In today’s Sun-Times, Joe Cowley gives his take on just what needs to go right for the Sox to stand a chance in the second half. Cowley posits that Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin must step up, that the Sox must win a few series and could potentially land a big-name player, and that’s all well and good. The Sox do need to beat Detroit this month; the Sox could use a major roster addition; Carlos Quentin absolutely must hit like he can. Unfortunately, these kind of vague prognostications also tend to mildly overlook and grossly oversimplify.
For starters, saying Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin need to improve their contributions makes a few loaded assumptions, namely that both are really as good as one good season insisted they were and that Quentin didn’t benefit from facing a new league that didn’t have the book on him yet. More damningly, Cowley overlooks the facts that (a) Jose Contreras is pitching well over his ability right now and (b) Paul Konerko put up a monster of a first half, which can’t bode well for a player so notorious for splitting his season into chunks of three consecutive stellar months and three consecutive subpar months. You could say Floyd and Quentin need to step up, but it’s equally important (if not moreso) that Contreras and Konerko not step down. In fact, one could argue that with a lousy Floyd and nonproductive Quentin, the worst place the Sox end up is exactly where they are right now, whereas without those contributions from Konerko and Contreras, they’re looking up at Kansas City.
Cowley also suggests the Sox “forget trying to win the series at Fenway Park before heading to new Yankee Stadium. The Big Apple is where the Sox can make a statement and get some confidence going into the final month.” And you have to ask yourself how this could possibly be true when Fenway is a four-game set as opposed to the three-game trip to New York, and when at the same most signs and common sense suggest Boston will take the AL East. Barring something major happening out west, this would give the BoSox the right to feast on the lowest-winning playoff team outside their division – most likely the team from the Central, i.e. the Sox should things go as hoped. I may be missing something, but I was under the impression that winning a longer series on the road against the toughest team in the land made about as strong a statement as one could hope for.
But what becomes difficult in making condensed, catchall diagnoses like these is that the Sox, in many ways, have to win every series. Why would mid-September against a Seattle team that will have most likely surrendered give the Sox more momentum than, say, crushing the Twins in the Dome earlier that month? Or taking the nine-game homestand against the Central immediately after the west coast trip? Does anybody really believe a division as lousy as this will be decided before the last week of the season anyway?
Ultimately, any kind of second-half look at the Sox is probably right, because any look at the Sox will point out some gaping holes, an unneccessarily tough road to what should be an easy playoff berth and an impossibility for anyone – Cowley, myself, other bloggers, beat reporters, Rick Morrissey, whoever – to really say “all they need is ____” because whatever it is, they certainly need it – but they’re going to need a little more than that as well.