"If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially."
- Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
If you're a Red Sox fan these days, Hemingway's cruel vision of the world bears a striking resemblance to the realm of baseball. So when watching the Sox muddle through another woeful stretch of games, it's important to remember that things could be worse. Sure, the bullpen is shell-shocked, and the lineup looks something like this, but you could be rooting for the Pirates, Royals or the Marlins, whose organizations barely try to compete, let alone dump $170 million on payroll (like Theo did). You could be a diehard Rays fan, a jackalope, a unicorn, or another mythical creature.
In any event, the situation for Boston is pretty bleak right now - they're in the midst of a long West coast road trip that isn't going well. They split a series against one of the worst teams in baseball, a Mariners squad whose lineup probably wouldn't start for Pawtucket (they're dead last in the AL in runs scored, and I do mean 'dead'). Since the second half began, we've scored 34 runs in 11 games: a little more than 3 runs per game. That might work for Clay and Lester, but Wakefield, Matsuzaka, Lackey and Beckett all need more to work with. (Click Continue Reading for more.)
Boston seemed deceptively good before. The offense was providing an average of 5.46 runs per game and picking up our mediocre pitching. Lackey has an excellent W-L largely because he received a ton of run support, not because he has pitched especially well. But just as portfolios of subprime real estate lose their luster when housing prices collapse, so do offenses that come to depend on subprime players like Eric Patterson, Jeremy Hermida, and Bill Hall. With half the lineup replaced by AAA podpeople, the slightest hiccup or slump from one of the remaining starters has a disastrous effect on our run-production.
What can be done? More tactically-minded people can speculate on white knights that might ride in during the trade deadline to slay our dragons and rescue our playoff chances. More optimistic folk will conclude that we finally have the rotation in order (Matsuzaka 5th, Wake banished to the pen, Beckett healthy and Lackey pitching better), and our starting position players will return eventually.
My take is more fatalistic: whatever will be, will be. It will come down to the team getting healthy and playing signiticantly better. If the Sox don't accomplish this, there will be recriminations directed at Theo and his amazing $170 million injury-development machine; at Tito for his glacial hook; at Wally for his failure to cheerlead with the proper intensity. But in the end, these are just placeholders, convenient scapegoats - it's up to the players on the field to perform. How that goes is anyone's guess, but I don't like what we're seeing so far.