Don’t look now, but the scrappy, overachieving Boston Red Sox are suddenly spiraling uncontrollably towards the wrong half of the American League East standings.
Don’t get me wrong, the Red Sox should be thrilled with where they are right now. The team they’re throwing out on the field night in and night out, with guys like Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Bill Hall, Kevin Cash, Eric Patterson, Tim Wakefield, and Felix Doubront playing significant roles, should be showcasing guys in preparation to sell come the trade deadline.
The Red Sox have put themselves in a position where they may actually be looking to buy. But these next couple of games will go a long way towards deciding exactly how they handle things moving forward.
The cavalry is coming, no doubt. It’s just a matter of time before the injured players return. Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz should be back next week. Victor Martinez isn’t that far away. Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jeremy Hermida are a few weeks from returning. Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek should be back in August.
You want to talk deadline acquisitions? Which team can match a leadoff hitting starting center fielder, an ace starter, an All Star catcher, and a former MVP second baseman?
Come September, this Red Sox team should be pretty good.
But therein lies the problem. There’s no guarantee this team is going to make it through the next few weeks, never mind all the way until September.
The Red Sox got away with dressing up the Lowell Spinners in Boston Red Sox uniforms for a while, but other teams have caught up with them. The Sox have competed admirably, but they’ve lost six of their last eight games. They’re having trouble scoring runs, and when they do, they’re not pitching well.
More importantly, they’ve lost five games in the AL East race. They’re now 5 ½ behind the Yankees in the AL East and 3 ½ behind the Rays in the wild card.
The Red Sox have three more games against the AL West leading Texas Rangers coming up this weekend, then they head out to the west coast. Dropping completely out of the race is a very real possibility. Dropping at least far enough that Theo Epstein won’t feel comfortable giving up anything of value for bullpen help seems inevitable.
And if that happens, is this team, with that bullpen, good enough? Even if all their injured players come back?
No one can know for sure.
The 2010 season just won’t wait long enough for the Red Sox to get healthy. This season will be decided in the next couple of weeks. If the Red Sox can stay where they are, maybe gain a little ground, it will give their GM the confidence to make a move that could potentially put this team over the top come October.
If they lose ground like they have the last eight games, it may be time to start talking about the Patriots.