USA Today Sports

These Red Sox sure feel like they're coming up to a crossroads

Rob Bradford
June 02, 2019 - 8:51 am

NEW YORK -- The Red Sox are 9 1/2 games out of first place. If the playoffs started today they would be one game out of the Wild Card. After 58 games, they have lost as many games as they have won. Against the iron of the American League -- New York and Houston -- Alex Cora's team is a combined 2-8.

This is not going as planned.

The solution? Right now, as the comments emanating from the Yankee Stadium visitor's locker room Saturday night would attest, nothing jumps to mind. (For a complete recap of the Red Sox' latest loss, click here.)

Rick Porcello: "I think, you know, we’re very positive and optimistic at that point that we were in a good spot and now, here we are, whatever it is, 9 or 10 back. It’s baseball. It’s not going to come easy for us, especially what we did last year, we’re going to have a target on our back every night and we’ve got to be prepared to meet that challenge.

"I don’t think there’s going to be much conversation honestly. We play 162 games. I think every guy in this room knows what we need to do. It’s just a matter of just going out there and doing it. at this point, closed-door meetings and talks like that, it’s not going to change what we’re doing on the field. We have to go out there and execute. We’ve got to clean everything up to pitching to baserunning to fielding to hitting. It’s all facets of the game right now we’ve got to get better. We’ve all got to lock in and get going."

J.D. Martinez: "I honestly never even look at the standings. I don’t even know when we were three."

Xander Bogaerts: "I don't think we're in September. June just opened. We've got a lot of baseball left. Obviously, we have some key guys for us hurt, hitting-wise. Hopefully, we'll get them back soon and I think everyone will start getting into a groove and we've got to go from there. It has to be one game at a time. You can't try to win five games in one game. We've got to take it easy."

Alex Cora: "Consistency. We need to be more consistent."

But while the calendar can be referenced along with a "stay the course" mantra, this does feel like some sort of crossroads for this organization.

It's not just as simple as to suggest there are 104 games to play. 

For context, another team was 10 games out and sitting at .500 on June 1 last year -- Tampa Bay. They actually did figure a lot out, going on to win 90 games. But the Rays also finished 18 games out. The point is that you can win some more, but that doesn't mean good teams like the Yankees are going to let up. 

The Red Sox were slapped in the face with the hierarchy of the American League of late. While they wanted to so desperately point to their improvement throughout May, it remains truly difficult to buy in after this run of games against the Astros, Indians and Yankees. Two wins in eight games. Whether they like it or not, that is the reality of these Red Sox.

So, what now?

First off, this roster seems to be taking on water. Your first base combination isn't available. The save-the-day rookie (Michael Chavis) is now being pitched to. J.D. Martinez's back seems to be limiting his production. And even with the top of the lineup switcheroo, it doesn't feel like Mookie Betts and/or Andrew Benintendi are representing the threat of a year ago. Then there is the pitching. The starters? They have been better, but not good enough against the best. The relievers are the poster boys for the problems, but at this point, they aren't any more to blame than a bunch of other pieces of this puzzle.

This brings us to Dave Dombrowski.

He is dangerously close to watching this Betts/Martinez window close a whole lot faster than anyone anticipated. Like it or not, this team built for the present because building for the future simply isn't going to be easy. Right now it feels like this clubhouse could use an infusion of talent, along the lines of what Dombrowski did last June 28 when Steve Pearce was brought into the fold. And this time around it is far from early. Remember, there is just one trade deadline so you better be aggressive one way or another. (See the Phillies acquiring Jay Bruce.)

The problem the Red Sox may face is how they are positioned against their competitors.

Once he discards the qualifying offer tag Monday Craig Kimbrel is going to be a sought after commodity by teams with far more motivation and flexibility to acquire the closer than the Red Sox. Trades can be made but for the big-ticket items teams are going to look at the best the Sox have to offer and quickly leverage them against clubs with a much more talented array of minor-league trade chips.

Internally, there are fewer Hail Marys, as well.

There have certainly been years where the solution and jump-start have come via the Sox own minor league system. See Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Brandon Workman, etc. But now that Chavis has arrived nobody at Portland or Pawtucket present a realistic solution. If there was we would have already seen someone other than Josh Taylor, Mike Shawaryn, Darwinzon Hernandez and Sam Travis. All could very well be useful players, but the kind kick-in-the-butt-kind-of call-ups this club could really use right about now? Probably not.

The Red Sox can start figuring this thing out Sunday night and then go on their merry way to what cures a lot of teams, playing the Royals.

But the idea that there is nothing to see when looking at the Sox' plight is silly. The fork in the road is at least in sight.