Everything Has Come Crashing Down

After a disappointing season, what's next for the Red Sox?

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Everything Has Come Crashing Down

At Fenway Park during a 2019 season game

At Fenway Park during a 2019 season game

At Fenway Park during a 2019 season game

At Fenway Park during a 2019 season game

Miles Bowker, Staff Writer

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If you’re not a Red Sox fan, that headline may read like something of an overstatement, but for those who’ve followed the club all year, it rings all too true. Only 11 months ago, Boston was the best team in baseball–delighting in the champagne that comes with the honor. 108 wins marked a franchise-best, and the team’s ninth World Series title was the icing on the cake. The 2018 iteration can, without any question, be referred to as the best Red Sox team in history.

Last year may have been inimitable, a dream season, but fans had to expect a better showing than what we’ve seen this summer, right? Little has gone right, The ice-cold hangover that seemed sure to be temporary in April and May has proven to be the rule–not the exception.

Shaky stretches can be expected–and weathered–over the course of any baseball season. Harder to weather, however, are the stretches that last months, as has been the case with the 2019 Sox. The experts have long insisted that this team was too good on paper to be this bad, but nobody on the team seemed all that willing to prove it. 

Only in recent weeks have the most optimistic of harbingers eased off the “Boston will right the ship” narrative. The truth is as clear as day: This Red Sox club, with the highest payroll in baseball, will miss the playoffs. This won’t be by a narrow margin, either. 

“18 games and counting” could well be the name of a reality show, but in this case, it represents the gap between Boston and the first place (and archrival) New York Yankees. Not a lot hurts more in the sports world than needing a telescope to find your rival team’s position. At the time of writing, 9 games separate the club from a mere playoff spot, and at their current rate of play, any postseason berth would surely be short-lived. So, how did everything go this wrong?

It isn’t as though Boston saw an exodus of talent this past offseason, as General Manager Dave Dombrowski made a priority of re-signing key pieces of the best team in baseball. He brought back playoff heroes Nate Eovaldi and slugger Steve Pearce, and though both were somewhat expensive, it didn’t figure to be a problem if the team performed. 

Star closer Craig Kimbrel did depart, as did longtime bullpen piece Joe Kelly, but neither loss figured to be crippling. After all, a smart executive like Dombrowski would surely use some of his limitless money on adequate replacements…Right?

As it turned out, Dombrowski could not be bothered. Now a week on from the beleaguered General Manager’s firing, we are left to reflect on just how much of this mess was his fault. Though a major architect of last year’s powerhouse, he plainly refused to bolster a weak bullpen at every turn, and in response to his faith, the relief staff let the team down time and time again.

Worse still, Dombrowski dished out long-term money to aging players with injury histories. The trio of Chris Sale, David Price, and Eovaldi, a group that cost the club a combined $79M next year, were all hurt, downright ineffective, or some mixture of the two this season. Rick Porcello has been quite literally the worst pitcher in baseball, marking a new low in his spiral from 2017 Cy Young winner to unwanted veteran. 

Not everything can be pinned on the former GM, however. The decision to drop Dombrowski brought up big time questions about the ownership group’s long-term commitment to contending: He may be an easy scapegoat, but the GM won a world championship here. He’ll be signed by another team in the coming weeks, because, despite his flaws, he WINS baseball games. 

Principal Owner and head honcho John Henry tried to assign blame for the monumental disappointment of a season with the Dombrowski canning, but the move only leaves the team in a worse position going forward. Doubts are appearing in Red Sox fans’ minds, running along the lines of “does this ownership group actually know what they’re doing?”

Maybe Boston fans–so rabid about sports and eager to overanalyze the topic’s themes at every opportunity–are just looking for something to whine about. The uncertainty around the team’s future seems valid though. The previously indispensable Mookie Betts, the type of player any franchise would hand a blank check to, could be involved in trade talks as soon as the season ends. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear the Red Sox have already fielded offers on last year’s MVP. 

Why would the club trade its 26-year-old cornerstone? Money. Betts expects to receive in excess of $35 million a year, and frankly, after what the team gave the aforementioned pitchers, a mega-extension for Mookie just doesn’t seem to be in the cards. 

The Sox can’t keep everyone, and unless players like Chris Sale want to start mailing their checks back, sacrifices need to be made. There’s a very good chance the team we love right now could be broken up within months–just for payroll’s sake. In summary, things could get extremely ugly, sooner or later. As this positively awful season winds down, try not to get too upset: It’s only going to get worse. 

Less than a year after dispatching all comers in the perfect season, the Red Sox are somehow in a worse position than seemed imaginable.

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