Red Sox

It's time to accept this just won't be the Red Sox year

It's time to accept this just won't be the Red Sox year

Things that died in England: colonialism, Russian spies, the 2019 Boston Red Sox.

It's going to be a long summer.

If the early start times threw you this weekend, consider yourself #blessed. Facing the rival Yankees with a chance to dent New York's division lead, the Red Sox instead imploded in spectacular fashion.

They allowed 29 runs in two games, watched their bullpen finish transforming into a puddle, made a series of defensive miscues, and looked like a team that has already decided it's playing out the string.

The nature of the American League means they'll always be within shouting distance of a wild card spot, but make no mistake, they are as dead as a proverbial doornail, or as the Brits might say, "These plonking collywobbles are off the ferry." (I made that up because gibberish feels appropriate).

The Red Sox are 44-40 and lucky to be above .500. They can't beat good teams (16-23 vs. the 7 they trail in the AL), they can't sustain success (they didn't even last 2 weeks at 5 games over .500), and they haven't given us the slightest reason to think they'll be a factor when October arrives and they're still technically the defending World Series champions.

So rather than prolong this agony, let's just call it. They might make the playoffs, and they might even host the wild card game, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking they're actually going anywhere. This season has 2005 written all over it, and we remember how that forgettable campaign ended -- with a first-round whimper against Chicago and speedy playoff exit.

Barring trades for a new bullpen, it's hard to picture the Red Sox addressing their many needs before the July 31 deadline, and it's easy to envision them selling off parts that won't return, like right-hander Rick Porcello or infielder Eduardo Nunez (neither of whom possesses much value at the moment).

The Red Sox have felt off since opening the season with a blowout loss in Seattle, and it requires increasingly imaginative feats of logical dexterity to ignore the mounting evidence that they're as mediocre as their record.

Sunday's 12-8 loss in the series finale provided a perfect window into what happens when they face a skilled opponent. The Red Sox blasted three homers in the first inning to take a 4-0 lead, and still led 4-2 in the seventh when the bullpen made its entrance in relief of Eduardo Rodriguez.

If you trusted that group to navigate the final nine outs, you're probably also comfortable driving on the right-hand side of the road during rush hour in London.

Rookie Marcus Walden and veteran Matt Barnes faced eight batters and only retired one of them. After emerging from nowhere to become one of Alex Cora's most trusted arms in April and May, Walden has reverted back to the form that made him a career minor leaguer. He posted a 6.75 ERA in June and suddenly doesn't feel so automatic.

Barnes, meanwhile, looks spent. Dugout cameras captured him wearing an expression of complete bewilderment after allowing the go-ahead single to Gio Urshela in the seventh. Faith that Barnes could anchor the bullpen has not come to pass, and it's fair to wonder if he'll even be an effective setup arm at this point, should Dave Dombrowski finally admit defeat and acquire a closer.

The bullpen blowing a lead now feels like a daily inevitability, and that's no way to live. The Red Sox started the year with three reliable relievers, and now they're down to one in curve-balling right-hander Brandon Workman, and even he walks six batters per nine.

We once naively believed the acquisition of one high-leverage arm would fix the pen. Now it looks like a job that might require three new bodies, including a closer. Good luck adding multiple arms at the exact time of year when everyone needs bullpen help.

Is it even worth it? While the offense twice battled eight-run deficits to bring the tying run to the plate this weekend, the overall engagement level feels disconnected. The bullpen stinks. The rotation is average. The offense is considerably less than the sum of its parts.

It often takes hindsight to identify exactly where and when a season ends. Not this year. The Red Sox embarrassed themselves in London before taking off for Toronto, and it feels safe to declare their season DOA.

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David Ortiz holds impressive American League record this century

David Ortiz holds impressive American League record this century

David Ortiz is one of MLB's best designated hitters of all time.

For 14 years, Ortiz played as a member of the Boston Red Sox after the Minnesota Twins let him go. In Boston, Ortiz became one of the game's most powerful sluggers and posted a career average of .290 with 483 homers with the Red Sox.

Given Ortiz's immense success with the club, it's no surprise that he's among the century's best at launching the long ball. According to Boston Sports Info (@BostonSportsInf on Twitter), Ortiz has more home runs this century than any other player in the American League.

Ortiz just edged out Alex Rodriguez (507 homers) for the overall lead though Ortiz did it in 438 more at-bats. Aside from A-Rod, no other player is within 100 homers of Big Papi.

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This is surely an impressive mark and it speaks to just how good Ortiz was during his time with Boston. When adding in his 17 postseason homers, Ortiz hit exactly 500 career homers with the Red Sox and helped power them to three World Series titles during his time with the team. And 93 percent of his homers this century, postseason included, came in a Red Sox uniform.

It may take a while for any player to pass Ortiz for this high-water mark. Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout is probably the most likely candidate to pass Ortiz as the 28-year-old currently has 285 homers in 4,340 at-bats that have all come with the Angels. Trout is under contract with the Angels until 2031 so unless he's traded out of the AL, he seems to be on pace to eventually beat Ortiz.

But that could take close to another decade. And until then, Ortiz will reign supreme on this century's AL home run leaderboard.

10 memorable individual performances in Red Sox home openers

10 memorable individual performances in Red Sox home openers

Today should've been the 108th opener at Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox as they were to host the Chicago White Sox to begin their home schedule.

But as we all know, the coronavirus pandemic has changed that as well as the rest of the world. 

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There's still hope that they'll be baseball at Fenway in 2020, but on the day the gates were supposed to open and signal the unofficial start of spring in Boston, let's look back at a few of the Red Sox's most memorable individual performances with some Opening Day Dreaming Delivered by Coors Light.

April 20, 1912

The Red Sox christened Fenway Park by beating their rivals from New York, then known as the Highlanders, 7-6 in 11 innings before 24,000, including Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, grandfather of future president John F. Kennedy, and the Royal Rooters.

Tris Speaker (pictured, 3-for-6, two RBI, game-winning single) and Steve Yerkes (5-for-7) were your hitting heroes for a team that would go on to win the World Series. 

April 12, 1916

A left-hander named Babe Ruth held the Philadelphia A's to one unearned run on four hits and strikes out six in 8 1/3 innings. He went 0-for-2 batting ninth, proving he didn't have much of a future as a hitter. The '16 Sox would go on to win the World Series. 

April 6, 1973

On a day that featured the debut of the designated hitter in the American League, catcher Carlton Fisk, coming off his rookie of the year season, got his second year off to a booming start with three hits, including a two-run homer of Yankees ace Mel Stottlemyre, and six RBI as the Sox spotted their archrivals a three-run lead and roll, 15-5.

(Now, if we could just forget Fisk's three-run, eighth-inning homer for the White Sox in a 5-3 Red Sox loss in the Fenway opener in '81 after Boston let him switch Sox as a free agent that winter.) 

April 10, 1998

Mo Vaughn hit a walk-off grand slam to cap the Red Sox' rally from a five-run deficit off a Mariners bullpen that featured ex-Sox relievers Tony Fossas and Heathcliff Slocumb and future Sox reliever Mike Timlin.

Those that stuck around Fenway when it was 7-2 to start the ninth headed home happy after an 8-7 win on Opening Day. The Sox would go on to make the playoffs at 92-70 but were eliminated in the ALDS by the Cleveland Indians. 

April 1, 2002

Tony Clark, the future head of the MLB Players Association, was a Red Sox first baseman for 90 games in 2002. In the first of those, he went 3-for-5 with a home run and drove in three runs.

The Sox needed all of them in a wild 12-11 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Clark would help the Sox out even more two years later when, as a Yankee, his ground-rule double in the ninth kept Ruben Sierra from scoring from first and ending ALCS Game 5 and with it, the Sox' World Series hopes.

April 11, 2005 

In addition to being memorable for the pregame ring ceremony and banner raising that was 86 years in the making (and for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera being cheered and Alex Rodriguez, pictured, jeered by the Fenway fans for their roles in the Sox' 2004 pennant), the Sox got a strong pitching performance from Tim Wakefield in an 8-1 thumping of the Yankees.

Veterans of '04 Wakefield (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 SOs), Trot Nixon (2-for-3, two RBI) and Doug Mirabelli (two-run homer) started '05 off right.

April 8, 2008

The Sox home opener in 2008 was another banner-raising day that included a tearful Bill Buckner emerging from the Green Monster to a standing ovation to throw out the first pitch.

After the pregame festivities, the Sox rolled to a 5-0 shutout over the Detroit Tigers. Kevin Youkilis went 3-for-3 with two RBI and Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed four hits and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. 

April 7, 2009

Josh Beckett held the Tampa Bay Rays to one run on two hits and struck out 10 as the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-3.

Beckett would go on to win 17 games and the Sox racked up 95 victories that season before being swept by the Angels in the ALDS.

April 8, 2013

Clay Buchholz got another championship season off to a great start as he shut out the Baltimore Orioles for seven innings on three hits.

Daniel Nava's three-run homer provided the offense in a 3-1 victory.

April 13, 2015

Mookie Betts showed off his future MVP form early in the 2015 season with a 2-for-4, four-RBI day that included a three-run homer in the second inning and two stolen bases in the first.

All of that came after he robbed Bryce Harper of a home run in the first with a leaping grab in front of the bullpen fence in right. The Sox went on to a 9-4 win over the Washington Nationals but it didn't portend to good things as they finished 78-84 and last in the AL East. 

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