Red Sox

Red Sox

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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