The Bruins season is done, and the draft is over. The Celtics season is done, and the draft is this Thursday. Free agency for both sports starts next week, but we don’t expect a lot of action from either squad on that front. The Patriots have finished their offseason work, and are off until training camp, sometime during the last week of July.
So that leaves the Red Sox. For better or worse, they are your main sports viewing option right now. (Well, unless you want to jump on board with the 7th place New England Revolution.)
How much can you invest into this Red Sox team? Principal owner John Henry seems to think that this is a team that can still win it all. That seems unlikely, but then again, a team doesn’t have to win it all to be worth following and investing emotionally in.
For many people, the Red Sox are a habit, a public institution, part of their routine, they watched the team all season every season before they won championships, and continue to do so.
For others, they want to have a connection with the team, or feel like it’s worth following, because they like the style of play, the charisma of the players, or the thrill of following a championship run.
Does this team offer those things for the latter type of fan? Not yet. While they’ve played much better lately and have shown glimpses of being a resilient, likeable squad, they’re still frustrating to watch.
The thing that makes it tough with this team is that much of the frustration is caused by the players who should providing the enjoyment and production, while the role players are the ones carrying the team.
Going into the season, if you looked at this team, you’d say their best pitcher was Jon Lester, and their best positional player was Adrian Gonzalez. You looked at them as your best two players.
Each is one pace for the worst season of their major league careers. Through 15 starts, or almost half a season – Lester has averaged 32 starts a season since 2008 – he is 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA. Those are his basic numbers, but almost across the board, he’s headed for career-worsts.
Gonzalez was supposed to be the Manny Ramirez replacement in the heart of the order. Through 73 games, he’s hitting .263 which would be the lowest since he became a full-time player, with 6 homers and 39 RBI. At this pace he won’t even reach 20 home runs. His OBP, OPS and SLG also all project to career lows.
Both have been healthy this season – among the few on the team. If you’re looking for cause for frustration, those two are exhibits 1 and 1a. (For some, Bobby Valentine would be exhibit 2.)
Behind them, you would put Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz. Only Ortiz is having a stellar season. Beckett has been OK statistically, and Buchholz seemed to turn things around, but both are on injured reserve, as is Ellsbury, who has only played seven game this season. Pedroia is playing hurt, which on one hand endears him to fans, but on the other hand, might not be best for the team.Daniel Bard was a disaster as a starter, and Carl Crawford has yet to take the field this season.
This team is surviving because of guys we were not counting on – Will Middlebrooks, Cody Ross, Daniel Nava, Felix Doubront, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Aviles – all are having seasons above and beyond what we could’ve realistically hoped for.
So the biggest disappointments in this team have been the guys we know the best, and counted on. If you’re looking for a source of frustration, there it is. If you’re looking for a positive, it’s that the new and unknown guys have been very good.
It’s a glass-half-full, glass-half-empty proposition here. Will the established guys pick up the pace and play better over the course of the season? Their track record says they will. We saw the kind of home run streaks that Gonzalez is capable of last season. Can the new and unknown guys continue at the same high level of play they’ve shown thus far? You’d hope so, but some falloff has to be expected, especially from guys like Nava.
So where does this leave fans?
Are you OK with keeping this team as it is and rooting for and following it intensely? Or do they need to make major changes? Kevin Youkilis has already been moved so that Middlebrooks can play every day. Can they win a title this year with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett as their top two pitchers? If they can’t, do they try to trade one or both of those guys?
Can you invest yourself into this team for the rest of the season (or at least until Patriots training camp) or will you just casually follow them? If so, would it take some major changes for you to attach yourself to them?