Reeling Red Sox in a surprise fight to make the playoffs and more
The Red Sox were rightly considered a winner on deadline day for acquiring big-time hitter
For the first time in nearly four months, the most successful team this decade isn't in a playoff position to start the day. After losing two out of three games to the upstart Rangers in Texas this weekend, Boston is in unfamiliar territory -- a half-game out of the wild card.
The Red Sox's recent trouble also may have left them wondering what might have been. Boston made major bids for superstar pitchers
But since that deadline whirlwind, there have been few highlights for the Red Sox. Boston is 6-9 this month and 12-17 since the All-Star break, and is now in a fight to make the playoffs. The rival Yankees are too far in first (7 1/2 games) to be a concern. The Rangers are the real competition now, and Texas' 7-2 record against the Red Sox gives them additional reason to doubt themselves.
Boston looks as vulnerable today as at any point since 2006.
The Red Sox aren't hitting in the clutch lately (they were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position the last two games in Texas), or hitting very much at all. Before the All-Star break the Red Sox were hitting .281 with runners in scoring position (third-best in the AL). But since the break, they're hitting .233 (13th in the AL). Not only that, but their rotation -- once considered the deepest in baseball -- looks awfully thin now beyond stars
"The second half has been a struggle for us," Red Sox GM
They should still have the pieces to do it, even if
The Red Sox have a deep system, which allowed them to acquire Martinez and try hard for Halladay, Hernandez and Gonzalez. But the new reliance on kids makes them no different than the Rangers, except that the Rangers' kids are outperforming Boston's kids (and everyone else's) right now.
The Red Sox's rotation is a particular concern, but their hitting needs help, too. The lineup that produced the third-most runs in the first half, behind only the division rival Yankees and Rays, is tied for 16th since the break.
It's no wonder that Boston made bold plays for superstars Halladay, Hernandez and Gonzalez. The Red Sox probably knew there could be trouble ahead.
Boston is thought to have offered a five-prospect package of Buchholz,
The offer for Halladay was plenty strong, though Jays GM
It turns out the Red Sox were wise to disregard their quick start (they were 20 games over at the break), realize they needed help and go into deadline day hoping to land a big pitcher and big hitter. And they gave what appears to be a valiant shot. But Epstein, who's rarely received criticism in a success-filled career that includes two World Series titles, has heard the knock that he got distracted or derailed for spending so much time on unattainable players like Halladay, Hernandez and Gonzalez. One of Epstein's colleagues called that accusation "absurd." (Epstein declined comment.)
Their multiple pursuits at midyear still didn't prevent them from landing Martinez, a worthy second choice to Gonzalez who may actually be a better fit for them because of his versatility. Martinez, incidentally, is doing slightly better with Boston (he's hitting .311 and slugging .508 with the Red Sox, compared to .284 and .464 with the Indians).
The Red Sox shot high this winter, as well, trying hard to land
When Teixeira went to the Yankees, Boston tried to spread some money around. But there was no good chance to target $170 mil elsewhere and they wound up instead spending close to the $10 million difference, taking relative flyers on the Cooperstown-bound
A mega deal for Halladay or Hernandez could have given them an unbeatable trio at the top of the rotation and sparked the franchise. It was worth trying for them. But now, after none of those big deals worked, the Red Sox are in a real fight for October.
The Nationals say they have offered a record bonus at or north of $12 million (the record is $10.5 million for
As a free agent, Strasburg would be worth $50 million or more. But there's a strong feeling in management circles that players need to prove themselves at the big-league level before getting the really big bucks, and Kasten isn't the type to change that belief. The Nats failed to sign their 2008 first-round pick,
While the Nats are offering a contract above Prior's record deal, Strasburg's agent
Of course, it's Strasburg's call in the end. And it takes a rare amateur player to turn down a seven-figure offer (or in this case, an eight-figure offer).
So far, though, there has been little indication of any progress at all in the Strasburg talks, the most anticipated in years, with the midnight Monday deadline looming. Of course, these big-ticket amateur signing almost always go right down to the deadline. The vast majority of first-round picks are expected to sign on deadline day Monday, but it doesn't look great for a Strasburg deal now.
Some are pooh-poohing Kasten's assessment. But there is every reason to believe there's real concern that a deal will get done here.
• Smoltz could be released today. It's tough to trade a pitcher with an 8.32 ERA and plenty of roster bonuses, even a Hall of Fame player. The Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins and Rangers are among teams said to have some interest in him. One scout said he'd be "better off going to the National League."
• The Brewers offered nothing beyond taking the $2.5 million remaining on
• Baseball people still believe the Nats' GM job is going to come down to acting GM
• There still appears a decent chance Toronto will make a change at general manager. While Ricciardi kick-started the rebuilding process by unloading the contract of
• The reason the Rangers gave up on
• Meanwhile, Rangers pitching coach
• Hard to believe the Reds -- who play in hitter friendly Great America Ballpark -- have the lowest OPS (.694) in baseball. Yes, even lower than that of the Giants.
• Congrats to baseball aficionado and twitter friend