Sep 8, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; (From left to right) Boston Red Sox second basemanBrock Holt
(26), center fielderMookie Betts
(50) and right fielderJackie Bradley
Jr. (25) speak during a pitching change during the seventh inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
It’s safe to say this isn’t how the Boston Red Sox envisioned their season playing out, as a series of splashy moves last winter grabbed headlines more effectively than they managed to produce wins. A year in which the team expected to vault back to contender status is instead headed for a second straight losing season, which may end up being their third last place finish in the last four years.
Yes, it’s been a disappointment, but that’s a trend going around the league. There are several other teams that expected to be playing in October, only to find themselves in the same boat as the Red Sox. Unfortunately, it’s not a duck boat.
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Let’s start with the AL East. Boston currently sits at the bottom of the division, but they are now only a game behind a Baltimore Orioles team that won the division a year ago and went on to the ALCS. The O’s +25 run differential suggests they have played significantly better than their record shows, but they are still a long way from 2014. Baltimore lost key contributors in the offseason, such as Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller, but few expected this team to flirt with last place. After winning 96 games last year, Baltimore may struggle to get within 20 wins of that total this season.
Moving over to the Central division we find a Detroit Tigers team struggling even more than the Red Sox. Detroit has won four straight division titles, but now find themselves in last place. They have fallen behind Boston in the standings and are spiraling further in the wrong direction. Letting Max Scherzer walk away was bound to be a step back, while Miguel Cabrera missing 37 games hasn’t helped either. This still appeared to be a pretty loaded team on paper entering the season, which is why it was surprising to see them wave the white flag at the trade deadline.
Head out West and we’ll find the division has nearly flipped upside-down. The Houston Astros and Texas Rangers are battling it out for first place after finishing last season with 70 and 67 wins respectively last year. The Los Angeles Angels ran away with the division in 2014 with a league-high 98 wins, yet now find themselves middling away at .500 and sinking out of the playoff race. The Oakland A’s made the postseason as the second Wild Card a year ago, but now have the worst record in the league.
A lot has changed in the past year, which has crushed most of our expectations. Baseball is enjoying the parity that has always made them so envious of the NFL. That may not be great news for the Red Sox, but it’s good for baseball.