The Sox are 43-43 at the All-Star break after dropping 3 of 4 to the Yankees in mostly disgraceful and far-too-familiar fashion, which I foreshadowed last week. David Ortiz and others have reminded the masses that injuries have been a very real and very consistent problem for this team, but that doesn’t mean some of the healthy players aren’t deserving of outright scorn for their own contributions, or lack thereof, to the season. Without further ado, here are the chumps who have added all kinds of suck to the first half of the 2012 Red Sox season:
1. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. I’m lumping them together because they’d probably like it that way, or at least Lester would, given the extent to which he’s made himself into Josh Beckett 2.0, complete with Texas accent (Lester hails from Washington state) and pickup truck commercials in which he talks about huntin’, bangin’ around in the woods, and takin’ the wife and the little man out to dinner—presumably to a steakhouse where you get to slaughter your own steer with an AK-47. Let’s have a brief breakdown of the terrible twosome’s unspeakably mediocre season from the Boston Globe’s Tony Mazz:
Here’s the most meaningful statistic of this Red Sox season to date, folks: the Red Sox are 12-20 in games started by the men who should be their two best starting pitchers. Were the Sox even, say, 16-16 in those games, they would be in possession of that suddenly coveted fifth-best record in the American League. And if they were, say, something more like the 20-12 they should be, they would be 51-35, nipping at the heels of the Yankees for the far more desirable lead in the AL East.
I thought Beckett and Lester might show us something this past weekend against the Yankees. I thought they might show up, man up, cowboy up, and maybe throw some chin music A-Rod’s way just for the hell of it. Nope. Beckett got lit up in the first inning, and Lester was what he’s been all season long—not completely terrible, but not as good as his opponent. A year or two ago, Lester was widely regarded as prodigious talent who was on the cusp of being a true ace. He was a southpaw with outstanding stuff and, it seemed, the composure and desire to be the top pitcher on an elite staff. He owns one of the best winning percentages of all time as a result of that talent and effort. Where did that guy go?
As for Beckett, I just wonder what he’s still in it for. Does he like playing baseball? Does he like being on the Red Sox? Would he welcome a change of scenery? (How about Seattle?) Because I’m with Mazz on this: There was something rotten about the pitching last September, and the Sox front office did absolutely nothing about it over winter. So, the damage continues to be done. Somebody needs to get traded, and it’s either Beckett or Lester or…
2. Clay Buchholz. You know what’s stupid? When you suffer from esophagitis to the point that you’re hospitalized for internal bleeding, and then you go back to using dip—which is known to cause chronic acid reflux (heartburn)—as soon as you’re back in the dugout. That’s stupid. Buchholz is a guy I always wanted to like. He seemed kind of dim—he got in trouble for stealing laptop computers from a school before he was drafted—but he had a Forrest Gump-ish, aw-shucks sweetness about him. Even the story about how he met his wife—Donald Trump set them up—was kind of perfect in its weirdness. And Buchholz really has shown flashes of brilliance on the mound, most notably in the form of a no-hitter as a September call-up and in the stellar ERA he posted a few seasons back. But the key word there is “flashes.” Whether it’s poor health or stupidity or a shotgun marriage of both qualities, Buchholz seems unable to get right and stay right. Surely there are teams out there that would be willing to take a chance on him. I’m not sure the Sox should do so any longer.
And frankly, I’m just sick of having so many damned Texans in our rotation. And that’s without even mentioning the chicken-and-beer nonsense from last September. Oops, I guess I did mention it.
3. Adrian Gonzalez. I’m hesitant to lay into A-Gon here, especially with his recent 18-game hitting streak. But really, an OPS of .745 is pretty much the definition of “underperforming” for a top-five first baseman whose OPS was at least .100 higher in each of the last six seasons. The power outage—just 6 home runs—is troubling on its own, but how is it possible that he’s walked only 23 times in 317 plate appearances? That’s a rate of about 1 walk for every 13.8 PAs. In 2009, he led the N.L. with 119 walks, of which only 22 were intentional, in 681 plate appearances—a rate of 1 walk for every 5.7 PAs. That’s a huge drop-off. He’s been more selective lately, but thus far A-Gon’s season has been marked by uncharacteristically poor pitch selection. There are a handful of guys on the Sox who simply must perform up to par if the Sox have a chance in hell of snagging a playoff spot. A-Gon is one of them.
4. Daniel Bard. You almost forget about him, right? He started the season as the fifth starter, and now he’s struggling to not murder hitters (and umps) with runaway fastballs in meaningless games at Pawtucket. One has to wonder if the fall of Daniel Bard really began last year, perhaps through overuse. His 100-mph fastball hasn’t been seen since then, has it? I’d be stunned if he regains his stuff and his confidence this year. In this case, it may be about caring too much, thinking too much. Maybe he and Beckett could have a Hollywood-style, lightning-induced “switcheroo” wherein a dose of Beckett’s apathy helps Bard clear his head while Bard’s youthful desire reignites Beckett’s competitiveness.
5. Dustin Pedroia. Pedey’s performance has been similar to A-Gon’s, with an OPS about 100 points lower than what it should be, not a lot of pop in his bat, and not many hits in general. I hope he doesn’t try to return to action before his thumb has fully heeled, but the Sox will need the real Pedroia in the second half.
The truth is, even with all of the injuries, the Red Sox should not have a record of 43-43. Not with those All-Star names on the roster. It’s not too late. If A-Gon et al can simply turn it around, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford can be all they can be, the Sox can still get to the postseason.