It hasn’t been a fun year to be a Boston Red Sox fan.
They’ve been mathematically eliminated from the postseason for over a week, though it feels like much longer.
With seemingly nothing left to play for, the Sox could’ve decided to punt the last series and just endure their final 27 more innings. But there is one very good reason to try and end the season on a high note:
As the Sox prepare for their last trio of games at Fenway to close out this frustrating season, they won’t be using any kind of backup roster. In addition to reinstating Eric Hosmer from the Injured List, they’ll use three of their main starting pitchers. Rich Hill will start Monday, followed by Nathan Eovaldi on Tuesday, and Nick Pivetta gets the ball for the season finale on Wednesday afternoon.
Manager Alex Cora explained the decision on Sunday:
"“We expect 30,000 people at home and they deserve the best that we have and we’re going to try to do that.”"
It’s a nice sentiment, though it’s also laughable that anything we’ve seen this season has been “the best” this team has.
And of course, baseball is a business, so this probably isn’t just about sappy, romantic, feel-good stuff, especially not this year. The strategic impetus for touting their starting pitchers is that Hill and Eovaldi are on the brink of free agency, and the Sox likely want to get one last look, in case they’re considering making a Qualifying Offer or extension to either of them. Their minds may already be made up on both pitchers, but with Eovaldi only making one start since August 12 and Hill’s late-season success (three shutout starts since August 27), they might want to see them once more, especially since Michael Wacha’s recent struggles may change their offseason plans.
It’s also what Dennis Eckersley deserves for his final week in the booth and what Xander Bogaerts deserves as he plays what could be his last games in a Red Sox uniform. Many fans are likely only heading to Fenway this week to celebrate their beloved broadcaster and team captain. Hopefully, this isn’t the end for Bogaerts, but if it is, it should be as triumphant as Mookie Betts’ scoring the winning run in extra innings on the last day of the 2019 season.
Whatever made this happen, it’s nice that the Sox aren’t phoning it in for the last homestand. The people they call “the best fans in baseball” who paid to sit through this season and are paying to come back to Fenway one last time deserve as much. They also deserve a better roster next year that starts with the Sox locking in Bogaerts and Rafael Devers long-term, but that’s a conversation for the long, stressful days ahead.
For now, it’s time to soak in the magic of Fenway Park and this very un-magical team for the last time.