Calling the Boston Red Sox’ chances at getting to the World Series a long shot does really even begin to scratch the surface at how slim their chances are.
So what else can we call it?
Unlikely? Slim? We’re getting close I think.
Maybe we should look to the blind hope of Lloyd from the movie Dumb and Dumber to get a grasp on this situation:
Lloyd: I want to ask you a question... straight out, flat out... and I want you to give me an honest answer. What do you think the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me... ending up together?
Mary: Well Lloyd... that's difficult to say... you really don't...
Lloyd: Hit me! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?
Mary: Not good.
Lloyd: [Gulps] You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?
Mary: I'd say more like... one out of a million.
For the Red Sox, there’s just a 9.3 percent they will make the playoffs, let alone make a run at the Fall Classic. (h/t ESPN)
Or if you go by the numbers of Baseball Prospectus, the Red Sox are looking at a 8.7 percent chance at a playoff berth.
Let’s pile some more pressure on top of that. According to ESPN, they have the fourth most difficult schedule going forward in the American League. The Red Sox suddenly feel like David to the American League’s Goliath.
So let’s be like Lloyd for a few minutes and have some blind faith.
If the Red Sox are to make a miracle run in October, a number of things must fall into place.
The first thing they have to do, obviously, is grab one of those two wild card spots. And as unlikely as that seems, and how much we feel in our bones they just won’t do it—it’s not impossible.
They are five-and-a-half games off the pace for a wild card spot—not exactly an insurmountable number. But if things don’t change, and change fast, any number feels insurmountable.
Let’s start with the front office and the manager, Bobby Valentine. If you’re like me, you initially took John Henry’s letter of support for Valentine as sounding the death knells of the season.
I mean, c’mon, just how bad do things have to get for an owner to publicly state he actually supports his manager?
But maybe it will prove to be just the opposite. Maybe, with that letter, the clubhouse problems finally hit their high water mark and the waters will recede.
And perhaps, with the focus squarely on baseball, they can take care of business on the field.
As for Valentine, he seems to be thinking like Lloyd right now. On August 8th, He told Boston radio station, WEEI, “I think we're a playoff team and I think we're going to be there before the season is over." (h/t ESPN)
That takes us to step two: Beat the teams in front of them for the wild card spot.
Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Oakland, Baltimore and Detroit are all ahead of Boston in the Wild Card race (I’ve excluded division leaders.) Just looking at that list is exhausting. But that’s the harsh reality that faces a team that has played exceedingly mediocre all season.
The good news? They still have games remaining against four out of those five teams.
Tampa Bay: six games.
Los Angeles: six games.
Oakland: three games.
Baltimore: nine games.
In short, the Red Sox still hold much of their own fate in their hands. They do have a tough remaining schedule, but at least they can sink or swim by their own their own actions.
And how, exactly, are they going to that? Health, health and more health. It’s been a running theme all year. When they get healthy, they’ll be fine.
The problem is, they have never truly been healthy. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford returned only to have David Ortiz go down. Ortiz has been making progress and shouldn’t be too far away from taking his spot back in the heart of the Red Sox order. (h/t Boston Globe)
Andrew Bailey has been out all season, but he is finally on the mend. Although Scott Atchison and Vicente Padilla are both out, Valentine has had a nice touch with the bullpen this season.
Bringing an All-Star closer into the mix will help. How much help remains to be seen.
There surely will be debate as to exactly where to use Bailey when he does return. I say throw him into the closer role right away. The Red Sox traded for an All-Star closer, they might as well see what he can do down the stretch.
Alfredo Aceves has done the best he could do, but the guy just is not a closer. The Red Sox have blown 15 saves this season—second worst in the AL. They have only made good on 63 percent of their save opportunities. (h/t ESPN)
Aceves is a very versatile pitcher. His versatility is his major asset. It’s time to let the Swiss Army Knife of relievers out of the ninth inning box.
But even if the bullpen stays healthy, they need Jon Lester and Josh Beckett to simply lock it down the rest of the season. Long winning streaks require the collective effort of the entire pitching rotation. This has to start at the top with Lester and Beckett.
Maybe, just maybe, Lester and Beckett are still embarrassed about last September. That's part of their history, a history they could minimize by going on a great run starting right now.
They should not forget history. Not just their own history, but the history of league.
Consider the following statement:
“They should have been dead, buried, forgotten weeks ago. They should have spent October in a golf cart or a fishing boat.”
If the Red Sox make a shocking comeback, that statement could easily apply to them.
Stark notes the Cardinals were, “were 10½ games out with 31 to play, 8½ back with 21 to play, and three games out with five to play.” (ESPN)
An improbable comeback? Of course. Impossible? Well, we all saw what happened last year.
The Red Sox need to look no further than Nick Punto for a reminder on how the improbable can come true. Punto was a key clubhouse guy for the 2011 Cardinals.
We all know a Red Sox championship run is unlikely. But stranger things have happened. OK, so I know Red Sox fans are smarter than Lloyd, and that even most diehard of Red Sox fans has had his or her faith tested this year.
So I'll be Lloyd for now. The Red Sox have a 8.7 percent chance of making the playoffs—so you're telling me there's a chance!