5 reasons to watch Sox, and 3 things worth missing

September, 20, 2010
BOSTON—Five things that make the Red Sox worth watching in the season’s final two weeks:

1. Sox playing spoiler. The Sox begin this last stretch Monday night against the Orioles with a 1.4 percent chance of advancing to the playoffs, according to coolstandings.com. They are 7 games behind the division-leading Yankees with 13 games left, and 6 behind the Rays, who have 14 left to play.

But with six games left against the Yankees--three in the Bronx this weekend, three on the season’s final weekend in Fenway Park Oct. 1-3--the Sox could have plenty to say about whether the Bombers win another division title.

2. Jon Lester’s bid for 20 wins. Unless Terry Francona juggles his rotation this weekend, which is highly unlikely, it appears that Lester will have two more starts before the end of the season: Saturday in the Bronx against the Yankees, then a week from Thursday (the 30th) against the White Sox in Chicago. Lester, who has 18 wins after combining to shut out the Blue Jays, 6-0, on Sunday, is bidding to become the sixth Sox left-hander and first since Mel Parnell in 1951 to win 20.

Parnell, Babe Ruth and Jesse Tannehill did it twice apiece. Lefty Grove and Ray Collins did it once. Parnell holds the Sox record for wins by a lefty, 25, which he had in 1949, the season the Sox lost the pennant to the Yankees on the final weekend.

3. Victor Martinez’s September song. The Sox catcher has 18 RBIs this month, one fewer than his former teammate in Cleveland, Shin-Soo Choo, who leads the league with 19. He also is one of a half-dozen players with 5 home runs this month (including teammate Adrian Beltre), one fewer than former Tribe teammate Jim Thome and Jose Bautista, who leads the majors in home runs with 49. There is a growing suspicion that the Sox are not planning to bring back Martinez next season. He turns 32 in December, and he is likely to receive a better offer from teams like the Tigers, who have money to spend and could pair him with young catcher Alex Avila, or the White Sox. Look for the Red Sox to explore a trade for Angels catcher Mike Napoli, who should be available this winter, or make a run at Toronto All-Star catcher John Buck, who has 18 home runs in just 373 at-bats and has thrown out 28 percent of the runners attempting to steal on him.

4. Adrian Beltre’s bid for a club record. Beltre is within two of Butch Hobson’s record for home runs by a third baseman, 30, which he set in 1977. Beltre insists that his left wrist injury is just a mild sprain and tried to argue his way into the lineup Sunday. He has had a phenomenal month—his 1.221 OPS is the best in the league in September—to wrap up a terrific season, one deserving of a place high on MVP ballots. He also has given the Sox tremendous incentive to do whatever they can to keep him.

5. Final acts. These are the final days in a Sox uniform for a number of players. Mike Lowell already has announced he is retiring. Jason Varitek’s place as backup catcher looks like it will belong to Jarrod Saltalamacchia next season. Martinez, Beltre, Bill Hall, and David Ortiz are all looking at potential free agency, although I expect the Sox will exercise Ortiz’s option. Daisuke Matsuzaka has no-trade protection, but he might accept a change of scenery. Tim Wakefield met the 130-inning clause in his contract that bumped up his 2011 salary another $500,000, to $2 million, but at 44, does he want to continue if his role is reduced to mopup man. These players all made meaningful contributions to the Sox while they were here, but goodbyes are coming.

Three things I'm not particularly anxious to see:

1. The Yankees celebrating a division title or wild-card spot at Fenway.
2. Manny
3. Baseball in Boston ending too soon in 2010.

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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