I was supposed to be going to tonight’s Red Sox-Twins game but it’s been rained out and rescheduled for Wednesday, which is just as well for the scuffling Sox who surely can use an extra day to figure things out after yesterday’s walkoff loss to the Rangers. Especially with the way the Twins are playing, this is a dangerous four game series. Should the Red Sox get swept, somebody might lose their job.
Blaming personnel is the easy way out. I want to blame Rusney Castillo for grounding into a double-play every time up. I want to throw the phone at Pablo Sandoval after every error. Yet this is a problem that’s well beyond the individual. And it’s all a bit perplexing at this point. When you could blame everyone, what can be done?
Across the board, the Red Sox have just been playing bad baseball. This team is really making everybody appreciate what must go into a win. There must be decent pitching, decent, and especially timely, hitting, and solid defense. Add in that the manager must make the correct decisions and suddenly it feels like a lot that must go right. And that’s the issue for this team. They’ve somehow made the basics of baseball seem complicated.
I’m all for closed-door meetings to try and make players play harder and more aggressively. I agree that it would be nice if Hanley Ramirez appeared to run after a ball from time to time. But none of that matters if the infielders are botching ground balls. None of that matters if nobody can get the runner from second to third with a ground-ball to the right side.
I heard a radio host complaining about the Red Sox playing selfish baseball about two weeks ago. That everybody is trying too hard to hit the three-run home run instead of doing the little things to help move runners along. While I think saying it’s ‘selfish’ is overly dramatic and prefer the term ‘hero ball,’ I think it’s an appropriate observation.
Recent Red Sox wins have been rare. But they’ve had a theme. Generally, somebody’s had an individually great game; Eduardo Rodriguez’s gem the other night is an example, or some of the Mike Napoli-led wins against the Angels. Somebody’s been the hero. And that’s a good thing. But sometimes that’s not enough. Dustin Pedroia can have a two home run game and it doesn’t matter because nobody else does their job. Far too often, somebody is described as trying to single-handedly bring this team back. Those players are admirable. But that should not be necessary. Gone are the wins when many players chip in. Gone are the team wins.
I’ve watched a lot of college baseball in the last week, particularly my Razorbacks. They’re firing on nearly all fronts and cruised through a difficult Regional on their way to a Super Regional with Missouri State later this week. But the Hogs are not an especially talented team. They were under .500 well into March. What they do however is refreshingly unlike the 2015 Red Sox. They manage to manufacture runs with smart baseball, hustle plays and timely hits. And they pick each other up when somebody makes a mistake. Even when superstar Andrew Benintendi – a potential Red Sox selection at #7 in next week’s draft – doesn’t hit for a game or two, his teammates find ways to score with collections of singles, steals and sacrifices.
College baseball is definitely a team sport. The superstar can certainly help a team win games, but the rest of the roster decides the vast majority of games, either in a good way or bad way, especially in the postseason when bullpens are thinned. They must be a team to win. And you can see that even in ways that the players celebrate a run, with everybody out of the dugout to greet teammates. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the Red Sox congregate at the front of the dugout when one of their players moves a runner over?
The Red Sox could do with tuning their TV to some good college baseball tonight. They need to forget their averages, forget the low home run totals and high earned run averages and play the game like the college kids many of them once were. I’m not saying they need to press – they’ve done a lot of late lately – but they need to see what the way the college kids play the game. They need to start playing more like a team and less like a band of individuals. If they don’t start doing that, some individuals might find themselves somewhere else sooner than later.