Closing Time

by | Jul 30, 2018 | Dirty Water Sports, Red Sox

Fearful of the jinx, I approach all of my Red Sox commentary—either written or ranting at the neighborhood watering hole—on the side of caution. I grew up with a franchise more adept at breaking fans’ hearts than our current president is at stepping in his own feces.

My fear is that one glowing word might send a team that has already racked up three World Series rings in the 21st Century into an apocalyptic spiral of torture and torment, a lost chapter from The Book of Revelations.

Tempered and measured, I will say this: the 2018 Red Sox have been good. In fact, very good. In fact, they’ve put up one of the best mid-season records in the team’s storied history. In over a century of baseball, this is—statistically—the best team anyone reading this has seen in their lifetime.

And what’s not to like?

Mookie Betts has emerged as one of the premier players in the game. He is currently leading the MLB in batting average, on his way to a possible MVP season. Between grand slams and walk-offs and dynamite defense, I might go so far as to say he’s the most electric player I’ve seen don a Red Sox uniform.

And his teammate J.D. Martinez—currently leading baseball in both homeruns and RBI’s—is making a run at triple-crown. It’s almost impossible to imagine that some bloviate Richard Heads writing about him in the off-season were against this signing.

Then there’s Chris Sale. Does anyone want to argue that he is currently the best starting pitcher in the game? Slow your roll, Mets’ fans. deGrom is having a great season, but he’s still a few years away from deserving a true Sale in the pants.

So what, you bloviate Richard Head—you may ask—is there currently to complain about? Are you Tony Massarotti’s bastard child? “Stop bitching,” you may be screaming at the screen.

Understandable. But here’s the shortlist of things that are concerning me. And note: these are concerns, not complaints.

Let’s start with the bullpen, the elephant in the room. The Red Sox need to find a reliable bridge to Craig Kimbrel. I’m about as confident with Joe Kelly coming into a 3-2 postseason set-up position as I am with Fergie doing another rendition of The National Anthem.

I was Christmas-list hopeful that Dave Dombrowski would somehow find a way to shore up Zach Britton by the trading deadline, but—with a farm system gutted worse than social security—he’s now a part of seemingly lethal Yankee bullpen.

Do you put the $31 million man David Price (and his dog, Astro) in the pen come October? Will Eduardo Rodriguez be healthy? Could Drew Pomeranz produce a serviceable inning coming out the pen? These are concerns.

Then there’s the bottom third of the batting order, who are desperately in need of some hitting Viagra. I know Jackie Bradley Jr. is a streaky but he’s currently streaking closer to the Mendoza Line. Rafael Devers, the defensive equivalent of food poisoning, also lacks the pop in his bat we saw last season. And Eduardo Nunez or Brock Holt as the starting second baseman in the postseason?

Hang on. I just threw up a little in my mouth.

My point—and, yes, I’ve circumvented my toward it—is this: the 2018 Red Sox need to produce in the postseason. They need to close. They need to win it all.

Not to rip open old wounds, but every New England fan remembers the undefeated 2007 Patriots, one of the two best regular season teams in NFL history. Then a David Tyree freakish helmet catch later, we’re left with an historically great regular season and a bottle of hand cream.

This Red Sox team has been superb and a ton of fun to watch as we approach the dog days of summer, but October is still two months away and, at this point, anything less than ring will be a choke.