Things looked good for the Red Sox coming into this season. Over the winter Boston acquired good pitching in Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg, emptied its DL of key players like Pablo Sandoval and Steven Wright, and were ready to welcome Wonder Boy Benintendi to the lineup for his rookie year.
As we now know, only a couple of those seeds took root. Sale’s been dominant on the mound (he leads the MLB in strikeouts) and Benintendi’s putting up numbers that have people calling him the second coming of Fred Lynn.
But apart from those two winning scratch cards, the Sox have suffered. Chalk it up to whatever you want: influenza, injuries, erratic pitching, sluggish offense, defensive hiccups, poor management. The reality is that the Red Sox are—as of this publication—third in the AL East. Price isn’t back in the rotation yet (and his rehab starts aren’t going great). Wright’s out for the season. Last year’s fearsome offense is conspicuously absent. And third base is a pit of despair.
If history has taught us anything, though, it’s that even a slow-rolling stone has the potential to gather some pretty impressive moss. Witness the following sports turnarounds and see for yourself.
1991 Minnesota Twins
Minnesota entered 1991 without much ambition. After a demoralizing last-place finish in the 1990 AL West, nothing indicated that the Twins were destined for greatness this year. And once they’d announced their presence with a dismal 2-9 start to the season, it looked like business as usual. But then, starting in late May, they went 22-2 with a 15-game win streak. Their pitching improved (two starters picked up five consecutive W’s apiece) and their bats came alive—it’s worth noting that Chili Davis led the team with 29 homers and 93 RBIs. (Ever heard of him?)
The Twins ended the season at 93-58 and ultimately won the World Series. Not bad.
2002 Anaheim Angels
The ’02 Angels were never expected to rock the AL West. They hadn’t reached the playoffs in 15 years, and with a 6-14 start it was looking pretty ugly for the heavenly choir. But then June came. Mike Soscia added John Lackey to the rotation, and the Angels won 21 of 24 games, establishing a momentum that would eventually earn them a wildcard berth.
They made quick work of the Yankees and Twins in the ALDS and –CS, respectively, and seven games later the Angels were crowned world champions for the first time in the franchise’s history.
2003 Florida Marlins
The 2003 Marlins started the season with an unimpressive 19-29 record. Then April rained disaster on the ball club, removing three of its most valuable pitchers by way of injury. In early May, Florida brass axed manager Jeff Torborg, leaving the team under the tutelage of 72-year-old Jack McKeon. The rest of the season showed steady improvement, and the Marlins eked out a wildcard playoff spot while the Braves won the division outright. Florida managed wins against the Giants and Cubs in the NLDS and –CS before facing the Yankees in the World Series.
The Bronx Bombers, who’d finished that year with the best record in all of baseball, were no match for Florida’s momentum. The Marlins took the series in six games.
The point is, we’ve still got hope. Go get ’em, Boston.