We’re over a month into the season now. In the grand scheme of the 162-game season, it’s miniscule. However, a team’s start can be defining in the season and create concerns that can last the whole year if they aren’t fixable. These are teams that may comfort themselves in knowing that there’s still a lot of baseball to be played, but there could potentially be some glaring problems that could derail their season if they don’t get it fixed fast.

Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox in 2021 were two games shy of winning the American League last season after seemingly everything went right for them. The pitching, which was originally thought to be their weakness, was stellar, they got a lot of production out of role-playing bats like Kike Hernandez, Alex Verdugo, and Christian Vasquez, while their superstars did what was expected of them in manager Alex Cora’s first year back from leave. After an offseason where they acquired veteran pitchers along with Trevor Story, one of the marquee shortstops in baseball, they were expected to continue that pace despite an incredibly talented division.

It’s been a nightmare year thus far.

They have a worse record than the Baltimore Orioles at 13-21, Trevor Story has struck out in 38% of his at-bats at the time this is being written, and he only has one home run. While he will need some time to adjust to a new league and play a new defensive position at second base, we’re over a month in- it’s about time he gets the show on the road, and it isn’t as if Fenway is a drastic pitchers’ park as opposed to his old stomping grounds in Colorado. Outside of Devers, JD Martinez, and Bogaerts, everyone in the lineup has been atrocious and has batted below the .250 threshold. 

Now, one could argue that they’ve played tight games and lost in some brutal, unlucky outcomes- they played in 10 one-run games and lost 7 of them to start the year, a start to the year this rough with more injury issues going on with ace Chris Sale essentially means that they’ll need a 2019 Washington Nationals-esque run in order to have a chance and rebound. It’s concerning.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners spent big this offseason and were supposed to be America’s Team this year! They have the longest postseason drought in the four major sports, and after getting dangerously close to making the wild card last year, their offseason acquisitions of Cy Young-Winner Robbie Ray, trading for Eugenio Suarez, Adam Frazier, and Jesse Winker, and calling up top prospect Julio Rodriguez, this was supposed to be the year.

They haven’t been atrocious by any means, but they’ve significantly under-performed and lost games that have been easily winnable, and are a rough 16-19 to start the year. That doesn’t bode well in a division where the Angels have their mojo for what looks like the first time ever, and the Houston Astros are still one of the most-consistent winning franchises in baseball. Suarez is batting .202, Winker is batting .204, top prospect Jarred Kelenic is a brutal .140 and now in the minors, and Robbie Ray and Chris Flexen both have ERAs above 4.20.

Kelenic may have to figure some things out as he’s sent down and Kyle Lewis continues to rehab his injury, and they very well could have another trade move in the cards to try and compete, but there needs to be some urgency in Seattle to get back on track.

Philadelphia Phillies

Are we going to get reigning NL MVP into the postseason any time soon, Philadelphia?

Next to the Mariners, Philadelphia has the longest playoff drought in baseball, and Bryce Harper took less money in 2019 to stay and win there for the 13 years on his deal. They’ve fallen prey to terrible

Photo: Derik Hamilton / AP

bullpen losses, management of pitching, and honestly, just getting outplayed by the Braves and Nationals in their division since he’s signed the contract.

They spent big on hitting in the offseason to get some power around him, not caring one bit about defense, and brought in Schwarber and Castellanos along with some bullpen depth in Knebel, Familia, and Hand, but it’s been more of the same. With a 17-18 start to the year, they have the 6th-worst bullpen ERA in the majors at 4.29, their two starting aces, Wheeler and Nola, are a combined 2-7, and they’ve lost some games in gut-wrenching fashion (yes, I’m referring to the blown 7-1 lead in the 9th inning to the Mets).

They got a bit of their mojo back this weekend against the Dodgers, taking 3 of 4 and Harper hitting well despite a new injury that will prevent him from playing in the field for the foreseeable future (thank goodness for the universal DH now, right, Philly?), but the Mets look to be one of the best teams in the majors and they’re in their division. The NL West has all 5 teams above a .500 winning percentage and could easily take all of the wild card spots. There needs to be an urgency with this Phillies team, and we’re about to find out as they play the Padres, the Dodgers, the Braves, the Mets, the Giants, the Angels and then the Brewers all in a row. This gauntlet could define their season going forward.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers banked on their youth after being a pleasant surprise last season when they overperformed and saw an outlet to compete in the AL Central. They called up top prospect Spencer Torkelson early, signed Javier Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez, Michael Pineda, and traded for Tucker Barnhart and Austin Meadows. This was supposed to be the year they made the leap to get Miguel Cabrera his 3000th hit on a competing team for the first time in years.

When you cash in during a big offseason, there needs to be an energy to create a belief that something magical could be cooking, and it’s been anything but that to start the year in Detroit. They’re 12-23, worst in the American League, and have the least amount of runs scored at just 88 through 32 games. They’ve scored 2 or fewer runs in 17 of those games. For a team that many had as a possible sleeper team to take a wild card spot and take a leap this year, looking like they genuinely wanted to compete, it already feels like a lost year in Detroit barring a miracle.

Atlanta Braves

Look, the Braves are coming off of a World Series win, so there could easily be a hangover effect on some of the returning members of the team. However, how long of a grace period do they need? That, along with the reality that a lot of the key players- Ronald Acuna Jr., Marcell Ozuna, or Matt Olson, didn’t actually get to be a part of the team that got their World Series ring- there shouldn’t be any complacency.

They have superstar talent, obviously. They’re the defending champions, Matt Olson has effortlessly replaced Freddie Freeman, and Acuna is still recovering from his ACL tear and is shaping up into form. But last season they had the benefit of no one in the AL East running away with the division, and they got hot at the right time. The Mets look like one of the top two teams in the National League and haven’t even gotten Jacob deGrom back. At 16-19, the answer could simply be that they’re just allowing a lot of runs, ranking in the bottom 10 in ERA and runs allowed. There’s going to be more pressure this season to shape up with their division early this season in a tougher division and a loaded National League where Wild Card spots will be fought for in a bloodbath.

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