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All that’s left is to play spoiler

Or keep losing, but I’d prefer to play spoiler.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

I hate to be the one who has to tell you this, but the Red Sox are a bad baseball team. Like, literally one of the worst in all of baseball. As we sit here on Wednesday morning with the team having a day off, they sit with a record of 15-29, tied with the Rangers for the very worst record in all of baseball. At this point, there are many Red Sox fans simply rooting for more losses in order to gain better draft position next spring. It’s not an illogical thought. The team is out of it, so might as well get the best possible draft position. What’s the difference between finishing last and first among non-playoff teams, right? Tuesday’s report from Baseball America that draft order is likely to be based solely on 2021 — that had been an open question with the shortened season — only strengthened that rallying cry. It’s worth mentioning that we don’t really know what the spring amateur baseball schedule will look like, but even amid that uncertainty a high pick is still better than a low one.

So, like I said, it’s not really a viewpoint that I can fault. That said, it’s not as if the guys on the field are trying to lose for better draft position. That could be in the minds of the front office, but players both have competitive pride and also are playing for future contracts and job opportunities. If they’re on the field, they have every incentive to produce. The same goes for the coaching staff, particularly since Ron Roenicke seemed like a one-year stop gap even before the season and the way things have gone certainly haven’t changed that. He’s also playing for future jobs, to say nothing of the obligation to the competitive integrity of the game to put something resembling the best possible lineup out there each and every day.

And then that brings things to me, who can’t really bring myself to root for a loss every day. Don’t get me wrong, as I said above I understand the appeal of the high pick and can’t pick apart the logic. I just can’t sit down and watch a game hoping for a loss. I’ll lose my mind. Granted, I certainly get over a loss much more quickly under these circumstances, but as the game is happening I still can’t bring myself to root for anything besides the Red Sox scoring more runs than whoever they’re playing. So, I need another thing to root for in a lost season, which brings me to the concept of playing spoiler.

One of the only good things about being a bad team — aside from high draft position, I suppose — is that you can basically sneak up on other teams. We hear in all sports about looking ahead on the schedule and falling into trap games, and that’s what the Red Sox are. They’re a walking trap game. They’re bad, of course, but they at least have an offense that we’ve seen can put up runs in bunches. They can grab unexpected wins at times, and in fact over their last 20 games they’re a semi-respectable 9-11. That’s a playoff contender this year!

The point is, they can win games and beat good teams at least some of the time, and they’re going to be playing playoff contenders the rest of the way. Of course, we have to mention that almost everyone is a playoff contender in this expanded field, but that’s what makes things fun for a team like the Red Sox down the stretch. Boston now has the ability to ruin teams’ seasons one by one. And as a fan, I can absolutely get behind this. I very much enjoy this idea and the potential schadenfreude that comes with watching another fan base realize their playoff hopes were dashed, at least partially, by one of the worst teams in baseball. It helps that I have friends who root for a lot of different teams, and I like seeing my friends miserable. I might not be the best friend, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Anyway, as I said, the Red Sox play a whole lot of contenders down the stretch. The team has only five more series left on the schedule, and all of them are against teams that, as of now, still have their playoff hopes alive.

  • They start off their end-of-year schedule against the Rays this weekend. Tampa Bay is pretty firmly in the playoff picture, but they sit only 3.5 games up in the AL East. A big weekend from the Red Sox could start to make them uncomfortable about their position atop the division.
  • The Marlins have been one of the most surprising teams in baseball and they currently sit with one of the two wildcard spots in the National League. It is a close race, though, with the Rockies just a couple games back, so a sweep in Miami could lead to the Marlins falling back out of position.
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays
You hate to see it
Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images
  • The biggest series is next week against the Yankees, who are absolutely reeling right now. As I write this, they sit with a .500 record and just a half-game lead over the Orioles for final wildcard spot. They are 7-0 against the Red Sox and just 14-21 against everyone else. Next weekend’s three-game set at Fenway is time to make up for that and help put the nail in their coffin.
  • That’s actually followed by a series against the Orioles. If they are still battling with the Yankees for that final wildcard spot, this would actually be the one time I’d endorse tanking. Put José Peraza on the mound for all three games.
  • The Red Sox finish off their season against the Braves, who are in a similar position as the Rays in that they are pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot but can have their seeding changed drastically. Boston could have a chance to force them to play the Dodgers in the first round, for example.

For most normal, well-adjusted people out there, I would suspect that the appeal of a high draft pick supersedes making other people sad. Fortunately for you, I am neither normal nor well-adjusted. The Red Sox aren’t going to win all of these series, of course, but if they can ruin the playoff chances or seedings of at least two or three of these teams, I’ll consider this a successful final stretch of the season.