It was a little after 10 PM ET on Saturday when the final out was made in the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies game. Carlos Carrasco, returning from fighting cancer, induced an Adam Haseley ground out. Yu Chang threw it over to Carlos Santana, and that was all she wrote. The Indians won the baseball game, 5-2, and with that win, the Boston Red Sox were officially eliminated from the playoff hunt.
Moments later, Mitch Moreland hit a 2 run home run that tied their game with the Rays. It was actually pretty poetic. This is a team that started the season so poorly, so out of focus, and so sluggishly that many predicted this season would be a lost one from the outset. The Sox fell further and further behind in the standings, ending the month of April seven games back of the Tampa Bay Rays, and in fourth place (behind even the Blue Jays).
They played better as the season went on. The poor April was followed by an excellent May, June, and July, and a passable (if unsexy) August. Their record throughout those months was 60-46 (or on pace for a 91 win season, the exact number of wins the Indians presently have, after knocking the Red Sox out of the playoffs). April was just too slow to recover from without playing an incredible brand of baseball that was just not in the cards this year. A sluggish September didn’t help things, and the Sox stopped controlling their own destiny a long time ago.
So when Mitch Moreland hit that homerun, moments after elimination, it felt like poetic justice. That was a microcosm of the season. The 2019 Red Sox: Just Too Late To Matter.
We can put the blame wherever we want. That’s not what this article is about. It’s not about underperforming starters, poor performance in clutch situations, bad luck, injuries, or the New York Yankees making a deal with the devil to revive the career of Gio Urshela, among others. What it is about, is the matter of the fact. The 2019 Red Sox are dead. And that’s all she wrote.
The Red Sox were a fun, if not incredibly frustrating team to watch in 2019. They had terrific performances from Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez, and most of all, Rafael Devers. They got solid production — by their lofty standards — from Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. Michael Chavis provided a spark early when the Red Sox were in need of a spark. Brock Holt continued being Brock Holt. Eduardo Rodriguez pitched his butt off. Chris Sale and David Price did what they could, but bad sequencing and bad luck doomed their respective ERAs to be a full run and a half run above their FIPs. The bullpen was a surprise, and had several incredible performances that deserve their own paragraph.
So they’ll get one. Brandon Workman emerged as the ace of the pen. Josh Taylor was surprisingly good. Darwinzon Hernandez took to the bullpen better than even the biggest optimist probably expected in a quick manner. Even Marcus Walden stands out as a positive influence on the bullpen in 2019. For a part of the team we all expected to struggle... it ended up being a strength in surprising times.
Despite so many good performances individually, the 2019 Red Sox just couldn’t put it all together. Not until it was too late. And that’s fine. Sometimes, life has a funny way of coming full-circle. They largely returned a roster that annihilated the competition and won 108 games in the regular season. That roster might not win 88 games. Dropping 20 wins with largely the same roster feels impossible. And yet, it’s very possible. We just witnessed it. Baseball is beautiful, even in the darkest of times.
The 2019 Red Sox are dead, and they will be survived by the 2020 Red Sox. Those Sox have a lot of questions about their future, which is fair. The unknown is scary, after all.
Rick Porcello is an upcoming free agent. After his season, it’s easy to assume he won’t be back. J.D. Martinez has an opt-out that he can exercise. He also has one next off-season if he chooses to stick it out one more year. Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley both enter the last years of team control. One or both of them may be traded for differing reasons. With it not clear who will be calling all the shots in the future, the futures of these players is also hazy. Is Mookie traded this off-season? Does he finally get signed to an extension? If he does, where does J.D. go? Who is going to take Porcello’s spot in the rotation?
It’s going to be a very important off-season for the Red Sox to address those questions. These are questions that need answers, and relatively soon.
The 2020 Red Sox begin their regular season in Toronto, on March 26th, 2020. That’s 188 days away (from September 20th, 2019). The clock is ticking.
Rest in peace, 2019 Red Sox. I can’t speak for everyone, but I loved you, for all your flaws and warts.