We've heard the phrase "blow it up" quite often in Boston. It mostly pertained to the Big Three of the Celtics, but it has also been tossed at the Boston Red Sox after their chaotic (that's putting it nicely) finish last September and their disappointing beginning to this season.
One week they're hot, another they're not. After a 4-10 start, the Sox rattled off six straight W's and seven of eight. Then, more losses (five straight, eight of nine). Then, more wins (nine out of 11). Back and forth. So inconsistent, so unpredictable.
Sunday's win over the Cubs capped off another stretch of wins (four of the last five). Guess what preceded that? Seven losses in eight games. Right now, the Sox are back at .500 -- 33 wins, 33 losses -- and sitting 7.5 games out in the AL East and four games out in the AL Wild Card hunt.
The clock is ticking, too. Time is on their side -- it's mid June -- but only 43 days remain before MLB's non-waiver trade deadline (4 p.m. ET on July 31, 2012). Will the Sox be buyers or sellers?
First thing's first, these altering streaks of wins and losses aren't helping anyone. The next month-plus of play will go a long way in deciding what Ben Cherington and the Boston brass do at the deadline. Win a bunch of games and cut the division or wild card deficit to two or three games, and a playoff spot is certainly within reach. Drop 10 or more games out, and it's basically over.
Even if they can get back into the mix, nothing is guaranteed. New York has finally hit its stride, and the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays are still charging forward. Heck, even the Toronto Blue Jays aren't that far away from the playoff picture at the moment. Anything can happen down the stretch in August and September. Unfortunately, we learned that lesson already.
What if they do make the playoffs, though? Not impossible, as we've established. Do they really have the guns to make a run to the World Series? Pitching wins games in the postseason, and the Sox aren't exactly golden in that department. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have been all over the map. The bullpen has been solid, but if you don't have the horses to get you to the final turn, it's a moot point. Offensively, they can carry their weight. But will that be enough?
Maybe blowing it up is the answer. Not completely, of course. Cleaning house isn't wise to do just for the heck of it. Unloading players who won't help you achieve your future goals (in this case, Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, and even Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz) and getting young talent in return, all while letting your own young guys have a chance to blossom, may be exactly what the doctor ordered. No, they shouldn't ship out Adrian Gonzalez, Lester and Dustin Pedroia -- all of them can still help you win games (and possibly championships) for many years to come.
As for the rest? If the price is right, they should absolutely consider sending them on their way.
Cherington and company will have a lot of tough choices to make in the coming weeks, ones that will define the direction of the franchise. Easy, right? Or not. One thing is for sure: the status quo just isn't working out. It's time to start earning that paycheck, Ben. What will your move be?