Boston Red Sox: Pennant push traps await in AL East

Sep 7, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) looks on prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) looks on prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox are closing in on a playoff slot, but just what external and internal problems await?

Threats can generally be defined as internal and external and you see them in business, families and even nations. I have worked for companies whose internal decision-making to the external threats of competition and changing markets doomed them to the ash can of business history.

In baseball, the season is down to a few intense weeks – at least intense for those teams in the hunt. For the remaining, it is merely playing out the schedule and attempting to determine who represents a future building block or potentially valued trade chip. The also-ran has another obligation and that is to bloody the nose of those still seeking a playoff slot.

What better way to invigorate a team and fans than stomping a team that needs a win and somehow pictures you as a baseball cream puff. In the American League East, the race is closer than two passionate teenagers on a dance floor. That means the spoiler opportunity for Tampa Bay and in football terminology – trap games.

The Rays are finished – deader than the Dead Sea and the future does not look to be much of an improvement. However, they can be pests and have been in the waning days of the race since they have zero pressure and are expected to be routinely trounced. The Rays should be approached as one would cozy up to a wounded predator. Tread lightly and do not look beyond a game with them.

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The Red Sox have three more games with this external threat and that certainly is – at least from my view – a real plus. The others in the division have to also take a turn at being “whupped” by a team on the prowl for something to point to for an otherwise miserable season.

The Red Sox have division foes to match-up with and a good start was Toronto, where Boston captured two of three games. The post-game major league posting board was afire with angry Toronto fans ready to crucify their manager – John Gibbons – for various moves that the masses considered the very height of managerial incompetence. Several even mentioned Gibbons being “out-managed” by Boston’s John Farrell. Did I fall into an alternate universe?

The Yankees are suddenly relevant with an influx of youthful talent and the exodus of some aged deadwood. Boston and New York have a “thing” with each other so each contest takes about as long as to circumnavigate the globe in a dinghy. That and a well-honed dislike for each other that has been refined for centuries – it’s not just about baseball, folks.

The O’s are certainly not to be dismissed and have hung tough despite some questionable starting pitching. The O’s love, adore, worship and so on the long ball. The Red Sox have another nasty four-game set in Charm Town, but, thankfully the invasion from Red Sox Nation usually packs the house with merciless chants of “Let’s go, Red Sox.”

The Red Sox have held their own against division rivals and that is exactly what they must continue to do. Win one and lose one is an acceptable method of survival since the assumption is the others will do the same as the schedule ticks down. The nice positive is this is a very good Red Sox road team and one with a suddenly invigorated starting staff. Pitching wins. I certainly do not expect them to either cower or self-destruct when away from home.

Therefore, from my view the external is quite simple – do what you have been doing against the American League East and you will (hopefully) prosper. The simple fact is this Red Sox team appears better on paper and now in the field than the others in the division.

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Internal is always on my dread list. All I think about each waking moment – besides food – is just what type of bonehead managerial move can turn a sudden victory into a disastrous defeat. The ongoing Steven Wright pinch runner fiasco tops anything the emotional Blue Jay fans can toss out regarding their leadership.

Farrell has been relatively benign the last few weeks and even the implementation of hindsight shows his moves have been both safe and predictable – safe baseball. Farrell just needs to stick with the basics and let the talent do the talking with quality pitching and timely hitting.

Next: Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia closing in on batting title

As the great baseball play-by-play announcer Red Barber would say: “The Red Sox are in the Catbird Seat.”