I used to do quite a bit of bowling. (Candlepin, of course.) I’m sure you all know how it works. You roll three balls and try to knock over ten pins. Do that ten times, and see how many you get when you’re done. Obviously, the best plan is to get as many down with the first ball, to make it easier on the next two. Or, to eliminate the need for the next two altogether. So, sometimes I would roll that first ball of the first frame right where I wanted it to go. It would be in a spot I couldn’t have done better if I placed it there. Then, something odd would happen. It would take a funny bounce off the head pin and only knock down a pin or two. Or, it would somehow drive straight through the pins and only take two or three down, leaving a nasty split for the next two ball. But, I’d have to say to myself, “That’s OK. You put it right where you want it. Next frame, just do it again and things will correct themselves.” And, sometimes that was true. The next frame, the ball would be back in the same spot, and 8 pins would fall down. Or all ten. Or, maybe, the same thing would happen. I’d get that funny bounce again, and only three would drop. So, I’d have to tell myself to keep at it. I was doing what I wanted, and eventually it would work out.
Until I got to the fifth frame, still telling myself that. Suddenly, despite me doing everything I wanted to do, to the best I could expect, I was halfway through the string with nothing to show for it. I had wasted the string.
This Red Sox season reminds me a little of that.
They’re not playing poorly, exactly. Sure, some of the players are struggling. Jackie Bradley Jr is having trouble hitting his weight. Xander Bogaerts isn't an all-star, and will Middlebrooks hasn't broken through yet...when he's in the line-up at all. Even the vets are having some off moments. But, really, if Bradley was hitting .280, how many more wins would the Sox have? They've been middle of the pack for a bit. They might not be hitting the head pin, but they're at least hitting the three.
Which brings us to time. Have they lost the string yet? Well, they're at the quarter mark for the season. So, they've tread water for over a month now. Almost two. You might be concerned they they've wasted too much time with bad bounces to catch up. But, if you look at the standings, you see that they're only three games out in the division. They're only two games back of the second wild card.
They haven't wasted the string at all.
There's still plenty of time left, if you believe in the team. And, no, I don't mean in the "real fans Believe! Gotta have faith!" sort of "believe". I mean, if you look at the team and believe that Bradly can only get better. If you believe that Xander is really an upper half shortstop. If you believe that AJ can produce what Salty did last year, or believe that Victorino just needs to stay healthy to become a top player in baseball again. If you believe that hitting with runners is scoring position isn't a skill, but something that will eventually even out. If you believe that water will find its own level, then the Sox are in good shape. The rest of the league is faltering right along with them.
There's plenty left in the string.