This time of year, in a season like this, many Red Sox fans have checked out. And who’s to blame them? Between seemingly endless contract negotiations (or lack thereof) with our big stars, a floundering bullpen that’s being questionably managed, and just overall poor gameplay, this year’s Red Sox are simply not fun to watch. That is, of course, outside of some early glimmers of promise: Triston Casas is playing up to lofty expectations; Brayan Bello is improving with each appearance; and Kiké Hernandez’s contract extension plugs a hole for us, even if we’re not sure what position he’ll be playing yet. (Please be center field! Please be center field!) These are all things that, if you’re on this site, I probably do not have to tell you, but in the interest of you all knowing that I have my finger on the pulse of the team in my first article, please take that summary, as indulgent as it may be, and revel in the fact that our beloved Red Sox are just not performing that well.
It’s tempting to turn the television off or do literally anything else, because it is September, and there is another sport capturing the hearts and minds of the average sports fan, and our local team is contending! Oh… wait… it’s not 2017 anymore? And we’re not contending in football either? And that new stud in the AFC is now an established stud with a shiny new contract? And money from that new contract is being used for that quarterback to become a minority owner of a baseball team? And that baseball team is facing the Red Sox this year? And that baseball team is the Kansas City Royals, and the Royals are in a similar boat as the Red Sox this year? So you’re saying this is a winnable series? Well… maybe.
Looking at the Red Sox opponent for the penultimate series not against an AL East foe this season, the numbers speak boldly for this Kansas City Royals team. This is not a very good team. And I’m only talking about the surface level stats. They traded away their leader in batting average to the Yankees. (A player who, for my money, would be a welcome addition to the Red Sox. Where do we get guys like him, anyway?) Their second-best player in that all-important stat (Edward Olivares) has been rehabbing a quad injury since July, but stands a chance of returning to major league action just in time for the series at Fenway. Beyond that, no full-time member of the roster has even hit .270. The team has a few power threats in shortstop Bobby Witt and catcher Salvador Perez, the latter of whom is their longest tenured player, but beyond some offensive flashes, the team still manages fewer than four runs a game (3.92) while allowing 4.71 runs, good for dead last in the AL. Oh, and the second-highest paid player on their paltry $92 million payroll is Zack Grienke, who is showing every bit of his 38 years of age. All of this is to say, with some acknowledgment of that minuscule payroll, that the Royals kind of suck. But they also probably know they suck.
By trading away Benintendi and longtime utility player Whit Merrifield to more dignified contenders, Kansas City conceded that this team is going nowhere this season, a waving of the white flag that some (okay, possibly most) Red Sox fans now retroactively wish our management had done. Pitchers like reliever Scott Barlow have looked pretty solid this year, and in the rotation, Kris Bubic has looked far better than his abysmal record would suggest. The Royals have very much embraced looking to the future. Though, much like the Red Sox, with every decision Kansas City makes, it seems as though more questions rise to the surface — for both ownership and fans. Acknowledging that, here are some questions I, a devoted Red Sox fan, have going into this three game weekend series against the blue and white:
- Can Triston Casas, who’s been playing pretty well for a rookie, continue to establish himself as our first baseman of the future?
- With a fraction of the season left, can Xander Boegarts and Rafael Devers use this inconsistent/rough pitching to leverage shiny new deals?
- Is Michael Wacha (Friday’s probable starter and our ace this season) worth double his 2022 salary? Can he possibly continue to prove it in this series? Will John Henry pay it?
- So, what’s the deal with Yu Chang? And how does his recent claim and subsequent call up play a part in what the team is thinking for 2023? And, Chaim, come on man, we make a lot of jokes about Boston turning into Tampa North, but do you unironically think that we do need to carry a certain number of Ex-Rays?
- Speaking of X-rays (and injuries), is Kutter Crawford going to make an appearance this weekend and make his case for a roster spot next year? Is Josh Winckowski going to be called up for an appearance against his former team?
- Will seeing how solid Salvador Perez has constantly been for the Royals be a factor in our search for a catcher this offseason? And if so, where do we get one of those guys anyway? And is it anything like how we get a nice, leadoff left fielder?
- Is watching Vinnie Pasquantino, Kansas City’s rookie first baseman, going to make Red Sox fans do that thing where they compare him to Casas, or, even worse, Franchy Cordero, who isn’t even an actual first baseman?
- Okay, but for real: why on earth is that city not actually in Kansas? And why does Kansas have a Kansas City right next to Kansas City, Missouri?
As much as I may pontificate on all this and things that seem, if possible, far more trivial, I don’t have all the answers. And, for as much as Chaim Bloom is paid by this organization, and for how much stock we all are guilty of putting in his decisions, the season is still progressing at rapid pace. And although the Red Sox are destined to be golfing in October, these outcomes will play out how they will in direct response to how a team like the Red Sox plays against a team like the Royals. So, as easy as it may be to turn off your MLB app this weekend so you don’t have to witness Boston lose in two different sports, at least give garbage time baseball a chance, because a certain other team has a part-owner playing a football game on Thursday this week and won’t have the choice of opting out. Enjoy! Or at least try to, before you’re forced to see that certain Royals owner make another playoff appearance and have no baseball to turn to.
Friday, 7:10 PM: Jonathan Heasley vs. Michael Wacha
Saturday, 4:10 PM: Brady Singer vs. Rich Hill
Sunday, 1:35 PM: Kris Bubic vs. Nick Pivetta