The Red Sox are a team steeped in tradition, surrounded by history everywhere they turn. They see it when they walk into their 102-year-old ballpark — the oldest in the majors — passing Luis Tiant’s sandwich stand or Jim Rice on the NESN stage.
Boston has been part of the American League since it was formed in 1901. That’s a lot of baseball. So when a losing streak becomes one of the longest the franchise has ever experienced, you know you’re in a historically bad stretch of baseball.
The 2014 Red Sox finally ended a 10-game losing streak Monday, rallying for an 8-6 win. In the last 80 years only one Sox team suffered through a longer skid. That team finished 17 games out — in a season cut short by a players’ strike.
Now is not the time for the Sox to be looking back. It’s time to turn this season around before it’s too late. Boston is in last place after 50 games. The worst-to-first season of 2013 suddenly seems like a long time ago.
Maybe that’s why General Manager Ben Cherington signed free agent Stephen Drew last week. Drew had been unemployed since celebrating a World Series at Fenway last October. He’ll help shore up the infield defense, and should improve a lineup that is 10-22 against right-handed starters this season.
It’s never a bad idea to bring back players who know what it takes to succeed in Boston. Another 2013 alum, Daniel Nava, returned from Pawtucket for the weekend in Tampa Bay. Yet four important members — Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Will Middlebrooks, and Felix Doubront — are on the disabled list.
Only one of those players is a pitcher, and Doubront has struggled through much of this season. The Sox rotation was expected to be a strength this season, but the team had gotten just one quality start in the last nine games heading into the Atlanta series.
For weeks we’ve been talking about how tightly packed the AL East is, and how no one was pulling away from the pack. That’s no longer the case. The Sox lost six games in the standings in just six days as the first-place Blue Jays have been on a roll. As June looms, the Sox have the second-worst record in the league.
For years, Sox teams had to play with the weight of history on their shoulders. Players had to answer for an 86-year “curse” that had nothing to do with them. Every loss was treated as an epic collapse by fans and media alike.
Times are different now, but the pressure is the same. Today’s players must deal with the expectations of recent history. It’s been just seven months since one of the most improbable championships — the third World Series title for Boston in the past 10 years.
Members of the legendary 2004 team will gather for a reunion at Fenway on Wednesday — another reminder of the great baseball we’ve seen for the better part of the past decade.
The team on the field this season has been anything but great. Now would be a good time for the Red Sox to take a crash course in recent history.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.