Reflecting on Bobby V

On my drive home from work yesterday, I was able to hear Bobby Valentine’s comments on Kevin Youkilis. Once put into context, they were far less critical than I originally thought and I now believe this is a complete overreaction. What is also becoming disturbing is Dustin Pedroia’s response.

Specifically this: “I don’t really understand what Bobby’s trying to do but that’s really not the way we go about our stuff here. I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon.”

I think this whole organization is upside down right now, with the players running the show. First off, if Dustin is promoting the “Red Sox way” then I’m worried. Look what it got us last year, an unlikable group of baseball players who failed epically. Additionally, are we to believe that the players dictate how business is conducted? Who’s running the show here?

Cripes! More back-wards stuff from the Red Sox. Now, I need to say it is admirable that Pedroia went out of his way to support a teammate, but, like me, he clearly didn’t do his due diligence first (we’re both guilty of that).

Message to John Henry: Please act like the principal owner of the Red Sox and make sure Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner, Ben Cherington, Bobby Valentine and each and every player knows his role. This whole thing is transforming into a circus and an embarrassment.

Quick thoughts on Daniel Bard:

Daniel Bard’s performance on Monday was awful. 6.2 IP, 4 H, 7 BB’s. Even though he only gave up 1 ER, you cannot survive walking that many people.

A quick look at where Bard came from. Drafted out of UNC in the 1st Round, 28th overall, of the 2006 draft, he pitched in 2006 at A and high-A ball as a starter. His line: 75 IP, 76 H, 78 BB, 47 K. Yup, that’s more than 1 BB per IP.

Once the Red Sox decided the bullpen was the place for Bard, he found his grove. In 2008 and 2009 strictly being used as a reliever, he pitched 93.2 IP and walked only 35. Night and day. Now I have no idea why he was able to pitch with much more control as a reliever, probably because he is tall and lanky making his ability to repeat his pitching motion more difficult. By the way, I pulled that theory out of nowhere. Regardless, he has historically been a much better reliever than a pitcher.

Monday’s outing brings his 2012 season line to 11.2 IP, 8 BB. It’s almost the same thing as the minors. 2 starts does not a conclusion make, but it’s the start of a conclusion. If he cannot pitch with control, bad news abounds.

Bobby V!

A 3-game winning streak has a way of making one feel much better about things. The Red Sox have taken the first 3 of a 4-game series against Tampa Bay by bashing some of the best young starters in the game. Today’s annual Patriots Day game starts at 11:05 am with the Red Sox looking for the series sweep.

What has been making the rounds early today is manager Bobby Valentine’s comments about Kevin Youkilis after Sunday’s win. Here they are: “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason but it seemed, you know, he’s seeing the ball well, got those two walks (referring to Sunday’s game), got his on-base percentage up higher than his batting average, which is always a good thing, and he’ll move on from there.”

Youkilis has gotten off to a terrible start, but is 6 for his last 18 and the Red Sox have won 3 in a row. It sure seems like a curious time to be calling out your starting 3rd baseman. And before delving into why Valentine said this, let’s just acknowledge the stark contrast between Terry Francona and Valentine. Never, ever would Francona call out a player like that yet just 9 games into the season Valentine is doing so with Youkilis.

For his part, Youkilis expressed “confusion” about the comments and said that he and Valentine talked about it this morning (Monday) but didn’t elaborate on what was discussed.

This is an obvious attempt, like a 2×4 to the head obvious, at motivating Youkilis but it is an interesting way of doing so, especially when you run the risk of “losing” the player. Additionally, Valentine just got here this year, how much could he possibly know about Youkilis’ past physical and emotional commitment?

Let’s watch the next week and see how Youkilis performs. There is likely to be resentment on his part regardless of how he does but if he does poorly, he can point to Valentine being a mega distraction and if he does well, he is likely to feel the resentment of a manager saying “I told you so.”

=======Update=======
WEEI has some more fallout from Valentine’s comments. They provided this response from Dustin Pedroia: “I know Youk plays as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen in my life. I have his back and his teammates have his back. We know how hard he plays. I don’t really understand what Bobby’s trying to do but that’s really not the way we go about our stuff here. I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon. We’ve got Youk’s back, he’s played his butt off for us for a long time. Anytime he steps on the field, he’s a great player. We’re here to win and we’re here to win with him.”

Asked about Valentine’s comments being motivational in nature Pedroia said: “Maybe in Japan or something. Over here in the U.S. we’re on a three-game winning streak, we want to feel good and keep it rolling. We feel we have a good team and we’ve just got to get each other’s backs and play together. Because if you don’t do that, I don’t care what sport you are playing, you’re not going to win. I’ll talk to Bobby and talk to everybody. We’ll figure it out.”

Wow, that’s a player basically saying his manager isn’t doing things the right way. Strong comments from Pedroia. But, in just a few hours since Valentine’s quote floated out, the team is coming to the defense of Youkilis, in essence bringing the team together. Was that Valentine’s M.O.? Probably, but aren’t there other ways of doing this?

=======Update # 2=======

Bobby V has apologized directly to Youkilis. You can read it here in Gordon Edes ESPN Boston column.

I suppose there is some sincerity behind the apology and maybe this is just a case of Bobby not remembering how rabid the media (and bloggers) can be. I can’t speak to Youkilis’ swing, but there is some truth to the fact he hasn’t had a dugout temper tantrum yet…

Still Not Jelling

The Red Sox lost another one today falling to 1-5. If they lose their next game, they will be exactly where they were in 2011 after 7 games played.

Something just isn’t right. I don’t think it is a talent issue, but rather a personality issue. The tone is all wrong (think Gert B. Frobe from Joe Dirt). Obviously it is early and I’m willing to give this more time, but if they don’t get into some winning ways soon, then what do we have? A lost off-season, a faulty team, a massive payroll all adding up to bad baseball.

I see Josh Beckett being traded. That just popped into my head as the cure all. Fair or not, he is very unpopular in Boston and seems to be one of those guys who just doesn’t and never will get it. He is being paid a ton of money to be an ace and he isn’t pitching like one nor is he acting like one.

This team seems to be at a crossroads, they could bet dragged down by a sullen personality like Beckett or they could be brought to higher ground by someone like Dustin Pedroia. I think Red Sox management has a bit of influence here in which path they end up taking and I’d like to see them do something about it.

Introducing: OriolesRays.com

Given the current standings in the AL East, Peter and I have both abandoned our team respective teams and are now avid followers of the 3-0 Baltimore Orioles and the 3-0 Tampa Bay Rays. Please join us…

Alright, things aren’t that bad, but with Boston and New York both at 0-3, this is not what I expected through the first series of the year. Peter, can you do a quick search to see when the last time the Red Sox and Yankees both got swept in a series simulateously? Not just the first series of the year but any series.

The Red Sox trouble has started and ended with the pitching staff. Alfredo Aceves, again, coughed it up and Mark Melancon did as well. Alfredo has an infinite ERA, covering 2 appearances, 0 IP, with 4 Hits allowed. Yes, that reads 4 hits allowed in 2 appearances with no innings pitched.

Melancon has been bad in a more traditional manner, allowing 5 hits in his 2 appearances covering 1 IP resulting in a 36.00 ERA. When you factor in the horrendous starts by Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, it is no wonder the Red Sox are winless. I sure hope they get a win soon as otherwise it’ll be 2011 all over again and oh boy what a mess that would be.

The positives on the pitching staff are Jon Lester’s opening day performance, Vincente Padilla’s 4.1 IP relief outing no Sunday and Franklin Morales’s 2 appearances.

I believe the Aceves experiment should end and Bard should be brought back to the bullpen. I’ve said this enough, let’s hope the Red Sox listen. It is important to get a few wins. Not because I think this team will go into a tailspin, but because every game counts. An extra win in April 2011 could have meant the different from an organization overhaul to having Terry Francona here and the Red Sox coming off a deep playoff run.

Just Saying

Do you know the last time the Yankees started a season 0-3?

1998

It’s a long season.

The Problem With Nunez

You will have to trust me that I was writing this piece in my head before the first inning of tonight’s game. I had most of it mentally mapped out a few hours ago, but my desire to watch the Masters finish and Rangers puck drop, didn’t get me to the keys until now.

Chad Jennings is reporting that this will be a pretty regular lineup against lefites. I have no problem with Swisher hitting second, he takes plenty of pitches and gets on base a ton. Plus, last year was the first time Granderson really pounded lefties, let’s make sure he keeps doing that before freaking out.

No, my problem with this lineup is making Nunez a regular player against lefties. I understand the thinking. If Nunez plays SS or 3B against lefties, you can DH Jeter or A-Rod and reduce the wear and tear on them. That thinking makes perfect sense, if you had a quality guy to plug in at those positions on a regular basis. I’m just not sure that Nunez is that guy.

Obviously, we have seen the defensive problems. Let’s set those aside for a minute because you could probably live with them if he mashed against lefties- which he doesn’t. Last year he hit .277/.314/.429 against them. It’s not a terrible line, but contrast it with say Andruw Jones’ who hit .286/.384/.540 last year against them. Or take someone like the Cubs’ Jeff Baker who hit .309/.360/.526 vs lefties while playing all over the infield and outfield.

And that to me is the biggest problem with this idea. Nunez probably won’t hit enough to overcome his defense (He really reminds me of Bobby Meacham out there which is not good) and he also creates a lineup problem. By DH Jeter and starting Nunez, the Yankees cannot sub Jeter in for defense without losing the DH. So, in a close game, the Yankees are going to have to live with Nunez going the distance at short. If they DH A-Rod at least they could always put Chavez in at third.

This is a problem with very few solutions. Ideally, the Yankees would have thought more about this in the offseason before locking into this roster (especially the Chavez part). They could always go to 11 pitchers and bring a guy like Pena up to cover the defensive part of the problem. Maybe Nunez will improve with the bat or the glove, but if things stay the same this year this alignment will put the Yankees into some uncomfortable positions.

Opening Day- Part 10

I kid, I kid, but we did have Opening Day in Japan. Then we had Opening Night from Miami. Yesterday we had Opening Day from the U.S.. So this is sort of the 4th Opening Day of the season.

I am not going to live blog things, but I thought I would throw in some observations as we go along. Through 2-1/2 innings, these are my thoughts.

David Cone said this was the first time in over 600 games that the Rays had a starting pitcher who was over 30 start a game. It only happened because James Shields turned 30 over the offseason. Think about that, 600+ games!!

Please get Joe Girardi to throw away the binder. Maybe you issue that IBB a month into the season, but in the first game?

Alex Rodriguez looks great. Not just at the plate, but in the field but in the field he looks quick. The only good thing about the absurd contract the Yankees gave him is that he is a fanatic about fitness.

Raul Ibaenz, my sincere apologies.

UPDATE- Top of the 4th. I think we can cancel the APB on offense in baseball. 6-5 through 3 innings. Joe West should be pleased.

I don’t want to spoil the trivia question for you, but it is either Enrique Wilson or Luis Sojo. Ok, I did want to spoil it.

Here’s a good trivia question, when was the last time that the AL wild card didn’t come out of the AL East?

Ok, I guess we can give Ibanez a pass for that groundout. Pretty cool stat that he is the only Yankee to have 4 RBI’s in his debut besides Roger Maris. He could have doubled that amount there.

UPDATE- Top of the 6th. Hey, it’s only been two hours since the first pitch and we are in the 6th inning! Seriously, Sabathia was lucky to escape with a 6-5 lead, he did not pitch well. Girardi has Wade warming up so it will be the quartet of Wade-Soriano-Robertson and Mo to close things out if the game remains tight. I am interested to see Wade as he had an awful spring.

UPDATE- Top of the 7th. Ok, wrong about Wade, CC made it through the six, but that has to be it. Presumably, Joe knows the season has 161 games left.

When will Gardner get a gold glove? That wasn’t an awesome throw, but he made an accurate one and got Jennings.

Answer to the trivia question I asked- 2006.

UPDATE- Top of the 8th. Very nice turn of the DP by Teixeira. The Yankees have had very good defense at first for the past 30 years if you forget about the Giambi era.

Is it me of do Piniella and Cone seem like they don’t like each other? I know it’s their first game together, but they have zero banter. Maybe it’s because Lou brought up the 1995 ALDS?

Would Girardi have brought Rapada into the game in the 7th if Soriano had gotten into trouble?

UPDATE- Top of the 9th. Robertson is off and running on his Houdini act, but I wouldn’t mind some “quieter” innings.

Really, really weird sequence in the Bottom of the 8th. Rays had runners on the corners with one out and Jose Molina up. On a 1-2 count both runners took off and Molina took a swing, presumably missing a squeeze sign. Molina fouled it off and then they ran the same play with Molina bunting it foul and striking out. My question is, why not pinch hit if you have that little faith in Molina?

UPDATE- Ballgame over. There’s something surreal about seeing Rivera lose a game. Looked like he had his velocity, just couldn’t locate as well as usual. But, the offense should be on the hook for this one, they left a village out there.

Lousy start to the season, but 161 left to play.

Bullpen Worries

You can never build a conclusion off of one game, especially when you are facing Justin Verlander, but the Red Sox bullpen is in disarray.

First off, can we end the Daniel Bard experiment before it starts? Let’s lock him in the closer role and let all the other relievers do what they were going to do to start the year. The injury to Andrew Bailey is bad, but the fact is, he can’t stay healthy. This might be a freak injury sure, but look at his last 2 seasons, this wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Bobby Valentine has to make this change. What is interesting is what the Red Sox think of Daniel Bard as a closer or perhaps even more interestingly, what Daniel Bard thinks of himself as a closer? He was set to inherit the closer role, but instead pushed for a chance at starting. Why? Because starters make more money? Because he doesn’t want the pressure of closing in Boston? Either way, it is concerning. Or maybe the Red Sox just really were set on putting him in the rotation, come heck or high water.

Secondly, the Red Sox pen allowed 4 hits and a walk in 1.1 IP covering 4 pitchers, one of whom pitched .2 IP perfect baseball (Franklin Morales) which makes the performance of the other 3 even more painful. And to add a controversal twist, just what the Red Sox need, Mark Melancon said he thought the hook was a bit quick. Quoting a WEEI article when asked if he thought it was a quick hook, Melancon said, “Yeah, it did. It felt a little quick. But that’s not my job. My job is to get outs and I didn’t do that. I’m not going to think any more about that, I’m just goign to continue to try to get outs and get after it.”

In fairness to Melancon, most relievers would probably feel the same way and he acknowledged that he stank, but perhaps it would have been wise to can his thoughts for opening day. Like manager like player I guess.

I’m ok giving this arrangement a week or so, but remember, even April games count in the standings and I want this team to get off to a good start in 2012, remember 2011, sniffles?

Scoreless Streak

Quick observation, through 20 innings of baseball today, no runs have been scored in all of baseball. That’s 4 different games covering 20 innings. Guess it really is a pitchers era.

Thumbs Down

On the same day, 2 Red Sox pitchers disclosed thumb injuries. One, Josh Beckett’s is not serious, the other, Andrew Bailey, is very much so. Bailey will be out 4 months. Bailey’s injury, considering he was the appointed closer, throws the bullpen into disarray. Alfredo Aceves will handle the closing duties in the meantime.

It was earlier announced that the rotation was rounded out with Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard, but it really seems the Red Sox are forcing issues with players. First off Bard was terrible this spring as a starter and his walk rate was most alarming. Aaron Cook, now in Pawtucket, was great this spring. Cook is a seasoned starter, Bard a season reliever (and also failed started in the minors).

Bard moving to closer makes all the sense in the world and Cook to the rotation does too. No worries, the Red Sox have approximately 2 hours to solve this issue as today is Red Sox opening day. Hooray.

Notice I haven’t mentioned Bobby Valentine’s name yet, that’s because he is mentioning it enough for the two of us. Word came out this week that Bobby will have a weekly appearance on ESPN New York. Whether Bobby is doing this for the money or not, I don’t like it. Have some self control man. Try going a day without blathering. Going on the NY airwaves is not needed and really underminds the Red Sox vs. Yankees revilary.

Perhaps all really is well with the Red Sox, but from the outside looking in, it just doesn’t feel right. Players feeling the need to defend their manager, outside reports (Olney, Starks, Schilling, the list goes on) saying things aren’t well in Red Sox camp, all point to a disaster in the making.

Getting down to some actual baseball though will be nice.

Opening Day Line-up:

cf – Ellsbury – L
2b – Pedroia – R
1b – Gonzalez – L
dh – Ortiz – L
3b – Youkilis – R
rf – Sweeney – L
lf – Ross – R
c -Saltilamacchia – S
ss – Aviles – R

Guess Bobby doesn’t mind the back-to-back lefties. Really though, for all the discussion, this is a fairly expected line-up, no surprises. Bobby was just messing with us when he batted Aviles lead-off a few times in the spring.

Lester on the mound for Boston and Verlander for Detroit (he was awesome last year). Play ball!