It’s September and the Red Sox are in trouble. Half a dozen games out with less than 40 to play – you don’t have to be a statistician to recognize that the Sox chances of making the playoffs are slim.

The Yankees, atop the division, do not look vulnerable. They are too deep and score too many runs.

Tampa Bay is right there with them and has found a way to bounce back every time they hit a rough spot.

The Red Sox, who were only half a game out in the wild card race just before the All-Star break, had their perennial post-All Star swoon, dropped six or seven games off the pace and remain stuck there.

The Sox have been hard hit by injuries to the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek, and most recently, Kevin Youkilis to name a few. Josh Beckett also had a long stint on the disabled list.

Daisuke Matsuzaka goes down periodically, and we never know whether it is fragile physique or fragile psyche.

Even Clay Buchholz spent two weeks out of action when he hyper-extended his knee running from first to second base in a game against the Phillies in which he had to bat.

For the stretch drive we at least have all of our starting pitching rotation healthy.

The Red Sox “big five”: Beckett, Buchholz, John Lackey, John Lester and Matsuzaka, should match up with the best in the league – except they don’t.

The last series in Yankee Stadium was a case in point.

Buchholz and Lester pitching at the front and back end of the four-game series did the job, holding the Yankees to three runs or less. Beckett was touched for seven and Lackey for five – so much for our big game pitchers.

Beckett has been particularly frustrating. If the opposing team touches him for a few hits, he seems unable to come back. It is almost as if he gives up.

John Lackey has had a similar problem all year. He gives up lots of hits – fourth highest in the American League.

With the way Lackey and Beckett have been pitching, they are making “Dice-K” look like a steady guy. Matsuzaka has actually pitched pretty well since his early stint on the DL. He has been more willing to challenge hitters.

He will never, in my opinion, justify what the Red Sox paid for him, but he might be a good fifth starter.

For all the injuries, the Red Sox have actually gotten decent hitting from an often patchwork lineup. The outfield especially has had lots of different combinations, mostly to go along with J.D. Drew.

Ryan Kalish and Darnell MacDonald, in particular, have shown real promise. Adrian Beltre is having a standout season, hitting well over .300 and driving in a team-leading 88 runs. He has shown a knack for two-out hits with runners in scoring position. David “Big Papi” Ortiz may not hit for average, but he is producing enough offense to be having a pretty good season. Victor Martinez keeps getting better. If he could bat right-handed all of the time, he would be dazzling.

Drew is just plain disappointing. Here is someone taking up lots of payroll dollars and journeyman Bill Hall has driven in two thirds as many runs playing part time — not to mention Drew’s poor judgment catch in foul ground that probably cost Bucholz his 16th win Saturday.

To me the mark of a great team is one that finds a way to deal with adversity and wins anyway. This Red Sox team, let’s face it, is not a great team.

It is a good team. It is a team that my wife Sally and I will continue to listen to most every evening on our radio at camp.

Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien bring us lots more than the play by play on these quiet camp evenings.

They are fine people who know baseball and love the Red Sox. They don’t get down when the Sox fall 13 runs behind the Blue Jays or blow a lead against Texas.

While my analytic side tells me this season is all but over, my heart still draws me to the radio each evening hoping that Joe and Dave will be part of another Red Sox miracle.


Ron Bancroft is an independent strategy consultant located in Portland. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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