BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Red Sox are not good, and though it’s just June 1, it is safe to say the season is over.
Yes, the season is over.
You can answer with either of the two reflexive responses — “It’s still early” or “They’re only four games back!” — but truthfully neither of those facts matter when you consider this: The Boston Red Sox are, quite simply, not very good.
By now, those of us in Boston should know a bad baseball team when we see one. We are well on our way to seeing Red Sox teams miss the playoffs in five of the six seasons since 2010, and what’s worse, we’ve seen Red Sox teams finish in dead last in the AL East in two of those years. In 2012, they finished the year 26 games back of first place; last year, it was 25.
In the Bobby Valentine-led 2012 season, the Red Sox ranked fifth in runs scored among AL teams in runs scored and 12th in team ERA. Last year in the World Series hangover season, the Red Sox ranked 11th in runs scored and 10th in team ERA.
This year, they rank 12th in runs scored and 14th in team ERA. They’re on pace to score 15 fewer runs and allow 74 more earned runs than they did last year. They’re also on pace to score 115 fewer runs than they did in 2012.
So not only is the 2015 edition of the Boston Red Sox bad — they have the potential to be even worse than the ’12 and ’14 versions. Those two teams, by the way, were the worst Red Sox teams since 1965.
And here we are on the first of June, and it’s happening all over again.
Of course, just two of the season’s six months have been completed. And yes, putridity runs rampant in the AL East, thereby keeping the Red Sox close to the top of the standings by default.
But really, it’s time to forget the standings. The Red Sox have a run differential of negative-48 through 51 games. Negative-48. That’s the worst in the AL, with only Chicago’s minus-42 coming close (Seattle’s minus-18 ranks as third-worst), and it’s better than only Philadelphia (minus-73) and Milwaukee (minus-65).
The Blue Jays rank second in the AL in run differential. The Rays rank fifth, and the Yankees rank sixth. The Red Sox rank 15th.
It simply does not matter how many games back of first the Red Sox may be. They have shown no capability of being able to make up that ground.
And it could be worse, if not for the defensive blunders from the Orioles and Nationals that helped the Red Sox to a few wins back in April. Ever since the calendar flipped to May, and ever since opponents started playing with their heads on straight, the Red Sox have gone 10-19. That includes a 2-7 showing against AL East opponents.
That’s a sign that things will improve as time goes on?
So, yes, sadly, baseball will not mean much in Boston this summer. Fenway will still be a good take on a warm night, and tickets will be as cheap as they’ve been in years. Have a hot dog! But you can save yourself the trouble of even glancing at the standings board out on the Green Monster, because it won’t have any bearing on the Red Sox.
(Also, this: Let’s say by some divine intervention that the Red Sox are able to stand tall as champions of the weak AL East. They’re going to somehow be a team good enough to compete in the playoffs at that point? Currently, it’ll take just 83 wins to take home the AL East crown. If the Red Sox did do that, they would at best be like the 87-win Twins of 2009, a team that won the brutally bad AL Central but won zero postseason games. That’s not a picture of hope that would exactly keep the passionate fires burning in the grandstands of Fenway all summer long.)
Instead of a pennant chase, instead of the prospect of October baseball and instead of gut-wrenching drama, there will be ongoing debates about where, exactly to point the finger.
Right now, the manager is certainly in the crosshairs, and with good reason. His decision to pitch to Nelson Cruz a few weeks ago remains one of the poorest managerial decisions one can have in a mid-May contest. Likewise, his decision to intentionally walk a batter who represented the winning run on the day he told his veteran players to be more aggressive came back to burn him immediately. To say that Farrell regularly struggles to push the right buttons would be an understatement.
But he’s hardly to blame for all of this mess. Even the worst managers can’t completely kill a team. I’d say Bob Valentine only cost them about 10 games, and he might have been the worst manager in baseball history.
The problems obviously extend past Farrell. Whether it was Ben Cherington’s master plan to enter the season with no reliable starting pitching, or whether that came from Larry Lucchino, it was a most dubious endeavor. Sure, Rick Porcello and Clay Buchholz could have pitched a little bit better, but are the flops of Joe Kelly, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson surprising to anybody? That a major market baseball team with a $187 million payroll intentionally entered a season with this starting staff should live as one of the great mysteries in sports.
That situation leads many to bemoan the decision to trade Jon Lester last season, but really, the Red Sox would need four Jon Lesters to gain any semblance of stability this year.
And perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Red Sox’ failures has been an apparent lack of coaching. How many teams in the history of this sport have forced not one but two switch hitters into hitting exclusively from one side of the plate in the span of two years? How many teams have needed their second basemen to correct teammates’ mechanical flaws on flights? Is there not a hitting coach for that very job?
The question is, when nearly the entire roster suffers through what looks to be the worst seasons of their career, is it a coincidence? Or is something fundamentally wrong with the coaching staff?
We will all spend the next four months considering those questions. Maybe we’ll even come up with an answer or two.
But one thing we won’t be doing is watching meaningful baseball games played in Boston, because the Boston Red Sox are just not very good.
As baseball spectators in Boston, we are getting to be experts on the subject.