“Ladies and Gentleman get them before they are gone!” the salesman on the street hollered.
“Get what?” An anxious customer not wanting to miss out asked.
“Your seat on the 2016 Red Sox bandwagon, of course!” the salesman responded.
We are having one of THOSE Red Sox seasons, where the energy is starting to get palpable on the streets of Boston. My walks to work have revealed it more and more each day. The gear is starting to come out. More and more hats each morning and more and more T-shirt jerseys with too many sleeves in the evening/afternoon. I saw a girl yesterday in Red Sox colored plaid, red chucks, a Sox cap and an Ellsbury jersey. I don’t want to assume she doesn’t know Ells is now a Yankee, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
So the pink hats are coming back out as the Red Sox offense has surged to the head of the league and they are currently first in the AL East. So get your seat on the bandwagon secured now because I don’t see this train stopping before October.
So what’s gone right?
The David Ortiz Farewell Tour
Ortiz has been as good as he ever has and that’s not exactly common place for 40 year olds in the MLB. He seems so locked in that I’m not sure there will be a “slow” down or slump. I say that not because MLB players don’t slump, I believe that he is savoring every last minute of this season knowing its his last and knowing that he wants to go out with a bang. And that seems to be becoming infectious, as the rest of the lineup seems to want to send Ortiz out with a chance to win a fourth World Series title.
Hanley Ramirez to First Base
Hanley is more engaged and while he has been dinged up the last couple of nights, if its not major, he was starting to really heat up at the plate and I don’t know why that wouldn’t continue. Him being consistent is probably the most important piece of the Red Sox lineup because that will force teams to pitch to Ortiz. I don’t know that Hanley is a 30 home run guy anymore, but he doesn’t need to be, he just needs to make opposing teams pay when there are men on base.
Travis Shaw at Third Base
I’m still not going to just assume Shaw is going to hit the way he has because he has 111 MLB games under his belt and only 396 at bats. He doesn’t need to be great though because he is playing above average defense so if he dips offensively it won’t crush the lineup.
Jackie Bradley Jr. as the Everyday Center Fielder
When JBJ won the job it didn’t sound like he won the job, and he didn’t play against some tough lefty starters early on. Now I think the fans would riot if John Farrell took him out of the lineup. He may slump again like he has in the past, he may not, but he has earned the right to slump with this current month. And his bat control has been impeccable so I’m not sure he will slump as he did before because he is using the entire field effectively.
Now what’s gone wrong?
David Price as the Ace
Price hasn’t been the Ace. Sure he has a bunch of wins, but he hasn’t been “the man” and we all know what the man looks like from watching Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and Josh Becket be “the man” over the last 16 years. Doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t be “the man” eventually, but at some point every team needs their ace to go out and win 3 or 4 games in a row 1-0 or 2-1 and Price can’t do that right now.
Carson Smith as a set up guy
I’m not down on the deal that brought Smith here for Miley, or Smith in the future because he is under team control until 2021, but his injury leaves a hole in the bullpen and I don’t know who will fill it. I’d like to see Heath Hembree get a real shot at it as he has closing experience in the high minors (76 AAA saves) and while his stuff may not be dazzling, confidence and pitching ability in high pressure situations can be just as effective a tool as a great stuff that a guy doesn’t know how to use.
Brock Holt in Left Field
This one is on everyone involved in the Rusney Castillo experiment. It doesn’t look like he will be an MLB player or even a Quadruple A player that can help an MLB team in shorts spurts. His .611 OPS at Pawtucket so far this year is less than uninspiring, its down right abysmal. Even before the concussion, the everyday at bats were leaving Holt exposed as a guy that should get 350-400 at bats in a season, but much more than that and his performance will suffer. He is not Ben Zobrist. He might not even be Ben Zobrist light.
Everyone hates him, ok that’s too strong, everyone hates his pitching. I personally can’t wait for him to be in another uniform and regularly disappointing some other fan base. I’m at the point this year where I just want him to break down and go on the DL. Which probably leaves the Sox with Sean O’Sullivan in the rotation, but at least I KNOW O’Sullivan is going to stink and I don’t have to think, “Hey Clay’s curve looks good tonight, maybe he’ll be ohhhh mother fucker that fastball was slow and straight and is probably playing ping-pong with the Mass Pike commuter crowd, fucking Clay!”
Things are good, as they always are when your team scores lots of runs. I think this team wins over 85 games and based on pace should probably be closer to 95. I’ve seen teams like this before in Fenway, before 2004. Its the type of team I grew up watching, my Dad grew up watching, where the offense gets the fans into a frenzy of high energy and expectations that the pitching can’t keep up with and the Fenway Faithful end up feeling like the Fenway fooled because these teams can’t win in the playoffs. This Sox team can be different though, because David Price can be an Ace and because David Ortiz has proven the ability to be other worldly. Will that be enough? It’s too early to tell, but I wouldn’t bet against Ortiz playing the way he is playing.