CLEVELAND When the Red Sox season is over and every last statistic has been recorded, parsed and analyzed in the big book of MLB numbers, most may remember Sundays wipeout 14-1 win over the Indians as the last wide smile of the season.
No matter how good that Sunday afternoon drubbing felt,the Sox are still a far sight away from the playoffs and simply treading water.
Despite urgency being the name of the game, the Sox havent gained a single game in the Wild Card playoff standings since the July 31 trade deadline, and they sit 5 games back in the middle of August. They're going nowhere fast with David Ortiz still missing in action with a balky Achilles, and the wonderfully energetic rookie Will Middlebrooks is likely gone for the season.
In a way, a blowout win like Sunday's can be disappointing for the Sox because it is a reminder of how talented this ballclub really is. Its also a harsh reminder of how much theyve truly underachieved.
Sure there are injuries. The Sox have had the most disabled players (25) and DL stints (29) in franchise history since the 1971 season.But theres still oodles of talent on a 180 million payroll thats second only to the Yankees in MLB this season. They should have been better despite all the adversity.
Watching Jon Lester dominate Tribe hitters to the tune of 12 strikeouts in six innings showed that nothing is wrong with the 28-year-olds stuff. He should have been that guy all season for the Sox rather than a mega-talented hurler trying to recover from a bloated 5.20 ERA that will probably look like an aberration when his career is over.
The numbers are so bad that Lester admits hes had to stop paying attention to his stats in a sport where every player knows every one of their own back-of-the-baseball-card breakdowns backwards and forwards.Things could have been much different for this Sox team if Lester had pulled it together before August, but he didn't.
Watching Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia singe a Cleveland rookie hurler is similarly maddening. Ellsbury and Crawford were both MIA for long stretches of the first half, while both Gonzalez and Pedroia never played up to their potential.
Sure, the Sox lead the league in runs scored. But thats like being the prettiest girl at a beer goggle dance contest. Those stats were inflated by a handful of blowout wins in the first few months of the year. Gonzalez was a gloried singles hitter masquerading as a cleanup guy and Pedroia was essentially a .260 hitting second baseman with a good glove when the Sox were at their worst. Now that the season is beyond salvage, Gonzalez has turned back into a home run hitting monster, and Pedroia has pumped his batting average up to .278 for the first time since early June.
Watching the Red Sox lineup do the rumba around the base paths while wearing out the gap in right-center field at Progressive Field was impressive on its face. But it was also a stark reminder that Boston should have been doing this all year, and they should be a team pushing the New York Yankees near the top of the AL East.
Its a season full of coulda, woulda and shoulda and theyll now be four years removed from their last playoff game win, and three years away from even qualifying for the postseason.
Instead theyre sending out feelers to deal veterans like Mike Aviles and Kelly Shoppach before the waiver trade deadline at the end of August. Maybe they're figuring which of John Lackey and Josh Beckett if not both has to find the door this winter. Perhaps theyre even thinking of mercifully shutting down Crawford, who needs elbow surgery and is now starting to feel soreness in his surgically repaired left wrist.
Call it trending downward.
Call it moving in the wrong direction.
But call it also a team that's serving out the final months of its hardball death sentence. Each and every efficient or eye-popping victory moving forward is an example of what this team might have been under different circumstances.
It was feel-good win on Sunday for the Sox, but that just makes it all a bit worse today as the Sox get ready for six games against the Orioles and Yankees.