Life Without Ortiz

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Life Without Ortiz

On Tuesday night, Jon Lester was awful and the Red Sox offense was lacking in a 7-5 loss to Chicago. To make matters worse, the other Sox were led by a vengeful Kevin Youkilis, who seems to have lost 20 pounds of fat and added 10 pounds of muscle in the two weeks since leaving Boston.

On Wednesday night, the game was delayed due to a tornado warning.

Yeah, Im not sure the David OrtzDL Era could have started much worse for the Sox. You could already see Ortiz watching it all unfold from the dugout, rubbing his hands together and thinking: Oh yesss. Whats up, Larry? How you enjoying life without Papi? Bahahaha!

With the way this seasons gone, you really had to wonder if the Sox would survive these two weeks without Ortiz. While hes been a huge pain in the ass off the field, hes still been Bostons undisputed best player. Hes the biggest reason theyre only one game out of a playoff spot. For three and a half months, Ortiz was the glue in that line-up and things were still on the verge of falling apart. But now . . . Who would step up in his absence? Who would be there on the nights when no one else showed?

There may still be times over the next two weeks when we find ourselves asking those questions, but last night wasnt one of them. Last night, after an inauspicious start to Life Without Papi, the Sox gave us reason to believe. Not just that they can survive sans No. 34, but that once he comes back, Ortiz and the Sox will have what it takes to turn this season around.

Of course, who knows? Weve been here before with this team. Weve gotten our hopes up, only see them crumpled up and crapped on. To quote a wise, wise man, the Sox play on the field has at times tested the mettle of the faithful. It could be maddening one day, enthralling the next. As a result, weve learned not to get carried away.

But at the very least, we can all agree that last night was a lot of fun.

First of all, the Sox are a different team with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford atop the line-up. In three games, theyve taken Boston from borderline unwatchable to one of the most exciting teams in baseball. As long theyre healthy, Crawford and Ellsbury will continue to change the game. Theyll make opposing pitchers dizzy and make life a whole lot easier for everyone whos hitting behind them.

Doesnt Crawford already look more confident and comfortable than he did at any point last season? Kill the guy all you want for the money and the injuries, but right now he's ready to play.

Same goes for Adrian Gonzalez, whos 9-16 (.563) with two homers and nine RBI in four games since the All-Star Break. His average is up to .296, hes in the top 10 in the AL in hits, the top five in doubles and the power looks like its creeping back. Speaking of power, Cody Ross is healthy again, judging by his two home runs that traveled a combined marathon. And did I mention that Dustin Pedroia is coming back tonight? Believe it or not, he found that sometimes it's beneficial to take a seat and let yourself heal. He's ready to roll.

And suddenly, we're left to wonder: Instead of the Sox falling apart without Ortiz, might we remember this stretch as the time when this team finally came together?

When Ellsbury, Crawford and Pedroia all returned, and with a hell of a lot to prove. When Gonzalez and Ross had no choice but to pick up the slack and carry the RBI burden. And that when David Ortiz comes back in two weeks, he'll no longer have to play the role of savior for a beat up and worn down line-up. Instead, he'll come back as the final piece to what was originally supposed to be one of the most imposing line-ups in baseball.

And there I go getting carried away.

I know, Larry. I'm sorry. I should learn from your sage words. As enthralled as I am right now, I must be prepared for my mettle to be tested. It will be so unbelievably maddening!

But for now, despite all the Red Sox will lose with David Ortiz on the DL, last night gave us a reason to be optimistic about all they'll gain in the meantime.

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

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.