Following a 10-19 May which dumped them deep into the American League cellar, there’s a Red Sox crisis brewing. At this point, with Boston possessing the fifth-worst record in all of baseball, we’re looking at something much more worrying than a simple slow start; something much more serious than a sporadic under-performance. Quite honestly, we’re looking at fifty-one games of unspeakably bad baseball, and, stretching back to last season, eighteen months of abject failure on the part of management to build a team befitting Red Sox tradition. Ultimately, we’re looking at an institutional crisis on Yawkey Way.
Just take a look at the current roster. For a team that cost $184 million to assemble, the Red Sox have a disproportionate share of defects and inefficiencies. Hanley Ramirez is signed through 2018, but his defense is so bad as to be nearly unplayable; Rusney Castillo is a raw neophyte being paid like a proven superstar; and prospects such as Blake Swihart and Xander Boagerts have either been grossly over-hyped or severely rushed on the road to Boston. Meanwhile, David Ortiz is lost at the plate, Koji Uehara is showing signs of age, and not a single hitter seems capable of producing with runners in scoring position. As for the starting rotation? Well, there’s not enough ink in my pen to discuss that again.
But, if this Red Sox team seems bad on paper, it’s even worse on the field. Boston currently ranks 23rd in the Majors in runs scored, 25th in slugging percentage, 26th in WHIP and 28th in ERA, despite possessing the third largest payroll. The Sox were recently swept by the Twins, before losing three of four to the Rangers in Texas, including some of the sloppiest baseball I’ve ever seen from a Boston team. In fact, the Rangers series, capped by Josh Hamilton’s walk-off heroics, felt like a new nadir for the Red Sox; a nadir that certain members of team management were fortunate to survive.
Which brings us to General Manager Ben Cherington, who, after years of poor decision-making, is really starting to feel the pressure in Boston. Admittedly, his work in constructing the 2013 Red Sox was legendary, but hitting on so many successful free agent signings in one winter looks to have been an aberration, when judged in the context of his other work.
Since November 2013, for instance, the Red Sox’ moves have been terrible. They let Jacoby Ellsbury sign with the Yankees, and attempted to replace him with Grady Sizemore. They failed to pay Jon Lester his true market worth, and watched him join the Cubs. And, following a dismal 71-91 showing in 2014, they invested astronomical sums of money in decidedly shaky investments, such as Castillo, Uehara, Pablo Sandoval and Ramirez, who is already breaking down two months into a four-year deal. Pitching, concurrently, has been sorry afterthought in recent years, with Clay Buchholz becoming the ace of a team whose General Manager is struggling with the magnitude of his position.
Ultimately, there’s a panicked transience to everything the Red Sox are doing nowadays, whereas the mid-2000s dynasty we all so fondly recall was built with calm intelligence. Basically, after years of trying, Ben Cherington has failed to succeed Theo Epstein in honing a Boston baseball juggernaut. Accordingly, as the Red Sox crisis deepens and October baseball fades further from view, it may finally be time for John Henry to clear the decks and get back to basics.