Red Sox in shambles with little hope in sight

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Red Sox in shambles with little hope in sight

58-16.

You know, if baseball was any other professional sport, wed all find a little solace in whats happened to the Red Sox. By this point, these guys would have already become our 1992 Pats or 2007 Celtics, where the frustration of late season disaster is outweighed by hopes of draft day glory.

In any other sport, wed look at the standings and say, Wow. The Sox are only four games out of a top five pick! They can do this. They can suck! And wed measure every loss as a calculated victory; a steppingstone toward the instant gratification of some game-changing prospect.

Its a delusional mentality. The ultimate case of making lemonade out of lemons, especially when theres always a chance that the lemonade tastes like crap (See: 2007 NBA lottery). But its a nice consolation when your team goes belly up.

However, thats not baseball. In baseball, top prospects disappear for at least a year, and even then, theres a better chance that your No. 1 pick has Tommy John surgery within the first 18 months than contributes at the Major League level. Sure, the bad teams still get the best players, but the concept of those best players is nowhere near as sexy, and barely a serviceable distraction.

Hell, this morning, it barely distracted this post for 200 words.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, right. 58-16.

Thats the tally on the Sox current seven-game losing streak their longest since 2001, by the way. Check that again: 58-16. In other words, theyve been outscored by 42 runs in seven games. And while Fridays 20-2 loss in Oakland might skew the absurdity a little, getting outscored by 24 runs in six games is nothing to sneeze at it. By any calculation, this season has become a full on joke. An embarrassment.

I guess one positive is that things aren't as bad as last year. Last year, we believed in this team up until the very last out. We didnt understand the depth or detail of their malfunction and still somehow trusted that theyd overcome the obstacles and make it to the playoffs. And of course, once they were in, anything was possible.

This year, hopes for the playoffs were just about dead by mid-August and were delivered a lethal injection of cyanide with THE TRADE at the end of the month. By the time this recent road trip started, we'd already flipped the page on 2012; a turnaround was more unlikely than last year's collapse. So like I said, it makes this recent mess a little easier to swallow.

After all, by ditching Beckett and clearing up enough pay roll to buy Greece, this season is already a victory. A victory in light of all kinds of ugliness, but still a victory. A step in the right direction. The Sox could lose every game from here on out, and they'd still be in better shape organizationally than they were two months ago.

And you know what? Losing every game might not be a bad idea.

After all, they're only 10 games behind the Cubs for the No. 2 overall pick.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''