Mazz: The absolute, most damning statistic on the state of the Red Sox
September 2nd, 2022
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JULY 22: A general view of the Green Monster scoreboard after the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 22, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)
Undoubtedly, we make too much of polls. Public sentiment can be misleading. But if polls speak to perception more than reality, they also speak to something of far greater consequence to politicians or, in this case, sports teams.
So why do we mention this? On Thursday of this week, Channel Media and Market Research released its 11th New England Sports Survey that covered a broad scope of issues surrounding Boston’s four major sports teams. The Red Sox, unsurprisingly, took a massive hit, which is hardly surprising as the team labors toward a last-place finish just one season after reaching Game 6 of the 2021 American League Championship Series.
In the last several years, the popularity of both baseball and the Red Sox has steadily declined in Boston, and the former is an issue that is plaguing the game nationally. Even so, the Red Sox are at least partly responsible for their own demise, something outlined by a listener – someone we affectionately refer to as “Matt the Stat” – who proudly acknowledges that he is a data analyst and baseball nerd.
The essence of his email? We left something out of the discussion that certainly warrants mention. Assuming both the Detroit Tigers and Red Sox finish last this season, each will have a major league-leading five last-place finishes on their resume since the start of the 2012 season. Think of that. (Matt also points out that Tigers could overtake the Kansas City Royals for last place before season’s end.)
BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 01: A general view of the AL East standings on the outfield wall at Fenway Park before the Texas Rangers play the Boston Red Sox on September 01, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Rutherford/Getty Images)
Such a distinction is far less damning to the Tigers than the Red Sox, who have the obvious advantage of living in baseball’s high-rent district alongside big-market operations like the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees, who have combined for zero last-place finishes in the last 11 years. (This is all according to Matt’s research, which we trust without reservation.)
And then there is this: during the 11-year period marked by the Channel Media and Market Research, Boston’s other teams in the four major sports – the Patriots, Bruins and Celtics – have similarly combined for zero last-place finishes.
That’s right, zero.
The obvious point: with or without the issues surrounding their sport – and they are still most sizable – the Red Sox haven’t exactly helped their cause any.
BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 26: Manager Bobby Valentine #25 of the Boston Red Sox walks to the mound for a pitching change against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game on September 26, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
As the NBC Sports Boston series called it, “The Bobby Valentine Experience.”
One year after a historic collapse to the 2011 season, the Red Sox hired Valentine in hopes of shocking the Red Sox back to life. Of course, the opposite happened. The 2012 season was an unmitigated disaster that triggered one key development – the trading away of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, allowing the Red Sox to reset their payroll.
Nonetheless, the Red Sox finished the season with just 69 victories, their fewest in a full season since 1960, when they won just 65 games, albeit in a 154-game schedule. (In case you’re wondering, the 1960 Sox had a lower winning percentage than the 2012 team).
BOSTON, MA – AUGUST 18: Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Boston Red Sox, Ben Cherington, watches batting practice prior to the game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees on August 18, 2013 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Red Sox fans may not remember Ben Cherington fondly, but don’t forget: he won a World Series in 2013, a championship that helped the regionn heal in the wake of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. Still, one year later, the Sox plummeted right back to the bottom of the American League East, prompting another selling of assets that may have been a low point.
In a matter of days – and mostly within hours on July 31 – the Red Sox traded away Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and Andrew Miller en route to a 71-91 finish. The Sox got a couple of players back in the deals – Eduardo Rodriguez and Joe Kelly, most notably – but the damage done with the Lester trade, specifically, was considerable.
BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 29: Manager John Farrell #53 of the Boston Red Sox and Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Boston Red Sox, Ben Cherington, watch as the team warms up during the team workout Fenway Park on October 29, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Chaim Bloom, the current chief baseball officer of the Red Sox, should take note: a single, last-place finish did not cost Cherington his job. But a second one did. Though the 2015 Sox won 78 games – a relatively high total for a last-place team – the Red Sox remained locked in the cellar for a second consecutive season, something they had not done since 1929-30.
As such, the midseason cataclysm this time came in the front office, where Dave Dombrowski was hired midyear to replace Cherington, who promptly resigned. Though criticized for being too conservative as a general manager, Cherington had the smarts to protect, among others, Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, who became centerpieces of a Red Sox championship in 2018. By then, manager John Farrell – who won a title in 2013 – also had been replaced.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – AUGUST 29: Boston Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke looks on during the third inning of the game against the Washington Nationals at Fenway Park on August 29, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. All players are wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. The day honoring Jackie Robinson, traditionally held on April 15, was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Who was that masked man? Well, it was interim manager Ron Roenicke, a victim of horrible circumstance if ever there was one. Just prior to the start of the 2020 season, the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers and lost manager Alex Cora, who was suspended by Major League Baseball for his role in the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal. Then the Red Sox lost Chris Sale to season-ending elbow surgery. Then the world was shut down due to a pandemic.
The Red Sox subsequently posted a .417 winning percentage that was their lowest since 1932, finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball. The good news, if there was any? The Sox were awarded the No. 4 selection in the 2021 draft, where they drafted highly-regarded shortstop Marcelo Mayer.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 15: Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom looks on during a press conference addressing the departure of Alex Cora as manager of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on January 15, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. A MLB investigation concluded that Cora was involved in the Houston Astros sign stealing operation in 2017 while he was the bench coach. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Could the Sox still turn this around and finish fourth? We suppose that could happen, but it doesn’t seem likely. The Red Sox currently trail the fourth-place Baltimore Orioles by six games (seven in the loss column) with just 30 games remaining. Most of the blame has been directed at Chaim Bloom, whose long-term approach to decision-making left the Red Sox vulnerable in too many areas. Though the strength of the division has been a factor – the Sox currently stand to pick 14th in next year’s draft, almost exactly in the middle of the pack – the Red Sox started the season horribly and have remained in last place since July 26.
The roster stands to undergo significant turnover – J.D Martinez, Nathan Eovaldi and Enrique Hernandez, among others – are all due to become free agents. And the Sox face major negotiations with Xander Bogaerts (also eligible for free agency this fall) and Rafael Devers (a free agent in 2023).