Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The It Factor Debate

First, a quick announcement:  Next week has historically been the week of the year where the best comments of the year come out.  I may re-post the two greatest hits that are currently occupying cubicle wall space, one from 2009 and one from 2010.

But I do want to address something that the Gunn mentioned during the series recap post two days ago, and that's whether the Red Sox have that "It" factor, some kind of intangible that makes you think they are the kind of team destined to not suck in the playoffs.  The 2004 Red Sox team had that starting in August, as did the 2003 team.  In my opinion, the 2007 Red Sox team did not.  The 2010 Red Sox did up until the series in San Francisco when the entire team got hurt, Buchholz pinch ran, and JD tried to ask out of the game after Buchholz pinch ran, prompting Francona to say "we just need a f***ing body out in right field."

Certain Patriots teams have, the championship Celtics team did, the 2009 Yankees did, and the 2011 Bruins inconsistently did, but obviously did when it mattered.

Something the Red Sox team has that the 2011 Bruins didn't have was superior talent over at least 28 teams in the league.  However, like the Bruins, this team has displayed some kind of "It Factor" on an inconsistent basis.  I can probably cite arguments on both sides.

1.  The Switch:  I blame the 2-10 start on The Switch.  I blame the Pittsburgh/San Diego slump on The Switch.  But this team, as I said in a post about a month ago, sometimes turns it on and other times turns it off, playing sloppy, distracted, and bad baseball.  Sandwich series against SD and Pittsburgh because Philadelphia's coming up next?  I have no tolerance for that, because unless it's the NBA, the best of the best teams don't do that.
2.  "Yay." Just an exacerbation of the point illustrated above.  It's probably the first thing Pedroia has ever done that has rubbed me the wrong way.  We talked about it for a while on Tuesday, but I think any trivializing of first place is troubling.
3.  Contract-related distractions.  I still have the David Ortiz post in draft, but deemed it inappropriate after the guy raked last night.  I am troubled by his attitude, am cautious about Papelbon's, and worry about Crawford doing the Dan Uggla and continuing to press just to justify the dollars.  How about we just do a hitting streak instead.
4.  Personnel.  Every team has some sourpusses.  The Red Sox have a lot in Lackey, Bedard now, Jenks, and Drew. 
5.  Positional battles.  Will there be some awkward silences with the status of shortstop and right field STILL in flux on August 10th?  Only one of those four players would be okay with being benched and losing their position.

1.  Certain wins.  Forget the walkoffs.  Games like last night's game (and there have been a few of them under these circumstances) are the ones that mean the most to me.  The fill-in starter was on the mound.  The team was tired emotionally and probably physically.  They clawed to an ugly win anyway.  Of course, the walkoffs are also factors.  And to answer some of yesterday's questions, yes, 10-2 does matter and CC matters more.
2.  Saltalamaggio, Aceves, and Reddick.  Three unlikely players are exceeding expectations dramatically after being left on certain scrap heaps.  Despite his one career loss, the Yankees gave up on Aceves.  Kalish had passed Reddick on the depth chart due to Reddick's inconsistency.  Salalamaggio had offensive problems, defensive problems, and mental problems.  And now they're right back on the impressive career tracks they were originally supposed to be on.  This is what Jeremy Hermida was SUPPOSED to be but wasn't.
3.  46's Inspiration.  Front AND back.  This guy is pissed about what happened and is on an "I Told You So" campaign.  I'm not faulting the player for that; I've been there before as well.
4.  Contract-related inspiration.  This is the flip side of the Papelbon and Ortiz problems.  They've both performed well except for Ortiz's last month.
5.  Turning negatives into positives.  The catcher controversy in May was responded to the right way.  The 2-10 controversy was responded to the right way.  This team could have turtled like the 2010 team did and like the Twins did.  The injury to Scutaro early?  Was turned into a positive.  The injury to Drew?  Has made the player completely expendible.  Benching Matsuzaka would have been a controversy; he instead got hurt and the team took off.  Even Lackey has responded well to a little bit of adversity.  Minimal feeling sorry for themselves with the Buchholz injury, just mobilizing and acquiring Bedard (for better or for worse).
6.  Winning for Wakefield.  This team seemed downright determined to not let the lead slip away during last night's game, because it's pretty obvious universally how much this player wants his 200 wins and his 193 Red Sox wins.  The way the sixth inning was played is evidence of it.  The way the seventh inning was played is further evidence.  And the way the last two Wakefield starts have been is even more.  They've almost felt like playoff games.

My conclusion:  The team has swagger that's been unmatched for a little while.  They just need to continue to have the switch on.


Rocci said...

I disagree with your assessment of effort in the NBA.

the gm at work said...


Obviously. When you have 50% of the teams qualifying for the playoffs and you have the Lakers the next week, you take a night off against the Wizards. You can't take my lack of basketball knowledge and fool me on that one.

Anonymous said...


Very high quality post. I don't really have anything to add at all. I just wanted to drop that compliment out there.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...


I am glad to get the comment. I was temporarily afraid that you would start boycotting my posts after I acted like an A-hole two days ago regarding your boy. All sarcasm regarding him aside, though, Jackie MacMullan has a good article about the Front And Back controversy currently available at the Boston section of the Lebron Network's website. This might have to be "Yes" bullet point 6.5, as even Youkilis has your boy's back right now, it seems.