The Boston Red Sox don’t appear set to be taking the field anytime soon. Unless a miracle happens later today (which seems very, very unlikely at the time of this writing) the MLB will start cancelling regular season games since there is no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place.
Despite both the league and players union appearing to make progress over the past week or so, there appears to be some huge issues between the two sides that haven’t been resolved yet. With neither side blinking first, and the MLB’s self imposed deadline of February 28th looking set to come and go without a deal, the 2022 season will almost certainly not feature it’s usual 162 game schedule.
This is a huge loss for the MLB and the sport of baseball. Wasting time in the offseason bickering about the CBA is one thing, but now it’s directly impacting the amount of baseball that will be played this season. Anytime the game is prevented from being played, that’s going to be bad news for the sport.
But that’s the reality we are living in right now, and when the Boston Red Sox retake the field this season (assuming that happens) it will most likely be a shorter season than they are accustomed to. While it’s not going to be the 60 game sprint the 2020 season was, having less games reduces the margin of error for every team in the league. So will having a shorter season hurt or help the Red Sox in any way, shape, or form?
The Boston Red Sox may stand to benefit from a shorter season
On the surface, a shortened season may not really seem like that big of a deal for any team, not just the Sox. Losing a few games in a 162 game season tends to do that. But baseball is a fickle sport by nature, meaning things can and will go wrong over the course of the season. Having a full 162 game slate ensures that by the time the final game is played, the best teams are moving onto the postseason while the others are heading home for the offseason.
The issue here is that we still don’t really know how many games are going to be played this season. There could be a week shaved off the schedule, or there could be a month. Heck, there’s a chance (a very small chance) that a full season could still be played. Nobody is really going to know the status of the season until an agreement gets reached.
However many games end up getting played though, the Red Sox may be one of the teams the shortened season benefits the most. They led the AL East for a long stretch of the 2021 campaign before nearly falling apart at the end of the season. They pulled themselves back together and made it all the way to the ALCS, but ended up losing in six games to the Houston Astros.
Even with a somewhat odd start to free agency, Boston still has one of the better rosters in the league. Their lineup still has a deadly core group led by Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez, and their pitching staff is led by a pair of aces in Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi. There are some holes that need to be shored up on this roster still, but that’s what free agency will be for once a new CBA is agreed upon.
The first way a shortened season benefits Boston is that it will force the front office to attack the rest of the offseason with a bit of urgency. They only made a couple of moves before the lockout took place, and it probably would have been better had those moves not happened in the first place. Spring training is probably going to be about a month long, so the front office will quickly have a one month deadline to fill out the roster.
If Chaim Bloom and the front office can accomplish this, that will put the Boston Red Sox in a great spot. Having a good roster is key to ensuring you maximize the amount of wins your team gets, and with less games on the schedule, each win becomes more and more important. The 2020 season showed how crazy things can get with fewer games, and while there probably will be more than 60 games this season, the ideology is still the same.
The great thing about baseball is that you can never take games for granted, no matter who you are playing. On paper, it would look like a team like the Baltimore Orioles would never win a game, but they manage to win 50-60 games per season despite being in the midst of a massive rebuild. There are going to be nights where things don’t go your way and you lose; it’s the nature of the sport.
But with less games to play, there are less nights where that can happen. With 162 games, the Orioles can sweep you in the first three games of the season and you can still make it to the ALCS like the Red Sox did last season. But say you take 30 games away and it’s a 132 game season. The Red Sox might now even make the playoffs in that scenario considering they barely snuck into the second Wild Card spot by one game over the Toronto Blue Jays.
This benefits the Boston Red Sox assuming things don’t go like they did last season. They dealt with a ton of injuries and COVID related absences during the second half of the season, and it was a honestly a surprise to see them hang on and clinch a playoff spot. But when they were healthy, they were one of the best teams in the league. Reducing the margin of error for their fellow playoff contenders should only benefit them this season.
A lot of this is purely speculative because there are still so many question marks surrounding the 2022 season. But it’s looking fairly certain that there will not be a 162 game MLB season this year. How many games will there be? Who knows. What we do know is that less games could end up working out better for the Boston Red Sox.