Bobby Valentine is living in a parallel universe where he still declares with regularity, as he did on a radio appearance Wednesday, that this is a playoff team.This is an accurate reflection of my feelings.
There are moments -- when Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford are flying around the bases, and Adrian Gonzalez is stroking run-scoring doubles, and the rookie third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, keeps delivering big home runs -- when you succumb to that illusion and imagine how much better it will be when David Ortiz joins them, which could be as soon as Sunday in Cleveland.
But then reality sets in -- Jon Lester pitching well enough to lose, Josh Beckett pitching like a man who should be headed to the disabled list, the bullpen suddenly springing multiple leaks, the manager making puzzling decisions, the Sox unable to sustain the semblance of a winning streak -- and you're left thinking that this season would be best put out of its misery.
That's such a negative spin for a team that is one hot streak away from hoisting itself back into this race, an attainable goal if the Sox catch fire on this 10-game swing through Cleveland (four games), Baltimore (three) and New York (three), the head-to-head meetings with the Orioles and Yankees especially holding significance for the standings.
After a couple of wins, things seem all right. The wild card is certainly within reach. But then after those two steps forward, the Red Sox inevitably take two or three steps backwards, and it seems beyond doubt that all the team can do is play out the string. But then the team pulls out a win, and I start thinking positively again.
Boston is 5.5 GB in the WC with several teams in front of them, including two from their own division. There are 50 games remaining in the regular season. Even playing .667 ball (33-17) - I don't think anyone would argue that is a pretty tall order* - will give the team only 88 wins.
* The team's best 50-game stretch so far this year is 30-20.
The time to get on a white-hot run is now.