Red Sox

McAdam: Red Sox’ season-ending slump means little now

McAdam: Red Sox’ season-ending slump means little now

After ripping off 11 straight wins, a run that effectively clinched the American League East title, the Red Sox stumbled through the past week, losing five of their past six.

So, what's that mean?

In all likelihood, virtually nothing.

Baseball history is littered with teams who have tripped and fallen down the stretch, surely en route to a first-round elimination -- only to reverse course and catch fire when the playoffs got underway.

The 1986 Red Sox were one such team, seemingly running out of gas in the final week of the regular season, losing seven of their final 11 and -- sound familiar? -- five of the last  six. 

Those '86 Sox, though they met a hugely disappointing end, went on to defeat the California Angels in the ALCS and then force the New York Mets to seven games before losing an epic World Series.

In 2007, the Sox were a thoroughly mediocre 10-10 in their final three weeks -- and promptly ran the table in the postseason, winning their second World Series in the span of four years.

Need more evidence that the final games don't matter much, or at the very least, isn't indicative of what's coming? Take the 2009 Red Sox, who won their final four games -- and then were swept into the winter by the Angels.

There are similar examples for virtually every franchise. If you wish to make the point that teams need to have momentum heading into October, there are plenty of cases to prove your point.

Conversely, if you're searching for evidence that how you finish is irrelevant to how you'll far in the postseason, you'll find ample backing to make your point.

While it's true that the Red Sox were hardly at their best in the season's final week, they did, for the most part, get strong pitching performances from nearly all their starters.

If you could pick and choose one element of a team's game to be ready for the playoffs, starting pitching is that element, since no variable is more important.

"This is a team that played really good baseball when we really needed to,'' said David Price, who allowed a run over five innings in the 2-1 loss Sunday. "We proved ourselves a lot doing what we did against the teams we did during that 11-game winning streak and I know our team is ready to go.''

There's another point to consider: prior to 2012, division winners barely had time to catch their breath when Game 162 was complete. The first game of the Division Series would be played as soon as two days later.

But the introduction of the second wild card in 2012 meant a new postseason schedule, one that has division winners sitting out three or, in the case of the N.L. this year, four days before the postseason gets underway.

That delay is likely to make the results of the final week even less relevant before, since it's hard to maintain momentum for that long.

Streaking teams have start all over again, while slumping teams have time to wipe the slate clean.

And by Thursday night, what the Red Sox did a week ago, or five days ago, will carry virtually no significance.



Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge are about to go global.

Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy on Monday confirmed the Sox are interested to play the Yankees in London during next year's regular season. Bloomberg reported the clubs are nearing an agreement to play two games there in June 2019. Discussions are indeed taking place, but a deal is not done.

MORE - Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

“We would love to participate in a series in London against the Yankees but this is a decision that MLB and the MLBPA will make," Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said.

Bloomberg reported the games would be played at London Stadium, which was the main facility for the 2012 summer Olympics.

MLB has not played any games in Europe before. The Red Sox have made trips before, including to Japan before the 2008 season.


Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Blake Swihart’s strong spring seems to have the Red Sox more inclined to deal one of their natural utility infielders, such as Brock Holt or Deven Marrero, rather than Swihart, a converted catcher with high upside who's getting a look in other roles.
"Sounds like they’re holding Swihart to open," a rival executive said. "More likely to move a utility guy."
A true utility guy, that is.


The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported Sunday that Marrero has been drawing interest from other teams.

"We do have depth with our middle infielders," Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday. "However, [I] would not get into potential trade discussions."
Swihart, who turns 26 on April 3, is most valuable as a catcher. But he could still be useful in a bench role for the 2018 Red Sox, and a win-now mentality may be the driving force here. (It is possible, as well, that there is nothing available via trade for Swihart that has piqued the Sox’ interest. Marrero or Holt wouldn’t require as much in return.)
The potential drawback is that Swihart won’t grow much if he’s not playing every day -- and in particular, if he's not catching every day. But the Sox may be be at a juncture where they feel his bat is a worthwhile experiment off the bench, at least for this season. They can figure out his future -- and their future at backstop -- later.
"He’s a great athlete," Cora told reporters on Sunday. "We’ve seen it in the batter’s box. It’s not only the results, but the way he’s driving the ball to left field as a left-hander, the quality of at-bats as a right-hander. [On Saturday], as a pinch-hitter, that kid was throwing 99 and he throws a breaking ball and squares a ball up."
Swihart entered Monday with a .283 average in Grapefruit League play, with a .905 OPS and a pair of home runs. But he does not have the infield experience that Marrero or Holt has, and the Red Sox essentially have to carry one of those two to start the year. 
Eduardo Nunez, the temporary replacement for Dustin Pedroia, is coming off a knee injury, and a sure-handed infielder -- Marrero’s glove is particularly good -- is a must. Rafael Devers is still coming into his own at third base. 
Tzu-Wei Lin is available in the minors too, and the Sox could see some redundancy with him, Holt and Marrero. Lin, unlike Marrero, has minor league options remaining. Lin also has some limited outfield experience.
The way the Sox roster looks now, they have two spots available for the three guys: Marrero, Holt and Swihart. Health can change that. Holt, despite being the most veteran of the group, has minor league options remaining, so he theoretically could go to Triple-A to start the season. But if the Sox don't see a role for him on this year's team any way, they'd be wiser trading him, considering he's due to make $2.225 million. It also would be kindest choice for Holt, to let him have an opportunity elsewhere, if one exists.


Swihart has played first base, third base and left field in addition to catching this spring. Perhaps, in time, there will be a way to work Swihart in behind the plate for the Sox. At the least, retaining him would be insurance if Christian Vazquez or Sandy Leon do not perform well offensively.
There was a clear personal-catcher system for the Red Sox in 2017. Leon was Chris Sale’s guy, for example. Manager Alex Cora said he is not taking that approach. As an auxiliary effect, moving away from a personal-catcher system might make it easier for Swihart to receive more time behind the plate, if called on.
"Whoever I feel comfortable with that day behind the plate, he'll catch," Cora told reporters in Florida. "Christian already caught him. Sandy's going to catch him today. And then the next turn, Christian's going to catch him. Everybody's going to work with everybody."