The best team in the American League East is the Tampa Bay Rays. They play sharp, aggressive baseball, and they take advantage of every mistake made by their opponents. andy Arozarena, Manuel Margot, Yandy Diaz and a slew of players hammer the ball over the fence with regularity, and that intimidates most opponents.
The Boston Red Sox are the worst team in the American League East. They are a game over .500 at 40-39, but they are 13 games behind the Rays. The Red Sox have finished last in the division in two of the last three years, and another last-place finish appears to be at hand.
Less than a week ago, the Red Sox were riding a six-game winning streak that included a series sweep of the New York Yankees and two road wins over the Minnesota Twins. But the Red Sox can’t sustain momentum this year, and they have lost four of their last five games. They dropped two of three games to the Chicago White Sox and they looked lifeless in the process.
Manager Alex Cora has said that he still believes his team is a legitimate Wild Card contender, and the Red Sox are 3 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the final playoff spot. Reaching the playoffs seems to be something that is within the realm of mathematical possibilities, but this team just makes too many basic mistakes to take seriously. Massachusetts sports bettors would be wise to hold on to their money and not bet on the Red Sox to finish in any place but last in the American League East.
Losing to the White Sox is an indicator that things will not get better for the Red Sox. There is little doubt that the Chicago South Siders have a talented roster, but the team’s calling card through the first half of the season has been a lack of hustle, a lack of awareness and a tendency to fall apart when the game is on the line. The White Sox are 11 games below .500 (34-45) after their series victory, and they are 6.0 games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins in the MLB’s worst division.
There is no excuse for the downturn of the Red Sox. The Fenway Sports Group that owns the team is one of the most lucrative sports conglomerates in the world, and they have the wherewithal to compete financially with the New York Yankees, New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers on an every-year basis. But the Red Sox have clearly gone away from big spending, and general manager Chaim Bloom is trying to compete with older players, cast-offs and hopefuls.
Cora understands what is happening. The Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers in 2020 and lost Xander Bogaerts to free agency and the San Diego Padres during the most recent offseason. How are the Red Sox supposed to win when they don’t hold on to their best players? Betts is arguably one of the top three players in baseball, while Bogaerts is a four-time All-Star and one of the best shortstops in the major leagues.
That’s why Cora has basically kept his cool for the majority of the season. He knows what management has left him with, and the perfect example is first baseman Triston Casas. His error in the ninth inning Saturday allowed the White Sox to put the winning run on base and his lack of awareness Sunday saw him hold onto a relay throw from outfielder Rob Refsnyder. If he had thrown to home plate without hesitation, it might have stopped Gavin Sheets from scoring Chicago’s third run of the game in the fifth inning.
Casas is supposed to be the team’s big-time slugger of the future, but he is just a slug of a player who strikes out, fails in the field and hits the occasional long ball. He regularly plays lifeless baseball, but he finds himself in the lineup nearly every game.
The Red Sox have plenty of excuses, as injuries to Chris Sale (shoulder) and Tanner Houck (facial fracture) have torn apart the starting pitching. However, elite teams don’t make excuses.
This used to be an elite team that won the World Series with a remarkable 108-54 record as recently as 2018. Now they are just a shell of a team that is content to go through the motions.
Playoff contender? That’s a joke, and don’t bet on it.