While most were keeping their eyes on Aaron Judge‘s home run chase, I was keeping my eyes on the Red Sox-Yankees series for another reason. I was watching to see when the Red Sox would officially be eliminated from playoff contention. This is a team that fan graphs picked to tie for the best record in the AL East. With ten games left, Boston is in last place, seven games back of Baltimore. So, what happened to the team that was two wins away from a trip to the World Series in 2021?
BACK TO REALITY FOR RED SOX
The cold, honest truth is the Red Sox came back to reality in 2022. Boston overachieved in 2021. They were a good team, but far from the second best team in the American League. The Red Sox were a deserving Wild Card team, but after beating the Yankees, they should’ve been done. Boston wasn’t as good as Tampa or Houston, but they played above their heads to eliminate the Rays and advance to the ALCS. Then, when they led the ALCS two games to one, they started believing their own hype. Houston beat them and they never really recovered.
The 2022 team looked to build on that, but they never had the chance their fans believed they did. Chris Sale got hurt in Spring Training taking away their ace. By the time he returned, he would get hurt in his first start back. Meanwhile, Nathan Eovaldi struggled only garnering five wins, so far. At 72-80 through 152 games, Boston may be somewhat underachieving, but the expectations were always too high.
The biggest problem for the Red Sox in 2022 is the AL East is a lot better than expected. Fan Graphs posted an image before the season predicting a four way tie for the division title with Baltimore way behind. The Yankees have run away with the division and have been the darlings of the American League thanks to Aaron Judge‘s pursuit of Roger Maris. But the Red Sox could very easily be in contention for a wild card spot if they could just beat the other teams in their division. Boston is 9-12 in the month of September, but 2-10 against AL East teams. They’ve been swept by New York twice and Tampa once. They wrap up the final ten games of the season against Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa. Simply put, if you can’t beat the other teams in your division, you can’t make the playoffs.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE RED SOX?
First and foremost, the Red Sox need to try to finish this season the best way they can. If they reel off ten wins in their final ten games, they can still finish with a winning record. If they can win nine, they can finish .500. While both of those are probably unrealistic, they are still mathematical possibilities. From there, the team needs to look to 2023.
The Red Sox need to lock up Xander Bogaerts. A few years ago, Boston had a group known as the “Killer B’s.” Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts. Mookie is living his best life with the Dodgers. Benintendi has bounced around but is currently on the Yankees. Bradley has left and come back but he’s not the central piece to an organization. He’s a good addition, but he’s just that an addition. While Betts would’ve been the preferable choice Bogaerts is the next best to build around from those four. He’s still on the team. Lock him up.
Boston also needs to make sure Rafael Devers stays in a Red Sox uniform. Like Bogaerts, Devers is a guy to build around. I know John Henry waffles when it comes to spending money. He had no problem letting Theo Epstein or Dave Dombrowski spend to make the team a contender, but he kept Ben Cherington on a short leash and seems to be doing the same with Chaim Bloom. Let Bloom spend a reasonable amount of money to keep these two guys and surround them with quality free agents. They don’t have to be stars. Ben Cherington built a winner by signing Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino to team friendly deals.
WAY TOO EARLY PREDICTIONS
We’re not even finished with the 2022 season, but let’s look to 2023. While I think Boston has proven they can turn anything around, I have a feeling this marriage between Chaim Bloom and Boston isn’t going to work. I think the issues is not Bloom, but John Henry‘s willingness to let Bloom spend. While I don’t expect to see Boston in last place in 2023, I also don’t expect to see them winning the division. I expect a third place finish next season, but with three wild car spots, that may still be good enough for a playoff berth. Then, all bets are off.
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