Sox must right wrongs before it's too late

Sox must right wrongs before it's too late
April 25, 2014, 1:45 pm

BOSTON - In the wake of the Michael Pineda debacle Wednesday night at Fenway, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the organization was embarrassed.
     
Twenty-four hours later, it was the Red Sox' turn to soil themselves.
     
For the second time in the last three games, the Red Sox had allowed five unearned runs, and of course, lost. In the two sloppy setbacks that bookended the last series they'll play with the Yankees for the next two months, the Sox committed a total of seven errors.
     
The error total didn't begin to cover the list of total mistakes made. There were three wild pitches thrown, a passed ball and other acts of ineptitude to boot.
     
More so than any time in the season's troubling first 3 1/2 weeks, the Red Sox looked less than the defending World Series champs and more like a beer league team getting the early spring kinks out -- none too successfully, as it proved.
     
The 14-5 shellacking capped a brutal homestand that saw the Red Sox do little right.
     
Four times -- including, predictably, Thursday night --  the visiting team scored four runs before the Red Sox could score at all, hardly the kind of formula that leads to many wins. In fact, the Sox won only one of those four "playing from behind" games - and that one took a curious call at second with now infamous transfer rule and no small bit of defensive incompetence from the Baltimore Orioles.
     
Only twice did the Red Sox get quality starts from their rotation: last Saturday (from Felix Doubront) and again Wednesday (from John Lackey).
     
Too often, they were done in by poor starting pitching and its coconspirators, suspect defense. When that wasn't enough, there was still room for inattentive baserunning and fundamental breakdowns.
     
Following the loss Thursday, the Red Sox vigorously denied that the recent slide was at all the result of poor effort.
     
"I wouldn't say it's effort-related whatsoever," said John Farrell. "There's ability here. The effort is there. Their work ethic is consistent and yet, an error has (tended to) not only extended innings, typically where a pitching staff or individual pitcher can pick up a (teammate who's committed an error), that hasn't happened. And it's led to some situations where we've got behind early in the game."
     
Errors, continued Farrell "are more physical in nature, rather than mental (breakdowns). While we've had some mental errors, I wouldn't say that the shortcoming we've shown have been effort-related."
     
"Guys are working their tails off," insisted David Ross. "We'll keep working, we'll keep trying to get better. I never question the effort of guys in here. Guys play hard, guys want to win, sometimes almost to a fault. We work hard, we play hard. I'll never question guys' effort around here.
     
"If there's ever a question with effort, we'll deal with that in-house. There hasn't been (a question) since I've been here. Hopefully, there won't be as long as I'm here."
     
But if it's not effort, what do we call it? Lack of focus? A shortage of concentration?
     
Something has turned the Red Sox into an approximation of the Bad News Bears of late.
     
The early-season window for excuses has closed. The distractions of the home opener, the White House visit, the emotional toll the anniversary of the Marathon tragedy have all passed, and starting Friday night, the Red Sox will be the healthiest they've been since they left Fort Myers, with Shane Victorino making his return to the field Thursday and Will Middlebrooks ready to do the same at Rogers Centre Friday.
     
Is there some self-satisfaction over last year in play, some team-wise malaise? That would belie the team's unofficial promise to "Turn the Page."
     
Still, something clearly isn't right, and if it's not fixed soon, the Red Sox may see a familiar pattern emerging: falling behind so far that they can't catch up.
     
Only this time, it won't be on the scoreboard for a single game, but in the standings, with the 2014 season in the balance.