There was a sequence last night that struck me as epitomizing what the Red Sox have become. They had been getting throttled for most of the game again by the Tampa Bay Rays. I found myself wondering how much better those Rays are than these Red Sox. Twenty percent? Thirty? At the professional level, that's a huge amount. It's not Little League. The Red Sox had gotten within a run--which then became a two-run deficit--and got their first man on in the top of the ninth, meaning that the tying run then came to the plate with nobody out. The batter was second baseman Yu Chang.
I don't know why Chang is in the big leagues. There is really no reason that he should be. He has no power at all and is a career .209 hitter. No speed. No glove. Earlier in the game he fielded a grounder at his second base position that was leading him towards the second base bag. There was a man on first, and this should have been an easy double play.
For whatever reason, Chang pulled up before he flipped the ball to the shortstop, Brian Dalbec, who shouldn't be at the position, but more on that in a bit. When you do this, the ball floats up into the air. Hangs there uselessly. This is Little League stuff, the kind of thing that when you make this mistake in Little League, your coach--who is some dad in the community, and not some baseball expert--tells you to keep moving through the flip. That's why you see that image so often of the second baseman seeming to flow through that underhand toss, arms and body going in the same direction, that follow through picture with glove and throwing hand parallel in that upward, sweeping gesture. It's a staple image of the sport. Basic fundamentals.
On the first pitch, Chang made like he was going to bunt. I thought, "What the hell are you doing?" Again, the Sox were down two runs, not one. Then I thought--or hoped--that maybe he was trying to confuse the pitcher, or get the third baseman to come in on the next pitch, so that he might better slap a ball in the hole.
Now think about this: Red Sox manager Alex Cora sees this is in the dugout. He'd know what's going on. The intention. He could have put a halt to what Chang was doing, but I think Cora has checked out. Next pitch comes, and Chang bunts. He sacrifices the man over in a two-run game--for no reason at all, save to give up an out. "Here, take one of our last three remaining outs. Let's get you that much closer to victory, Tampa!"
Sickening. How do you justify this? You wouldn't see this ever in a JV high school game, let alone at the big league level.
Dave O'Brien and Kevin Youkilis give you no criticism of the team, and that's clearly an order from above. Then you get some awkward moment where they both mostly sit there, acting like this is normal, and they're not both appalled. Because this was a big thing. You won't ever see a play this bad from the mental and fundamental standpoint. Or not worse. A true rarity.
Finally, O'Brien, after a couple moments have passed, managed to ask Youkilis--who must have been trying not to throw up--if he "liked the bunt there." Youkilis just said, "Um...no."
It also occurred to me that Cora essentially said to himself, "This guy sucks. Can't forfeit the at-bat, and we'd rather have him get the man to second than hit into a double play, which is probably what he's going to do."
The roster could be that bad that that's how he's thinking a dozen games in.
Then there was Brian Dalbec at short. Dalbec playing short is like sticking Luis Aparicio in left field. Wrong every which way. Wrong body type for the position. Second batter of the game hits a grounder to him and Dalbec tries to field the ball by sticking his throwing hand in his glove first, as if he could make that replace the ball--it was bizarre--and then trying to throw the ball before he'd even made contact with the ball. It was as if time itself had gone out of order in the space of a second and Dalbec was the victim of a temporal Cubist experiment.
Chris Sale, of course, then got rocked, but he was going to get rocked anyway, and I don't mind it--he has it coming to him and this team isn't going anywhere this year.
I wouldn't say that I openly wish for Sale to fail, because it's simply in my blood to want to look up at the scoreboard no matter the game or stakes and see the Red Sox in the lead, but as I've said, no athlete in the history of Boston sports has sickened me like that man.
Also: how do you have a baseball team at any level and not have a shortstop on the team? Kike Hernandez is no shortstop. All of this time in the big leagues, and he's played 111 games there. Remember how smoothly Alan Trammell fielded routine ground balls? This fluid motion, where he went down and got it, and came up with the ball cradling it, the way a hockey player receives a pass. The glove would go into his mid-section, all in the one motion, and his throwing hand was right there, ready to complete the rest of the play. He made the routine 6-3 putout a thing of economical, balletic beauty.
That's not Kike Hernandez. He looks awkward and choppy with every ball he tries to field. And he's your shortstop? He sucks. And there is also no reason to think he can hit. It's him then a minor league first baseman who are the shortstops?
I don't want to say that's hilarious, but were you drunk? What were you thinking in making a roster about which this is true?
This is the least interesting Red Sox team of my lifetime. Even when they were bad in the past, they always had something to recommend them for me. Give me a year and I can tell you what was cool about the team. I can do it with every season (discounting the COVID year). That could have been all-time stars--Boggs, Clemens, Yaz--or cool players I liked or Ned Martin calling the games or fun stars like Mo Vaughan and Nomar Garciaparra, or Joe Morgan as the skipper or Sean McDonough and Jerry Remy doing the games when Remy was at his best.
The 2000-2002 Red Sox were an unlikable group of underperforming, overpaid players, but there were big-time talents on those teams. You also wanted to see them finally win and the Yankees thing was big at the time. How were you ever going to get past that franchise?
This is a sorry team. It's a boring last place team in a market where there's no excuse for a team to be either of those things. I don't like anything about this team. I don't like how they play, I don't like the roster, I don't like the manager, I don't like the front office, I don't like the owners.
I cannot believe that guy was sacrifice bunting in that situation. Nothing will be made of it, but it really said so much. I feel like it said everything.