Is it 1978 all over again for the Red Sox?

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No, what’s happening now is nowhere near as catastrophic as the Red Sox’ 1978 collapse. And since there are still 16 baseball games to be played, it may not even be a collapse at all. But that can’t make anyone in Red Sox Nation feel all that good this morning. The impulse to panic seems pretty strong.

But let’s put this in some context.  Of those sixteen games the have remaining, seven of them come against the Orioles. Sure, bad teams have played spoiler before, but seven against the Orioles is the closest thing to collapse-proofing a team can get. Meanwhile, the Rays have 17 games left. Seven of them — seven! — come against the Yankees. Who, yes, have their own problems, but who aren’t exactly easy pickins, even in their current state.

Boston’s pitching has everyone ready to freak out. But the scheduling gods are smiling on them. They have two against Toronto this week before their four-game series against the Rays.  All they need to do is tread water in those six games and they’ll be in an OK position.

But if they fail to tread water? Or, worse, if the Orioles end up being the Red Sox’ Waterloo?  Then yes, Red Sox Nation, you have my permission to start doing fun photo mashups of Don Zimmer and Terry Francona and trying to figure out which Tampa Bay Ray gets the same colorful middle nickname that Bucky effin’ Dent was given back in the day.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.