The scene usually unfolds in a dystopian future. The grunts on the front line are about to be overrun by robot, alien, or fascist forces. Suddenly, reinforcements fill the sky. They're saved!
Except they're not. A sad commander shakes his head, the air support departs to fight another day, and the doomed soldiers slump in defeat, their fates sealed. From Firefly to Starcraft to Battlestar Galactica, it's a trope featured in all manner of sci-fi.
Watching hope morph to helplessness should feel familiar to anyone thinking the cavalry is coming to save the Red Sox.
Because if the last 48 hours have suggested anything, it's that they're on their own.
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First, came owner John Henry's interview with Rob Bradford of WEEI.com over the weekend. Henry made it clear from London that the team's resources are finite, and he's not interested in blowing out his budget any further.
"It's a question of how much money do we want to lose," Henry said. "We're already over budget and we were substantially over our budget last year and this year. We're not going to be looking to add a lot of payroll."
As if to reinforce that point, the Red Sox then confirmed that Nathan Eovaldi will return not as a starter, but a reliever. With the Red Sox desperate for bullpen help and internal solutions lacking, we assumed Trader Dave Dombrowski would patch those holes with a marquee acquisition. Maybe it would be Giants closer Will Smith. Maybe he'd land Washington's Sean Doolittle. Maybe he'd pry San Diego's Kirby Yates.
Only a year ago, after all, Dombrowski addressed needs at first base (Steve Pearce), the starting rotation (Eovaldi), and second base (Ian Kinsler) in June and July, putting the Red Sox over the top en route to 108 wins and a title.
Still, here we are in July and the best the Red Sox can do is announce that Eovaldi will *eventually* join the bullpen, presumably sometime after the All-Star break. The Red Sox need help now, but they're getting it later. The timing of the announcement reeks of pre-emption meant to assuage impatient fans who won't keep watching the bullpen surrender runs by the bushel.
In a different season, Dombrowski would address the bullpen by acquiring someone now, if for no other reason than to buy Eovaldi time to possibly rejoin the rotation. Maybe that option is off the table because Eovaldi's elbow won't allow it. But it feels more like an acknowledgment that most fixes are going to come from within.
This does not bode well for fireworks between now and July 31. Speaking to reporters in Toronto, Dombrowski denied any directive to curb spending, but acknowledged reality.
"We have the highest payroll in baseball now," he said. "Our payroll, $246 [million], nobody has said you can't exceed that, but you also have to be realistic. There's some fiscal responsibility you always have based on where you are. I would like ideally to stay under 246, but we wanted to last year and we went over 246."
The 2018 team practically demanded reinforcements by earning them on the field. By this point last year, it was clear the Red Sox could contend for a World Series. And to his credit, Henry has never hesitated to spend to put a team over the top.
But the 2019 Red Sox have earned no such latitude. They're not worth upgrading until they prove it on the field.
So, that leaves them in a tenuous position, squinting at the sky, hoping for air support. But if 30 years of sci-fi have taught us anything, it's that there's no sense wasting bullets on a lost cause.
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