Today is June 21st, and it’s a day of firsts. It is the first day of summer and the Red Sox are in first place. For Boston baseball, it’s buena onda. Can this last though? Can the Red Sox carry this momentum through to September, perhaps even October? Can #windancerepeat become #windancesompeteforatitle?
I believe the answer to all these questions hinges on these factors:
- Chris Sale has come as advertized, 100%. His compete level is off the charts and his stuff is crazy. Beyond the top slot, however, the staff has been erratic. Rick Porcello is in the running for the Bizarro Comeback Player of the Year–call it the Comeback-to-Earth Player of the Year. David Price can’t stay out of his own way. E-Rod can’t stay healthy. Can the Sox put together a consistent 1-2-3 to pace a run and take a series? Can they consistently bridge to Mr. Dependable, Craig Kimbrel?
- Manager John Farrell has to change the way he operates. Brewhahas in Baltimore and bubblings over recently show that he is not in command of the clubhouse. Can he–does he–communicate? Beyond that, is it me or is his habit of mechanically recounting the game the most annoying two minutes in sports? We know you were there, skip. Prove it by improving your “in-game” game and getting a better read on your players.
- The Sox need a clubhouse leader. They retire David Ortiz’s #34 on Friday and perhaps that moment can represent a final passing of the torch. Pedroia is the natural replacement, but he may not be able do what Ortiz did dealing with teammates and reaching across the aisle. To Pedroia’s credit, few can, making the “P” more powerful than the “C.” Betts and/or Bogaerts will be “the man” eventually, but not now. Sale and Kimbrell have the demeanor, but pitchers really can’t play that role. They are also too new to the organization.
- Neither the Yankees nor the Orioles are as bad as they are currently playing. The Yanks have lost seven straight and the O’s have given up an American League record 5+ runs in their last 17 games. Both teams will come back to Earth and, when they do, they could expose some flaws with the Sox.
- The Red Sox need to cut bait with señor Sandoval. He’s currently on the 10-day DL with an ear infection. Sox fans are going to end up with one too if we have to listen to excuses and lies any longer. Sandoval has played the equivalent of one season–161 games–in his three years in Boston. In that time he is batting .237 with 14 HR and 59 RBI. He has struck out 101 times and exploded one belt buckle. He has the worst WAR, -2.0, of any Red Sox third baseman in history. The talk currently has the Sox targeting Mike Moustakas. At this point, even Kevin Youkilis would be an upgrade. Pump him with some of his brother-in-law’s avocado ice cream and he could be serviceable. Actually, maybe Danny Ainge could use some assets to acquire Porzingis or Antetokounmpo. Think of the range and athleticism.
Since May 21, they are tied with the Astros for the best record in the American League at 19-10. Can they keep it up? Can they work through the adversity that will come during the “dog days”? Can they find a way to deal with Hanley Ramírez’s “dog days,” especially against National League opponents?
It is going to be interesting.
Happy summer and here is to meaningful summer and fall baseball.