At the midway mark of the 2012 season, Red Sox fans are seeking answers. The main question: How could it have come to this, really?
Remember in late October/early November 2007, when we were told a baseball dynasty in Boston was in the making? The team had won two World Series trophies in the span of four seasons, had the smartest GM in the biz, the perfect manager and what looked to be an endless stream of young talent (Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Lars Anderson, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Jonathan Papelbon) ready to enter their primes.
Pedroia and Ellsbury have lived up to their potential, but injuries are threatening to make both players JAGs, as in Just Another Guy(s).
Turns out Anderson is just a minor league talent (happens sometimes). Dice K? Certainly not worth the millions it took just to negotiate with the guy and it's more than safe to call him a major league bust. Buchholz has had his struggles, which have been well-documented. And Papelbon bolted for seemingly greener pastures and more money.
I t is Lester's plummet that should be the primary cause for concern. The lefty, who owns a 5-6 record and a 4.49 ERA so far in 2012, was fresh off a clinching World Series game in which he allowed just three hits over 5.2 innings in the fall of 2007. Lester lived up to and even surpassed the hype in the four seasons that followed, earning at least 15 wins each year, reaching 225 strikeout seasons twice and never allowing his season ERA to jump over 3.47. Earning 10 wins in the second half isn't going to happen, so this will likely go down as Lester's worst season in a Boston uniform. But is it too much to ask for Lester to just be average in the final two-and-a-half months of 2012?
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Look, we're not sure why Lester has been so horrendous this season. There is no evidence to suggest he's injured and those who suggest that he's now "fat" compared to his 2007 self, don't really have much of an argument. Who doesn't weigh five more pounds at 28 than they did when they were 23? (What, just me?)
There was an encouraging start from Lester on July 3 in Oakland, when he pitched four-hit ball against the A's and allowed just one earned run. But he followed that sharp outing up with a stinker against the Yankees last weekend, allowing four earned runs on nine hits before Bobby V. pulled the plug after just 4.1 innings. If the Red Sox want to entertain getting back in the postseason race (just 2.5 games out of the wild card race as of Friday), then Lester will have to be solid.
Solid, but not great. That's not too much to ask.
- Matt Burke is Sports Editor at Metro Boston. Follow him on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS
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