For three nights at Fenway, it seemed as if the Red Sox were back to the good old days. The atmosphere was electric for all three games against the Yankees, in what appeared to be a crucial late-summer series between two arch rivals. That is, as long as you didn’t allow your eyes to wander to the AL East standings posted on the Green Monster.
There, the reality was clear: the 57-59 Red Sox are 15.5 games out of first place and sinking fast in the wild card. With a 4.5-game deficit and three teams to leapfrog, the Red Sox stand a 4.4 percent chance at making the playoffs, according to Baseball Reference.
Buster Olney on the future of Devers
What should’ve been the last run for a championship core has turned into a slog, and blame lies with the front office. It was great to see Tommy Pham deliver the walk-off knock against the Yankees Friday and collect three hits Sunday night. But it would’ve been even better to see a representative corner outfielder all season.
Ditto for Eric Hosmer, who’s finally providing the Red Sox with a Major League caliber first baseman — about four months too late.
Alex Cora bringing out John Schreiber for an ill-fated second inning of work Saturday showed the Red Sox are still an arm short in the bullpen.
The reinforcements were tardy, and in some cases, didn’t arrive at all. Ownership appeared to enter the season with apathy, and the results have been appropriately uninspiring.
Hopefully this weekend served as a wakeup call.
The Red Sox were built for a playoff push, even with their cataclysmic slate of injuries. They show more heart than the juggernaut Yankees, who once again seem primed for postseason failure. The Red Sox are 6-7 against the Yankees this season.
But they were abandoned. The Red Sox didn’t go all-in this season, despite featuring a payroll north of the luxury tax threshold. Instead, they weirdly went halfway: trading Christian Vazquez, yet acquiring Hosmer and Pham.
Their approach has reportedly sparked frustration in the clubhouse and confusion throughout the organization. Over the weekend, ESPN’s Buster Olney quoted a front office exec who questioned “what the hell” the Red Sox are doing.
It’s hard to figure out. Chaim Bloom was seemingly hired to rebuild the farm system and turn the rollercoaster Red Sox into a more sustainable winner. But apparently, that’s also meant managing the Red Sox like a mid-market team.
Since Bloom took over, the Red Sox rank 13th among the 30 teams in free agency spending. That figure would be even lower if they didn’t sign Trevor Story to a six-year, $140 million contract last March.
But even that move comes with an asterisk. Story was apparently signed to replace Xander Bogaerts. They reportedly insulted the franchise cornerstone with a lowball extension offer in Spring Training.
Bogaerts’ frustration is palpable, and it came out at the deadline. “I wouldn't say we got better because we lost [Vazquez],” he told reporters.
This weekend showed the Red Sox are more than a computer simulation. Fans identify with actual players, not just stat lines. After 20 years, this ownership group must understand that. Perception matters.
Maybe that’s why they’ll arrive at a change of heart with Rafael Devers. Olney told WEEI’s Rob Bradford he thinks the Red Sox are going to present Devers with an offer “he can’t refuse.”
That’s a far cry from Matt Olsen money. (Devers smacked a two-run homer Sunday.)
“I think that the stakes are growing by the day in terms of the importance of re-signing Devers to reverse — to put that narrative into a box — they need to sign Raffy Devers,” said Olney.
The proof was apparent this weekend. Those kinds of nights only happen at Fenway.
Too bad the Red Sox took that for granted this season.