The cry of “May Day! May Day!” is ringing out from Bunker Hill to Roxbury and all over New England at the sight of Red Sox crashing and burning barely a month into the season — at the same time the Evil Empire from the South Bronx is once again rearing its ugly head as the dominant force in the American League East.
Doesn’t matter if it’s only May. Judging by the Red Sox Nation hysteria gone viral all over Twitter, things could not be more dismal at Fenway. The 2022 Red Sox are a mess and nobody is feeling more heat than Chaim Bloom, the analytics whiz kid GM that Red Sox owner John Henry hired away from Tampa Bay in 2019 with the idea of maximizing player values, building a strong farm system (which the previous GM Dave Dombrowski had mostly gutted) and ultimately paying less for winning more like the Rays.
Upset as they may have been when, in one of his first moves, Bloom, on Henry’s orders, traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, Red Sox Nation is just as distressed, if not more, at Bloom’s offseason this year in which he: Didn’t ‘t do nearly enough to shore up the Red Sox’s bullpen (currently one of the worst in baseball, converting only five of their first 12 save chances and going 0-5 in extra innings); made the curious trade of productive outfielder Hunter Renfroe (31 HR/96 RBI last year) for weak-hitting Jackie Bradley Jr.; and then low-balled All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts in their contract extension talks that most surely will now trigger the exit of their most popular player as a free agent after the season.
After striking out 11 times against Shohei Ohtani Thursday, the Red Sox staggered into the weekend tied with the eternally woeful Orioles for last place in the AL East and ranked 24th in the majors in runs, 25th in homers and tied for 23rd with just five saves . On top of that, the one major expenditure by Bloom — the six years/$140 million he gave Trevor Story last winter, purportedly as a hedge in the event Bogaerts walks as a free agent — has so far been the biggest disappointment of all this year . As of Saturday, Story was hitting .210 with no homers and hearing the loudest boos of anyone at Fenway.
Which brings us back to the Yankees, who it should not be forgotten, were roundly criticized for taking a pass on the entire high end free agent shortstop class — Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Javy Baez and Story. Instead, Brian Cashman, with an eye on the upcoming negotiations with Aaron Judge, went the trade route to fill that void, acquiring Isiah Kiner-Falefa from Texas. In surging into first place on the wings of an 11-game win streak, the major factors for the Yankees have been pitching and defense — the latter getting a huge boost from Kiner-Falefa, whose shortstop play has solidified the Yankee infield. Their .992 fielding percentage is second in the majors, and their seven errors are second fewest. By contrast, last year their .983 fielding percentage was 23rd worst in the majors.
After a lackluster 4-4 start in which the Yankees revealed too many of the hitting inconsistencies that plagued them last year, they took full advantage of the weak schedule of nine games against the AL Central and three versus the Orioles. Through it all, it was the Yankee pitching that dominated and was a model of consistency. In their first 25 starts of the season, the Yankee starting rotation of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgonery, Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino gave up three or more earned runs only five times, two of them by Cole in his first two starts. Cole then gave up a total of only two runs in his next three starts.
And the Yankee bullpen has been equally dominating. Going into Sunday’s games, Aroldis Chapman had yet to give up his first run. His two principal set-up men, Clay Holmes and Michael King, had a combined ERA of 0.45 with 38 strikeouts in 30.2 innings. The emergence of King has to be especially satisfying for Cashman, who has been touting the 26-year-old right-hander’s abilities ever since acquiring him from the Marlins in 2017, only to see his career stalled by injuries.
The Yankees’ team ERA of 2.60 is second only to the Dodgers in the majors and there is no reason to believe they won’t continue running roughshod for the next couple of weeks. After two home games with the Blue Jays next Tuesday and Wednesday, they play another 14 straight games against teams with under-.500 records.
MADD MADD WORLD
In case you haven’t noticed, this season has already been a referendum on two of the worst owners in baseball, John Fisher in Oakland and Bob Castellini in Cincinnati. Both need to sell their tanking teams for the good of the game. The situation in Oakland has gotten particularly ugly with the A’s strong arming the community to provide the necessary financing for a new ballpark in the Howard Terminal area on the water. At the same time, they’ve gutted the team, trading away Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea. They also made no effort to re-sign free agents Starling Marte and Mark Canha, and allowed manager Bob Melvin to leave for San Diego for no compensation. On top of that, they raised ticket prices in the dump that is the Oakland Coliseum to an average of $25, and more than double for season bleacher tickets, from $456 to $840. Under Fisher, the A’s epitomize the inflation in this country and the fans have had it. The boycott is on. In the final three games of their recent homestand, the A’s drew crowds of 2,488, 2,815 and 4,838. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, one of the best baseball towns in the country, the Reds’ 3-22 start was the worst for 25 games in their history but was really no surprise after Castellini ordered a tear down of last year’s 83-79 third- place club. The Reds traded away popular catcher Tucker Barnhart, outfielder Jesse Winker, third baseman Eugenio Suarez, and righthander Sonny Gray, and waived No. 2 starter Wade Miley — all for financial reasons. What made it worse, however, was the absolute arrogance of tone deaf Phil Castellini, the owner’s son, a couple of weeks ago in response to the fans’ cries for Castellini to sell the team. “Be careful for what you wish for,” he said, before adding that he and his father his have been absolutely committed to winning. Say what? … New baseball book of the week: Newly-minted Hall of Famer Jim Kaat’s latest memoir, “Good as Gold” (Triumph) is a really fun and informative read of his 25-year playing career and his even longer broadcasting career. interesting is Kaat ‘s recounting of his time his in the Yankee broadcast booth — his way of deflecting the whims of George Steinbrenner, his prickly interaction with Alex Rodriguez, and the valuable lessons learned from Bill White.