|Image courtesy of CBS Boston|
Boston's ill-fated 2015 season died a horrible death yesterday in Anaheim, as the soaring Angels (first place, 11-3 in July) annihilated the Sox 11-1 and 7-3 in what was a decidedly lopsided doubleheader. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and co. treated the twin-bill like batting practice, feasting on Boston's thin pitching staff while sending Sox starters Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright (6.2 innings between them) to early exits. In the span of four days, but mostly within eight-hours yesterday, the Halos erased three weeks of strong play from the Bosox, who seemed to be turning things around after an ugly spring.
This weekend's bloodbath snuffed out any such illusions, all but eliminating the Sox from contention. Sure, they're technically still in it by virtue of seven American League teams (Boston included) being below .500 today (two more--Detroit and Toronto--are .500 exactly). But even if the Angels series didn't totally eradicate their chances (they're only five out of the second wild card), it was still a major setback, if not a fatal blow, for the stop-and-go Red Sox.
Just two weeks ago, you see, they were rolling, finally showing signs of life after a sluggish first half. Boston appeared to be gaining steam just before the All-Star Break, winning eight out of 10 at one point and cutting their AL East deficit from 10 games to five in three weeks' time.
Then, just when things were looking up, they fell flat on their faces. With the first-place Yankees in town and a chance to cut deeper into New York's lead, the Sox dropped two out of three to their former rivals. The 8-6 loss in the series finale was particularly painful, as Boston left baserunners all over the place (10 total) and lost with the tying run at the plate.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the mid-July reprieve seemed to sap all their momentum. They must've left their bats behind in Boston, because the Red Sox lineup sleepwalked through those four games in Anaheim. They managed one run--one measly run--in the first 32 innings of the series, largely because their incredibly frustrating woes with runners in scoring position persisted (Boston was 2-for-19 in such situations). By the time their hitters woke up in the finale, they were already down 6-0 in the top of the sixth. It was too little, too late.
And that's what any type of midseason upgrade is going to be for this team at this point. They've lost too many games, they've fallen too far behind. Talk of Boston possibly pursuing an ace (because Ben Cherington realized he needs one about six months too late) at the trade deadline now seems as unlikely as Dustin Pedroia enjoying a delayed growth spurt. The Sox are sellers again, only this time they don't have much to sell. When a 27 year-old utilityman, 40 year-old closer, and Alejandro De Aza are your best trade chips, you're in trouble.
The Red Sox find themselves in a similar situation to where they were in 2012 (minus, thank God, the Bobby Valentine shenanigans): a bad, expensive team drowning in bloated contracts. Only this time, the Dodgers aren't coming to the rescue. The Sox are kidding themselves if they think they're going to find someone dumb enough to bite on the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and Rick Porcello, whose contracts all smelled rotten before the ink had dried and reek even worse now. They're not going anywhere, and it's going to be tough to find any takers for the team's other overpriced, over-the-hill veterans (Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Allen Craig, et. al). Who would a) want those guys, and b) give up anything meaningful (beyond salary relief) in return?
Ten days. That's how long Ben Cherington has to answer those questions and purge his roster of as many bad contracts as he can. Ten days to strip this hunk of junk for parts and get whatever he can in return. He's been very active during his tumultuous tenure, so he'll probably do his share of wheeling and dealing before the dust settles on July 31st. It's just too bad he doesn't have anything good to sell.