It’s tough to lose hope in the ever-so-mediocre 2014 American League East. The division-leading Toronto Blue Jays stand at 47-39—well above expectations—yet fending incessant doubts for a franchise that has missed the playoffs every year since the legendary Joe Carter hit a walk-off home run to clinch the club’s consecutive World Series title in 1993. But this year’s Boston Red Sox, yes the defending champion Sox, managed to write their obituary before Independence Day.
The Red Sox got pummeled on a nationally televised ESPN broadcast on Wednesday night by the rebuilding Chicago Cubs, who completed a three-game sweep at Fenway Park with an emphatic 16-9 victory. After scoring just two runs in the first two loses of the series, the Red Sox surrendered a whopping 16 runs in Wednesday’s disaster versus the Cubs, who rank 13th in the National League in batting.
After narrowly avoiding Jake Arrieta’s no hit-bid in the opener, the Sox mustered just one run in Tuesday’s defeat. The loss on Tuesday was especially appalling, given that the overpaid and disappointing Edwin Jackson (4.98 ERA) held the Sox to a single run over six innings of work.
Wednesday’s debacle came next, a contest that saw the Sox suffer a humiliating defeat in front of their home crowd versus a Cubs team that is thrilled to be sitting nine games under .500 (37-46). The Cubs are in complete rebuilding mode, stocking up on assets in Triple-A to build for the future that may come sooner than most outsiders thought. They should be happy with this year’s progress. The Red Sox are the defending champions—believed to have a realistic chance of repeating after bringing back the core of last year’s World Series team—yet steadily creeping to the basement of the American League East. The Cubs have the 23rd ranked payroll—the Red Sox post the league’s fourth-highest payroll. But it was the Cubs making a statement in an early July series, showing that their future is bright after all. The Red Sox, meanwhile, continue to fuel the qualms of their loyal fans, who are witnessing their champions turn into the dreaded 'has-beens' label before their eyes.
The Red Sox trail the Blue Jays by 8 ½ games in the AL East. The Sox are just a game ahead of the last-place Tampa Bay Rays, who are fresh off a road sweep over the scuffling New York Yankees.
Gaining less than nine games of ground with roughly 70 to play seems attainable for the defending champs. But these Red Sox have no resemblance of last’s year’s heart-warming title club.
These Red Sox can’t get out of their own way, most evident by their decision to sign weak hitting Stephen Drew to a dubious $10 million midseason-contract at the cost of Xander Bogaerts’ mentality (who freely admitted he was disappointed that he had to move back to third base after Drew signed), whose average has dipped below .250 after his hitting tirade in the month of May.
Bogaerts extended his hitless streak to 23 at-bats. He has yet to record a hit in July after a woeful .135 June (13 for 96, 27 K's).
It may seem premature to discard the defending champions from the wide open AL East race. But the Red Sox are champions no more. These punchless Red Sox are finished.