The line, a beauty, comes from Bill Parcells: You are what your record says you are. And sure, it’s not always true in sports. Sometimes there are mitigating factors as to why a team is overachieving or underachieving or just seems stuck in the middle. But what never changes is
The line, a beauty, comes from Bill Parcells: You are what your record says you are. And sure, it’s not always true in sports. Sometimes there are mitigating factors as to why a team is overachieving or underachieving or just seems stuck in the middle. But what never changes is this: The standings don’t care about those factors.
The other day, I mentioned Parcells’ line to Red Sox manager Alex Cora in his interview room at Fenway Park. Cora smiled before I’d even finished the question, which was really about where he thought his team was at this point in the season, and why. So we kicked that around a little bit, before Cora said this:
“We’ve been a very inconsistent team.”
Then: “We have a good team.”
Finally this: “We’ll be there.”
But nobody is quite sure what “there” means right now.
The Red Sox are coming off a home series during which they were outscored 21-9 by the Rays, losing three of four. They have played the Yankees five times this season and lost four of those games. They have played the Astros six times this season and lost four of those. They went into the weekend thinking they could make up some ground on the Rays, at the top of the American League East along with the Yankees. Now they look at their four-game series with the Rangers this week as a way of not falling further behind Texas for the second Wild Card in the American League. Raise a hand if you thought the Red Sox would be chasing the Rangers at any point this season.
The Red Sox haven’t just been an inconsistent team, even fighting their way back from a 3-8 start to the season and then a 6-13 start. They have been a mediocre team. They have been consistent at that. They came out of what was essentially a weekend beatdown from the Rays with a 34-32 record. At that point, that made them exactly one game better in the loss column than the other Sox, the ones from the South Side of Chicago. They were eight games behind the Rays in the loss column. The Red Sox were the same number behind the Yankees, who have had 20 players on the injured list this season, the latest being starter Domingo German.
Cora talked on Saturday about how the Red Sox are scoring runs, they’re just not scoring them at the right times.
“For us to get to where we want to go, we have to do better in that area,” Cora said.
They have to do better in a lot of areas, coming off their fourth World Series title in 15 years. A lot is always made of how the Yankees never have a losing season. They sure don’t. The Yankees also might be about to go through this entire decade without winning a World Series, or even making it to one. What the Red Sox are going through right now doesn’t change the magic of last season, or the other Series they’ve won since 2004.
But none of that is doing them much good right now.
A lot has happened across the first 66 games. The Red Sox made a very big deal out of resting their starters during Spring Training, saying they wanted them all fresh for October. Well, that only works if you make it to October. None of them were ready for the start of the regular season. Chris Sale’s stuff has begun to look filthy again, but he still has a won-loss record of 2-7 because of the way he looked in April. Yeah, Sale has been terrific lately, and so has David Price. But Nathan Eovaldi got hurt. Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez have scared nobody so far. What was supposed to be one of the team’s strengths -- starting pitching -- hasn’t been.
But it’s been more than that. Mookie Betts, other than flashes, has looked nothing like the MVP of his league. J.D. Martinez, even when healthy, has not been the kind of unifying force in the middle of the lineup that he was a year ago, when he was as important as any hitter in the game, including Betts. Jackie Bradley Jr., who occasionally looked like a one-man wrecking crew against the Astros in the American League Championship Series, has started to show life, but he is still not hitting .200 for the season. Michael Chavis, the kid who showed early pop when he got to the big leagues, has been striking out at an alarming rate. Mitch Moreland, who spent a lot of time looking like the team’s most dangerous hitter in April and May, is trying to work through a quad injury. Rafael Devers got hot, faded.
And as much as Cora has mixed and matched and tried to find the right roles for relievers like Matt Barnes and Marcus Walden and Ryan Brasier and Brandon Workman, and as decent as the numbers are, anybody who applies the eye test to what they’ve seen knows that the bullpen has been, well, workman-like. At best.
Nobody expected the Red Sox to win 108 games again. Nobody expected them to start the way they did and play the way they have. There is still nearly a 100-game season left for them to play, and to get themselves right back into play in the AL East. For now, they’re just another team trying to stay above .500. They’ve only talked a good game. Sometimes you’re exactly what your record says you are.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.