Its been the story of the season for the Boston Red Sox, and it played out once again this weekend.
Just as they began building a little optimism with the return of injured outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford and found some pulse-pounding momentum with the walk-off heroics of Cody Ross, the Sox went right back into the much of mediocrity over the weekend.
The Sox dropped all three games to the Blue Jays, and in doing so plummeted back into the AL East cellar with a 48-48 record on the season.
We need to start playing well especially at this time of the season. We need to find a way to grind out wins, said Dustin Pedroia. Were trying to find the identity of our team and we want to do something special.
There have been times when clutch hitting has deserved an offense thats leading all of Major League Baseball, there are times when the Sox pitching staff hasnt even given the team a chance to compete and there have been frustratingly sloppy moments of simple baseball execution.
It seems that once one problem is addressed then another one pops up, and thats a telltale sign of a mediocre also-ran kind of baseball team.
Bostons season standings record proves theyve played .500 baseball this season and theres no doubt theyre getting everything they deserve.
Its a longstanding game of one step ahead and two steps behind for the Sox at every turn.
The Sox are 15-31 in 46 starts made by Josh Beckett and Jon Lester dating back to last September, and theyve put up a combined 5.11 ERA over that period.
Theyre acting as difference-makers, but unfortunately theyre doing in the most negative sense of the phrase.
Good health is a rumor rather than a possibility for an aging Red Sox corps, and key players like Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Crawford have consistently underperformed when they are healthy.
In truth the Red Sox have been the poster boys for mediocrity for far longer than this season: The Sox are 79-83 over their last 162 games dating back to July 22 of last season, and havent shown any semblance of breaking back into the elite team category.
Plenty point toward the second Wild Card playoff spot as something the Red Sox are within striking distance of, but its a little more complicated than that.
The Red Sox need to go 42-24 (.640 baseball) the rest of the way to finish with 90 wins, and sit 3 games out of the second wild card spot with five teams ahead of them in the standings.
It was a really tough series against the Blue Jays especially coming off a really good series, said Cody Ross, who made that really good series against the White Sox with a barrage of three-run homers. Dropping three to Toronto? That stinks.
We cant start pointing fingers at each other. We need to stick together.
Theres always going to be pressure for the Sox to battle for a playoff spot down to their very last game given the expectations in Boston and the bloated 150 million payroll that proves money cant buy everything. But if the Sox continue to buckle and collapse in the next six road games against the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees over the next week then it might just be time to blow up this .500 band of overpaid misfits.
Ellsbury and Lester are talented young players under team control through the 2013 season, and either would yield an attractive array of prospects. One is destined to leave Boston once he becomes a free agent per the Scott Boras free agency playbook and the other has already admitted it would be easier for him to leave Boston for a smaller market ballclub.
Josh Beckett is a 105 man with the CBA-guaranteed right to reject any trade away from the Red Sox, but the time has come to cut away a problem player that has warped the perceptions of Bostons younger pitchers. What does it say about Beckett when he still has a beer bottle opener that says First Class White Trash attached to his clubhouse locker? Hes been an average pitcher for more than a year, and has consistently refused to accept accountability for last years chicken and beer flap that paved the way for the worst September collapse in franchise history.
It may not bring back much in return and John Henry might have to pay much of his salary to make it palatable for another team, but the Red Sox have to start admitting they have an attitude problem that begins with Beckett.
Lester seemed to finally hit his breaking point on Sunday afternoon when he was knocked around for 11 runs in the worst start of his big league career. Its getting close to that stage when the entire Boston franchise needs to experience that moment of reckoning, and begin working toward solutions rather than treading water with a cast of ill-fitting parts.
The Sox havent been in the playoffs since 2009 and havent actually won a postseason game in four seasons. Theres been literally no evidence to prove this team will be able to break Bostons playoff spell, and they have less than two weeks to decide who theyre going to be coming out of the July 31 trade deadline.
This weekends three-game sweep at the hands of Toronto might have just served as the worlds biggest hint.