Kevin Millar: Red Sox Lacking Identity, Athleticism Amid 2014 Struggles

Kevin MillarKevin Millar played on the most charismatic Boston Red Sox team in the history of the franchise back in 2004, so he understands the importance of embracing an identity. The former Sox slugger can’t yet put his finger on the calling card of the 2014 Red Sox.

The Red Sox entered Friday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays on the heels of a 14-5 blowout loss to the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Boston has struggled in all facets of the game to begin the season, and Millar is among those searching for answers.

“They just look like they have a lack of identity right now,” Millar said Friday on WEEI’s “Mut & Merloni.” “They’re not very fast. They’re not very athletic from first to third — from (Mike) Napoli to (Jonny) Gomes to (David Ortiz) to (Daniel) Nava to whoever you want, A.J. Pierzynski. The moral of the story is you’re just missing the athleticism.”

The Red Sox lost three members of their 2013 starting lineup in center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, shortstop Stephen Drew and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. It appeared the Red Sox had the pieces to overcome such losses — and they still might — but things haven’t exactly gone Boston’s way to begin 2014.

“I think the problem is when we got rid of (Jacoby) Ellsbury, they didn’t know who to replace him with,” Millar said. “I’m going to go back real quick. We had Johnny Damon, tremendous leadoff hitter, and they replaced him with Coco Crisp, (another) tremendous leadoff hitter. They replaced (Crisp) with Ellsbury, tremendous leadoff hitter. All of a sudden, it’s like boom. When you see Ellsbury play and how athletic he is and the 35 to 70 stolen bases he’s going to bring, now you have this void. It’s tough — they’ve had five, six different leadoff hitters. And to me, that’s the big point.”

Shane Victorino returned Thursday and Will Middlebrooks returned Friday, so there certainly are reasons for the Red Sox to be optimistic. Boston needs to right the ship soon, though, or else a World Series repeat will become even more difficult to achieve.

Click to hear Millar’s full WEEI interview >>