2011 Deja Vu for 2021 Sox?
Red Sox manager Alex Cora (pictured above); his face says it all. The Red Sox in having a complete meltdown. Back on July 4th, the Boston Red Sox were on top of the AL East. 4.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays; 8.5 games up on the Blue Jays, and 10 games ahead of the New York Yankees. Life was great for the Red Sox. Fast forward six weeks, the roof is caving in fast and there appears to be no end in site. Coming out of the All-Star Break, the Red Sox entered a gauntlet of series and games against divisional opponents. Four against New York (one postponed due to COVID) three against the Blue Jays (one postponed due to weather) another four against both New York and Toronto at home. Three against the Rays. A three game set mixed in with versus the Tigers, a three-game (turned four) in Toronto. Another three at home against the Rays, three against the Orioles and a brief two-day (three-game set) at New York until a mini break ensues.
How have the Red Sox fared since the All-Star break? The Red Sox are 14-18 since the break, being swept twice in that span by both the Rays and Yankees. That comes out to a .438 winning percentage over the last 32 games played. If you thought it couldn't get worse, just wait.
The trade deadline came and went, and the Red Sox little to nothing to improve this team. Added Kyle Schwarber from the Washington Nationals but he has been plagued by a nagging hamstring injury. Acquired relievers Hansel Robles and Austin Davis from the Twins and Pirates respectively. Both relievers haven't been remotely close to useful as Robles owns a 7.11 ERA since going the Red Sox. Davis on the other hand owns a 5.68 ERA, similar to what his ERA was when he was with Pittsburgh. To Davis' defense the Pirates are a bad baseball team, but still no excuse for how he has looked so far in seven games with Boston. Though both pitchers have had better appearances in each of their last couple outings, still doesn't excuse the fact that this team was given up on.
Since the July 30th deadline, the Red Sox are 6-13 in their last 19 games. Funny, the Red Sox had this same type of record through the first 19 of last year's 60-game schedule. Yet last season's team was as advertised, lacked talent all around. This year's team was exactly that, but has overachieved until this recent 29 of 32 game stretch against divisional opponents.
Who is to blame for this mess exactly? First off, if you think Alex Cora is responsible for anything; you are dead wrong. This is not Cora's fault. he is doing his best to try to keep this team afloat in what is quickly turning into a race to get in the playoffs. If you want to blame the players themselves they are definitely part of the reason but the primary issue. The team as a whole does need start playing much better baseball and start winnings some games against not only the teams you should beat, but also against the teams you need to beat. The sweep against the Orioles was nice, but remember; it's Baltimore. they have been laughing stock of baseball for a four of the last five seasons.
The real people to blame here is Red Sox team management. Chaim Bloom's saving grace is that the Red Sox farm system went from bottom 10 to top 10 in less than two years. Congratulations. What did he do for a tea that was sitting in first place on July 30th? Absolutely nothing. He sat back and watched the Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees, and White Sox get better in improve their teams, while he sat there and did nothing. Then he had the audacity to say on a story that came out August second that the goal was to stay under the luxury tax.
Bloom told the Boston Herald this after the trade deadline has passed. "We were mindful of it (luxury tex threshold), I think we have to be, because there are implications to crossing that line that go beyond just money and some of those implications actually hurt our competitiveness and could hurt our talent base over time." He continues "We were mindful of it but it was never a hard line. We did explore a lot of possibilities this week (week of the deadline) that would have taken us over. We just looked at it as something we need to factor in. Was it worth the cost? Ultimately there were some things we explored that we certainly would have done that for. We just didn't feel like it was worth the cost in talent let alone the additional effects of going over the line."
Translation: management is more concerned about saving a few million bucks rather investing in this team. That should be extremely clear. For a team that had overachieved to that point in the season, knowing that they needed some small tweaks, management stood pat and decided not to add. There were certainly guys that would've helped this team without going over. Kris Bryant was practically given to the Giants. Danny Duffy was virtually handed to the Dodgers. Key players were traded and teams didn't have to give up much. Both Bryant and Rizzo were still playing on rookie contracts. yes the haul would've been a lot in terms of prospects, but the money was favorable. That quotes from Bloom is nothing more than just a long winded excuse for saying "yeah we aren't going to add because winning isn't the goal right now" that's basically a quck summary of Bloom's explanation.
The ownership group of both John Henry and Tom Warner is just as much as fault. This whole 'staying under the luxury tax' thing was their idea and they had this all planned out even after winning the World Series in 2018. Just two short years after they gave Dave Dombrowski full approval to do what needed to put a winning product on the field. It should be clear to Red Sox fans that this ownership group rather develop the small market mentality, be absolute dog water for a few years and just rack in the money. SS Xander Bogaerts has seen contracts given to other guys like Francisco Lindor and Fernando Tatis Jr. Given how the current trend is going, Bogaerts might not get his wish here and could potentially look elsewhere for the big contract that he not only desires, but rightfully deserves.
We all try to forget about the monumental collapse that this team had in September of 2011, missing the playoffs after having a double digit lead over the Rays entering that month. It's starting to feel the same way for the 2021 Red Sox after what has been such and extremely unmotivated run as of late. Thankfully this time around, there is still plenty of time for this team to right the ship and still get into the playoffs either via division winners or wild card.
The feeling has developed that management didn't care for this team to start the year and seemed unimpressed to reward the players for their hard work prior to the deadline. I think this current stretch has maybe proven that management did make a mistake but not acquiring more talented pieces. However, the players need to put that behind them now and realize that they make management think twice and maybe actually add in the offseason. Only way to do that is to flip that 6-13 record into a 13-6 or better mark and get back into the division race.
There is still time for the script to be flipped but it starts against the lowly Texas Rangers on Friday Night at Fenway Park.
**Red Sox next games - August 24th-26th vs Minnesota Twins; August 27th-29th at Cleveland Indians