Forget about tonight’s blowout of the Blue Jays, this is a team in deep trouble. Let’s take it from the top:
Starting pitching: You’ve got Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, sure, and that’s as good a 1-2 as any team has in baseball, but excuse me for thinking that you need four decent starters for the playoffs and (if you get there) the World Series, and the Sox have an awful rest of the rotation. I can’t watch John Lackey pitch – what GM Theo Epstein saw in this guy to give him a boatload of cash to pry him away from the Angels totally escapes me. He’s a glorified batting practice pitcher. Erik Bedard’s knee, which kept him out of a large portion of this season, is flaring up again (surprise!), Andrew Miller is not to be trusted under any circumstances, and don’t even get me started on Tim Wakefield. I don’t care that he needs one win to reach 200, he’s a four-inning pitcher who gets lit up as soon as the lineup sees him a second time around. If this is all the Sox have as rotation heading into the playoffs, expect an early exit, no matter who they play.
Bullpen: You’ve got Aceves, Bard, and Papelbon. The rest are pretty freakin’ useless as far as I can tell. Matt Albers had a great first half, but when the Orioles deem a pitcher worthy of release (the Orioles!) that should tell you something. Manager Terry Franocona has totally misused Dan Wheeler to the point where the guy has no confidence. And the rest of the bunch you can give away for a bag of balls in return. Do not get me started on Franklin Morales. Perhaps if you had a top of the rotation of Beckett-Lester-Clay Buchholz you could get away with this cast of characters, but with Buchholz out for the rest of the year, having only two dependable starters puts a lot of pressure on a bullpen. Especially this one.
Infield: I worry about shortstop – a lot. I’m no Jed Lowrie fan, and don’t quite understand Francona’s love of the guy. He’s nothing but potential, he’s afraid of going all-out for fear of getting hurt again, and he’s a lousy shortstop. So I guess it’s Marco Scutaro and pray like hell he doesn’t get hurt. First base (Adrian Gonzalez), second base (Dustin Pedroia) and third base (Kevin Youkilis) are rock solid, although I can’t help but think Youkilis is worn down from playing so many games at a demanding position like 3B. He looks sluggish to me. Pray none of these guys get hurt, or else we’re stuck with Lowrie.
Outfield: I don’t ever want to see J.D. Drew in a Red Sox uniform ever again. Ever. I’d play Josh Reddick for better or for worse the rest of the way, since he’s helped get us this far, and those are the cards we’ve been dealt. The less of Darnell McDonald I see the better I like it – the guy really can’t hit. Of course, CF Jacoby Ellsbury is having a MVP year both offensively and defensively. Which brings me to Carl Crawford. No one in Red Sox Nation – and I mean no one looked more forward to seeing him in a Red Sox uniform, as he absolutely killed us every year he was with Tampa Bay. But for at least this year the guy stinks. Takes pitches he should swing at, swings at piches he shouldn’t, and when he does it’s a horrible looking swing. He’s been late behind every fastball this year. He’s terrible and frustrating as all hell to watch, to the point where I won’t even watch him when he’s a bat. A huge disappointment.
Catching: A real bright spot this year. Except for that game two weeks ago when, after swinging at three straight crappy sliders in the dirt from Yankees reliever Boone Logan, I threatened to take up tequila again and toss my 55″ widescreen in the swimming pool, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been more than anyone ever could have hoped for as a starting catcher, both offensively and defensively. And captain Jason Varitek has been awesome as a once or twice a week starter. Between them, the Sox have as good a catching tandem as there is in the majors.
What I worry the most about these Sox is that they’ve been maddeningly inconsistent over the past few weeks, and I’m not sure why. Yesterday they got shut out by the Blue Jays, today they pounded the crap out of them, would anybody be truly surprised if they scored only one or two runs again tomorrow and lost? I wouldn’t. Crawford is the real problem in that lineup; manager Terry Francona has done everything he can to hide him, but you can’t hide ugly. If he was having anything close to the kind of seasons he had in Tampa Bay, the Sox would have at least 5-6 more wins – perhaps more. But I don’t see any hope for him, so I don’t know what the Sox can do except head into the post-season with the cards they’ve been dealt.
I wish I could say different, but I’m not very bullish on their chances.