Red Sox

It's do or die time for the Red Sox, and they're fading fast

It's do or die time for the Red Sox, and they're fading fast

BOSTON -- Dave Dombrowski was merely speaking the unvarnished truth when he admitted the Red Sox would've acted more aggressively at the trade deadline were they fighting for a division title instead of a one-game wild card berth.

Across the diamond, the Tampa Bay Rays found themselves in effectively the same spot. Trailing the Yankees by seven games in the AL East and the Indians by three games in the loss column in the wild card race, the Rays nonetheless acted boldly and decisively, acquiring slugging first baseman Jesus Aguilar from the Brewers and flame-throwing reliever Nick Anderson from the Marlins.

On Wednesday night, both acquisitions played a role in leaving the Red Sox broken and perhaps finished. Aguilar went 2 for 3 with a pair of runs in Tampa's 9-4 victory that completed a back-breaking, spirit-crushing sweep. Anderson did exactly what he was acquired to do, bringing upper-90s heat while blowing away the Red Sox in the eighth.

It was hard to miss the difference between the two clubs. The Rays looked energized. The Red Sox looked as cooked as a frozen dinner after an extra 11 minutes in the microwave.

One club's front office stepped up. The other's did not. And now we must ask ourselves if these Red Sox have what it takes to overcome that lack of support and make a go of the final two months. Otherwise, baseball is going to become irrelevant in Boston mighty quick.

"I think it might be probably the most disappointing losses of the season so far," said All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, one of the few Red Sox who has brought it every night this season. "It's a crucial time and a time when we need a win. It feels like one win is hard to come by right now. Try to find a way to forget these last few games, try to remember the good times and try to go on a run again."

The effort the Red Sox delivered on Wednesday was hard to watch. Right-hander Andrew Cashner, trumpeted by Dombrowski on Wednesday as a significant July acquisition, walked five while allowing seven runs, his Red Sox ERA soaring to 7.33. He butchered a chopper in front of the plate to allow one run to score, walked in another, and crossed up Sandy Leon to plate another with a passed ball. Reliever Darwinzon Hernandez later wild-pitched home a run. Disaster.

If the Red Sox feel deflated by the lack of deadline action, it's understandable, but also inexcusable. Manager Alex Cora hinted at as much in some pointed postgame comments that were directed at his pitchers, but really applied to the entire team.

"It is concerning," he said. "I've been talking about this the whole time. We need to get better and it sounds like I say the same thing for 100 days. We trust the group, we trust these guys, but we have to execute. We can talk about adjustments, attacking guys, but at the end we have to go out and do it.

"Today there was a lot of traffic. We battled through it and got a ground ball to turn a double play then Darwinzon, the wild pitches and all that. But I think it was seven or eight walks. Can't do that. We don't keep the ball in the ballpark. It's been, it was a rough one. It started as a great homestand and it didn't finish that way. We've got a big challenge coming up this weekend and if we're going to be involved in whatever talk for the playoffs, it better start tomorrow."

Now comes the make-or-break portion of the season. After starting this brutal stretch of 14 games vs. the Yankees and Rays with a 5-1 record, the Red Sox have lost four straight, each loss seemingly worse than the one that preceded it.

Time is running out on their season as they stand 3.5 games back of the Rays for the second wild card. Their title defense is fizzling and it's up to the players to display the same urgency that is currently carrying the Rays, even if the front office declined to find them any help.

"Went to Tampa and played great and won the first three games against the Yankees," Cora said. "So then we take three steps back. That can't happen. Can't happen. Obviously it's Aug. 1, 2 whatever it is and we don't like where we're at and it seems like right now the last few days it wasn't a great brand of baseball. They came here and beat us eight of nine. We've got to be better at home, we've got to be better in these conditions, we've got to be better against everybody. And we're not doing that right now."

Winners & losers from MLB Trade Deadline>>>>

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How Bobby Bonilla Day can save MLB's ongoing salary dispute

How Bobby Bonilla Day can save MLB's ongoing salary dispute

If baseball wants to solve its impasse over player compensation during the pandemic, here's a thought — make Bobby Bonilla Day a holiday.

Bonilla is the former Mets slugger who struck an incredible deal as his career wound to a close.

In exchange for waiving the final $5.9 million he was owed in 2000, Bonilla agreed to receive 25 payments of roughly $1.19 million every July 1 from 2011 through 2035.

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Why trade $6 million in 2000 for nearly $30 million later? Because Mets owner Fred Wilpon intended to invest the money with Bernie Madoff, whose funds consistently delivered massive returns. We now know Madoff was running the world's biggest Ponzi Scheme, and when his $64 billion fraud collapsed in 2008, it took hundreds of millions of Wilpon's money with it.

What's bad for him was good for Bobby Bo, however. Every summer, the six-time All-Star receives a check for over a million dollars, payments that will continue until he's 72. (The Mets, it should be noted, also agreed to make 25 annual $250,000 payments to Bret Saberhagen for similar reasons, starting in 2004.)

Here's where the current contentiousness enters the picture.

The owners want the players to take a massive pay cut in exchange for a season, arguing they can't afford to play in empty ballparks without salary concessions. The players don't want to return a penny, and in fact hope to play more than the proposed 82 games to make as much of their prorated salaries as possible.

One solution is deferrals. The players agree to put off some portion of their earnings, allowing ownership to maintain cash flow in the short term before the game's economics hopefully stabilize in the future.

And what better day to do it than Bobby Bonilla Day? Every July 1 starting next year, the players can receive a portion of their 2020 salary. Maybe it's paid in installments over three to five years, or maybe it's a lump sum.

However it's done, it could represent a meaningful olive branch from the players and a signal that they're willing to compromise in these unprecedented times.

The value for the owners is clear, because Wilpon isn't the only one who sees the allure of deferrals. The World Series champion Nationals prefer them as a rule, deferring not only $105 million of Max Scherzer's $210 million contract, but even $3 million of the $4 million they gave reliever Joe Blanton in 2017.

With players and owners at each other's throats, it could be disarming to invoke one of the game's stranger annual curiosities. And if it helps us play baseball in 2020, there's also this: Open the season on July 1 and make Bobby Bonilla Day, for one year anyway, a national holiday.

Who are the best right fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best right fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Corner outfielders for the Red Sox have vastly different responsibilities. 

While left fielders have to learn how to play with the Green Monster at their backs, right fielders are tasked with covering an immense amount of ground with some quirky angles —duties which require not just a mobile defender, but a fearless one. A strong arm helps, too, lest the turnstiles between first and third just spin all game.

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Fortunately for the Red Sox, there have been no shortage of exceptional right fielders over the years, including a number who didn't make our top five, like Dirt Dog Trot Nixon; postseason heroes J.D. Drew and Shane Victorino; and Earl Webb, whose 67 doubles in 1931 remain one of the longest-standing single-season records in the game.

The final list includes a Hall of Famer, two MVPs, a hometown hero, and one of the franchise's longest tenured stars.

Click here for the Top 5 right fielders in Red Sox history.