Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is 4 p.m. Thursday. The days leading up to it will be filled with uncertainty for many Boston Red Sox players. After going 2-5 on their just-completed trip, the Sox are in the unusual position of looking to sell veteran players at the deadline.
It’s not supposed to be like this in Boston. For the past 12 years the front office has treated late July like a shopping spree, going out and getting a pitcher or hitter to serve as the finishing touch for a playoff run.
Not this year. The disassembly of the Red Sox began July 16 when the team released catcher A.J. Pierzynski. It continued Saturday when Boston traded away pitcher Jake Peavy.
Pierzynski, of course, wasn’t part of the team that won it all last fall. Peavy was.
Even though Peavy was in Boston for less than a calendar year, he became one of the most popular players in that clubhouse.
Seeing him go wasn’t easy for his teammates. Not just because of his popularity but because it was a clear sign that this was the end of the group that won it all just nine months ago.
It’s a steep drop from the heady days of last October, when a band of bearded brothers won a World Series at Fenway Park and rode through the streets in duck boats.
That group was kept largely intact for 2014 but has not been able to recreate the magic – or the success – of last year’s team.
General Manager Ben Cherington waited to see if this team could put together a run and get back into contention before the trade deadline.
It wasn’t to be. The past week was one of the strangest of the year for the Red Sox. It began in the midst of a five-game winning streak, a run punctuated by a 14-1 victory to open a four-game series in Toronto. Suddenly Sox fans were talking about the team making an improbable run back into the playoff picture.
Instead that lopsided win was the high point of the season. The Sox went on to lose the next five games, outscored 30-11. By the end of the streak Peavy was in San Francisco preparing for his first start with the Giants.
It might seem inconceivable now, but the Sox could have gotten back into the hunt with another strong week. They could have done what the Rays have done, playing their way back into the edges of the race with a nine-game winning streak. It’s been especially tough to watch the Rays winning games and moving on.
Meantime the Sox are moving on to next year. There are other moves to make as they identify who is and is not integral to plans for 2015. Players will spend the next couple of days waiting to see if they need to pack up and head elsewhere.
Once the dust settles Thursday night, things will calm down at Fenway, and we’ll begin watching to see who is ready to be a part of the solution.
We watched Allen Webster on Sunday and the results were inconclusive. He lasted 51/3 innings against the Rays, walking more batters than he struck out. In fact, he threw more balls (44) than strikes (42.)
We’re not sure when Webster will pitch again. The team has other options like Brandon Workman or Anthony Ranaudo. Each time one of them gets a chance to pitch it will be the start of an audition for their spot on next year’s team.
The auditions will be ongoing through the end of September. First we have to wait and see who will still be in a Red Sox uniform come August.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.