Now call me a cynic, but the numbers are what they are. And roughly since the time that baseball banned adhesives on the mound, Red Sox closer Matt Barnes hasn’t been quite the same guy.
Yet, as the Red Sox continued to spiral over a weekend on which Barnes allowed a pair of game-winning home runs to the Toronto Blue Jays, let’s be fair and acknowledge a near universal truth: there are probably multiple factors at work. In a sport designed to grind you down, the workload for Red Sox relievers has steadily shot up. As such, the Sox are now closer to fourth place than they are to first – think about that for a second – as we approach the fourth and final quarter of the 2021 baseball season.
“It’s been a rough couple of weeks, particularly kind of since the All-Star break,” Barnes conceded to reporters yesterday following the Sox’ 10th loss in their last 13 games. “But we have a good team. And this is a team that was in first place going into the All-Star break. Stretches like this happen.”
Maybe they do and maybe they don’t – at least with regard to legitimate playoff-caliber teams. Whether the Red Sox qualify is also open to debate, at least until we get a definitive answer over the final 48 games of the season.
All of this brings us back to Barnes, whose performance to start the year was otherworldly. But Barnes has slipped some beginning June 6, which just happens to be two days after baseball announced that it would be cracking down on the use of adhesives by major league pitchers.
Here’s the before and after with Barnes with the key stats highlighted and bolded in red:
Pretty striking, right?
Look, a couple of things stick out here. First, Barnes’ numbers over the last 22 outings hardly stink. But they do represent the difference between a dominating, All Star-caliber closer and, perhaps, a good set-up man, particularly in an American League East where the margin for error is, by most accounts, relatively thin.
Then there is this: if Barnes was a Spider Tack user, he wasn’t alone. Lots of pitchers in baseball were obviously using it. But if the Red Sox knew it – and they certainly would have – then the team’s failure to add significant bullpen help at the trading deadline becomes an even bigger indictment on ownership and management, particularly as the Sox opted to stay under the luxury tax line.
So what happened from here? Time will tell. Chris Sale will return this week with quite a burden weighing on his wiry frame. Meanwhile, the team’s principal pickup at the deadline – Kyle Schwarber – remains on the injured list with a hamstring issue and is now experiencing some tightness in his groin as well.
From the outside, at least, it looks like the Sox are coming apart.
But given the prevailing news of 2021, it might be more appropriate to suggest they are simply becoming unglued.