Yes, right now things look bad. But they will get better. Just hold on and be patient, Sox fans. Despite a bullpen that's been agonizingly disappointing thus far, our boys were in first place at the break for the first time in a decade - and they did it without their ace. In fact, they did it without their two best pitchers from last season. Despite this, the team had one more win at this year's break than they did last year, despite having the thrid highest ERA in the league. This ignominy is due, in large part, to the ERAs of relievers John Halama (6.05), Keith Foulke (6.23), Matt Mantei (6.49), and Alan Embree (7.82).
Undoubtedly, the Sox are in the midst of a rough patch of baseball, losing seven of their last nine games. But the team is looking to improve by the trade deadline, and they will. Owner John Henry said, ''there is a very good probability that we will increase payroll before the trading deadline."
The pen will be better in the second half because there will be changes. I think the Sox will go after one established reliever, but I think that a couple of youngsters in their system (Papelbon, Lester, Delcarmen, Hansen etc.) will be given a chance to prove themselves at the big league level. Schilling will return, and by shear determination, willpower and craft, will be a steadying force in the pen, and eventually the rotation.
Damon, Ortiz, Manny and Tek have been fantastic, Nizon has been solid and consistent, and Bill Mueller has come back well after knee surgery. The six of them have driven this offense to incredible heights, and to a statistical lead in almost all categories.
But with the exception of Mueller, the entire infield has been a disappointment. Millar is streaky once again, and we can only hope that he has a blistering second half. This will likely be his final year in Boston. Belhorn has a pathetic average, and enrages the 'Nation' every time he takes another called third strike. He, too, is likely playing his final year with the Sox. Either one them (Millar or Belhorn) could lose his starting spot in the second half, and with Belhorn's recent injury, that may have already happened. Finally, Renteria has been a disappointment, both in the field and at the plate. He already has 17 errors - more than any other shortstop in baseball. And to make matters worse, he's hitting below his career average. Hopefully he'll turn it around in the second half, but thus far he's been their most overpaid player - Manny included. The money spent on ER seems like it could have been better spent elsewhere. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't finish the four years of his contract in Boston. Ever hear of Hanley Ramirez? I'd certainly love to see Edgar succeed and earn his money though.
The Sox will have the benefit of playing 43 of their remaining 75 games at home, including 24 of the final 36. In fact, no other team in baseball has more second half home games than the Sox. And they are the best home team in the American League over the past two seasons. They will finally win this very competitive division.
Take hope Sox fans. The team hasn't even played their best ball yet, and things will only get better in the second half. They will soon realize their full potential. Hopefully we'll also get a good look at the future in the second half, in the person of some very talented youngsters in our deep farm system.
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