One of the few teams in the MLB that has high expectations year-in and year-out has struggled this year. I’m speaking of the Boston Red Sox, who are in their first year under manager Bobby Valentine.
The BoSox are currently in 4th place in the loaded AL East, sitting 5 1/2 games back of the red-hot Yankees. But unlike recent years, it is not just a two or three team race out east. All five teams have been good so far.
Boston is three games behind the Orioles, two back of the Rays, and they only lead the Blue Jays by one in the division standings.
Is the AL East really that good?
Can the five teams keep it up as a bunch throughout the rest of the regular season? Well, they may not have five teams over .500 come September like they do now, but the answer is yes, the division is that good.
When answering the question “Contender or Pretender?” you have to remember that a “contender” is merely someone who will compete for the given playoff spot throughout the long haul, and a pretender is someone that will fade away from the race at some point prior to the latest stages of the year.
So…what’s the verdict on Boston?
I see the Red Sox being contenders, but barely.
I was very tempted to lean toward saying they’re pretenders. But if I had to pick the most likely playoff squads from the East, I’d still have to rank them above Baltimore and Toronto. And that’s no disrespect to the surprising Orioles, but look past the face value of the Red Sox roller coaster ride so far leading to a 36-33 record. The BoSox have a great offense, but a poor, and thin, pitching staff.
If you’ve read any on my previous posts dissecting the contenders and pretenders, you know that I believe pitching is paramount. And that’s why I’m so hesitant to buy high on the Red Sox. But in this instance, I’m going to say that offense will be enough to keep them in contention for most of, if not the entire season.
While pitching is what wins you championships, that doesn’t mean hitting can’t get you close. I wouldn’t pick the Red Sox to win the Wild Card or the AL East, but you have to acknowledge that they have a ceiling much higher than they’ve played to this point.
If the team gets healthy, they will improve drastically. Just take a look at the plethora of injuries in Boston…
Unfortunately for them, most of their injuries are serious ones, not the type that you can forget about after a couple of quick weeks. If even just a handful of these guys comes back strong sooner rather than later and helps them out, they’ll be in a lot better shape. And I mean come on, 3 games over .500 ain’t bad considering that lengthy disabled list.
My prediction for the Red Sox is a record of 82-80, which is respectable, but will probably put them 7-or-so games out of first place in the East. And with the likes of the Yankees, Rays, and Angels all looking strong, I wouldn’t count on that getting them one of the Wild Card spots.
But like I said, some of those names on the disabled list have the potential to prove me wrong.