By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
When the Red Sox were closing in on the 2016 playoffs, Rick Porcello was on the verge of a Cy Young award, and they had the number one offense in all of Major League Baseball. David Ortiz had one of the best seasons of his entire career, and seemed primed for one last epic October.
Looking at the matchups going into the 2016 playoffs, Texas was the number one seed and ended up being matched up with the Blue Jays for a second year in a row. Much like the previous season, Toronto heated up late. Nobody wanted any part of them. They had the same high powered offense, and an underrated pitching staff that had exceeded everyone’s expectations. Most Red Sox fans, including myself, were content to simply let the Ranger’s keep their number one seed, so that we play the very injured, under manned, and “easier” Cleveland Indians. We all know how well that worked out… not.
This year the tides have turned. Despite being on the verge of winning the division for the second year in a row, the Red Sox don’t have that same stellar offense from 2016. They are limping towards the finish line. Literally. Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez are key cogs in the lineup, but are both nursing knee issues. Drew Pomeranz failed to elevate the velocity of his fastball above 90mph in his last start. And Mookie Betts is nursing an injured hand.
Waiting for the Red Sox this time is the Houston Astros. After being acquired at 11:59:58pm on the midnight August 31st midnight trade deadline, Justin Verlander is perhaps finally ready to win his first World Series ring. He is 5-0 since joining the Astros with a 1.06 ERA. Dallas Keuchel seems to finally be healthy and reverting back to his 2015 Cy Young form as of late. Both pitchers are unquestionably the best 1-2 punch in the American League. Aside from pitching, the Astros also have one of the best young lineups in the American League. Jose Altuve could very well be on the verge of his first MVP honors. Carlos Correa is finally bouncing back from his injuries. And George Springer had one of the most explosive seasons anyone has ever witnessed from a lead off hitter.
The Indians at least for now are the favorites to win the pennant. They are perhaps the most complete team in the American League, if not all of MLB. Terry Francona is unequivocally the very best post season manager of our lifetime. Corey Kluber is on the verge of his second Cy Young. Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer have been lights out since early August. Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor, and Jose Ramirez are the best middle of the order in MLB. And of course, their bullpen behind Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen is absolutely nasty. All around, they are the team of destiny.
Even if the Red Sox were 100% healthy, they would still only be the third best team. It would defy all rationale to state a case in any way, shape, or form that the Red Sox are superior to Houston or Cleveland. Chris Sale has basically faded into an oblivion. His slider has lost its effectiveness. His ERA in his last three starts is 4.34. Neither Houston or Cleveland are going to be afraid of him. The rest of the Red Sox rotation is a pure crap shoot as to whether they might keep the other teams at bay. On top of everything else, our offense lacks the power and consistency to overcome the elite pitching from their opposition to provide the Boston’s struggling lineup with run support.
If either Houston or Cleveland were slumping or not producing in a given area, a case for the Red Sox defeating either team could POSSIBLY be made. But the reality is that both teams are absolutely thriving, and peforming at their most optimal levels. A.J. Hinch and Terry Francona are very pleased with where they respectively sit. Not to mention the New York Yankees as well. Quite frankly, the Yankees are performing much better than the Red Sox, and in a far better position to pull off an upset.
Die hard Red Sox fans will point the finger at me and say that I’m the most “negative person on twitter.” I say I’m on the more realistic side of the spectrum. The cold hard truth is that the Red Sox just aren’t that good. They’re injured, lack confidence, have no momentum whatsoever, and not simply NOT firing on all cylinders. Most damningly of all… John Farrell just isn’t that smart. He is not going to fool Hinch or Francona, and overcome all of Boston’s weaknesses to off set their respective opponents strengths. The 2017 Indians/Astros are the 2013 version of the Red Sox/Tigers.
It’s going to be another brief exit. October 10, 2017 is the day I predicted John Farrell will be fired as Manager of the Boston Red Sox, and I’m sticking to it.