Koji Uehara surrendered another home run last night in Boston's loss to Tampa Bay, the second he's allowed in the last three games. Are the Red Sox running out of luck in 2014 or is this just a small bump in the road?
By Michael Parente
You don’t have to be Abner Doubleday to understand that beyond the incredible difficulty of repeating as World Series champions in Major League baseball, it’s even more difficult to have another season unfold the way last year’s title run did for the Boston Red Sox.
We tend to fall in love with players who deliver in October, and we use that relatively small sample size to cloud our long-term judgment, so it was only natural for a major percentage of the Boston fan base to assume 2014 would work out the way 2013 did because, after all, the Red Sox were bringing back just about every play from that championship team.
The problem is baseball doesn’t work that way. Baseball doesn’t follow logic. In real life, if “A” is greater than “B” and “B” is greater than “C,” then “A” is logically greater than “B” as well. Not in baseball. As the great John Sterling would say – hold your laughter – “You can’t predict baseball,” unless your prediction is that things won’t work out the same two years in a row, in which case you’d be correct.
Case in point, Koji Uehara, the electric Red Sox closer who burst onto the scene last year when Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan suffered season-ending injuries. Out of nowhere, Uehara, who had only pitched in 60 or more games once in his previous four seasons, became Mariano Rivera in the postseason, emerging as Boston’s secret weapon en route to its third title in the last 10 years.
Last night, Uehara surrendered a tiebreaking home run to Yunel Escobar in the ninth inning of Boston’s 6-5 loss to Tampa Bay, lifting the Rays to a doubleheader sweep at Fenway Park. It was the second home run Uehara has allowed in his last three appearances, an eye-popping slip considering he only allowed one home run between June and October last year after taking over the closers’ role midway through the season.
It’s worth noting Uehara has dealt with shoulder stiffness this year, so perhaps the events this week, which dropped last-place Boston to a pedestrian 13-16, have more to do with Uehara’s health than the inevitable falling back to earth we come to expect from players who surprise us with superhuman feats, but even a sudden outbreak of injuries would signal a momentous shift from the good fortune Boston enjoyed last year in the health department (not withstanding the injuries to Hanrahan to Bailey).
Uehara is only one example of the inevitable occurring in 2014. Even Johnny Gomes’ numbers have slipped. In fairness, they’re also dealing with the loss of Ryan Dempster, who retired in the spring, and Stephen Drew, who effectively priced himself out of baseball, but as good as the Red Sox were last year, they were lucky, too. It’s rare to see almost every free-agent acquisition excel at the rate at which Boston’s newcomers thrived in 2013. It helps to be great, but it doesn’t hurt to be lucky, either, and it’s no surprise to see the luck has somewhat turned in 2014.
Whatever the reason, the Red Sox are tied for last place in the American League East with the league’s best team, Oakland, coming to town for a three-game set. It’s still early, but the Red Sox are slowly digging themselves a hole that might be difficult to climb out of once the weather heats up. A little luck this weekend wouldn’t hurt.
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