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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Red Sox may not be as bad as they look, but aren’t that good, either

Joe Marchilena

Winning the World Series was the best thing that could have happened to the Red Sox in 2013.

But for 2014, and at least the next few seasons that will follow, it might have been the worst. ...

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Winning the World Series was the best thing that could have happened to the Red Sox in 2013.

But for 2014, and at least the next few seasons that will follow, it might have been the worst.

Think back to last spring, and try to remember what your feelings were for the Red Sox, as they came off that debacle of a season in 2012. Ownership was finally admitting to the end of the sellout streak, and you could find tickets to Yankees games on StubHub for less than a week’s salary.

And then the club started winning and winning and winning.

How did it happen? There were of course guys who had their typically good years, but when Daniel Nava steps in to play 134 games and has an OPS nearly a hundred points higher than his previous career high, there’s something else going on, too.

No, I’m not questioning anyone’s, ahem, workout regime. I’m saying there was just as much luck that went into last season as there was anything else.

How often did this team face adversity last season? Not much.

The 2013 Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row. At their worst, they had a stretch of 11 games in which they went 2-9, but that came in early May. All it did was drop them from 11 games over .500 to five, and they followed it up by winning 10 of the next 13.

This year, there has been a losing streaks of five and 10 games, and if it weren’t for some extra-inning heroics and the Minnesota Twins, the Red Sox could currently be on another double-digit skid.

And then there are the injuries. Last year’s top two closers went down with injuries in the first few weeks of the season; in steps 38-year-old Koji Uehara, who only pitched in more than 60 games once in his MLB career, and turns into Mariano Rivera in the postseason.

But other than that, everyone stayed pretty healthy.

This year, Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks have been on the disabled list twice, Clay Buchholz and Mike Napoli have been there once. Nothing catastrophic, but it sure feels like injuries have been a problem.

All of this might have been sustainable, considering that the Red Sox have received good, and sometimes great, pitching from their starters not named Buchholz.

But, there’s one major problem that should loom larger than everything else – this team can’t hit.

Through Tuesday, the Red Sox were 24th in runs and 21st in OPS in the majors. In 2013, they were first in MLB in both categories. It’s one thing for Nava to struggle, but for the team’s two cornerstone players – David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia – to do so is unexpected, and concerning.

While it’s easy to point fingers at the players because they can play better, they aren’t the only ones at fault.

No one could have been happier about winning a World Series last year than Red Sox ownership. The increase in ticket and merchandise sales had to have been more than it expected going into 2013, and thanks to the euphoria of winning a title, the team got away with not sinking that money back
into the roster.

No, the Red Sox shouldn’t have tried to outbid the Yankees for Jacoby Ellsbury, but maybe they undervalued Jarrod Saltalamacchia, while overrating A.J. Pierzynski. And maybe they could have done more than just signing Edward Mujica, who lost his job as closer for the Cardinals last season, and Grady Sizemore, who hadn’t played in three years.

So who are the real 2014 Red Sox? Probably somewhere in between what they were last year and what they’ve been this year.

This season could still be saved, but there are a lot of ifs involved.

Joe Marchilena can be reached at
594-6478 or jmarchilena@
nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Marchilena on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeM).