I still couldn’t tell you how this happened, but it’s happened, so we might as well accept it. The Red Sox will not be winning the AL East this season.
Somehow, despite the best starting rotation and second-best offense in the league, they’re just not going to be able to do it. The Rays have somehow stayed in first — and expanded their lead — despite a worse run differential and, thusly, a much worse Pythagorean record than the Sox. We can dissect the whys and why nots for the next six weeks, but it won’t change that fact. The Red Sox are not good enough to win the division this year.
Thankfully, this does not mean they can’t make the playoffs, and the Sox still have the lead in that race (though the White Sox and Twins are knocking on the door, and the game against Chicago tonight is quickly approaching "must-win" status). The Yankees, fortunately for us, look even more lost than the Red Sox, and look very close to giving up on the postseason altogether (not that I will ever be the one counting them out). The Yankees’ struggles help the Red Sox in that they remain the most formidable opponent — both in head-to-head play and in the course of the season. So it’s not all bad news.
If the season ended today, the Red Sox would make the playoffs. They’re not playing well — they’ve been a .500 team since June 1 (25-24) and were under .500 in July, they can’t win on the road and are now below .500 against teams with winning records — but they’re certainly no worse than this time last season, when they were blowing so many leads, I had to take a week’s vacation just to avoid turning into a bad person. And that team won the World Series.
Which brings us to the key: Winning the division isn’t that important anymore. It felt more important last year because the Sox hadn’t done it in 12 seasons, but with that out of the way, does it really matter? You always want to finish first, but sometimes it’s best for your sanity to give up the dream and recognize that it’s getting into the playoffs that matters.
And if the Sox make the playoffs, count me very hopeful about the havoc a Top 3 rotation of Beckett, Lester and Matsuzaka could wreak.