Earlier this week, the Red Sox turned around their fortunes with a home-and-home four game sweep of the Atlanta Braves. In those four games, the Sox looked like the Sox of last year again, with good defense, great relief pitching, and timely hitting. What those four games told me more than anything else was more about the Braves than the Red Sox, though.
The four game series between Boston and Atlanta showed us the disparity between the American League and the National League, and just how much better the AL is right now. Going in, the Red Sox were a fourth place team on a ten game losing streak. The Braves, despite dropping four straight games to the Red Sox, remain in first place in the National League East. The Braves are one of the better teams in the NL, but look sloppy and amateur next to an average AL team.
The disparity between the National and American Leagues is as bad as the disparity between the Eastern and Western Conferences in the NBA. There are only two teams in the NL who would be competitive in the AL, and they happen to be the two teams who have represented the NL in the World Series for the last four years winning it three of those years: the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants. Beyond that, there are a lot of middle of the pack teams that don’t quite have it together.
The Braves are a prime example. They have good pitching (and one of the best closer in baseball in the form of Craig Kimbrel, who got the loss in the one game he pitched against Boston) and they can hit home runs, but they can’t do much else. Fielding errors will be their downfall. They can hit homers, but don’t get a ton of base runners. Dan Uggla has found himself on the bench because his batting average cannot crack .200, and the brothers Upton have been disappointing since joining Atlanta’s outfield last season. The 2014 Braves remind me of the Chicago White Sox teams that Ozzie Guillen used to manage. In 2005, they got hot enough to roll all the way to Chicago’s first World Series title since 1917, but never made it past the ALDS again if they made the playoffs at all. The NL is a bunch of mid-2000s White Sox clones…and the Giants and the Cardinals, who are dynasties in the making.
If the Red Sox were in the NL, they’d be on top of their division because of the lack of competition. Despite winning six straight games this week, the Red Sox are still a bit of a playoff long shot because they’re in the American League. Some things are out of your control.