There are no “buts” about it; the Boston Red Sox are the worst team in Major League Baseball. After dropping a disastrously ugly game to the Houston Astros, 8-3, The Sox saw their losing streak reach six games; five in a row out of the All-Star break. They sit ten games below .500 at 42-52 and own the worst overall record in the American League. There are only three teams in the majors with worse records than them: the Miami Marlins (38-55), the Philadelphia Phillies (33-63) and the Colorado Rockies (40-51). None of those three teams are making any excuses; they’re awful and never claimed to be anything but that.
While the standings themselves would suggest that the Red Sox aren’t the absolute worst team in the majors, the finer numbers indicate that they are. Prior to the 2015 season, ESPN posted a season predictions article in which they polled 88 experts on what they predicted the outcome of the season to look like. Of those 88, 36 picked the Boston Red Sox to win the American League East. Only two of those same people predicted that the Miami Marlins would win their division, and exactly zero of them picked the Phillies or Rockies to win their respective divisions. From the beginning, the Red Sox expectations were high, and with a $178,513,094 payroll going into the season, it wasn’t hard to see why. The Sox entered 2015 with the third highest payroll in the league, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers ($273,440,830) and the New York Yankees ($211,747,857). The difference between them is that both the Dodgers and the Yankees are leading their divisions. Compare the Red Sox 2015 payroll to that of the Phillies ($136,366,666), the Rockies ($99,516,171), and the Marlins ($60,375,000) and the difference is staggering. Boston has fielded a team of players that are paid like winners, and are expected by management, the league, experts and fans to do just that; win. The only problem is that they’ve done the exact opposite of that, but the fault doesn’t lie solely with the players.
The Sox entered the season with several new players, including third baseman Pablo Sandoval, left fielder Hanley Ramirez, and pitchers Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello and Wade Miley. The Sox agreed to contract extensions with Porcello and Miley after acquiring them in trades and between the five players, Boston committed $294.25 million between now and 2019, when Sandoval and Porcello become the last of them to see their contracts end. For 2015 alone, Boston committed $57.5 million to those five players, and none of them have paid off.
Pablo Sandoval was a hero for the San Francisco Giants in winning the World Series in 2014, batting .429 throughout postseason play. He also won the World Series MVP in 2012 while clubbing 3 home runs and batting an astounding .500 during the playoffs. The Sox signed him for $95 million over 5 years with the intent of him being a high performance player with clubhouse and fan rapport. He would stabilize a position in which the Sox had ranked 29th in the previous season, and he would provide pop in the middle of the lineup, behind David Ortiz.
Hanley Ramirez was signed for $88 million over 4 years, with a $22 million vesting option for a fifth season. He was signed with the intent of moving him from his natural position of shortstop into left field. After being traded from the Red Sox earlier in his career, the signing was a homecoming for a top-notch hitter, though many doubted his ability to be a quality defender in left field.
Justin Masterson was brought in on a 1-year deal for $9.5 million. The Sox intended to take a flyer on the hopes that Masterson would regain his 2013 form and be a solid contributor. Masterson however, was coming off of the worst season of his career in which he posted a paltry 5.88 ERA over 128.2 innings.
Rick Porcello was acquired in a trade with the Tigers for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Sox soon signed him to a 4-year extension worth $82.5 million. Porcello was coming off of his best season in 2014. He was a 15-game winner and posted career bests in ERA and WHIP. He also surpassed 200 innings for the first time in his career. Though his numbers looked good, it was the first time since his rookie season that Porcello posted an ERA below 4.30 and he had never posted a WHIP below 1.20, causing 2014 to look like a potential outlier year.
Wade Miley was acquired from Arizona in a trade and Boston handed him a 3-year extension worth $19.25 million before seeing him throw a single pitch. Miley, like Masterson, was coming off of the worst season in his young career. In 2014 he posted a 4.34 ERA and a ridiculous 1.40 WHIP. Needless to say the Sox handed out a lot of money based on past merits.
Over halfway through the season and none of the Red Sox offseason moves seem to have paid off. The Red Sox rank 16th in the majors in runs scored, 14th in home runs, 14th in batting average, 11th in on-base percentage and 17th in OPS. For as bad as the offense has been though, the pitching has been much worse. Boston ranks 28th in the majors in ERA, 19th in strikeouts, 26th in WHIP, 25th in home runs allowed and 25th in opponent batting average.
Needless to say, the Red Sox haven’t been playing like a $180 million team and it shows.
The biggest culprits for the Red Sox struggles have been the new additions. Instead of guiding the team toward a division crown, the newest players have been the catalyst for downfall. Rick Porcello has posted a 5.79 ERA in 18 starts this season, he has a 1.41 WHIP and he’s allowed 18 home runs in 105 innings. He hasn’t allowed more than 18 home runs in a season since his rookie year in 2009. Needless to say, he’s been the exact opposite of what the Sox are looking for. Porcello’s WAR (wins above replacement) on the season is -0.6, the first time in his career in which he’s posted a negative number, meaning the Red Sox are better off with a replacement than with their $82.5 million man.
For as bad as Porcello has been, Justin Masterson has been an even worse gamble. To almost nobody’s surprise but the Red Sox, Masterson hasn’t rebounded from his career worst season in 2014. He has a 5.63 ERA over 48 innings and has been relegated to the bullpen after a midseason DL stint. His WHIP is at 1.56 and his WAR is -0.2 on the season. So for $22 million, the Sox have a combined -0.8 WAR from Masterson and Porcello.
Wade Miley has been the bright spot of the group, if you can call it that. His numbers have looked more like last year’s than his first two seasons in the majors. His ERA is sitting at 4.49 and he has a 1.37 WHIP and walks more than 3 batters per nine innings. Though Miley has rebounded from a horrendous start, his WAR on the season sits at 1.0, which could be considered the most successful for the cheapest of the five new additions.
Pablo Sandoval has been about the biggest disappointment the Red Sox could have ever imagined. In his first season with the club he’s posted mediocre numbers at best. He holds a career low in both batting average (.266) and on-base percentage (.308). He’s on pace to set a career high in strikeouts and he’s also posted career lows in slugging and OPS. Sandoval’s regular season stats have trended downward for three seasons now and there appears to be no end in sight for the big third baseman. His defense has been the worst of his career and its caused the $95 million man to notch, you got it, a career low -0.4 WAR. Sandoval’s season has been a train wreck, and the Red Sox are stuck with it for another four seasons.
Hanley Ramirez has been hit or miss. He had a spectacular return to Boston, swatting 10 home runs in April and had fans believing that the skeptics were wrong. But for as hot as he started, his defense became a liability and his power all but disappeared. He’s hit just three home runs since April and is batting just .261 with a career worst .306 on-base percentage. He is also posting the lowest walk percentage of his career. Ramirez’s defense in left field has only made his acquisition look worse. He’s never been an elite defender but he’s posting a career worst -2.1 defensive WAR this season. Overall he has a -0.4 WAR on the year and the Sox are locked into him for three, and potential four, more seasons.
Though not everything about the Red Sox season has been a failure; utility man Brock Holt was an All-Star, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts continues to take a step forward in his development as he’s leading the team with a .309 batting average. The Red Sox have had an influx of young talent with Eduardo Rodriguez, Blake Swihart and Brian Johnson all making their major league debuts, and rookie Mookie Betts has had sensational moments. All of the positives have been overshadowed by a combination of awful play, and even worse contract issues. The Red Sox have received a combined -1.2 WAR from the five big acquisitions they made in the offseason… the same five guys they committed $57.5 million to for the season.
The Sox need to start over. Whether they aim to make a trade the caliber of the infamous 2012 salary dump, or they reach out for frontline pitching in the offseason (David Price, Johnny Cueto), they need to act. They have the highest average ticket prices in the majors, averaging $52.34 per ticket and their attendance has dwindled. They have the highest payroll in franchise history and yet find themselves in last place in the American League in mid-July. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for the Red Sox, but much like 2012, it has to get worse before it gets better. From the front office on down to the players taking the field, a massive overhaul is needed. They may not be at the bottom statistically, but the Red Sox are the most underperforming and overrated team in the entire league. With the expectations crumbling down, they find themselves among the worst in the league. Time to click reset.