Watching the Red Sox in 2016 has been like reading a masterfully written novel, with highs and lows, twists and turns.
Halfway through, the reader still has no idea if it will have a happy ending.
The Red Sox, 49-38 at the All-Star break, remain in the playoff hunt. While there are reasons to be hopeful, the risk-assessment folks at Fenway Park also must be planning for the worst.
Here are five of the biggest fears that, if they come true, could sink the 2016 Red Sox:
David Ortiz starts to slow down.
What has been said about the Red Sox since he arrived in Boston still holds true: Where would this team be without its designated hitter? The top of the lineup, made up of three All-Stars (Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Ortiz) and one almost-All-Star (Dustin Pedroia) has been the driving force of MLB’s best offense since April. The bottom of the lineup has often contributed, but if the Sox lost their cleanup hitter, who steps in?
And we’re not going to fret over a serious injury, because who can predict those? But what if Ortiz simply tires in August or September? His feet have already been sore enough to keep him from advancing on the bases. Will his swing eventually suffer?
The Blue Jays start playing to their capabilities.
Who would’ve thought Aaron Sanchez (2.97 ERA), Marco Estrada (2.93) and JA Happ (3.36) would be the best 1-2-3 punch in the American League East?
Canada’s team was 51-40 in the first half, marking the first time the Blue Jays reached 50 or more wins before the All-Star break since 1992.
Toronto’s rotation leads the majors with 59 quality starts and the offense is scoring 4.9 runs per game, eighth in MLB but still short of the 5.5 runs per game it put up last season.
If the Jays start clicking, they could be unstoppable.
Dave Dombrowski is unable to acquire a top-tier starting pitcher.
Jose Fernandez would be nice, but the Marlins (47-41) look like they have playoff aspirations. They acquired reliever Fernando Rodney and sent four players to the All-Star Game.
Right now, it doesn’t look like there are many opportunities to acquire a top-tier starter, especially one the Red Sox could control for multiple seasons at even a semi-affordable rate. Every time Dombrowski has been asked about the search for starting pitching over the last few weeks, he’s spoken about the difficulty involved. He says he’s trying. There’s not much out there.
Age and use has tarnished Koji Uehara.
Eduardo Rodriguez is much further away from stardom than anybody could’ve guessed.