Fenway Park

Players? Bloom? Cora? Who takes the fall?

The worst of the worst Red Sox plays of a maddening season came Saturday.

Bottom of the ninth. One out. The Blue Jays lead 5-4, but the Red Sox are rallying, having started the inning down by two runs. Luis Urias, having singled in a run, is on first. Reese McGuire is on second.

Connor Wong skies a long drive to left-center. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier takes it up against The Wall. Kiermaier peers in and may have been startled to see second base unoccupied. He knew someone was on second a couple seconds earlier.

Kiermaier tosses the ball to second baseman Santiago Espinal. Had Espinal wanted to be cruel, he could have tossed it back to Kiermaier so he could throw it in again, just to taunt Red Sox fans.

He didn’t. Judging from the crowd noise throughout the game, Blue Jays fans seemed to own the stands the way their team owned the Red Sox.

So the game ends on that tailor-made 8-3 double play ball.

Brutal. 

There have been plenty of Bad News Bears moments for the 2023 Red Sox, but given the time and place, this one has taken the lead.

This one all-but nailed down a Blue Jays sweep of the three-game series. It was an appropriate catalyst for Sunday’s 13-1 rout.

The Red Sox began the weekend hoping they could scramble to the front of the pack contending for the final American League wild-card spot.

They ended it five games behind, looking for all the world like a team ready to bolt the minute Game 162 ends.

So now we move on to assigning blame for this nosedive into the mass of mediocrity that won’t be in the playoffs.

The players, of course, are not eligible for this distinction. When the players fail – and plenty have logged their share of failure this season – the blame goes to who chose or who managed them.

Chaim Bloom is in charge of deciding who is on the roster. When the Red Sox looked like plucky over-achievers Bloom’s genius was extolled. The man who helped put together those  bargain-basement Tampa Bay teams might do it again.

When they began playing like pluckless journeymen, Bloom shrugged and tried to quietly back off  the plank already occupied by Alex Cora.

Blaming the manager is easy. Comb through the game logs and pick from the plethora of bad calls.

Cora’s current stay on the hotseat came when Alex Verdugo arrived late for Saturday’s game and Cora benched him. Once the Red Sox gifted that one to the Blue Jays, there was no lack of empathy for good, ol’ Doogie.

From here Verdugo has always seemed over-rated. He put up some nice numbers before stumbling into a slump. But the numbers are not part of this assessment.

Maybe it’s the gold chains, or the dives for balls he need not dive for, or his general demeanor. Whatever the reason, he looks like a fraud.

In the near term, Verdugo’s impact on the 2023 Red Sox may be measured by how quickly Cora gets canned.

Someone has to take the blame.

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