Sandy Leon, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts

Another Tailspin, Another Dilemma: Turn On or Tune Out?

The Red Sox are in a tailspin for the third time in the last four years, and I can’t look away. This is new. I effortlessly ignored the radioactive parts of the 2012 and 2014 seasons — not just the flailing Red Sox, but all of them. From midseason on, the starting pitchers of the three baseball games I watched were an anonymous Brooklyn Cyclone, Mo’ne Davis and Madison Bumgarner, none of whom is on the Red Sox, and all of whom the Red Sox could probably use right now.

I bailed because I felt like the Red Sox had actively pushed me out, and I didn’t care about turning my back on the team for the second time in 36 years. This was okay last season because of the, you know, World Series championship the year prior; it was okay in 2012 because of the thick, lingering toxicity from the end of 2011, one that lingers today in the echo of the name Carl Crawford.

This year, all eyes are on the Sox, even if, in retrospect, it’s clear that this is as transitional a year as 2014 was supposed to be. It’s especially clear in the case of Hanley Ramirez, who needs to transition to DH and has landed on the one team in baseball for which that is a logistical impossibility. On top of that, his terrible defense is almost a statistical impossibility, a hardship for any sentient person standing in front of a giant wall, let alone one in Major League Baseball. He has been so bad, as Dave Cameron wrote yesterday on FanGraphs, that Manny Ramirez’ worst seasons don’t even approach his stink.

That’s bad. Move Hanley and the opportunities for improvement would open up, but in the seasons in which everything goes wrong, you can’t move him unless Ortiz gets injured — another thing gone horribly wrong. Maybe the Sox could get away with this, but on top of a bevy of other problems, they can’t hit line drives anywhere but into leather; they can’t give up ground balls without them finding the holes. If corporations are people, this one caught an early summer cold. In April.

Now the fans are getting sick, too, and sick and tired of this nonsense. I still think the team will finish above or below arm’s reach of .500 and maybe even with a playoff spot. Even if the bad luck just turns average, they’ll be able to pocket some wins here and there, and it bears repeating that the season isn’t even half over and in some lights the lineup still looks incredible. But to be fairer and at all realistic, when your BP playoff odds (11.5%) are worse than Bartolo Colon’s batting average (.154), you’ve got problems.

Now we have problems too, as fans. This is a 2012 repeat all over again; at least last year got to ride the wave before it crashed. We got euphoria, and we paid for it. Fair enough. But there was an industrial bleakness to 2012, one that was ultimately pinned on Bobby Valentine and a handful of malcontents. This year, we don’t have that luxury. The chin looks and acts like he’s in charge, but it’s becoming clear that no one at Fenway really has their hand on the wheel or the pulse of the team, should it exist.

Dustin Pedroia thinks it does, and he would, but no matter who put the Red Sox in the hole they’re in, they’re in there. We’re in there too. We see what’s happening, and we’re running out of reasons to explain the swarms of losing streaks that have come to define this era of this team. The talent is there, the bodies are there, but the life is gone. If Pedroia is right, and the life is there, we won’t miss it when it comes along. Our eyes are fixed on this once-promising team, and that’s the problem.

Photo by Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports Images

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