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Front-running Red Sox leave good taste

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox eked out a win over the dynamic Cleveland Indians, 3-2, at Progressive Field Monday. Boston's batters put up no runs through the first three innings even while Drew Pomeranz pitched a gem, but eventually the Sox scored three runs, enough to hold off the menacing, first-place Tribe in the bottom of the ninth.

Yowza-yowza. Baseball is hard.

This is exactly why this team is really starting to delight me.

Some would say it's hard to be positive on the day of another game Craig Kimbrel almost blew. I am happy to oblige. Monday's squeaker is a perfect demonstration of exactly why this Red Sox team is so dynamic.

They have scored a whopping 643 runs in 117 games. They have scored the most runs in big league ball. They have the second-best run differential (plus-104) in the American League. So why, oh why, are they wrestling for a playoff spot in a postseason format that accommodates 33 percent (10 of 30) of all teams in the majors?

I know why. It's because baseball is hard.

Okay, I'm done parroting Dan Shaughnessy here. Every word of this column, until now, is taken verbatim or paraphrased from his inexcusable Sunday evening column, "An overpowering concern for Red Sox," in which he called the Red Sox "front-runners" for winning too big from time to time. If the Red Sox didn't put his concerns to rest with a 3-2 win over Cleveland yesterday, let me attempt to finish the job, for the sake of anyone with a sense of decency.

Look, I know going after Shaughnessy is a losing effort, and I know even Peter Gammons has nice things to say about the work that got him into the Hall of Fame. I can't speak to that, and I generally avoid him as part of my bespoke Red Sox media diet, but the dynamics at play here are transparent and unbecoming of any adult that doesn't live halfway up his own curls.

Here's what happened: The Red Sox had two huge wins in a three-day span, and Dan got bored. Ticked off. He felt, more acutely than usual, the uncomfortable feeling that accompanies ostentatious celebrations in the game of failure. The first one hadn't cleared from his memory by the time the second one happened, and a lightbulb went on: There's a narrative on which to buy low.

Everyone knows scoring runs is good. What his theory presupposed is... maybe it isn't? So he slapped a "front-runners" label on the entire team, punishing them for punishing the baseball. Nevermind the team's obvious problems with starting pitching and injuries: The problem is that this young, dynamic squad has a bad attitude, full stop.

It took less than 24 hours for this narrative to disintegrate, because it was printed on toilet paper to begin with. Monday's win was the exact opposite of everything Shaughnessy described. Aside from -- or because of -- eighth and ninth inning hiccups, it was a crisp win that showed exactly how this team can still do some real damage this season. Will they? I don't know. I'm in the business of analysis, not truthiness. Shaughnessy is in the business of what feels true, not what is true, and his job is to get ahead of the gut feelings of Red Sox fans and give voice to them.

He is a front-runner, and the attacks he makes on his opponents are really just descriptions of himself. I've spent too much time in the real world not to see through this nonsense; as Michael Bloomberg said, a New Yorker knows a con when he sees one. This is the three-card monte of sports columns: The only winning move is not to play.

But I did, and now I'm spinning my wheels trying to disprove his negative assessment. It's impossible by design. He is impossible by design. It's by no means unique among columnists of a certain age and stature, but it's always disappointing. Everyone deserves better than this, even him. He doesn’t need to be judged by his worst moments, but at least the Hall of Fame voters were honest in assessing his best ones.

If only he’d return the favor.