The Red Sox are bad. It’s not just that they have a bad record, because we’ve seen last place Red Sox teams in the recent past. This is a different level of bad. This is easily the worst Red Sox team I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, and it really doesn’t look like there’s much hope for things turning around. There are some struggling bats that I believe will turn it around, but the pitching frankly is what it is and you just can’t win with them.
And yet, I have to watch every night because it is my job, and I would still be watching every night even if it wasn’t because that’s what I do. It’s just not very fun right now. So, I wanted to rack my brain a bit and see if there are still reasons to watch this team for the rest of the year. Just keep in mind that I’m talking about this on a strictly day-to-day basis. There are long-term implications for the rest of the year — the trade deadline, the luxury tax penalties resetting, draft position — but I’m talking about enjoyment you can get by sitting on your couch night in and night out watching this team. Surprisingly, there are a handful of reasons!
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s defense
The impetus for this post was actually this very reason. I don’t remember exactly what play it was, but I know he made a play and I thought, “There’s only a few of those left.” Bradley is a free agent at the end of the year and it seems unlikely that he’ll be re-signed. In fact, it would appear to be a near certainty that he’ll at least be shopped at the deadline. Whatever your thoughts on his bats, from a pure aesthetic, joyful point of view watching baseball, there are few things as fun as watching him roam the outfield. The diving catches and home run robberies are, of course, amazing, but I’ll also miss the way he runs for balls without watching it and just how smooth he makes even the most routine plays look. So I’m going to enjoy every fly ball to center field the rest of the way and don’t want to miss any of them.
Xander Bogaerts’s bat
It’s become pretty easy to underrate just how good of a hitter Xander Bogaerts is. The shortstop isn’t quite having a normal Bogaerts season — he’s striking out more and not squaring it up quite as much — and he still has a 126 wRC+. He’s entered something close to the top tier of hitters in the game, and he does it while employing one of the best approaches in the game and one of the best two-strike approaches as well. He’s the face of the franchise, and while it sucks the Red Sox are wasting a year of his prime, it’s still nice to be able to see that prime as it happens.
The best pitches
Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat this Red Sox pitching staff. It stinks. But there are still some good individual offerings that I enjoy watching and will continue to enjoy watching. My personal favorite pitch in the game is a big, loopy curveball, which is a specialty for guys like Brandon Workman and Matt Barnes. Everyone reacts to big velocity, and Nathan Eovaldi is still around. Darwinzon Hernandez hasn’t come back yet, but his slider is sick. Same with Josh Taylor. I don’t expect the run prevention to improve all that much as the year goes on, but some individual pitchers are still a blast to watch.
Alex Verdugo’s development
For better or for worse, Verdugo is now the right fielder of the future and he’s already settling in as the leadoff hitter. It’s hard to see him being removed from that spot any time soon. I think people want to be excited about him and so some of the reactions to his performance thus far have been overblown, but at the same time it’s not hard to see where the future production could come from. The hope is he’ll continue to turn more into that complete, finished product by the end of the year.
The Red Sox aren’t exactly teeming with top prospects, but they have a few that we should see by the end of the year. Bobby Dalbec should get his chance sooner than later. Tanner Houck could start as soon as Sunday. If the Red Sox trade Bradley, that could open an opportunity for Jarren Duran to come up. Bryan Mata should at least get a chance out of the bullpen this year. Jeter Downs and Connor Wong could get chances by the end of the year as well. Hell, even Jay Groome could get a chance at the end of the year. He does need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, so if they plan on protecting him why not do it at the end of the year rather than the winter?
At the very least, whenever the game is on NESN there’s a very good chance Dennis Eckersley will say something absurd and funny at least a couple times throughout the evening.