Friday, May 14, 2004

Buffalo Springfield

Alright gang, what's going on here? In May, the Red Sox have 5 wins. In 14 games. That's 5-9, against teams that can be most generously described as "worse than we are". Texas, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Toronto -- they have handed Boston a .357 winning percentage this month. That's Tampa Bay baseball folks, and that's a lot what it's looked like. They've lost to Chad Durbin, Joaquin Benoit, and Erasmo Ramirez; they've given up homers to David Dellucci, Kelly Stinnett, and Tim Laker; they've made 13 errors. What makes that last fact particularly alarming is that it's not an aberration, it's part of a trend. The Sox have made 33 errors in 35 games this season, and that's been with an "improved" fielding roster. While defense winning championships has always been an over-mentioned credo (name me one team that did it in the last 20 years), it can make life awfully hard for your pitchers. What if the league suggested that Boston select one inning per game to give its opponent four outs instead of three? Just as a gift. They'd say nay nay of course, because that's, you know, ridiculous, but that's what their defense has amounted to. And the pitching has had to cover for it, which is now beginning to show. A sub-par outing from a starter here, an over-worked reliever there, and games get quickly out of hand. The offense is missing two stars and one crucial role player, which has resulted in far more AB's for McCarty, Bellhorn, Kapler, and Crespo than God ever intended, and the team just isn't able to come back like they used to. So what do they do now? Just wait.

This is the thing about baseball, and every year fans forget it: it's a long season. It's cliche and it's annoying and you've heard it a hundred times, but just once, you should listen: it's a long season. There are 162 games and the Red Sox have played 35 of them, which is about 1/5th. When you finish Monday, you're 1/5th of the way through the work week. Do you feel like you're almost done? Uh uh. On March 13th, we were 1/5th of the way through the year. When you chew one piece of gum, you're done with 1/5th of the pack. You see where I'm going with this, it's a small portion. As Rickey Henderson would say, 1/5th isn't nothing. And, all in all, it's been a successful portion. The Sox are still five games above .500 and have just fallen out of first place for the first time in a long while. A lot of hay has been made on the internet boards about removing Boston's impressive 6-1 record against New York and getting a .500 team. Well, that's a nice stat, and it's interesting to think about, but guess what, it doesn't mean anything. You can't just take away games, they happened, they count, and Boston won most of them. If you take away the first 5 games in May, they're tied for the best record in baseball. Does that mean anything? Nope. Now I'm not going to argue that they have been playing good ball or that there aren't several issues of legitimate concern. The defense, as we mentioned earlier, has been horrid. The inconsistent offense from Millar and Mueller doesn't look like it's going away, and the club as a whole does seem a bit lacking in the focus/energy department. These are problems that have lasted most of the season and would rightfully worry me if I ran the club. But, also under the somewhat ridiculous supposition that I were the GM, I would step back and say 1)these are not bad defenders, they should play better, 2)We expected Mueller to decline a bit, and Burks, Nomar, and Trot will return soon, and 3)Not much I can do about perception of intangibles like "focus/energy". These players are not playing well, that is absolutely true, and the Sox should have two or three more wins. But they are good players. Sooner or later, they'll show it. Every team will go through a down streak, and it's a heck of a lot better to do it in May than in August. We just have to hope that this is the only down streak, that they won't drop 5 unnecessary games each month, and we're not sure about that yet. Maybe they have odd fits of losing every now and again, and it ends up costing them a trip to somewhere better. Could be, and that would really stink. But right now, we don't know anything about that. We know that the Sox have had a lousy few weeks, and if we think about it long enough we realize that good teams always do. But it ain't fun. I hate watching them now, I hate writing notes about them, I hate giving them my time. I don't worry too much though, and neither should you. For now I just wait for the day when they play the way they can, which I know will come. And how do I know that? Because it's a long season.