By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Celtics are rolling along down in Disney, looking like world beaters. The Boston Bruins are done but put on a decent show this summer. New England is eagerly awaiting for the unveiling of the Bill Belichick-Cam Newton era for the Patriots. Against all odds, sports are back and thriving in the era of COVID-19.
And then there are the Boston Red Sox.
Baseball’s second-worst team got blown out once again on Tuesday night, falling 10-3 to the Atlanta Braves in a game where Marcell Ozuna nearly destroyed Fenway Park. It was the Red Sox’ second straight loss, their fourth loss in six games, their sixth loss in nine games, and their 24th loss of 36 games on this miserable season.
Perhaps more than any other year in our lifetimes, the Boston Red Sox — a great, proud, historic franchise — are borderline irrelevant in the Boston sports scene.
Wednesday night’s starting pitcher is unlikely to turn that tide.
For the finale of the three-game set against the Atlanta Braves, the Boston Red Sox will be sending Mike Kickham to the mound to get the start.
If you haven’t heard of Mike Kickham, you could be forgiven. He only has 14 big league appearances, with 30.1 innings pitched.
The last one of those innings came back in … 2014.
His last start? That was in 2013.
For those not in the know, it’s now 2020. And 2013 was a long time ago.
What were you doing in 2013? The Red Sox were shaking off the stink of the Bobby Valentine era while gearing up for a World Series run. Not the most recent World Series. The one before that.
Kickham’s numbers in his big league career aren’t exactly inspiring: He went 0-3 with a 10.98 ERA and a 2.143 WHIP. He gave up nine home runs in his 30.1 innings pitched, which is kind of incredible, while also walking 11. He did strike out 30 batters, which was good.
Since then, Kickham has spent some time in Triple-A, Double-A, independent ball, rookie ball, the Dominican Winter League and the Mexican Pacific Winter League. Most recently, he compiled a 4-2 record and a 1.96 ERA for Naranjeros de Hermosillo.
But somehow, some way, he’s going from the oranges to the Red Sox.
This is not meant to be a knock on Kickham. Frankly, it’s pretty cool that he’s kept working on his dream for the better part of a decade and is getting another shot at it. Millions of athletes before and after him won’t ever get that chance, so in that sense, his is a sports story worth celebrating.
But from a Red Sox’ perspective? How the team got here is unfathomable.
The Red Sox weren’t just the best team in baseball two years ago; they were one of the best baseball teams ever. They won 108 games, buzzing through the entire league, before going 11-3 in the postseason en route to a World Series title.
With three straight first place finishes and a World Series title, the Red Sox were sitting pretty as borderline bullies in the AL East.
Now, they are a laughingstock.
Part of that is by design, sure, as the team clearly set out to get under the luxury tax threshold. It turns out, though, that fans aren’t as interested in a reset of the competitive balance tax as much as they are in a competitive baseball team.
And so, the 12-24 Red Sox will carry on, bringing pitchers out of almost-quite-literally nowhere to start real, live baseball games.
To be fair, it can’t get much worse. They’ve been outscored by 60 runs this season, the worst mark in the majors. The Rangers have been outscored by 57 runs, but after that, it’s the 10-23 Pirates as the next-worst team, having been outscored by 46 runs. The Red Sox are absolutely dominating in the earned runs department, having given up an MLB-high 215 of them. Colorado’s way behind in second with 196. Correspondingly, the Red Sox’ 6.16 team ERA is worst in the bigs, and their starters’ combined ERA of 6.91 is — you guessed it — worst in the majors.
So why not give Mike Kickham a try? At the very least, his story provides a shred of entertainment in a season that has otherwise relegated the Red Sox to complete and total obscurity.
UPDATE: We won’t be getting the Mike Kickham show after all.
— Dan Roche (@RochieWBZ) September 2, 2020
Robinson Leyer is a 27-year-old right-hander who has given up one run (on two hits and a walk) in his one inning of work this year, his first in the big leagues. In parts of eight seasons in the minor leagues, he owns a 28-43 record and a 4.24 ERA.