The Boston Red Sox are stagnant this season with each potential turnaround moment followed by a painful reminder that the playoffs may be out of reach. July baseball will potentially show the direction.
A three-year run at being the division champions of the American League East is now winding down to a numerical fantasy if one expects four. That book is being slammed closed by the Yankees. Does the focus then turn to just how the Boston Red Sox get into the playoffs? The answer is simple – Wild Card (WC).
The latest construct by Major League Baseball has two teams entering the WC showdown for a one-game decider. The unfortunate circumstance for the Red Sox is they are drifting in the wrong direction to secure a WC spot. And to pile on with more bad news, the Red Sox have two teams – the Oakland A’s and Cleveland Indians – to leapfrog over.
As with bad news, there is often a glimmer of hope that will energize even the most disconsolate of Red Sox fans and that is divisional play. The Red Sox month of July is a scheduling trip among the AL East with two points of order better defined as taking care of business.
The first point is simply being a bully against the less fortunate members of the AL East and that means the dreadful Toronto Blue Jays and even more woeful Baltimore Orioles. Boston – like almost every team in the majors – has enjoyed a certain level of success against both. Undoubtedly good news, but the bad news is the efforts against the crème de la crème of the division.
The Red Sox schedule thins out in August with just eight games against the division and closes out September with 14 games. The road and home advantages this season are nil so the home-field advantage is moot.
The real focal point is July with a string of remaining games with the Yankees and Rays. The Red Sox did have a nice taste of success early in the season with a sweep of the Rays who are now drifting rather rapidly out of first place contention for the division. What may transpire is now best defined as the last stand before hard decisions are made.
The Red Sox have somewhat mitigated their pitching issues with Andrew Cashner in the rotation and the very pricey Nathan Eovaldi being the long-desired closer. The only offensive problem is not covering some of the pitching that has a tendency to be less than stellar. July may represent a final run.
The Red Sox simply cannot play .500 baseball against Tampa and New York. The Red Sox also need to treat Baltimore and Toronto as one would a rookie league team. The WC gets a few games further in the hole the Red Sox just may pull the plug on 2019 and that could mean some noted names appearing on rosters that do not say Boston.
The Red Sox may be limited in adding payroll, but not in scuttling payroll. There is certainly talent available for other GM’s to kick the tires. Need pitching? Maybe a disappointing Rick Porcello could be moved. Or a disappointing Andrew Benintendi could add some valued prospects. Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are in the make me an offer I can’t refuse category.
The path to halting any exodus is simple – win – and win against Tampa and New York. This is essentially a 100+ win team that is underperforming. The real measure of mettle will be the rest of July to salvage the season.