussion back home in New England, but it’s not exactly the kind of attention a franchise wants. Just as the wildly popular Patriots are ready to start training camp, the Sox are back in the news cycle, but it’s not their fine play that has tongues wagging.
David Price’s airplane ambush of club broadcaster/Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley coupled with the disclosure that teammates applauded Price’s comments has some fans wondering how much they like this team at the moment. The notion that no one in uniform has apologized — that everybody is OK with it — is shameful. And that includes the manager.
Manager John’s reluctance to stand up for what’s right (Farrell’s media coach must be telling him to keep saying “We’ve moved on and our focus is on winning ballgames”) only makes the ever-scrutinized skipper more of a target for fans who want change in the corner office.
Farrell and Price had a 10-minute closed-door meeting Tuesday afternoon in the manager’s office at Safeco Field. When Farrell was asked about the nature of the meeting, he answered, “Nothing out of the ordinary.’’
In the end, of course, fans will love the Red Sox and their manager if the team wins in October. If the Duck Boats are rolling down Boylston Street on Halloween, nobody will care about a dearth of homers, the Bermuda Triangle at the Hot Corner, or the notion that the Sox are too sensitive to criticism.
But at this hour it’s fair to ask if this talented, highly paid, first-place ballclub has the right stuff for what lies ahead. If they can’t handle the truth from Eckersley — who is hardly a bomb-tosser — how are they going to handle the Astros and Indians in October?
The Sox were swept from the playoffs in a matter of hours last season and that was with David Ortiz in the lineup. Until they prove otherwise, questions linger about their ability to win games in any postseason. None of the Boston pitchers (Doug Fister won’t be here and doesn’t count) have won a postseason start. Chris Sale, enjoying a Cy Young-caliber season, has never started a playoff game. Craig Kimbrel has never been on a team that won a playoff series. Rick Porcello (three starts) and Price (nine starts) have never won a postseason start. One can only imagine the weight Price will carry when he takes the ball for his 2017 playoff season start. He certainly would not be a candidate for a winner-take-all wild-card game.
It should be appointment TV when Price gets the ball Friday night at Fenway. Folks who buy tickets to ballgames tend to be far more positive and supportive than those who call talk shows or comment on social media, but Price has put a giant bull’s-eye on his back with his attack on Eckersley and insistence that he did a good thing for his teammates.
Where’s the leadership? One has to wonder. Dustin Pedroia sets a great example with the way he prepares and plays every day, but he is not a vocal presence. He wants no part of taking charge verbally, and is no doubt still smarting from the “It’s not me, it’s them” fallout in Baltimore.
What’s particularly alarming is any possibility that Price is ascending to a role as team leader. The thin-skinned lefty clearly thinks he’s taking care of his teammates and no one has stepped forward to tell him he’s wrong.
While all this is going on, we wonder if the ubiquitous Dave Dombrowski (Boston’s old-school baseball boss goes on every road trip) will make any additional acquisitions between now and Monday’s trading deadline after acquiring Giants third baseman Eduardo Nunez for a pair minor league pitchers.
In a perfect world, Dombrowski would make a deal for David Ortiz, Bobby Orr, or Tom Brady.
More than anything, the first-place Red Sox could use a touch of dignity and clutch play right about now. It’s not too late. This is a team with enough talent to go deep in the playoffs.
Friday night should be fun.
David Price will be on the mound.
No one knows who’ll be in the NESN booth with Dave O’Brien.
Dennis Eckersley will be spending the weekend where he belongs . . .