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Dark in August

It’s been a bad month. Keep your heads up.

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Maybe it was too good to be true. Coming off a nightmare 2020—in every way—the Red Sox surged into first place in April against virtually every prediction, and there they stayed for the most part, until this month.

On the podcast someone asked if we had any business being upset, given that all of this was found money, that we never expected to be in this position, and that, in aggregate, the team is still way ahead of where anyone expected them to be. To which I said yes: You’re human, and it’s natural to be upset at all this. It’s objectively upsetting.

At the same time, the players are human too. Even if Matt Barnes has somehow imploded because he signed a contract extension, which I do not believe is the case, it’s just a thing that happens. Correlation does not equal causation, and given the team’s extremely conservative approach at the trade deadline, it’s clear that Chaim Bloom is always looking to the long term with these deals. Barnes was due for regression, and Bloom had to know that. This is a particularly dramatic example of said regression, but everything this month has been dramatic, hasn’t it?

As of Thursday, the Sox still have a 77 percent chance to make the playoffs, per FanGraphs, though such heady odds don’t really do much for me when the ship is taking on as much water as it has been doing. Increasingly, the playoffs look like they could be a short and sour affair. A lot can change in a month, of course, but they can change in either direction. Logic says regression in the other direction, the more positive direction, to the mean is likely coming, but even that can’t account for the fact even a smidge of said regression would just result in the Sox beating the teams they’re supposed to beat.

Add it all up and a clear picture emerges of this team and how it’s viewed by Bloom. He plainly believes that in order to have a better chance of winning it all later on, some sacrifices needed to be made this year. That was one thing in April and another thing altogether in July, except to him it’s all just the same thing. He made a lot of the sacrifices for this year up front, stocking the rotation with castaways, and for a few months it hardly looked like anything was sacrificed at all, so we got excited. Fenway returned to full capacity, and the party was on.

Now, not entirely unlike the Delta variant re-emerging in our packed-stadium world, the party is quickly dying down. Even when the Sox win these days, it seems like each day is a little worse than the last. For the longest time it seemed like Chris Sale was going to be the supplement to an already healthy team, one that could steer the Sox for a real World Series run. Now he seems like a booster shot, mostly around to ensure things don’t get even worse.

The one good thing about this year is that they can’t take the spring away from us. As much as we focus on winning championships, baseball passes the time on a day by day basis, and sometimes we need it more than others. I’d argue we never needed it as much as we needed it this year, and I’ve never been more grateful for a team simply doing its work the way this team did before this month. If it’s only human to feel sad about what’s happening now, it’s important to keep things in perspective, even if you think they’ve blown a serious chance at a title run. They’re all human, too. That should be why we love them, and not the other way around.