The 2019 season for the Boston Red Sox may ultimately be defined by what is often the most forgettable month on the baseball calendar. Regardless of whether or not they make the playoffs.
Whether or not they make the playoffs. That’s somewhat of an incredible notion if you stop and think about it. It’s after the All-Star break, over halfway through the regular season, and there’s a very real possibility the Red Sox will be headed for the golf course come October. The Red Sox. The defending champs. A team that boasts multiple Cy Young winners, last year’s AL MVP, and a slew of young hitters with serious pop.
A team that, as far as the postseason is concerned, is on the outside looking in.
Yeah yeah yeah, I know. There’s a lot of baseball yet to be played. Boston could very easily return to 2018 form and go on a late-season surge. They certainly have the talent to do so. But if they don’t, if they ultimately sink and miss out on the postseason entirely, the month of April is when the ship hit the iceberg.
To some, that may sound dramatic. But let’s examine exactly what happened in April.
Limping out of the gate
The Red Sox opened the season on the West Coast in Seattle. A team that A) had just come off playing a series in Japan, and B) is one of the worst teams in the AL. Boston, on the other hand, was fresh, healthy across the board, and had even given aces Chris Sale and David Price plenty of time to rest in Spring training.
But Boston would lose 3 of 4 against the Mariners.
After going to Oakland and again losing 3 of 4, the Sox finished the road trip by losing 2 of 3 to the mediocre Arizona Diamondbacks. In total, it was 3-8 start against average to below-average opponents. In the meantime, the rival New York Yankees were just begging to be left in the dust in the standings after being decimated with injuries. But the Red Sox continued to let games against Baltimore and Toronto slip through their fingers too.
On April 16th, though, Boston had a golden chance to turn things around. They went into the Bronx for a two-game series against the Yankees. New York took the field with a borderline Triple-A lineup, with injuries to Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorious, Dellin Betances, and Luis Severino. But Chris Sale got smacked around in the first game, the Sox blew a 2-run lead late in the second game, and suddenly… Boston was 6-13.
They would finish the month of April 13-17, 7 games back in the AL East standings.
Where Boston could be right now
The Red Sox are currently 51-44. Since April ended, they have put up a respectable 38-27 record (a win % of 0.584). Had they played at the same pace from Opening Day through April 30th, they would be 55-40. That would be good enough for 2nd place in the AL East, and only 5 games behind the Yankees in the loss column instead of 10. Striking distance. And they’d sit comfortably in the first Wild Card slot. Complete control over their own destiny.
Instead, they have likely subjected themselves to a dogfight for the final Wild Card spot with the other middling AL teams. Barring an ’02 Athletics second half, or a complete meltdown from New York and Tampa, the Division title grows farther and farther out of reach with each passing week.
Again, there’s still a few months to go. But it’s now the second half of the season, the dog days of summer. And Boston doesn’t look any closer to digging themselves out of the pit they fell into all the way back in April. To put it simply: time to see what the champs are made of.