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Red Sox Report: Sox More Than Half Bad

Monday, July 09, 2012

 

Major League Baseball’s All-Star break is finally here, and not a moment too soon for the Boston Red Sox.

The 2012 season has been a disaster for the Red Sox. At .500 (43-43), you might say that “disaster” is a little strong to describe a team that has been the very definition of mediocre. But this team wasn’t supposed to be mediocre. This team was supposed to be one of the best in baseball and, to date, has fallen far short of that status.

Yes, there are many good reasons for this team’s first half struggles and it all starts with injuries. Boston leads the majors having sent more players (20) to the disabled list 23 different times so far this season and many of them were counted on to be key contributors to this year’s squad.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Diasule Matsuzaka, Dustin Pedroia, Andrew Bailey. They have all spent significant time on the shelf forcing the team to rely on the likes of Daniel Nava, Pedro Ciriaco, Mauro Gomez, Aaron Cook and others. Not that some of those replacements haven’t done well at times, but they’re not exactly names that you build a playoff-caliber team around.

But to use injuries as an excuse for this team’s first half failures would only be telling half of the story. The bigger half has to do with key players who simply aren’t doing their jobs well enough.

On the mound, the top three pitchers in Boston’s rotation have a combined ERA of 4.88 through the first 86 games. The trio of Lester, Beckett and Buchholz have also given up 41 of the 90 homeruns yielded by Red Sox pitchers this season.

Of that trio, Clay Buchholz has the best record at (8-2). That’s primarily because he has been the beneficiary of tremendous run support in his starts this season. Josh Beckett is (4-7) while Jon Lester is (5-6).

And they’re not the only ones not getting the job done. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who had to leave Sunday night’s game against the Yankees due to flu-like symptoms, has had a miserable first half of the season batting just .283 with 6 homeruns and 45 RBI. That’s not what you’d expect from a guy making more money ($21.8 million) this season than anyone on the roster.

In fact, if you look at the players who hold top 8 salaries on the Red Sox 2012 payroll, only David Ortiz is performing at or above expectation which is why he will be the only member of the team in Kansas City for Tuesday night's All-Star game.

1 Adrian Gonzalez               21,857,143
2 Josh Beckett                    17,000,000
3 David Ortiz                         14,575,000
4 Kevin Youkilis                    12,250,000   (traded to Chicago White Sox)
5 Daisuke Matsuzaka         10,333,333
6 Dustin Pedroia                   8,250,000
7 Jon Lester                          7,625,000
8 Clay Buchholz                    3,750,000

Early in the season, new manager Bobby Valentine received the lion’s share of the criticism from the media and fans alike for this team’s failure. That criticism has pretty much vanished now that people see what’s really going on here.

Yes, there are injuries to key players. But there are also players who have been healthy that have been just awful. Most of the blame for this falls at the feet of the players themselves. However, some of the blame also goes to Red Sox management past and present.

Former GM Theo Epstein saddled this club with some pretty bad contracts and the current management team led by Ben Cherrington has done nothing to try to shake things up to get this team out of its collective funk.

That last part it easier said than done given the fact that player contracts are guaranteed in baseball. Still, given what happened last September in Boston, Red Sox ownership chose to stick with many of the problem players and, instead, lay the blame at the feet of former manager Terry Francona.

Now, almost 10 months later, Francona was smelling like roses in his ESPN broadcast booth high above Fenway Sunday night while the stench of the 2012 Red Sox sent people to the exits early after another home loss where the team is under .500 (22-24) this season.

Now that you know the bad news, there is some good news to point out.

First, some of the aforementioned injured players should be returning soon after the All-Star break meaning that help could very well be on the way. You’d also like to think that some of the first-half underachievers will extract their heads out of their collective rear ends and perform better in the second half of the season. After all, the law of averages leads us to believe that this will be the case.

But maybe the best news for Red Sox fans is that Commissioner Bud Selig saw to it prior to the start of the season that mediocrity WILL be rewarded in his sport. With the addition of a second Wild Card team in each league, lousy teams like the Red Sox could be in the hunt for a playoff spot deep into September.

At the moment, Boston is a mere 2 ½ games out of the second Wild Card spot in the American League despite looking like anything but a playoff team.

 

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