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Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Monday Morning Brushback: It Could’ve Been Worse, I Guess?

The Red Sox week in review dives into Chris Sale, issues on offense, and Chaim Bloom.

The Monday Morning Brushback is—much like the Backstreet Boys in 1997—back, alright.

I’m sure you all missed me terribly last week, but I promise I didn’t just go to the store for a pack of cigs and abandon you all. I had some certified Wife Guy stuff to do with family coming into town (that was the best bridal shower I’ve ever been to, on account of it being the only bridal shower I’ve ever been to; I guess that also makes it the worst I’ve been to by default?) before I tie the knot with Missy Mo Peña at the end of September. So, my apologies that I wasn’t able to write about a stinky week of Red Sox baseball for y’all.

The good news is that another stinky week of our beloved team soon followed!

Well, at least it could’ve been more stinky, right? The ending wasn’t even all that stinky! The week was shaping up to be a total disaster before the boys clutched up to win their first series of the year against a good Yankees team in the Bronx. That should inspire at least some confidence—your mileage may vary—but the fact of the matter remains: they’ve gone sub .500 over the last week due after dropping three out of four against another division rival. They lost a series against a very pedestrian Guardians squad. That ain’t gonna cut it.

Then, of course, there’s the elephant in the room from this week. We’ll touch upon that later.

It’s Monday Morning Brushback time, y’all.

Sale La Vie

Cincinnati Reds v Boston Red Sox Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Chris Sale can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to health.

It feels like the lefty’s consistently been on the mend since the start of 2019, dealing with Tommy John surgery, a busted finger, a broken wrist, and rib issues all in that time frame.

It pains me to say it, but Sale is like Mr. Bill from Saturday Night Live. You could see how defeated he looked when talking to the media following the latest developments with his shoulder—and that was before it was announced on Friday that he would be transferred to the 60-day injury list, keeping him out of the mix until at least early August.

A few scattered thoughts on the latest setback for Sale:

  1. This should go without being said, but I can’t really hold his poor record of health against him. It just sucks that his body won’t allow him to do what he does best for consistent stretches. I thought maybe we were out of the woods after his latest hot streak—he was good for a 2.42 ERA and 30 strikeouts over 26 frames prior to the start he had against Cincy where he left early. Hell, I didn’t even assume the worst with this latest shoulder trouble. Call me naïve, that’s fair. But here we are: towards the end of the big contract extension he signed back in 2019, with only 22 regular season starts to his name since the beginning of 2020. Flashes of brilliance have been shown in those appearances, but his health just can’t seem to hold up. That’s no one’s fault, really. Injuries happen...they just so happen to pop up more for number 41. It’s easy to say that the extension should not have been offered with the benefit of hindsight, but no one can read the future. I’m happy Sale got a bag at the end of the day. It’s unfortunate that his past few seasons haven’t panned out like we had all hoped, though.
  2. Branching off of that: I think we’re officially in “what could have been” territory when looking at Sale’s entire career. The 34-year-old is no spring chicken; not many people would disagree with you if you said that his best days are behind him. But Sale’s list of ailments has potentially robbed us of major supporting arguments for his case to receive a plaque in Cooperstown. Did you know that, according to Baseball Reference, Chris Sale leads all qualified pitchers with the best K/9 rate ever at 11.1? His career ERA stands at 3.08 while his career WHIP is damn close to an even 1.00. He’s never won the award, sure, but he had six consecutive seasons where he came in the top-five in Cy Young voting. These factors would have resulted in a damn good Hall of Fame résumé if his body cooperated over the last couple of seasons...and my aunt would be a bicycle if she had wheels. Jacob deGrom (who’s 34 as well) also has a dazzling track record and awful injury history. If he—the guy who’s got a pair of Cy Youngs to boot—isn’t getting into the Hall of Fame when his name gets on the ballot, then Chris Sale doesn’t have a shot. Again: what could have been...
  3. As for the current Red Sox rotation: I dunno, man! Yes, Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck, and Brayan Bello all gave some solid efforts in New York. You can see the path for someone like Bello developing into a quality contributor on a consistent basis one day, and his pitching Sunday night kept the Sox in the game. But you’re kidding yourself if you think any starter on the team right now has the upside that Sale provides. Again: we saw the ace that was promised shove over the last month prior to the shoulder trouble popping up. That stopper—that alpha dog—is now gone for the foreseeable future. What’s left are a collection of guys who have their fair share of question marks.

This stat from Codify is a few days old now (Houck and Bello’s performances over the weekend were good enough to bump that up to 14 for the Sox) but the principle behind it remains: Chris Sale alone has had four of those games. Boston’s presumably going to be leaving a lot up to the bullpen going forward without Sale in the picture. Buckle up.

Have To Wake Up Bats

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Let me take you back to the last MMB article I wrote. It was published back on May 29, back when there was more optimism surrounding this team and before I knew that Baby Gronk was rizzed up by Livvy en route to becoming the new Drip King. Here’s what I said about the Boston offense, which was struggling at the time:

The offense has been generally cold ever since getting shutout last Sunday against San Diego. It’s easy to chalk up a bad night or two tough luck or say “hey, shit happens.” But when it’s the primary contribution to dropping tilts in a row to a team that also figures to be right in the thick of the wild card race, it’s worth mentioning.

Yet I’m not worried about the offense. I’m not concerned at all, as a matter of fact. Not even a single instance of me fretting!

Bad days at the office do happen. The season is long. If you want to get into sample sizes, this stretch of below-par hitting doesn’t wash away what was accomplished in the nearly two month period that preceded it. I’m starting to fret a bit. Wasn’t the first cold take I’ve ever had, and it won’t be the last.

As a whole, the Red Sox offense was bad this week. There’s no other way to describe it. Between Monday’s loss to the Rays and Sunday’s win over the Yankees, Boston batters only got on base at a .302 clip, while logging a collective .655 OPS in that time. For reference: that latter mark would put the Sox in the bottom three in MLB if it were stretched out across the entire season thus far, sandwiched between Oakland (who haven’t even won 20 games yet) and Detroit (who, if we’re being technical, are almost as close to a playoff spot as we are on account of being about 10 games under .500 in the worst division in baseball—go fuckin’ figure). Boston has been able to score more than a trio of runs just twice since June 3. All of that is unacceptable.

The team isn’t striking out at an abnormally awful rate, either—the offense’s K rate was at around 20% entering Sunday night. It’s really come down to a lack of timely offense. Rafael Devers’ weekend in New York went well, but there wasn’t really much to write home about outside of that. The team went 2-16 with runners in scoring position against New York. The series against the Guardians wasn’t much better: Boston hit just .179 in those scoring opportunities. That’s not gonna win you many ball games.

We’ve seen what this offense can do, which makes it all the more frustrating when stinkers at the plate like that are put up. Adam Duvall checking back into the lineup could help inject some pop here and there, but the bats need to get going again if the Red Sox want to really turn the ship around.

Where’s Pedro Cerrano when you need him?

Regarding Chaim Bloom

Fenway Park Mayors Walkthrough Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

I don’t want to exhaust myself too much here going into Boston’s decision to start Matt Dermody this past week week in Cleveland. But a week in review article on the team would not be complete if that wasn’t mentioned, so I’ll say this much:

As a baptized and confirmed Catholic myself, I think any justification of homophobia is disgusting. That’s not “politics as usual” talk, either. That’s just straight up gross dialogue. People should not be condemning others to Hell on the basis of them being gay—that feels like a pretty easy rule of thumb to follow if you ask me, and if you disagree then you are more than welcome to stop reading.

My colleagues at OTM Bryan Joiner, Dan Secatore, and Maura McGurk have already covered the situation extensively and more eloquently than I could—I would direct you to their pieces since I’m not sure how much I could add to that dialogue.

As for Chaim Bloom’s involvement in this, though: this is another example of an unforced error being made. To echo what Bryan mentioned, how bad has it gotten where the team had to resort to Dermody? I want to ask Bloom if it was worth it to rely on a guy who had never made a previous start in the Majors beforehand, the same guy who threw only two (2) MLB innings since the end of 2017 and had a 5.60 ERA over just under 30 frames prior to start against Guardians, just to DFA him immediately afterwards. That’s a tough proposition to begin with, even without the off-field stuff mixed in.

I want to ask him if he genuinely thought that was best for the team and for the “Five Year Plan” that Mr. Joiner outlined in his article. If he took some truth serum, I’m not sure which answer would be worse. If he didn’t think it was the best course of action, I’d like to know what was and why that avenue wasn’t explored. If he thought it was the best route to take...well, I think that speaks even more volumes.

We are in year four of the Chaim Bloom experience. If Red Sox fans are to believe that this is a five-year process, then we shouldn’t be expecting guys like Matt fuckin’ Dermody to be taking the ball in an important rubber matchup when the team is just treading water. The framework of that process implies that there would have been progress at this juncture.

I guess an oft-used shitposting quote can make this long point short: what the hell is Chaim Bloom cooking?

Song Of The Week: “I Feel for You” by Chaka Khan

A chunky and funky 80’s bopper to get your week goin’. I didn’t go into this article knowing I was gonna pick this track, and I’m sure you could say the same. Don’t question it, though. Just enjoy it.

Same time and same place next week, friends. Go Sox.

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