Nothing like a Friday night tilt at Fenway to remind you of your priorities. We've all expended a lot of energy since last September hating the Orioles. And fairly so, with First Enemy Robert Andino in the field and bean-happy Buck Showalter in the dugout. But last night, we all got reminded of the real fun in fan hatred: Tampa Bay. Ever since the good old days, when Tampa was terrible and started fights because they were really annoyed about being terrible, Tampa and Boston have had a particularly feisty rivalry. It's especially fun now that Tampa's come to the final stage of their long-game strategy of being terrible for a decade and striking on just enough draft picks to look good for a few years.
Yep, I might be a little bit bitter at the moment. Honestly, it's not even really about the Rays, as much as they annoyed me last night. It's that last night marked the Red Sox' fifth attempt to get over .500, and their fifth failure to do so. Which obviously matters in the standings, but at this point I think we can all agree that it's mostly a psychological thing for us. A team that's 23-22 and on the upswing is something we can all be (mostly) happy about. A team that's 22-23 and on the upswing just isn't quite there yet, and it's absolutely infuriating.
But, .500 or not, Boston's spent a few weeks now looking like a team that might be worth watching the rest of the year, and it's been a lot more fun writing about them lately. So we did a lot of it this week. Let's flip through it, shall we?
Someday, there will be a week where I type up this recap, and the word "injury" will never once appear on the screen. This, alas, is not that week. On Friday, I wrote this:
Cody Ross left the game after fouling a ball off his foot, in a play that looked frighteningly similar to the one that put Pedroia on the shelf in 2010.
So yeah, this one's on me. Well, really it's on the whimsical nature of fate and baseball, but I'm easier to yell at. Ross did in fact break his foot, and now resides upon the DL, along with every other individual who has ever played the outfield for Boston. Marc covered some of the options the Sox had for replacing Ross. There were good outfielders, middling outfielders, and trade options galore. And thus, the Red Sox called upon... Scott Podsednik. Who hit a home run in his first start. So now the world's going to end, because Cody Ross broke his foot. Thanks, fate. Matt Kory did a great job covering exactly how screwed up this has been. Read it and be enlightened. Or at least amused. Hopefully both.
It wasn't all bad news. We also got to once again hear the soothing sound of "YOOOUUUK"s echoing across Fenway (and Camden, which for these purposes is effectively the same thing). Kevin Youkilis returned to the fold, and did so impressively, providing the only offense the Sox got against Brian Matusz (really?) with a solo shot.
Weirdest thing of all? Despite all the injuries, the Sox offense is still doing really well. Anyone who figured an offense featuring Marlon Byrd and Ryan Sweeney in major roles would be leading the league in multiple categories is probably lying, but the results can't be denied. Even with a borderline Triple-A outfield, the Sox are raking.
More good news: the bullpen. It's... It's actually really good. And it's starting to figure itself out. Ben covered the evolution of the Sox pen from a scattered Boschian hellscape to a well-ordered Mondrian of K/BB efficiency. And their newfound effectiveness may go a long way toward extending the Daniel Bard starting experiment, because he surely hasn't been impressing on the mound of late. The potential's still there, but if that fastball doesn't return, it's going to be a quick trip back to the eighth inning.
The MLB amateur draft is in nine days, and we decided to get into the scouting mood by looking at Boston drafts of the past. I went over the decade of drafts leading up to the Ellsbury/Buchholz/Lowrie bonanza of 2005, and Matt Kory looked at the 2007 draft. With any luck, this year's draft will be much more like '05 and less like '97 (don't look, it will only break your heart).
Matt Sullivan continued to relate the tale of Ryan O'Malley, the Sox fan who's come unstuck in time. I won't spoil the ending, but there may be Trafalmadorians involved. Stay tuned.
Today, it'll be David Price and Josh Beckett. I'm sure it'll be a game of polite gestures, tea cozies, and gentle hugs. Not a whisper of animosity. Enjoy the the quiet, folks.