BOSTON (CBS) – OK, I admit it. I can be a pessimist and a cynic. But if you think I’m bad, you should read Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe. The other day, he pointed out that the Red Sox have won a playoff game in only one of the last seven seasons.
Of course, that presumes the Sox won’t be winning any postseason games this year.
But I digress.
Still, if you’re a baseball fan, you’re looking for a reason – any reason – to believe the Red Sox still will be playing meaningful games come August and September. Owner John Henry’s media briefing two nights ago didn’t do anything to solve the Red Sox’ problems, but the team has at least looked like a major league outfit again while taking 2-of-3 from the Minnesota Twins over the last two days.
With that in mind – and defying our own nature – here are five things to be happy about concerning the 2015 Red Sox, in no particular order:
1. Eduardo Rodriguez has been a breath of fresh air
Since Rodriguez joined the rotation, Sox starters are 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA over seven starts covering 45.1 innings with 36 strikeouts and 11 walks. Pretty good, right? And those numbers are even better when you consider that in one of those games, Wade Miley lasted only four innings while allowing nine hits and six runs (five earned).
Funny what can happen when someone in your rotation pitches like, well, an ace.
Obviously, it’s early. Rodriguez is going to get bashed around sooner or later. But in the interim, the Red Sox have a young man on the mound who works fast, throws strikes, pitches aggressively and can actually hit 95 miles per hour on the radar gun. Every five days going forward, at least, you’ll have some reason to watch.
2. Xander Bogaerts just might be blossoming before your eyes
Know what happened roughly a year ago at this time? Foolishly, the Sox inserted Stephen Drew into their lineup and moved Bogaerts to third base, dealing their young shortstop’s ego a rather sizable blow. In the process, the Sox stunted Bogaerts development and sent him into a spin.
Well don’t look now, but Bogaerts suddenly looks like a completely different player afield – confident, steady, even surprising at times. (Are there those of you out there who still think he can’t do it?) Bogaerts hasn’t hit for as much power as we all would like – yet – but among qualifying American League shortstops, he ranks first in batting average, first in on-base percentage and third in OPS. And he won’t be 23 until October.
The bad news? He’s represented by Scott Boras.
3. Dustin Pedroia remains a joy to watch
Following Pedroia’s two-homer game at Minnesota last week, manager John Farrell made it a point to single out Pedroia for his professionalism and competitiveness. That wasn’t an accident. The Red Sox have looked disinterested and defeated at times, but Pedroia has continued to play with the same bounce and verve that he has during his entire career.
At this stage of his career – he will be 32 in August – it’s likely that Pedroia will never again be the same player he was in, say, 2011. But if the Sox build their team properly, he doesn’t have to be. As a table-setter atop the order, Pedroia is still plenty good enough to be a valuable part of a winning team. At the moment, among qualifying AL second basemen, he ranks second in average, third in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging. That’s a plus player.
4. The schedule and the law of averages
After the Twins leave town following Thursday’s series finale – at worst, the Sox will split the series – the wretched Oakland A’s come to town for a three-game series. In the coming weeks, the Sox also have home series scheduled against the Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves. If nothing else, there is the opportunity for the Sox to put together a string of wins, maybe even build a little momentum going forward.
Of course, the Braves and Blue Jays currently have better records than the Red Sox do. What they may not have, however, is better talent. As maddening as Boston’s play has been, it’s impossible to believe that players like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez are washed up. Even the aging David Ortiz has to be better than this. Sooner or later, the Sox are bound to put it all together and go on some sort of winning streak.
5. The division
It’s an obvious one, right? Maybe it’s even reason No. 1. As poorly as the Sox have played, they are still just five games out of first place thanks to the housing project known as the American League East. Incredibly, both the Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates – postseason probables in the eyes of many – are both further out of first place than the Sox are. And nobody is counting those teams out.
Of the nine longest losing streaks in the American League this season, five of them have taken place in the AL East – and the Red Sox do not own a single one of them. Already, the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees have lost as many as six straight while the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles (twice) have lost five in a row. To date, the Red Sox’ worst losing streak is four.
Translation: nobody ever said the Sox had to be great. They just have to be better than a bad lot.