Generally speaking, I consider myself a pretty even-keeled person. That sounds like something everyone probably says about themselves, of course, and I’m probably not as even as I think I am. In terms of being a fan of sports teams, though, I think I fall under that category. I’m not an overly enthusiastic person when I watch any sport and I generally move on from both the good and the bad moments fairly quickly. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, obviously depending on the result in any specific case.
I bring this up because, well, it is out of my comfort zone to be making any grand declarations about a baseball team on April 16. Hell, for Maine and Massachusetts, taxes aren’t even due yet. (If you haven’t filed in those states you should probably get on that, though.) We are just about ten percent of the way into a season that is always described as being a marathon and about which we consistently and explicitly warn is not a sprint. Every year, weird things happen over the first few weeks of the season and every year they are mostly forgotten as anything more than a strange footnote by the time September and October rolls around. Remember how good the Mets were early in 2018?
I know all of that to be true, and yet I can’t help but feel differently about what is happening with the Red Sox right now. I will fully acknowledge that this is almost certainly me just being caught up in the moment of watching subpar baseball on the backs of high expectations for weeks on end. It certainly doesn’t help that this is all we’ve seen of the Red Sox, either. People will point out that if a good team was doing this in the middle of the year, we certainly wouldn’t react so viscerally. That’s true! It also leaves out the important context that, in this scenario, we’d have seen the team play good baseball for a long chunk of time, too. So, whether it’s rational or not, despite the team having only played 17 games at this point in the year, the coming week of baseball seems very important for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox have five games remaining this week, with Monday’s game having already been played and Thursday being an off-day. Two of those games will be in New York to take on the Yankees starting on Tuesday. The other three will be down in Florida to take on the Rays in a series beginning Friday. In other words, the Red Sox have two series this week, each facing off against one of the other two teams expected to be at the top of the division by the end of the year.
For the first series, the Red Sox are playing a team that would be the most disappointing in baseball to start this season if it weren’t for their own presence. The Yankees, however, at least have a better excuse than the Red Sox. For Boston, it’s just been that good players and playing bad baseball. The Yankees still have plenty of talent and are not to be taken lightly, but they have been decimated by injury. If the Red Sox can take both of these two games, they would force New York into the same record Boston currently has now. Misery loves company, and it would be nice to be joined by Yankees fans in this sorrow.
While the first series feels important just from a morale and sanity point of view, the second series feels big in terms of actual baseball reasons. The Rays, of course, are the hottest team in baseball this season and have won 12 of their first 16 games. They’ve been good in every area, and while their offense doesn’t have the big names they’ve gotten plenty of production. The pitching, meanwhile, has a guy named Blake Snell and he’s been supported by great pitching from everyone else on the roster, too. As of this writing, Tampa Bay already leads Boston by a whopping 6.5 games. Obviously there’s enough time to make up that deficit, but it’s not impossible that their lead is at double digits if disaster hits in the coming week. That would....not be great!
Really, it’s not even just the results that we’re looking for from the Red Sox this week, though obviously wins would be welcome. What we’re really looking for, however, is the team from last year. Or at least something in that neighborhood. They haven’t clicked on all cylinders for even a brief second this year, and it’s frustrating. We want to see more good starting pitching performances than bad ones. We want to see the offense put forth a consistent attack that puts the other team back on their heels for a change. We want to see a defense that makes all of the routine plays. There’s an old adage in baseball that you can’t win a division early in the year but you can lose it. I’m not sure how true that is, but I’m also not super interested in putting it to the test. More than anything, for my own personal sanity I’d like to see the Red Sox start to right this ship in a week where they play their two biggest rivals in the division. It sure would be nice to get back to that even keel.