I am glad that Chris Sale is not pitching for the Red Sox right now. People are bemoaning this so far as their postseason chances go, but I think it elevates them. Sale is a fake tough competitor. In the NFL, he'd be that guy who, once a player has been brought down by two of his teammates, jumps on the pile to try and get half a tackle. He's a pile jumper. The Sox won last year despite him. On that team, a stacked 108 win team, with that offense, he could only get to 12 victories. He was abysmal in the postseason, and I was sickened when he lobbied to pitch the bottom of the ninth to close out the last game. You know what that was? That was a fake tough competitor who wanted to be on the cover of magazines and the championship Blu-ray. For whatever reason--and it's not a wise reason--the Sox build up their expectations when this guy pitches. And you never know when he is going to let you down. He's okay against bad teams--sometimes--but he's just as likely to spot you four runs in the first. When Sale loses, it does something to this team's collective psyche, given the larger letdown factor. I'd rather battle with a scrub who is going to battle himself, than bank on someone who makes huge bank from whom you never know what you will get. Fake tough competitor. You know why people think he's good? Strikeouts. Meaningless. Strikeouts are meaningless. But Sox play-by-play guy Dave O'Brien loves two things in this world more than anything: Talking about the 2018 Red Sox, and Chris Sale strikeouts. There is an obsession right now with certain stats--like strikeouts, like WAR--which don't mean nearly as much as some people wish them to. A Chris Sale tank job does more harm to this team than a tank job by their other pitchers. And there is no less of a reason to expect one from Sale than anybody else they have. Except maybe Brian Johnson. But you know you're going to have to win a shootout with a Brian Johnson start.
As for Betts. The season Mookie Betts will have is determined in the first three games. If he does well, he'll do really well. If he struggles, he'll be middling, so far as his talent goes. He's a head case. He is a dire--a godawful, legit dire--postseason performer. Do you know why the Sox won the World Series last year? It wasn't because of Sale and Betts and their stars. They got through the postseason because guys who are back-up type players and back of the rotation pitchers--Holt, Eovaldi, Pearce--had the runs of their lives. It was a fluke victory in some ways. This was not the all-timer team that people want you to think of it as. Three AL teams last year won more than 100 games. The Astros won 103. That's not that different than the Sox' 108, right? Bounce here, bounce there. But: they won 103 as defending champs, which is harder than winning 108 as non-defending champs. The Yankees--last year's other AL 100 game winning squad--and Astros are both going to cruise to 100 this year. So, what that tells me is that 100 wins isn't some wowzer type of thing. These other teams are doing it year in, year out. But back to Betts. Ever notice on a Sox broadcast how often O'Brien and Remy and Eckersley--each of them--will say that this guy doesn't know how good he is, that his teammates and coaches have to reinforce that? I cannot believe that that does not tell people anything. It tells me that this guy is soft. He's in his head. When is that said about any other player, and it is said two, three dozen times about Betts every year. He gets down on himself. He needs central placement in a certain head space to perform up to his capabilities. When he is not in that head space, he's still pretty good. That's his talent. But he runs from the front. He does not come from behind. He's also a hands hitter, and the hands will go. Hands slow, and hands go. Move him. He's going to decline fast. Also: Is he out of shape? Why does nobody ask why he was able to steal thirty bases last year but he's at thirteen now? They needed him to swipe a bag recently at Fenway to tie up a game, and he was out by seven feet. He was the tying run, they had to have it. Was not even close.
As for the Sox and their playoff chances here on 8/29. They are five games back of the second Wild Card. If you are at four games back on September 1, you have a shot, without needing a quasi-mini sports miracle. Six games, you're approaching that mini-miracle territory. Get to three by September 1, and now things are reachable, rather realistically. We will know a lot by Monday. Personally, as much as I'd like to see them make it, I don't see how they will. This team performs in spurts, and what they need is a stretch. There's no wiggle room for when the sustained stretch must come; it must come now. They haven't shown they can execute a stretch.