By Sean Sylver, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The Bruins, because they’re the Bruins and they’ve played 11 Game 7s over the past 12 seasons, will find a way to stretch the Stanley Cup Final (which took its sweet time getting underway in the first place) to the brink of the summer solstice. They could hoist the Stanley Cup; they might wind up with Lord Murray’s Cup, but they’ll undoubtedly have our attention.
Meanwhile, the defending World Series champion Red Sox continue to fly under the radar, and that’s probably good for them.
After a lousy stretch where they dropped three consecutive series to the Astros, Indians and Yankees, Chris Sale just submitted the type of galvanizing performance against the Royals that could get everything back on track.
We’ve seen this before, however. Just a few weeks ago, the local nine went on a tear. It got lost in the bright lights of the Bruins’ run and the residual haze of the Celtics’ postseason stink bomb, but Boston recovered from an early season funk to sit three games over .500 and just three games back in the division on Mother’s Day.
Rafael Devers was named AL Player of the Month for May, with Michael Chavis garnering top rookie honors.
David Price won in the Bronx on Sunday night. The Sox started the week by drafting Arizona shortstop Cameron Cannon, who sounds like a player in Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball for Super Nintendo. These are all good things.
But the Sox have needed a three-game mini-streak just to get back to three games above water. They’re still 6.5 back of the Yankees, who haven’t had a healthy Judge, Stanton, or any number of impact players this season. This isn’t to suggest Luis Severino will come back and be ’99 Pedro Martinez any time soon, but the Sox will be in trouble if he’s any better than Pat Rapp.
Remember the old Claude Julien “scheduled loss” that Adam Jones always talked about? You know, it’d be a back-to-back, or the team was coming home off a lengthy road trip, and the all-time winningest coach in Bruins history (a reminder that the season was 48 games back in Art Ross’ day) would have a canned remark ready to exculpate whatever listless effort he just presided over.
I’ve been wondering if this Red Sox season is the 162-game equivalent of a scheduled loss.
As skillfully as the Red Sox blended together their strengths during a historic regular season and playoff run last year, they’ve been just as disjointed this year, showcasing a number of weak points. Take your pick between underperforming personnel and a lack of basic execution, but so far this season has dredged up memories of the worst of John Farrell’s tenure in Boston.
World Series hangover or not, the Red Sox can only hide in the shadow of an impressive Bruins postseason run for so long. As Ted Johnson, Marshall Hook and I recently discussed on a weekend afternoon in our Dorchester studios, winning has set expectations sky high for everybody.
It took a single off-kilter campaign for people to turn on the Celtics They showed glimpses of what was truly possible before folding like a cheap suit.
For some reason, people around here still really like parades. A Red Sox team that flashes brilliance but ultimately deprives us of a chance for fall confetti could make for a volatile summer.
It’s great to see Sale pitch brilliantly. He continues to look more and more like the lefty Dave Dombrowski threw $145 million at last winter. Likewise with the Boston offense posting 24 runs over the past three contests. But we still don’t know exactly what this team is or even what it aspires to be.
With the Sox 250 miles from St. Louis, playing in front of 13,000 Kauffman Stadium diehards, the bulb continues to flicker. Even when they return home this weekend to face the AL East rival Rays (and then the Rangers, the team they’re currently tied with in the Wild Card) the Stanley Cup Final will remain the bug zapper for us mosquitoes.
We’re hoping Game 5 fries the “Gloria” synths and burns the images of a shattered Brett Hull out of our skulls. And maybe, like it did eight summers ago, the Stanley Cup will make an appearance at Fenway Park.
Perhaps, by then, we’ll be ready to watch a baseball game. Will the Red Sox be ready for us?
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.