Boston Red Sox are sturdy enough to be a 2020 playoff factor
By Rick McNair
The portents of doom appear to cloud Boston Red Sox fans with the loss of Mookie Betts. This team still has enough to stay in the playoff race.
The great nation known as Red Sox Nation has suddenly lost its shine and gone from a legitimate power player to a banana republic. Empires fall and suddenly the Red Sox – a dominant force of the 21st century – seems to be tattered and torn. The star attraction has been shipped elsewhere and supporting cast members not resigned. A dark cloud reminiscent of cartoonist Al Capp’s Joe Btsfplk swirls overhead at Fenway Park.
A concession is in the air as the pungent fragrance of defeat has embraced all things Red Sox. A towel tossed in to surrender the 2020 season. I tend to look at the American League East flag as a lost cause, but then even the mighty Yankees rotation takes two hits. Shamefully we see a light through the unfortunate circumstances of others, but the Bombers do have enough to chalk up another century mark in wins.
The fishing for good news is there is hope that has been bestowed upon all things Red Sox thanks to the avaricious of major league baseball itself. If one believes in Gordon Gekko that “Greed is good” then a big hallelujah to expanding the Wild Card (WC) designed to increase pennant races or to translate into MLB terms – make a boatload more money!
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The WC becomes the backdoor for the Red Sox as it does for many an unfortunate franchise who cannot muster the forces to get over a ninety-five win plateau. Boston will certainly be involved in the competition for that precious spot that can result in a one-game demise or a long streak resulting in a championship. Just last season the Washington Nationals accomplished just that. The Red Sox also have that in their ancient history (2004) before the WC was expanded.
This is, of course, placing the cart before the horse in a rather time-honored expression since the first measure is to get a squad together that does really will give it a decent shot. The Red Sox do have a respectable core of players who are either solid veterans such as Xander Bogaerts or rising stars of the future types like Rafael Devers. This team will hit even with the dynamic Mookie Betts wearing blue.
Since I have a noted fervor for the value of pitching that one niche may be the crucible that places the 2020 season in ignominious jeopardy. Does rolling Martin Perez out every fifth day instill confidence? And the questionable arms of Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi may be an issue resolved in spring training.
The pitching question marks do not subside after an examination of the rotation but merely intensify with a fateful look at the bullpen. In the baseball world circa 2020 a bullpen is no longer consigned to mop-up duty or an afterthought, but a part of the big picture of pitching. A swirling of question marks around this staff and their collective ability to mute the opposition’s offense. Without reasonable pitching, the season will become a macabre chamber of horrors unless you are swinging the stick for the opposition.
The Red Sox search between the cushions does have some spare change after their discounted shipment to Los Angeles, so the possibility if the brass ring of the WC is reachable a move or two could be made. From sellers to buyers in a few short months? A strange world this Red Sox team exists in.
Meanwhile, the focus could turn to within as in within the American League East. The Tampa Bay Rays are noted pests who have a tendency to be disruptive to both Boston and New York. Expect little to change. The next factor or X factor is the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays could make a real leap this season with youth leading the charge especially the accumulation of young pitching arms.
Examining the American League the Red Sox may be faced with a lengthy battle to secure that precious WC. Other teams have reloaded – especially the Angels and White Sox. The A’s have become a west coast version of the Rays and capable of causing their own brand of mayhem in the standings.
The next six weeks will be centered on the Red Sox filling in the pitching potholes – hopefully, better than the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority does with legitimate potholes. But then there are some positional issues, but the Red Sox do have some reasonable depth and that spare change to address those issues. Good luck!