Three things we learned about the Red Sox on Sunday

Three things we learned about the Red Sox on Sunday
August 4, 2014, 12:00 pm
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Three things we learned about the Red Sox in their 8-7 loss to the Yankees Sunday night.

1) Clay Buchholz's contract isn't nearly as attractive as it once was.
     
One of the last deals by former general manager Theo Epstein was to extend Buchholz to a four-year, $29.945 million deal, a contract that seemed like a shrewd investment, even a bargain, at the time.
     
Buchholz was coming off a terrific 2010 season in which he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA and the new deal would buy out some salary arbitration years as well as some free agency years.
     
Buchholz was 26 at the time, seemingly entering his prime and it looked like good business to lock him well into his early 30's.
     
But that was then, and this is now, and now Buchholz looks like a wreck. He was shelled for seven runs in five innings Sunday night, continuing a horrid stretch that has seen him give up seven runs in back-to-back starts, and give up at least four runs in each of his last four.
     
It's been that kind of season for Buchholz, who sports a bloated 5.87 ERA.
     
Next season, Buchholz is due to make $7.7 million, a reasonable enough amount. But after 2015, he has two option years remaining -- for $12 million in 2016 and $13 for 2016.
     
It might have seemed unthinkable a year ago, but is there a chance that the Red Sox pay a $245,000 buyout and walk away from Buchholz at the end of next season?
     
If Buchholz doesn't turn himself around for the rest of this season and next, that will seem probable rather than possible.
     
At the start of the season, the book on Buchholz was that he was a highly-talented pitcher who, for whatever reason, couldn't sustain his stuff over an entire season. At the very least, however, it could be expected that he would give you a half-season of dominance.
     
Not any more. Buchholz did have a DL stint this season, missing about a month. But before and after, other than a handful of starts, there's been no period of excellence -- just mediocrity or worse.
     
What looked like a bargain 14 months ago now looks like an albatross.

     
2) David Ortiz's performance at 38 continues to amaze.

Ortiz had a two-run homer and a sacrifice fly in the 8-7 loss Sunday night, giving him 82 RBI for the season.
     
That in itself would be impressive, given how thin the Red Sox lineup has been for much of the season. Until the trades for Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, the only hitter capable of providing protection for Ortiz was Mike Napoli.
     
But consider how valuable Ortiz has been even without much backing: his 82 RBI are almost double the next highest total on the Sox (Dustin Pedroia, with 42 RBI).
     
Such a disparity points to how anemic the Red Sox offense has been, but also, to Ortiz's ability to be an elite run producer even when he's getting little help from elsewhere.
     
Though his batting average is down considerably, it seems certain that Ortiz is going to top his homers and RBI from a season ago. And that, in and of itself, is remarkable.


3) Length of games remains an issue for baseball.
     
Sunday night's game was woefully slow. It took almost three hours to play the first five innings.
     
I have no idea what ESPN's ratings were for the game -- nor do I care. But in an otherwise competitive game featuring two longtime rivals and offering plenty of offense, my guess is that whatever the number was, it dipped considerably halfway through.
     
And it wasn't just TV viewers turning off at home; by the seventh inning, in a one-run game, on a summer night with no school to worry about the next day, the ballpark was about half-empty by the seventh inning.
     
One more time: This. Cannot. Be. Sustained.
     
Look, I'm not in favor of a clock to make a pitcher deliver the ball within a given time frame. I'm not a sloppy sentimentalist either, who waxes on about the beauty of baseball is that there is no clock.
     
But when regular season games drone on to the near four-hour mark and paying customers are giving up and going home rather endure the glacial pace, baseball had better do something.
     
Maybe limit mound visits by catchers and pitching coaches. Maybe cut back on warmup tosses. Maybe prohibit the incessant stepping in and out of the batter's box and the endless (and needless) adjustments of batting gloves.
     
Something has to be done.
     
Baseball's sometimes languid pace is part of its charm, but somewhere, the game has become a snorefest at times, slow enough that even longtime fans want to tap on the glass and see if baseball is still alive -- or just napping.