By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Another New York win and another Boston loss have pushed the margin in the American League to 5-1/2 games – 6 in the loss column, if you’re interested – and we all know there is a lot of baseball left. But if the Red Sox are honest with themselves, they’d really better make headway in the next month.
Otherwise, as the above photo of Eduardo Rodriguez suggests, opponents are just going to do laps around them as the Sox stand still.
And so, while the Sox dropped a 10-3 decision to the Toronto Blue Jays last night, this really is no longer about what is behind them. It’s about what lies ahead. In the next 3-4 weeks, the Red Sox will face Houston (again), New York, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Minnesota, the five teams that currently qualify for the American League playoffs. And if the Sox then are no better – or if they arte, heaven forbid, worse – than where they are now, it might officially be time to worry.
By then, after all, the Red Sox essentially will have half of their season in the books – 77 games to be exact. We can all agree that is a legitimate sample. They will have played good teams and bad ones, home and away, and they will have distinguished themselves in no particular area.
Take a look at the American League standings to date. And before we even discuss anything else, let’s note that there is a clear line between the top four teams in the league and everyone else, the latter of which currently includes the Red Sox:
Does this mean the season is over? Of course not. But it means the Red Sox are currently a second-tier team, fighting in contention for the second wild-card spot more than any division title. (Is this really where they should be?) Again, that can obviously change in the coming weeks. But if it changes for the WORSE, well, we’re going to have a decidedly more pessimistic view of this season than we do now. (And that’s admittedly saying something for people like me.)
Look at the top teams in the league so far. The Houston Astros, whom the Red Sox will face in Houston beginning on Friday – are 18-4 at home. The Twins and Yankees have been good everywhere. Tampa Bay, which comes to Boston for a four-game series on June 7, has excelled on the road (15-7). All of that means the Red Sox are catching the best teams in the league (so far) in their opponents’ comfort zone.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox are, in order, 25-23 overall, 13-10 at home, 12-13 on the road. They look like the definition of middle class. Among the 15 AL teams, they have the sixth-best record in the league overall, the seventh-best record at home, the sixth-best record on the road, the fifth-best record against right-handed starters and the 10th-best record against left-handed starters. Against teams at or above .500, they rank ninth among the 15 AL teams. Against teams below .500, they rank sixth.
Get the picture? For the most part, overall, they’ve been average Joes.
And soon – very soon – that has to start changing.