BOSTON — At the midpoint of the season, the Red Sox are .500 (43-43), and tied for last place in the American League East.
Baseball historian and author Glenn Stout joined WBUR’s Morning Edition to review the team’s uneven first-half performance.
Deborah Becker: Glenn, the Sox are 43-43. What does that look like going into the All-Star break?
Glenn Stout: Not really good. I think most of the Red Sox players are looking forward to the All-Star break for three days to go fishing, because they certainly do need to turn a page on this first half of the season.
And how about this last series with the Yankees, when the Sox lost three of four?
Well, that’s emblematic of how the entire first half of the season has gone. They’re running a bunch of vowels and consonants onto the field, while the Yankees are running a bunch of Hall of Famers. And there are a lot of reasons for that, injuries being first and foremost. But that’s no way to reach the postseason, that’s for sure.
So, it’s injuries you think, that’s the reason why it is looking pretty dismal? But what else? Is it pitching? What’s going on?
Well certainly injuries have played a big role in it, you can’t deny that. But the other part is certainly that some of the players that haven’t been injured simply haven’t played up to the standards that everyone expected. That falls squarely on the shoulders of the pitching staff, primarily Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.
It has been a failure pretty much across the board. There have been a few guys that have played better than expected, but by and large, it has been disappointing from top to bottom.
Do you think that says something about how the team has been managed?
You can put some blame on Bobby Valentine — particularly the beginning of the season, when I don’t think he had everyone particularly on the same page. But I think since the first month or so you can’t blame him very much.
If you want to blame anybody, I think you can look to the front office for some things they’ve done or didn’t do. Still, they’re trying to patch 15 holes in the same boat at the same time. But you don’t have that many fingers right now.
What do you think is one of the biggest mistakes that probably should have been foreseen?
I think the [Daniel] Bard problem should have been seen, perhaps. They were taking a real chance by taking someone who had been so effective [as a reliever] and trying to turn him into a starting pitcher.
But beyond that, you can only blame the front office for signing people who have gotten injured, and that’s kind of hard. Carl Crawford has basically given the Red Sox nothing in about a year and a half, and it hasn’t been helped of course by Jacoby Ellsbury joining him on the disabled list.
The good thing though — and there is a little bit of a silver lining here — is that with this new playoff configuration where there are two wild-card teams, the Red Sox could still make the playoffs even if they only win 86 or 87 games, which they’re still certainly capable of doing.
Now you did mention that some players are doing better than expected, and of course designated hitter David Ortiz is on the All-Star team. Why is he having such a great season?
Well, I think one of the reasons he is having a great season is he is getting pitched around a lot, as he is the only danger in the Red Sox lineup. Guys are either walking him or he is coming to bat in positions where they can’t walk to him and they have to pitch to him, so he’s taking advantage of those things.
Pitching against the Red Sox lineup right now is like going down the road and avoiding the potholes; if you can get around David Ortiz, you can beat this team. Fortunately for the Red Sox, you can’t always get around David Ortiz.
Do you think we might see something more positive in the second half of the season?
If they can survive until the end of August, when they start to get a lot of people back, then anything can happen. And that’s what they’re betting on right now: anything happening.