Haggerty: It may be time for Sox to admit what they are

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Haggerty: It may be time for Sox to admit what they are

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.

Shaughnessy provides details of Price-Eckersley confrontation

Shaughnessy provides details of Price-Eckersley confrontation

The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy, citing "six people who witnessed . . . the incident", provided details Sunday of the confrontation between current Red Sox pitcher David Price and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, now a part-time member of the Sox broadcast team, on a recent team flight from Boston to Toronto.

As earlier reported, Price berated Eckersley over innocuous on-air comments by Eck regarding a rehab start by Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. From Shaughnessy:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

When Price was asked about it the next day, he said only, “Some people just don’t understand how hard this game is.’’

Price later said he was merely standing up for his teammates and "[whatever] crap I catch for that, I’m fine with it.’’

Shaughnessy, citing "three people close to Eckersley," reported that neither Price nor manager John Farrell has apologized to Eckersley.

Drellich: The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

Drellich: The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

WATCH: Did Sox make right move? / BASEBALL SHOW PODCAST: On Devers

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.