McAdam: N.L. clubs out of Sox' league

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McAdam: N.L. clubs out of Sox' league

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- Under a realignment plan being discussed by Major League Baseball, two 15-team leagues would be created, creating the mathmatical need for interleague series be played throughout the season.

Surely, this has caught the eye of Red Sox ownership and given them ideas: Wouldn't it be great to play National League teams all the time?

For the Red Sox, indeed it would.

Facing the National League is tantamount to an exhibition game for the Sox, like playing their Triple-A affiliate.

That much was evident again Monday night, when the Red Sox had their way with the San Diego Padres, 14-5. Ho-hum.

Another N.L. opponent, another lopsided win. So what else is new?

The Sox have now played seven games against opponents from the N.L. and won five. In four of those five wins, the Red Sox have scored double figures. In five games, they're averaging a hair over 11 runs per game.

That's not competition; it's a vacation.

The current homestand has featured two teams from the National League, the Brewers and Padres. The Red Sox have had at least 10 hits in four of the five.

And while the Cubs -- an earlier interleague opponent -- and Padres aren't anyone's ideas of a good team, there's the distinct feeling that, other than the Phillies, Giants and perhaps one or two other clubs, it wouldn't matter much.

A huge gulf still remains between the two leagues.

True, the National League has won two of the last three World Series. But the senior circuit's improvement is top-heavy and limited to, at most, a handful of teams.

The average N.L. team is no match for an average A.L. club, and the numbers bear it out, to say nothing of the circumstantial evidence playing out at Fenway. Since the start of 2006, the American League boasts a winning percentage of .567 against its National League brethren; this season, AL teams are 56-40.

The Brewers, as an example, are in the thick of the N.L. Central race, a mere half-game out of first place in their division.

At Fenway, however, they were exposed. Though they managed a win behind crafty lefty Randy Wolf in the middle game of the series, they lost the other two games by a combined scored of 22-7. Starter Shaun Marcum, who pitched in the American League just last year, looked terrified of the Red Sox lineup in the first inning, needing 42 pitches to get the first three outs.

It was more of the same Monday when San Diego's Wade LeBlanc used up 39 pitches in the top of the first.

The astounding thing about the Red Sox' 14-run outburst Monday is the fact that San Diego's pitching staff came into the game ranked third in staff ERA in the N.L. Naturally, that number is influenced by the fact that the Padres play half their home games in cavernous Petco Park, which is slightly smaller in dimensions than Yosemite.

Yet in the seventh inning, the parade of Padres pitchers looked -- sorry, there's no other word to describe this -- scared. What else do you call it when back-to-back bases-loaded situations resulted in hit batsmen?

In all, the Padres issued nine walks, in addition to allowing the Sox to hit .389 (14-for-36) for the game.

This kind of domination isn't anything new for the Red Sox. Since the start of 2010, the Red Sox are 18-6 (.750) against the N.L. Since 2003, the year before Terry Francona was hired, the Sox are an astounding 100-51, one loss shy of a .667 pace.

And yet, there's hope yet for National League opponents. This weekend, the Red Sox will have play in National League cities, where the DH is not available to them. That means, except for a game or two, when the Sox might stick Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield, the Sox will be without David Ortiz.

From an offensive standpoint, it's the baseball equivalent of playing with one hand tied behind their backs. Maybe that will help level what is, for now, a very uneven playing field.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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.