“The Power of Perspective” is the title of at least one self-help book and the name of severalTEDTalks and a foundational theme for untold talk therapy sessions. And perhaps the most useful way to understand the Red Sox’s 7-5 win over the Royals on Monday.
On its face, Monday’s win was perfectly good. It was a win! A win to snap an eight-game losing streak, even. That’s all unequivocally and inarguably good. It’s likely what the Red Sox would be told to focus on in one of those talk therapy sessions: On Monday, they could not do anything about those previous eight contests, or about anything that came before them, but they could do something about this one game, and that’s exactly what they did. They won. They stopped losing. This is a valid perspective—a healthy way to frame the situation, a path to move forward on, a positive step to take toward Tuesday.
But that’s only one perspective. As always, there is room for others. Such as one focused on the fact that even with this win, Boston is still 5.5 games back of the second wild-card, 14.5 games back of first place in the AL East, with postseason chances that have tumbled in just the last week from 60% to 20%. Or one emphasizing that this streak-snapping victory came against the woeful Royals, who have now lost seven straight and are one of the worst teams in baseball. Or one noting the characteristically shaky work of the ‘pen on Monday (four runs allowed in the last three innings) and the unfortunate exit of Mookie Betts (day-to-day with a shin contusion). Or still another perspective simply understanding what it means for this team to be in the business of seeking alternate perspectives in the first place—after all, there’s rarely any impulse to reframe the picture when everything looks good to begin with.
Which, really, is the best way to realize just how bad things have been for the Red Sox. A win is a win is a win, sure; any win is good. Yet it’s telling that an August win against the Royals can feel this critical in the first place—that it can come across as important, necessary, rather than something close to inevitable. It’s a panicked gasp for air, rather than an ordinary breath; the fact that it was successful does not matter so much as the fact that it had to happen at all. That’s a generally uncomfortable state for a team to be in with nearly two months of baseball left to play, and it’s a particularly uncomfortable one for a reigning champion who had clear designs on this year’s postseason. It’s obviously a far cry from Boston’s situation at this time last year, when it was in first place and on its way to the World Series. But it’s a far cry from its situation at this time last month, too, when it was just two games out of the last wild-card, with hope for a sizable boost at the deadline and with plenty of time to make a turn-around.
Now? The deadline has passed, with no significant additions for a pitching staff that sorely needed some. (Unless you’d like to count the acquisition of Andrew Cashner, which… it says quite a bit about the state of this rotation that you might reasonably like to count 2019 Andrew Cashner.) And there’s still time for a turn-around, but there isn’t very much. The postseason odds speak for themselves. (After Monday’s win, they’re up to 20.7%.) A change is possible, but it isn’t likely.
The Red Sox ended Monday in a better spot than they did Sunday. That’s one perspective on their position—true, valid, positive. But it’s notably limited in its positivity. After all, baseball’s one inalienable source of perspective is the standings; Boston’s space there is clear. The team is further back than it has been all year. And that’s a tough one to reframe.