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Kevin Millar on MFB: ‘I don’t think [Red Sox are] nearly as good of a team as they were last year’

06.27.14 at 1:48 pm ET
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Former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar joined Middays with MFB on Friday to talk about the Sox’ struggles of late. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Red Sox are 2-5 with three games left in their 10-game road trip and have fallen eight games back in the AL East. They appear to be running out of time to stay within contention.

“They’re not out of this thing, but they’re not in a great position,” Millar said. “I don’t think they’re nearly as good of a team as they were last year and a lot of things were going right. If they can go on some miraculous type of run, they’re going to have to.

“At the end of the day, the Red Sox had a special year last year. It was just in the cards. It’s what went on. They’re not as great as a club and that vibe isn’t there.”

Millar said the Red Sox aren’t physically tired after last season’s deep run, but they are failing to overcome the losses of players like Shane Victorino to injury and Jacoby Ellsbury to free agency.

“There’s a lot of things that have to go right to win a championship and there’s a lot of great things that go on during the year to win a championship,” Millar said. “Right now the Red Sox might be tired trying to catch that lightning in a bottle, and ultimately, yes, they did overachieve last year. And that’s OK. That’s what it’s all about.

“We overachieved in 2004. We weren’t better than the Yankees. We just overachieved with the heart of a lion. This is where the Red Sox have to look in front of the mirror in the front office like, ‘Who is this club? Where do we want to go for the future?’ Because I think this team is lacking some star power.”

Xander Bogaerts in particular has had it tough this year, especially after having to move to third base after the re-signing of shortstop Stephen Drew. Now Bogaerts is struggling at the plate. His batting average has dropped from about .300 to .256 in the last month, and the cause could be related to the added pressure from his position change, according to Millar.

“You put pressure on yourself as a player, and there’s some pressure moving to a position you’re not real comfortable with,” he said. “This is why I didn’t understand it. Nothing against Drew, that just wasn’t the glaring issue in my eyes when they made that deal.

“Maybe that does affect you offensively. It’s not as easy as, hey, you play defense and not take it to the offensive side and vice versa. We’re perfectionists as professional athletes. So yeah, there is pressure.”

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia‘s ineptitude at the plate, on the other hand, has been season long. He’s at career lows in batting average (.256) and slugging percentage (.377) through 77 games.

“He’s struggling,” Millar said. “The one thing about Dustin Pedroia, his [struggles], you look over it because he cares, he gives you competitive at-bats, he battles, he grinds, he hustles, he dives, he plays defense. We all struggle at this level at some point in our careers.

Dustin Pedroia, the last four years, his slugging percentage has gone down. We can look at all these numbers. At the end of the day, I would take him in my foxhole any day of the week. So I don’t care about his struggles.

“But  yes, he’s struggling. He’s having an off first half to his standards. This is an MVP, a silver slugger, an All-Star, a Rookie of the Year, so that’s all valid. But at the end of the day, this man gives you a seven, eight, 10-pitch at-bat, grinding them out and you do not want to face him if you’re a pitcher. But the numbers aren’t there for Dustin Pedroia, that is valid.”

The Red Sox have had success with their pitching, but with the emergence of Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman, and the returns of Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront, the Sox appear to be crowded in the starting rotation. The odd man out could potentially be Jake Peavy, who hasn’t won a start since April 25 and will be a free agent at the end of the season.

“That’s a situation that they’re going to have to put their heads together as the management team or whoever makes these decisions,” Millar said. This game is about production. Jake Peavy is veteran, he knows that. … Where do the Red Sox think they are?

“If they go on a couple of bad series runs then you don’t want to be 12 1/2 games out, 13 out, and think you’re still in it. But you can loiter around this six, seven, eight, nine games out and see.

“At that point, it’s basically what’s best for the Red Sox. I don’t think you’re in the business of worrying about anybody’s feelings.”

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