It's generally accepted that the best way to remove a Band-Aid is to just rip it off all in one go.
So far this Red Sox season has been the opposite of that. An excruciatingly slow and painful death, starting with a slow start that was not so slow as to outpace last year's, and then continuing with this awful roller coaster that has again deposited the team below .500 for the first time in a month, and below .500 this late in the season for the first time in over a decade.
Meanwhile, the new second wild card sits there, beckoning. Offering rewards as large as the risks, but at much steeper odds.
It's with that in mind that this loss takes on a much more neutral feeling.
Baseball-wise it was incredibly depressing. Scott Feldman was allowed to go seven innings, allowing just one run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia while the rest of the team struggled to so much as put together two baserunners. This is someone the Sox should be knocking around--and more specifically out of--the park, mind.
Felix Doubront continues to show that he is not simply hitting the wall, but ran into it a month ago and has been stumbling along ever since. He's a promising arm, but not one ready for a full load as a starter after spending his last couple years bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen, never with a full load of innings. He allowed six runs tonight in 5+ innings, and could use nothing so much as a few weeks off.
If only Franklin Morales was still starting and able to spell him. Instead, his return to the bullpen has yielded another bad outing, which isn't a huge surprise with the way he's been pushed back-and-forth this year.
Taking a step back, however, and looking at the full picture, are we finally ripping the Band-Aid off? Is it coming just in time? We saw the high price of rentals earlier Monday with the trades for Dempster (if currently hung up seemingly due to Dempster's personal demands) and Anibal Sanchez. If the Sox stay hanging around, a few games over .500, what lengths will the front office go to in order to chase that high-risk playoff spot after missing out in 2010 and 2011?
It's a tremendously uncomfortable position to be in, where wins--as enjoyable as they may be on the surface--carry with them a sharp stab of fear that perhaps they're actually a long-term detriment to the team. There are rare occasions when rooting against your team becomes even a vague thought in the back of a fan's mind. For instance, when a rival's entry to the playoffs depends on a meaningless win for your team, which has already sewn up their playoff spot.
This is different. It's not so proactive. Every at-bat is spent hoping for the best possible outcome for the Red Sox. It's why three hits from Pedroia, and two from Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia, and Middlebrooks--the last of which took a low-and-away breaking ball and went to the opposite field with power for a double, positive of positives--are absolute joys to watch even though when the score becomes 9-1 and it's clear this is going in the loss column there's a sense that this is not so bad, that given the situation, unfortunate though it may be, this is for the best.
The ideal world has the Red Sox winning tomorrow, and Wednesday, and every day after, taking the playoffs by storm with 11 consecutive wins (assuming a perfect record is enough to catch the Yankees...) and hoisting the trophy on high.
But a more realistic view suggests that the playoffs are unlikely as currently constructed, and that any moves to fix that are going to come at a dire cost. When the team isn't even winning this game or the last three, the ones served to them on a platter to build a strong position, it's hard to believe they'll perform when up against actual rotation members, when they're forced to go back to the struggling Lester or Beckett.
So in the end perhaps it's best that they don't even win these ones. Because while the sudden death is painful, it's not nearly so dangerous as the long slow one which leaves the front office thinking "there's a shot" and "we can't go without the playoffs again" leaving them open to making really damaging mistakes.