Oh Red Sox Nation, I love you, but you are a fickle bunch. All summer you’ve been like the cocky high school jock strutting through the hallways like you owned the place. Then September hit, and everything changed. Rather than continuing your reign atop the food chain, you were unexpectedly popped in the jaw by the school nerd; wet your pants out of embarrassment; and broke down crying in front of the entire school. Suddenly, the toughest guy in school doesn’t look so tough anymore. To be fair, it’s a perfectly common reaction. After owning the American League for four months, it’s only natural for a fan base to recoil in horror as they watch their once substantial lead dwindle to two games in a blink of an eye. It’s even more disheartening to see your team fail to capitalize on a picture perfect opportunity to take control of their destiny by getting slightly outplayed in a four game series by the basement dwelling Orioles. Still, that’s life, and sometimes these things happen with little logical reasoning. As they say, You Can’t Predict Baseball.
With the Red Sox sitting at 5-16 in September, and the emotional state of the fan base being shaky at best; I thought it’d be a good idea to take the pulse of Red Sox Nation. For this exercise, I’ve enlisted the help of my Fire Brand cohorts, fellow Red Sox bloggers, and a few select regular Fire Brand readers for their input on their thoughts about the season-ending swoon. I asked each contributor to provide answers to three questions: (1) What is your current level of panic? (2) What is your reasoning for your position? and (3) How likely are the Red Sox to make the playoffs?
So how are people feeling about the Red Sox right now? Check out what people are thinking after the jump! (Also, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section provided below.)
The Pulse of Fire Brand of the American League
Chip Buck (Featured Columnist)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) – 1; I’m not panicked at all, but I realize I’m one of five people in that position right now.
Reasoning – Even though the Red Sox seem to be on the verge of coming apart at the seems, there are many reasons to be positive. Josh Beckett and Erik Bedard have returned to the rotation; Daniel Bard seems to be on the verge to rediscovering his pre-September form; and the offense is still producing plenty of runs. Another positive is they have a two game lead over the Rays, and only six games remaining; including three against the Orioles. Unless the unthinkable occurs and the Red Sox are swept by the Yankees this weekend, the Wild Card is practically locked up.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) - 9.5; As long as the Rays have a legitimate chance, I have to leave the door ajar.
Charlie Saponara (Featured Columnist)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) – 6
Reasoning - While the starting rotation is certainly a problem, the team is still going to get a couple more starts from Beckett and Lester and the Rays have a handful of games left against the Yankees. The Sox offense has the ability to put up a ton of runs every night. Two games might seem like a lot, but any combination of seven Sox wins or Rays loses seals the deal for the Sox.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) – 6; It’s baseball and anything can happen, like Paps having not a blown save since May 9th, but blowing one in a huge spot against the Orioles.
Darryl Johnston (Featured Columnist)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) – 3
Reasoning - Listen, I know everyone wants to flip out and point fingers but baseball is a weird game and stuff that was Earth-shattering one week, means nothing a week later. Have they had a very bad month? Yes. Are they also the streakiest team we can ever remember? Yes. They have about an 85% chance to make the playoffs. Once we get there — who knows? People need to just calm down and wait for the real conclusion (be it a World Series title or something less than that) instead of freaking out. The story will play itself out. You can ride along the drama train or just let it come as it does. This is a very on/off year. We know what ‘on’ looks like.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) - I would say ’8′ or if you want to get technical I said 85% chance so 8.5.
Justine Decotis (Game Thread Denizen)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) – 6
Reasoning - At this point this team doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs so what’s the difference? The difference is that I’m still holding out some sort of hope that they we somehow squeak in and then everything will fall into place and they will go on a run. I go back and forth almost every hour with my frustration level, most of the time I’m disgusted and I start counting down the days until opening day 2012. But I’m a positive person by nature so I still have some hope, but not much.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) – 5
Scott Candage (Game Thread Denizen)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) – 7
Reasoning - The pitching depth of the Red Sox is as bad as it has been in 10 years. For goodness sake, they even tried to trade for Chris Capuano this week in an attempt to avoid John Lackey. None of the hitters are taking charge and hitting to championship level. They will probably make the playoffs but it’s one and done for the Sox.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) – 8
Paul Testa (Fireside Chat Podcast)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) - I would say right now I am at a 7
Reasoning - It seems like everything bad that can happen is happening. Whether its injuries or a lights out paplebon giving up a 3 run double on a pitch a guy had no business hitting, the breaks are not falling our way right now. If the sox have a good series all around against the Yankees I see this funk ending.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) - I would put it at a 7 for the moment. Our schedule is favorable but we need some help from the Yanks if we keep playing the way we are. The Yankees play the rays the last series of the year and its shaping up for them to be able to rest everyone which doesn’t bode well for us.
The Pulse of the Red Sox Blogosphere
Red (Surviving Grady)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) – 4; The Red Sox are going to make the playoffs. 4 is about my standard “resting rate of panic” for everything in life.
Reasoning - While it’s disappointing that the team didn’t quite live up to all the pre-season hype, 2004 taught me that worrying about them only gives me ulcers. You take the Malcolm X approach of getting into the postseason by any means necessary, and then anything can happen.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) – 10; See above. This team is making the playoffs. So those country line-dancing lessons you’ve got scheduled for October? Cancel that s#!@ right now.
Denton (Surviving Grady)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) - The rating needs to go higher than 10 for what I am feeling.
Reasoning - This team has shown a complete lack of heart (balls?) for the past three weeks. Physically, they have become a team of JD Drews – Gonzalez begging out of a game after he hits a home run, Craford’s stiff neck, Papi’s back spasms, etc. Worse, they have no focus or mental toughness. Bard’s implosion, Papelbon in Wednesday’s game, the fact that they lead the majors in errors for the month of September – not championship mentality. And to complete the bad recipe, several poor decisions on Tito’s use of players. This is not your 2004 Boston Red Sox.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) - 7; and this is through none of their doing, simply a numbers game. If there were two weeks left in the season, I would give this a 1.
Matt Collins (Red Stocking Thoughts)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) – 6; In my head I believe they will make it, but in deep dark places that I don’t like to talk about, I feel I’m seeing a collapse.
Reasoning – The bullpen has been awful as of late. We all know the starting pitching has been garbage this month, but we still need guys to save runs when the starters are out of the game. Mid-game stalwarts Matt Albers and Alfredo Aceves have 8.54 and 4.32 FIP, respectively. Even bullpen aces Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon have been shaky this month.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) – 7; I still believe the Sox will be in the postseason. The Rays haven’t been any better than Boston when playing teams other than the hometown squad The Red Sox are still the most talented team of the three fighting for the last playoff spot, and my head still tells me this team will be playing in October.
Jared Carrabis (Sox Space)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) – 5
Reasoning - I’m in the middle for this, and the reason is simple. There’s a better than 90% chance that the Red Sox will make it to the postseason, and teams with a lot less talent (even considering the injuries) have gone on to win the World Series. Take the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals for example. But on the other hand, the Cardinals weren’t playing with the expectations that the Red Sox are now, and the Cardinals “weren’t supposed to be there”, so they were playing with a lot less pressure than this Red Sox team.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) - I’m gonna go ahead and say 9 on this. There’s always the possibility that the Red Sox could totally cough this thing up, and if they do, my pick is for it to be the Angels that overtake them, not the Rays. The reason I feel confident with punching their ticket to the playoffs is because they’ll be playing a Yankee team that will likely be resting guys for the postseason (assuming they don’t play their starters in hopes that they can bump the Sox) and I just don’t see the Orioles repeating what they did at Fenway Park.
The Pulse of Fire Brand Readers
Brandon Stewart (former Fire Brand contributor)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) - I’m not sure, I watch the games, realize the enormous stumble I’m watching, yet I don’t find myself completely freaking out with every pitch, I guess how I equate it… the supposed “euphoric” feeling one feels while drowning. Inside though I’m sitting in a 8.5 kind of level.
Reasoning - The reason my panic level is so high is directly because the teams panic level looks to be non-existent. Yes, David Ortiz graciously gave the media that sound bit a week ago about how they are panicked, but I fail to see it. You would expect a proud team who are playing to extend the season (and avoid the biggest regular season collapse ever) to play every game like it’s already the playoffs. Yet, no head first slides into first, no emotion on the mound from the walking wounded rotation, and there is no refuse to lose attitude… A trip to the Red Sox website this season will jam the “We won’t rest until order has been restored” down your throat… Well this team is in a coma.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) - Chances the team can brave this and limp into the playoffs, I give it a 6 out of 10, the yanks have nothing to play for after clinching so the Rays may have a cake walk and have three free wins out of this, so unless they really step up, its over. Only reason I give them more than a 50 percent chance is because they have a two and a half game lead. That’s the only reason.
Lee Perrault (former Fire Brand contributor)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) - 5. While the team still undeniably has more than enough talent to stay afloat of the Rays for another 6 games, the utter failure to hold leads or get more than 2 innings out of Kyle Weiland is making every one of these last few games a nightmare. They’ve now bookended the season with horrible losing streaks, but that shouldn’t overshadow the performance over the entire season, either; I’m still in the “talent is going to win out” camp. However, after the stinker by Beckett and the bullpen on Wednesday we’ve now entered, as Sir Alex Ferguson calls it, “Squeaky Bum Time”. The pitching is not playoff caliber unless Beckett and Lester can throw every other game. This is a major concern moving forward.
Reasoning - The Red Sox still own the best wOBA in the major leagues. The offense is more than capable of carrying the team the final 6 games and during the playoffs(like how 2003 should have panned out). They’ve remained afloat this entire month while filling the 3rd through 5th starters with kindergarten paste and popsicle sticks; there’s no reason that failboat can’t hold on for 6 more games. Lester and Beckett both get to pitch again, Lester possibly twice! The Sabathia-less Yankees should provide a tee for the Sox to launch bombs off this weekend. There are reasons to be confident, really. I’m not making this up.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) - 7. Again, talent will (should?) win out. The MLB leading wOBA has every opportunity to demolish a Sabathia-less trip to Yankee stadium, and the Orioles really can’t steal more games, can they? (La La La La! Law of Large Numbers! I can’t hear you!) The possible downfall of the Red Sox will be in innings 7-9. Bard and Papelbon need to remove the lumps from their throats, and starters need to go deep into games to keep the ball away from a suddenly shaky bullpen. Wasn’t the bullpen one of our biggest strengths in the summer? When did John Wasdin get his job back? Since September 1st, the Red Sox relievers have been tagged for six losses. Look at me, finding a way to use losses as a relevant stat!
Jody White (Fire Brand Reader)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) – 4
Reasoning – I have a little gnawing fear in my stomach that the Sox might not make the playoffs. But not much. And I keep telling myself that we have Lester and Becket and a great offense the playoffs are a crap shoot so we could be just fine.
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) – 8
Pat Matla (Fire Brand Reader)
Panic Level (scale of 1-10) – 4
Reasoning - The only reason this hasn’t risen any further is because we still have Beckett and Lester to pitch this season. You can’t be panicked about missing the playoffs when Tito continually has to fill in the lineup card with the likes of Conor Jackson, Darnell McDonald, and Mike Aviles. This would be ok if the rotation hadn’t been decimated by injuries. When Alfredo Aceves is your 3rd best pitcher this month you don’t deserve to make the playoffs. Everyone knew going into the season that the back end of the rotation was a question and we found out that our low cost “solutions” were low cost for a reason. When you get excited at the deadline because we brought in the pitching equal of J.D. Drew in Erik Bedard, and talk yourself into him being healthy and contributing, you know the season has not played out as originally expected. (But we knew this season would be different after a 2-10 start and then a torrid 81-42 summer)
Playoff Comfort Level (scale of 1-10) - 8; Sox make the playoffs but not without some timely help from NY.
Tell us how you’re feeling. Are you panicked or cool as a cucumber? Share your thougths in the comments section provided below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Categories: Boston Red Sox