By Nick Schaeflein @ptchr2424 on June 24, 2014
The defending World Series champs have certainly had an up-and-down year in 2014. While much of the roster has returned from their October run a season ago, things have not come easy for the Boston Red Sox. They have uncharacteristically gone into several slumps, been hit hard by injuries and just not been able to sustain any momentum. Boston can still be a strong team in the second half, but what has been learned at the midway point?
Jacoby Ellsbury was one of the few free agents who the Red Sox let get away in the winter. Boston thought that they would be able to replace the speedy leadoff hitter, however, that task is proving a bit more difficult. Shane Victorino has been injured, Jackie Bradley is coming along slowly and nobody has been able to bat leadoff consistently. Boston will eventually get over Ellsbury's departure, but it is just taking a big longer than desired.
Koji Uehara was Boston's third attempt at a closer last season. That move became very impactful on their World Series run. He was really good last year, and has been just as good in 2014. Uehara has just one blown save and sports an ERA just over 1.00. There are no sure-things when it comes to the ninth inning, but Uehara is starting to enter that top tier who is close to automatic each time out.
The staff has not really found a groove in 2014. Ace Jon Lester has had some good outings, but the win-loss record does not always reflect that. Lester can enter free agency at the end of the year, but Boston needs to lock him up quickly. Having that anchor will help the club as a whole going forward. Losing Lester could lead to a struggle similar to the one of Jacoby Ellsbury on offense. Boston needs to have Lester in the mix long-term.
David Ortiz is about as clutch as hitters come. During the World Series, he displayed that. When Boston was riding a 10-game losing streak, it was Ortiz coming up big to end it. When they were facing their second sweep against the Detroit Tigers, it was Ortiz with the big home run. After "Koji Time" failed for the first time at Oakland, it was Big Papi saving him with a clutch home run. Ortiz somehow is always able to put the team on his back.
Repeating as champs is a hard thing to do. It is why there has not been a repeat champ since 1998-2000. The amount of games eventually add up, the offseason is shorter and the target on your back is just bigger. Boston has gone through some struggles that they did not have a year ago. It's just the nature of the beast. Even Ortiz has admitted that he has felt the frustrations this year. It's a tough spot, but don't count the Sox out yet.
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