Distance brings perspective, particularly when it comes to relationships. And fans—real, dedicated fans dressed in their ropes of irrational devotion—forge relationships with the teams they follow.
Hopefully, these relationships don’t become intimate with the individual players, then restraining orders are issued, and things get ugly. Rather, there is a bond with the team as an entity, an abstraction.
For these reasons, I could never claim objectivity when it comes to writing about the Red Sox, or any team I follow. I could never cover that beat or be around the team as anything other than a fan-boy. I wouldn’t feign anything else.
In the past week, however, the 2016 Red Sox, a team who admittedly wooed me for the first two months, had two off-days and two West Coast games. For most people who are traditionally employed, West Coast games are impossible to watch without the help of meth, which I try to avoid, so I had essentially four days away from the team.
In my time away, I’ve realized something about my relationship with 2016 Red Sox: I fell too hard, too fast.
I’m going to assume that I’m not alone. This is an attractive team. The Red Sox have a unique balance of youth and experience. They’re aggressive at plate and on the base paths, topping the major leagues in most hitting categories. They’ve thrilled us with the long ball and impressed with their consistency—Bradley and Bogaerts’ hitting strikes are case and point. Pedroia’s streak ended yesterday as the “lowly [Twins] climb up the winding stair” to avoid a sweep.
In short, the 2016 Red Sox are sexy. But there needs to be some substance behind the flair, and I fear this team is lackluster.
There’s no doubt, compared to the teams the organization has fielded lately, this one is the most fun to watch. In fact, I would say this team is the most exciting team to watch since the 2004 World Champion “Idiots.”
Yes, I just went there.
The Youth Movement right now—Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, Swihart, Rodriguez, Shaw—is nothing short of electric, and Bogaerts is making a legitimate case for the most valuable player of the first half of the season. Or an argument can be made for David Ortiz, who has decided to play out the role of Roy Hobbs (in the movie, not the novel which ends very differently) during his (cough, cough) Swan Song season. And Steven Wright’s unlikely success story is the best narrative so far. Wright currently has the lowest ERA in the AL at 2.09, and if this continues, Wright will be heading for his first All-Star game in July.
They’re definitely fun to watch.
But the more time you spend around someone, the more their imperfections start to surface, like beastly pimples. And the Red Sox have some acne.
The most pronounced problem is the starting pitching. So far, the starting pitching has been an unsightly blemish. David Price, while not terrible, has yet to live up to his bloated $31 million salary. Clay Buchholz has been Clay Buchholz and demoted to the bullpen, and Joe Kelly, after his last 2.1 inning gag-job against Baltimore, was sent to Rhode Island the same night.
After a fantastic April, Rick Porcello again appears to be the pitching equivalent of dry white toast, a $20 million piece of bread. Aside from Wright, and Eduardo Rodriguez—who struggled with the pathetic Twins in his last start—the Red Sox starting pitching has been a big bulbous zit.
Additionally, the bullpen has a bad case of halitosis, if we’re going to extend the analogy. Carson Smith is gone for the season; Tazawa and Uehara make me uneasy, and I’m still never sure which Craig Kimbrel is coming into the game. While that dopey delivery always looks the same, I can’t tell if he’s going to be lights out or if he’ll struggle to find the strike zone.
And I can’t be the only one who cringes at the thought of Heath Humbree or Robbie Ross Jr. jogging in from the pen in the postseason.
Also, manager John Farrell continues to appear clueless as an in-game manager. Many prognosticators (present company included) didn’t give Farrell until Memorial Day before being replaced by bench coach Torey Lovullo, yet the Sox relative success so far has done a fine job polishing a turd.
I’ve made a young man’s mistake by committing too quickly to the 2016 Red Sox. So now it’s time to step back and take a break. I still like you, Red Sox. I still want to see you. But this is going too fast. It’s not you, it’s me.
Call me in August.