ESPN’s Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni to talk about the Red Sox‘ slow start and other MLB news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
The Red Sox are 5-9 after dropping three straight games, including Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the White Sox in frigid Chicago. Coming off last year’s World Series title, the Red Sox have been hurt by injuries and their inability to make key plays.
“I think it’s a combination of both,” Olney said. “When you start with [Dustin] Pedroia‘s situation, you go from there. That’s obviously a concern. I talked to David Ortiz over the weekend and he talked about the effort to get his timing back. The offense, which was so dominant last year, just hasn’t gotten on a roll yet, obviously. One of the Red Sox players mentioned to me over the weekend, ‘We’re still trying to find our identity.’
“The good thing is that the rest of the division is pretty much in the exact same boat. So if you’re in the Red Sox clubhouse, you might not necessarily be feeling great about what’s happening now. But you look at the Yankees, their infield situation is a complete mess. Tampa Bay’s rotation is in tatters. The Orioles have rotation issues. Toronto, as you know, a lot of questions about their rotation. Given the range of problems you might have, at least if you’re the Red Sox, you’re probably feeling better overall about your situation than some of the other teams are.”
The Red Sox have lost their last two games by one run (3-2 to the Yankees and 2-1 to Chicago), putting a spotlight on their offensive woes.
“Going into their game on Sunday night, their offense, which outscored every other team in baseball last year by 57 runs, ranked 17th in runs scored,” Olney said. “That, day in and day out, gives them so much margin for error. It did last year. They have to get that going.”
Even if Pedroia does not miss any more time with his wrist injury, it could be a serious blow to the Red Sox’ hopes if he has to play through a problem.
“I’m going to be really curious to see how he does going forward. I’ve talked to so many players through the years ‘¦ how troublesome wrist injuries can be for a hitter. And sometimes they just don’t go away during the year. Because what it really needs in a lot of cases is out-and-out, flat-out rest. And he’s not going to have an opportunity to do that.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.
On shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who made a throwing error with two outs in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game, allowing the winning run to score: “Offensively, in general we’ve seen the patient at-bats of the last year, and I think they feel really good about that. It is interesting, in talking with some of the people in the organization, they feel like Xander, offensively, as calm as he is on defense, that’s more of something where he really works at it, in terms of his effort and his desire to be great being kind of a grind for him. And I don’t even mean that as a negative. I think it’s just a question of the offense probably comes easier for him. ‘¦
“He’s such a young player, and I do think that as he makes this transition into an everyday shortstop in the big leagues, probably his age reflects more on his defense than on his offense. But I can tell you, everyone I have talked to, they feel like, OK, he’s going to make mistakes, but they think that he can be a guy who’s going to be over the course of a season someone who can help them.”
On the Red Sox’ reported four-year, $70 million lowball offer to Jon Lester: “After my conversation with some of the Red Sox people over the weekend down here in New York, it is going to be important for the Red Sox ownership to put at least a representative offer out there for Jon Lester early in the year. I don’t think that, based on the responses I was hearing, if Jon Lester ultimately said, ‘You know what? That’s not enough. I’m going to go test the market the way [Max] Scherzer is,” I think the players would get that, and they’d be OK with it if he left under those circumstances. But if he leaves with the Red Sox firing a $70 million bullet at him — or, let’s say, nuance it, let’s say [$]80 million or [$]85 million — if it’s not in that middle ground we’re talking about, I think they’re going to have some unhappy people in the organization. ‘¦ I think it’s going to be really important for them to at least ante up to a point where the players can say, ‘OK, you gave it a shot.’ ”
On MLB’s early issues with instant replay: “I like replay. I think it’s an important step. I think the fact that they unrolled it without really testing it, not having it in spring training, guaranteed that we were going to have some of this trial and error happen in front of us, rather than in some sort of a testing ground. I don’t like particulars of it, but I think big picture they’re moving in the right direction. And I also understand the frustration of some of the managers, wondering about the inconsistency.”