It blows my mind how quickly this season has gone by. It feels like just yesterday Boston was celebrating our 12th? (I've lost count) championship of this century when the Pats won the Super Bowl. Now it's already the end of the MLB All-Star break. The Celtics and Bruins were in the playoffs this year, which meant Boston didn't catch Red Sox fever until...actually Boston still hasn't caught Red Sox fever this year.
There's a lot of reasons for this, and Felger and Mazz dove into it the other week. One explanation could be that baseball as a sport isn't regarded the same way it once was. This is obvious, but it goes deeper than that as it relates to Boston. Ever since the Sox won in '04 and the Pats have become the greatest sports dynasty ever, this is a football city. That isn't shocking news, but the only Sox team that has captured Boston's full attention in recent years was 2013.
Furthermore, our current roster isn't exactly full of personalities. Our best position players - Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, Benintendi - all seem a little introverted. David Ortiz is gone. Chris Sale has been quiet this year. Who the fuck knows what's going on with Hanley. David Price has been in the media for all the wrong reasons. We don't even have those Kevin Millar/Mike Napoli/David Ross type role players that help the city connect with the team. This group keeps to themselves, and that's fine.
Would the season be more entertaining if there were tons of walk-off wins and newspaper worthy quotes? Obviously, but don't let the lack of excitement surrounding this team distract you from the fact that they're good. Are we a perfect team? Um, obviously not. Are we flawed? Obviously yes. But we have the second best record in the AL! That means something. We'll absolutely add some sort of bullpen or 3B help at the deadline, and ultimately I expect this team to be playing in the ALCS come October. TO THE THOUGHTS:
--I genuinely believe David Price doesn't care what Boston or the media thinks about him anymore. This is a good thing for Red Sox fans. In the intro I discussed how this Sox team doesn't connect with the city the way the 2013 squad did, but that doesn't mean they can't go on a run in the next couple of years. The best case scenario for Price (for both himself and Boston) is for him to pitch well in the next year and a half, and for him to leave for free agency after 2018. He said over the off-season he isn't going to use that opt out, but there's a reason that's in his contract. At this point I think he would take less money to play elsewhere. As for his role on the 2017 Sox it's somewhere between a number 2 and 3 starter (yes he's overpaid). Per this first half recap blog from Jared Carrabis, if you take out Price's ugly New York "performance" he has a 3.19 ERA in eight starts since returning from the DL, which is a hell of a lot better than many people expected him to perform. I love that he's pissed off and I'm going to be rooting for him hard down the stretch.
--What the fuck is up with Hanley these days? Maybe I'm just naive for thinking he had changed last year. Actually, that's probably it. I still think the thought process made sense. Hanley was underrated GREAT last season, hitting .286 with 30 homers. He was FIRED UP for the playoffs too, posting this Player's Tribune piece about how badly he wanted the Sox to come back down 2-0 because it was Papi's last year. I thought he was going to mash this year too. I expected him to play a healthy amount of first base with more DH opportunities than last season. So far he hasn't really hit and he hasn't played the field. I do believe he's hurt, but who knows how severely. If it's that bad that it's affecting his performance he should go on the DL. He isn't giving us much anyways. We need him healthy for the playoffs. We're in first place without him hitting. If he turns things around it's going to be a bigger X factor than anything we could acquire at the trade deadline.
--Speaking of Hanley and that Red Sox lineup, I'm not too sure how I feel about it. Lets say you're an opposing pitcher and coming into to Fenway. Mookie leads off, and if you get him out (which isn't an easy thing to do) I don't think you're too scared of the rest of this lineup. Pedroia and Bogaerts aren't power threats. Then there's Mitch Moreland hitting cleanup followed by the underperforming Hanley and a streaky, still developing Andrew Benintendi. This group of hitters is best when they're driving up pitch counts, taking walks, and hitting doubles. That sort of strategy can get exposed by elite pitching. We rank second to last in the American League in homers. That isn't a fatal flaw to a baseball team, but it also isn't a good thing. Our overall runs per game is fourth best in the AL, and at the end of the day that's what matters, not just homers. Still, unless Hanley heats up this isn't exactly a scary order for an opposing pitcher, particularly for good ones, which we will be seeing a lot of come the Fall. Just something to think about.
--Speaking of Mookie the other day he hit his 11th career homer to leadoff a game, which passes Jacoby Ellsbury (remember that year he hit 32 dingers lmfao) for the Red Sox record. Assuming Betts leads off the next few years he's going to end up obliterating that record. I still think he should be hitting second for us, since that's what the stat geeks say, but maybe he's just one of those guys who is more comfortable leading off. The offense has taken off ever since the switch was made, so I guess we won't be fixing what isn't broken anytime soon.
--The action picks up right away for the Sox coming out of the break, with a four game showdown at Fenway versus the Yankees. The Sox enter with a 3.5 game lead over the Evil Empire and their four best (healthy) starters slated to pitch. It'll be Pomeranz on Friday night, Sale on Saturday afternoon, and lastly Porcello and Price for Sunday's doubleheader. It may be wishful thinking, but I am genuinely hyped for this regular season series. By winning 3/4 the Sox could begin to put a real healthy distance between themselves and their former rival. Simply put the Yankees don't have the starting pitching to hang with us right now, and hopefully that is proven true over the next several days.