As Red Sox fans wake up on this Sunday morning we have to try and swallow a five game losing streak with our coffee. It doesn't taste good. Optimism is getting harder and harder to muster up for each game and the proverbial (seemingly annual) tweets about the Red Sox having to go ___ and ___ the rest of the way to win 90 games are all over the twittersphere. So to say that optimism is low is a huge understatement. But being a born and breed New England Red Sox fan that was brought up during the "there's always next year" era means that your dire straits pessimism after a loss is always followed by a rehabilitation of optimism prior to the first pitch of the next game. (**Side note: the only time I've never been able to muster up the next day optimism, no matter how hard I tried, was after game 3 of the 2004 ALCS, and we know how that turned out.) So with all that being said. I'm actually still confident that the 2015 Red Sox can still turn things around and even if they can't there's still plenty of reasons to keep watching this team.
Here's the Top 10 reasons to keep watching the 2015 Red Sox:
10. If you're a real Red Sox fan you keep watching/listening no matter how bad it gets.
9. There's a trend in Major League Baseball to go with relatively young former players as managers even though they don't have managing experience (we'll overlook the Miami Marlins as an outlier to this trend) and the Red Sox have an outstanding candidate to fit this mold: JASON VARITEK. No matter how bad a season gets in any sport a coaching change can excite the fan base (usually for a short period of time). If this season continues to get worse I'll keep watching to see if Jason Varitek becomes the new manager of the Boston Red Sox.
8. Dustin Pedroia. His heart and hustle are still on full display and his bat has been on fire since being moved into leadoff spot. This roughly one and a half seasons of losing has to be killing him. But knowing that he'll never stop hustling no matter how bad it gets will keep me tuning in.
7. The trade deadline. Can the Red Sox get another Eduardo Rodriquez at the trade deadline? The Red Sox don't have a trade asset as valuable as Andrew Miller this time around, but they will be in a rare position to be both a seller and a buyer. One thing is for certain. If they're in last place they won't be trading for any rental starting pitchers like Jonny Cueto and Jordan Zimmerman. But, they could go after a starting pitcher or two who will be under team control for a longer period of time.
6. Rusney Castillo- This poor guy was seen as the savior while he was in Pawtucket. He hasn't given the Red Sox a Yasiel Puig type lift. But he still is an excellent athlete with lots of potential. He needs to play everyday so the Red Sox can find out what they have. Unfortunately right now it feels like he's going to fall into the Dice-K category of international bust.
5. Brian Johnson, Henry Owens and Pat Light. With Eduardo Rodriquez pitching so well it appears that the other PawSox lefties will get their chance before the season is over too. Especially Johnson. I also threw Pat Light into this group, even though he throws right handed. He was just promoted to Pawtucket from Portland. Light was converted to the bullpen this year and it seems to have rejuvenated his career. He throws high 90's (98+) and that's exactly the type of arm that this team needs in the pen.
4. How will the Hanley, Panda, Big Papi, Mike Napoli log jam play out. Ben Cherington successfully added a lot of talent to this roster for 2015. This years team is a lot more talented on paper than last years. But what became clear pretty early on in the season is that the pieces don't necessarily fit well together. Hanley is not a left fielder. Third base is taken by Sandoval, so Hanley can't move there. First base belongs to Napoli (that may be the problem), so for now Hanley can't move there and when you have Big Papi at DH it's hard to rotate anyone else through that spot. It's becoming more clear that Mike Napoli isn't going to have the big year that some people predicted. He's a pending free agent and he had his sleep apnea surgically repaired, so the overwhelming consensus coming into the season was that he's going to have a huge year. Well it hasn't happened and it may be time for him to go. Keep watching to see how this turns out. We haven't even talked about the Big Papi situation. He seems to be heating up currently, but if the team keeps losing and he keeps getting left out of the line up versus lefties it's going to get U-G-L-Y ugly, you ain't got no alibi you UGLY!!
3B. Mookie Betts. I'm not even sure what to call that collision with the bullpen wall on Friday night, but thankfully Mookie wasn't more seriously injured. Mookie was all the rage early in the year and rightfully so, but he's now going through the Xander Bogaerts like struggles in his first full year in the majors. To be fair it's what happens to every young player not just Xander. Look no further than Bryce Harper as an example. It takes time people. But that's part of the problem in Boston.
3A. Blake Swihart. I fought my urge to put Blake at #1 on this list. But, if I'm honest with myself he is the player that I find myself most excited to watch and I'm most disappointed on those days when Sandy Leon is in the lineup. It's not just offense that I enjoy watching with Blake either. He made a great throw on Friday night to throw out Jose Reyes trying to steal and his pitch framing abilities have been better than I expected. He has struggled recently with blocking balls in the dirt. The 1-0 loss to the Orioles where the winning run scored on a wild pitch being example #1, but he also failed to block a ball on Friday night versus the Blue Jays too. Overall Swihart is just fun to watch. His athleticism and strength jump off the screen. His movements are very fluid and natural and he runs well for a catcher add that in with the fact that his swings from both sides of the plate look natural and you can see why scouts liked this guy. If you're thinking to yourself that this guy has a huge man crush on Blake or that this will be the world's next great bromance than I won't disagree with you.
2. Eduardo Rodriquez. The Red Sox haven't developed their own pitcher since Junichi Tazawa and they haven't developed their own starting pitcher since Clay Buchholz (or Jon Lester depending on your opinion of Clay Buchholz). Eduardo technically was "developed" by the Orioles, but the Red Sox get credit for letting him throw his changeup his way and getting him to the big leagues. Regardless of those semantics. The Red Sox haven't had a young pitcher with this much excitement around them since Jonathan Papelbon. Today will be a huge test for him versus the Blue Jays. Who have arguably the best offense in baseball, they kill left handed pitching and they are the hottest team in baseball right now with a ten game win streak. If Eduardo shuts them down for 7 innings today and breaks two streaks, the Jays winning streak and the Sox five game losing streak. We'll be hearing the word "ace" A LOT for the next five days.
1. Xander Bogaerts. We've said it over and over. Xander looks like a new man this year. He's confident and relaxed. He's aggressive and patient when he needs to be. He's staying even keel and avoiding the long slumps that affected him last year. He's answered any questions about whether he can handle SS at the major league level. All that's left to do is maintain for a full season. Will Xander make the All Star team? The Deacon makes his case in this post. Whether he makes the All Star team in 2015 or not, the important thing is that he has taken his game to that level of being in the discussion. Xander's season in 2015 gives us hope that all these other young players can follow the same path. Players like Mookie, Swihart, Eduardo, Rusney, Brian Johnson, Henry Owens and don't forget Christian Vazquez. Unfortunately for all these players to develop we are going to have to be patient, but if Xander is the guiding light for us to follow than it may just be worth it to keep watching these 2015 Boston Red Sox.