Even having ended Tampa Bay’s nine-game winning streak, the Boston Red Sox proved nothing that would elevate them to playoff contention. They scored seven runs in three games, they suffered a bullpen implosion, and they played back on their heels, as Tampa Bay bunted and ran around their defense. Except for a resurgent performance from their bullpen in Sunday’s finale with the Rays, the Red Sox offered no promise of ascending to the first division of their division.
So raise the white flag and let’s see what the young prospects can do in August and September. Unload some salaries this week, Jonny Gomes, Edward Mujica, Stephen Drew come to mind. Andrew Miller would be worth a good hitter in exchange. Do not trade Jon Lester or Shane Victorino, because you have to preserve what’s good about the team. The enigma is Mike Napoli, who seems to require two months of wild flailing in order to be lethal for the other four months. Depending on the time of year, you love him or hate him.
What should be clear is that the cast that won the World Series has passed their expiration date, and the new Red Sox will have new skills, maybe more speed and ironclad defense and maybe more zip on their fastballs. This should be a youth movement.
Please, no broken-down superstars like Matt Kemp. Please, no pitchers recovering from surgery. And no good-hit, no-field types that used to anchor positions like shortstop and left field. You have to be proud of something when a team is re-building, so let it be the defense.
So let the final week of July be about building for the future, bringing in talent that can and will mature in the next fifteen months. Maybe the Red Sox will be good enough to reach .500 this year, but let’s make a team that can reach .600 next year.
Baseball players take longer to mature than in any other sport. That’s why they have minor leagues. The Red Sox are decidely unripe fruit. The fans can now adopt the vintner’s adage for their team: we will make no wine before its time. That time is next year.