ARLINGTON, TX: Cody Ross #7 of the Boston Red Sox watches as the home run ball goes into the Rangers bullpen hit by Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
This isn't about what should have been. It isn't about awful injury luck or too many seeing-eye grounders. It isn't about BABIP, FIP, or Hit List Factor. This is about what has happened on the field, not what should have happened or what could have happened. It's about what is right now.
It also isn't about who is "accountable" by the media's definition. I don't care about who talks to the media or what they say if they talk. I care about one thing and that is winning baseball games. This isn't to suggest the 2012 Red Sox are any different. They care. I know that they do and anyone who suggests differently is either ill-informed, has an axe to grind, or both.
As of this writing the Red Sox are 49-50, 10.5 games behind the Yankees (and everyone else, tied with Toronto) in the AL East, and five games in back of the second Wild Card slot. Baseball Prospectus gives them a 16.5 percent chance to win a Wild Card. They have a one percent chance to win the division which is probably based more on the amount of time left in the season than anything else. For some perspective BP gives the Orioles a half a percent chance to win the division, which as you'll note is a half a percent below the Red Sox. Basically they're the same. For some reason Cool Standings gives the Red Sox a 20 percent chance of making the playoffs. That is broken down as a 15 percent chance at a Wild Card spot and a five percent shot at catching New York (and everyone else) for the division.
Those aren't good odds but having watched the Red Sox over the last week I don't think anyone could conclude but one thing: they sound way too high.
That's where we are. Now if we play the season over 999,999 more times maybe the Red Sox would win the World Series ten percent of the time. Maybe fifteen. Maybe three. Doesn't matter. We can't do that. This team may have 110 win potential. It may be a better team than every AL East team on paper. But it isn't a better team than any AL East team now, here, in this reality. That's the one that matters.
Could things change this season? Of course they could. We all thought the Sox were a lock for the playoffs on September 1 of last year. It's worth noting the projection systems thought so too. It's also worth noting the reason we all thought the Sox were a lock to make the playoffs: because nothing on the level of that massive embarrassing disaster had ever occurred before. This is to say it's not an every year occurrence. As far as we know it's a once-in-every-136-years-occurrence. So infrequent.
So, from where we stand now, all the available information says the 2012 the Red Sox are probably not a a playoff team. Probably. Considering the financial penalty for dumping players as well as the money already spent on the team on the field and it probably makes sense for the organization to not punt the rest of the year by trading everyone in sight. If a good deal comes along for someone like Cody Ross (whom I've grown to love) or Andrew Miller (whom I've grown indifferent towards) or Mike Aviles the team should absolutely explore it. Those guys aren't long term building blocks. Make trades around the edges can improve the depth of the farm system and not destroy whatever chances remain for the team to win this year.
But just because 2012 is a lost cause doesn't mean 2013 is as well. It isn't. I don't believe there is some fatal flaw in the team's chemistry or constitution that will prevent them from winning going forward. Therefore I'm not advocating trading the pillars of this team. I keep Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Will Middlebrooks, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Jacoby Ellsbury. All of those guys are very good players for their positions, well above average, and all of them can help the Red Sox win a lot of games in 2013. That should be, in my most humble of opinions, the front office's goal now. Put the club in the best possible position to win the AL East in 2013.
Now there is nothing wrong with exploring trades for every player on the roster. If a team feels they badly need Red Sox Player X, the front office should (and I'm sure would) listen to offers. But this isn't the Youk situation. This isn't saying, 'we're gonna trade this guy so whomever gives us the most gets him.' Trade guys who don't fit either in the short term or the long term but not at the expense of next season.
Theo Epstein spoke a while back of a bridge year. The term was turned into fodder for the talk radio set, but the idea wasn't unsound. A time when for various reasons the talent on the field isn't quite there. It happens to every team not named "Yankees." Sometimes you plan on a bridge year and other times a bridge year is hoisted upon you without your consent. Good teams have bad years. This may be a blip on the radar. This may be just a massive helping of bad luck, random injuries, and unfortunate circumstances. Whatever it is, the pieces exist on the roster right now to be competitive in 2013. Don't blow up 2013 because 2012 isn't working out.