There’s really nothing positive that can be said about the Red Sox right now, who were thoroughly embarrassed on Friday night to drop to 2-7 over their first nine games. Nine games. You will undoubtedly hear many times between now and first pitch on Saturday that’s only been nine games, and that’s true. That’s 5.5 percent of an MLB season, which is nothing! It’s also not much solace in the moment as you watch a wildly talented team drop game after game after game. Yes, they should most definitely turn things around and probably sooner than later, but in the meantime that only makes it that much more frustrating. You know they should be better and they just...aren’t! Perhaps the worst part is that these aren’t just hard-luck, fluky losses. That would be tough to watch, but ultimately easier to brush aside. No, these seven losses have been straight-up terrible as the team has failed at every level.
Friday was, without a doubt, the lowlight of this young season and truly felt like a culmination of everything that had happened up to that point. It feels like it can’t get any worse than that, but famous last words and all that. As one looks for reasons and scapegoats here, you have to start at the top. By that I mean Alex Cora. It feels crazy to say anything negative about the Red Sox manager after how amazing he was in 2018. It goes without saying that nothing I’m about to say should imply any thought of putting him on the hot seat or anything remotely close to that. Still, he has not had a good start to the season. His job is to put his players in the best position to succeed and get players ready to play. They are clearly not ready to play. I stand by my assertion that it’s too early to question Cora’s playing time plan in spring training, but with that time off he had to find a way to get these guys ready to play, if mentally over anything else. He has failed to do that. On a more micro level, I haven’t been crazy about some of Cora’s lineup decisions, particularly the fact that he has already flip-flopped multiple times on the Mookie Betts/Andrew Benintendi leadoff situation.
Going down a rung on the coaching staff, both Dan LeVangie and Tim Hyers haven’t looked great here either. It’s always easy — often too easy — to place blame on pitching and hitting coaches, but when everyone is performing poorly you can’t ignore it. LeVangie’s rotation has been an unmitigated disaster tossing batting practice every day, and while the offense has scored a bunch of runs a disproportionate number of them have come in garbage time situations. Early in games they’ve let too many situations go by. Adjustments need to be made on both sides, and while I have total faith in both LeVangie and Hyers to find those adjustments, they haven’t done so yet.
That being said, blaming the coaching staff and even the manager feels too much like taking the blame away from the players, and that’s where this ultimately lies. At the end of the day, we are talking about a veteran team who know what it takes to come into a season strong, and they’ve failed terribly so far. The guys who are not playing as well as they should are the ones who deserve the most attention at the end of the day. Every pitcher in this rotation is performing poorly and the home run problem is on the verge of just being comical at this point (I’m not mad I’m actually laughing). They need to take responsibility and just make better pitching. The constant pointing at the lack of spring training work and Sandy León being taken off the roster are valid points, at least, but they also amount to making excuses. The pitchers have pitched poorly, full stop.
On offense, like I said, the run totals are not bad. They’ve had some good stretches with the bats, but ultimately the position player group has been disappointing just like the pitching staff. Early in games, even when they do come through and take early leads like they did on Friday, it has always seemed as though they are leaving runs on the table. Granted, no team is ever going to knock in every runner in scoring position, but the Red Sox are failing at a higher rate than they should. The team is also falling behind after the first pitch at far too high of a rate, leaving them on the defensive for a large chunk of their at bats. It’s led to weak contact and ground balls. On top of the offense, this team has made a lot of mistakes on the bases already — how many times can one team be thrown out by Ramón Laureano before they learn! — they’ve made eight errors and have had multiple instances of miscommunication in the field. It’s been one mistake after another in all facets of the game.
Nothing here is going to be news to anyone reading it, and admittedly it has turned into more of a venting rant than anything else. It’s just frustrating to watch, though, as the Red Sox have stumbled out of the gate to an extent that no one could have expected. Starting on the road for 11 games in 11 days certainly hasn’t helped, but again it’s just making excuses. The fact of the matter is that everyone — except maybe the bullpen; good job guys — needs to play better regardless of the circumstances. This team is too talented to be so thoroughly embarrassed by three different teams. At the end of the day, though, it’s only been nine games, right?