Red Sox

A low bar: 2020 season will be a success if we end up hating Red Sox less

A low bar: 2020 season will be a success if we end up hating Red Sox less

The Red Sox brand is a malleable thing. Unlike the consistent they-hate-us-cuz-they-ain't us ethos that has defined the Patriots for two decades, public opinion of the Red Sox tends to bob like a buoy.

When seas are calm, they're a stable beacon. But when the ocean starts churning, they thrash to keep their head above water without becoming unmoored.

Needless to say, the last nine months have featured their share of roiling, 40-foot waves.

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The Red Sox defended their World Series title by winning an uninspiring 84 games and finishing well out of the playoff race. Dave Dombrowski lost his job. Alex Cora followed in the wake of cheating accusations. MVP Mookie Betts departed in a salary dump.

Along each step of the way, fans became a little more disillusioned.

Why invest in watching a player like Betts grow, only to see him given away? Why continue paying some of the highest ticket prices in the game if the team is more concerned with the luxury tax than the product on the field? And what exactly are we to make of Cora? Either the Red Sox cut bait with a successful manager to ease the heat of a burgeoning scandal, or they were actually guilty of something that taints the 2018 title.

Add the collectively disgraceful acts of baseball's owners during the pandemic negotiations, when we heard not a peep from John Henry and Co. while the owners pushed for the shortest possible schedule to limit player payroll, and you've got a sport and a team that engenders more ill will than any other in Boston.

With the games set to resume next week, the Red Sox have a chance to make belated amends. Expectations haven't been this low in a decade. The shortened 60-game season means anything can happen — at a similar point last year, after all, the Red Sox were tied with the Rangers for the second wild card spot.

So what needs to happen for the season to be a success? Quite simply, we need to hate them less.

Fans who feel burned by Mookie's departure, the unwillingness to spend, and the tone-deaf hopes of filling Fenway Park after a nasty labor negotiation could use an overachieving squad that exceeds expectations. It would do the team and its fans a world of good.

We need to be reminded that there's hope for the future. It's not beyond the realm.

An offense built around Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, and Alex Verdugo can compete with anyone. If they can stay healthy (an admittedly big if), a 1-2 punch of Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi is actually pretty solid atop a rotation that will need to get really lucky in the 3-5 spots. And the underrated bullpen finished last year as a strength, led by borderline unhittable closer Brandon Workman.

The shorter schedule plays in their favor, since they simply need to finesse their way through 60 games. Had the season ended at that point last year, not only would the Red Sox have been visiting the Rangers for a one-game playoff, but four other teams would've been within two and a half games of them.

If 10 of the 15 AL teams still have something to play for as this truncated season enters its final week, that's a success for baseball. There's absolutely no reason the Red Sox shouldn't be one of them.

Crazier things have happened, and even if the odds are realistically remote, the Red Sox need to start rebuilding not just their team, but their image.

Might as well start now.

Incredible stat shows how historically awful Red Sox starting pitching has been

Incredible stat shows how historically awful Red Sox starting pitching has been

When the 2019 MLB season started, the defending World Series champion Red Sox boasted an impressive rotation.

Perennial Cy Young contender Chris Sale. Former Cy Young winners David Price and Rick Porcello. World Series hero Nathan Eovaldi. Eduardo Rodriguez, who would go on to win 19 games.

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But the 2020 Sox rotation is a far cry from that collection of talent. 

Instead, with Sale sidelined with Tommy John surgery, Price and Porcello on different teams, and Rodriguez out for the season with myocarditis, the Sox have been forced to rely on a flotsam and jetsam rotation that has been exposed as not MLB-worthy.

Through 11 games, the Red Sox have already used seven starting pitchers, and they've combined to allow a whopping 32 earned runs in 42.2 innings pitched, often putting the Sox in early deficits they've been unable to overcome. It all adds up to a 6.75 ERA, which isn't just bad; it's actually on pace to be the worst starting rotation in the last 120 years, according to Boston Sports Info.

Only Nathan Eovaldi with a 3.94 ERA in three starts and Austin Brice, who pitched one scoreless inning in his only start of the season as an opener, have ERAs below 5.00, while Josh Osich, Ryan Weber, Matt Hall and Zack Godley all have ERAs of 9-plus.

Pitcher ERA as starter
Austin Brice 0.00
Nathan Eovaldi 3.94
Martin Perez 5.06
Josh Osich 9.00
Matt Hall 10.13
Ryan Weber 11.57
Zack Godley 13.50

And with the supposedly strong Boston offense underachieving through 11 games, it's no wonder the team is off to a horrific 3-8 start, the 28th best record out of 30 MLB teams. If that starting pitching doesn't turn around — and turn around quickly — the Red Sox are in danger of digging a hole that will be too deep to climb out of in a shortened 60-game season.

Ex-Red Sox not named Mookie Betts off to lackluster starts across MLB

Ex-Red Sox not named Mookie Betts off to lackluster starts across MLB

Chaim Bloom had no choice but to deal Mookie Betts. The rest of the players he walked away from this winter were of his own volition, however, and on that front, it looks like he made some good calls.

Bloom elected to keep first baseman Mitch Moreland, who has already blasted three homers while slugging .762.

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Here's a quick check-in with the four others who played a regular role in recent years but are now elsewhere. (And Betts, for the record, is hitting .289 with an .880 OPS, though he has missed two games with a finger injury).

David Price

Bloom traded Price to the Dodgers alongside Betts in a salary dump. We won't know if he made the right call until Price returns to action next season, because he became the highest-profile player to opt out of the 2020 season after the pandemic hit.

That decision likely saved the Red Sox the roughly $6 million they owed of his prorated salary this year. Had he remained in Boston, there's no reason to think he still wouldn't have opted out, so the Red Sox were lucky to get something for him first.

Rick Porcello

Hoo boy. The Mets gave Porcello one year and $10 million, and some believed the Red Sox should've ponied up to keep him, figuring his reliability could help patch the holes in a thin rotation. Bloom thought otherwise, and two starts into Porcello's Mets career, it's hard to argue.

Porcello allowed seven runs in two innings in his debut, and wasn't much better in his second start on Friday in Atlanta, allowing four runs in four innings. He's sitting on a 13.50 ERA that would fit perfectly in Boston, unfortunately.

Brock Holt

The fan favorite utility guy languished for most of the winter before agreeing to a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Brewers. Bloom decided to allocate those resources instead to Jose Peraza, who is now the team's starting second baseman.

Holt has barely gotten off the bench in Milwaukee, going 0 for 4 in four appearances. At age 32, his best days are likely behind him. The 26-year-old Peraza has slumped badly since a four-hit debut, but he's a far superior defender at second and short.

Sandy Leon

Outside of a couple of good weeks in 2016, Leon is what he is offensively. Currently, that's a .105 hitter with the Indians.

He effectively traded roles in December with former Cleveland backup Kevin Plawecki, who's off to a 4-for-10 start that helped make two-time All-Star Jonathan Lucroy expendable.