If nothing else, growing up a Red Sox fan—pre-2004—has sharpened my proclivities for cynicism into a fine blade. Any situation, regardless of its promise, possesses the capacity to blow up and fail. In fact, failure becomes inevitable.
And there’s nothing like dropping a series at home to the Chicago White Sox, a team that is redefining the term “suck-bag”, to place that blade to the throats of 2018 Red Sox.
So far this season, at least superficially, there has been little reason to bitch. The Red Sox have sat atop the AL East for the majority of the first third of the season, and it’s already clear that the AL East will be a horse race with the Yankees.
However, there’s no reason to believe that the Yankees won’t make a big play at the trading deadline and runaway with the division in August. Meanwhile, the Red Sox, having gutted their farm system, are hamstrung. In fact, the box office should start selling tickets to the Wild Card play-in game tomorrow.
So there’s that. And there are also myriad other things about this team that appear to be working but beg further questions from your Sultan of Cynicism.
Let’s start with J.D. Martinez.
Martinez was the first player in the majors to hit 20 homeruns. His opposite field power is legit, and his swing is a thing of beauty. So far, this seems like a slam-dunk signing for Dave Dombrowski. But here’s my question: Where’s the rub?
Why is it that no other team in baseball wanted to touch that contract? Is it that Martinez is injury-prone? Will the dog days of summer see Martinez on the perpetual DL? His affect—and I can’t quite put my thumb on why—seems to resemble another J.D. (Drew) and seems less like another Martinez. I’m waiting for the shoe to drop on this one.
Then there’s the pitching. Going into the season, they had three Cy Young winners at the top of the rotation, and so far, the pitching has been more than serviceable—with Joe Kelly emerging as a pleasant surprise. In fact, they’re second in the AL behind a behemoth Houston rotation that is sure to give teams fits in the postseason.
So why am I worried?
There’s nothing that leads me to believe that Chris Sale—who is so thin that if he stands sideways he seems like might disappear—is not going burn out again in September. And while David Price has been arguably the ace of the staff lately, he’s too thin-skinned for Boston and perpetually a couple of bad starts and hurt feelings away from taking his toys and going home. And, yes, I’d like to believe that Rick Porcello has returned to his 2016 form. But I don’t.
Finally, there’s Mookie Betts. Betts might be the most electric player in baseball right now. There’s nothing not to love about Mookie. But I keep coming back to the Red Sox’ inability to lock him down long-term last off-season. It’s analogous to driving a Ferrari that you know you’ll have to give back. I’ll go on the record stating that the second the Red Sox lose control over Betts’ contract and he goes to free agency, we’re going to see him in pinstripes.
The age-old aphorism tells us to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I choose to ignore the former and brace myself for doomsday.
I am, after all, a Red Sox fan.