Red Sox

Brawling

First let me say I’m a big Joe Maddon fan. When the Red Sox conducted their managerial interviews prior to the 2004 season, Maddon was on the list and I recall rooting for him because of his interest in blending sabermetrics with olde-timey baseball hunches. When the Sox hired Terry Francona, I was disappointed, goes to show what I know.

All of this brings us up to last night’s game, of which I saw very little. Relying on ESPN’s recap, I learned the Red Sox lost and there was a bench clearing incident. The Red Sox losing isn’t news and while a bench clearing moment is exciting, this one lacked much action. What was interesting was Maddon’s take on what precipitated the scuffle.

Here is the link from espn:

http://espn.go.com/boston/mlb/story/_/id/7974166/boston-red-sox-get-joe-maddon-tampa-bay-rays-fired-brawl

I have no doubt Franklin Morales was trying to hit Luke Scott but to read Maddon’s complete overreaction is amusing. To call the Red Sox coaches “incompetent,” plus many other things, is off the wall. So far this year, many Red Sox and Rays players have been hit by a pitch with several other pitches thrown with recklessness. Maddon clearly is viewing things through Rays-blue colored glasses.

And Scott, to think he can lambaste a town, team, fans and a park and not expect to be hit is downright naive. Scott talks a lot and sometimes talking can get you into trouble, as it should. Words carry weight. My money is on Scott getting dusted again this weekend.

Back to Maddon, he can call the Red Sox coaches, read: Bobby Valentine, incompetent, but he equally shares the blame as sailing a pitch over Daniel Nava sounds like it had purpose and even of it didn’t, it is a reckless act, dare I say an incompetent act.

Ah baseball, for such a ploddingly slow sport, it sure can generate excitement. Josh Beckett goes to tonight. Let’s see if he pitches incompetently.

I’m Fairly Sure He Doesn’t Get It

Boston.com is reportng that Josh Beckett played golf just 2 days prior to a scheduled missed start due to a stiff latissimus (lat) muscle.

Playing golf is what baseball players do, I get that, but when public perception is already that you are a beer drinking slob, how can you be so careless in your decision making? Again, it is a sense of entitlement that he must feel, as though he can do no wrong and isn’t to blame for anything bad.

Bobby Valentine is quoted in the piece as saying, “I’m trying to sort out my feelings” about this issue. Sort them out he will as this is not going to go away.

More fallout to come I’m sure.

I was away last week and much happened. The Red Sox still stink, Kevin Youkilis got hurt…again, and Will Middlebrooks was called up, amongst other things. The Middlebrooks call-up was the best as he is off to a boffo start and anytime a rookie comes up and makes a splash, it is an exciting thing. Exciting is what the Red Sox need after all.

Regarding the still stinking part, the Red Sox haven’t just stunk for 5 weeks in 2012, they stunk for 4 weeks in September/October 2011. Their record since September 2011 is 19-37. That is last place bad. It kind of reminds me of the time leading up to Morgan Magic, when John MacNamara had lost his team and watching the Red Sox was a chore. Walpole Joe came in and the Red Sox rattled off one of the best runs in baseball history (or at least Red Sox history).

I’m not sure who or what will be this season’s Morgan Magic, but Middlebrooks Magic has a ring to it.

It’s a Bryd, it’s a Plane

Mlbtraderumors.com is reporting that the Red Sox are close to acquiring Marlon Byrd from the Chicago Cubs. I guess there are no hard feelings between Theo Epstein (he wasn’t invited to the Fenway birthday bash yesterday).

While Bryd is an upgrade to Jason Repko, he is only 3-43 this year. So hopefully he has already had his slump for 2012. The other day, Repko was pinch hit for by Nate Spears which tells you all you all you need to know about the state of affairs of the Red Sox offense. An outfield of Sweeney, Repko and Ross isn’t going to strike fear in an opponent’s heart.

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.

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?

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!

Opening Day

Today is Opening Day, the least heralded Opening Day I can ever remember. In fact, the first MLB game of the season was played today, who knew?

The Red Sox Opening Day is still a week away, but now is a good time to review the pitching staff for the Red Sox.

Starters:

Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett are certainties. The 4th and 5th spots are getting clearer and clearer with Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront the favorites. That leaves Alfredo Aceves back in the bullpen and I think he is invaluable in that role.

The bullpen will be Andrew Bailey (closer), Mark Melancon, Aceves, Matt Albers, Frankling Morales (with Rich Hill a later in the season replacement), Andrew Miller (spot starter/long reliever) and Michael Bowden (misc.), who is out of options. If Bowden isn’t on the roster, he is free to leave, so expect him to stick.

I really prefer Bard in the bullpen as he was about as good a set-up guy as there was in baseball. It’s the old don’t fix what ain’t broken. That said, the rotation was broken last year and someone has to be the 5th starter.

The Red Sox signed a bevy of cast-off starters like Carlos Silva (released already), Aaron Cook, Brandon Duckworth (was in AAA Pawtucket last year too) and Vincente Padilla in hopes one could step in if needed, but they avoided quality like the plague. Why not drop a few extra bucks on Kiroda or up the bid for Oswalt? Especially when you consider they traded away Marco Scutaro to presumably free up payroll to sign a starter, it just doesn’t add up.

So the pitching staff isn’t bad by any means, but the rotation is 40% unknown at the moment and that needs to be firmed up.

Bobby Valentine continues to make news for talking, incessantly. He says things that the rest of us would keep to ourselves. It is facinating and terrifying at the same time watching Valentine do his thing. It is facinating because he cannot seem to help himself and terrifying because he is the manager of my favorite baseball team and I just cannot see this working out.

The Red Sox will not be bad because they have too much talent, but I’m not sure their leader has what it takes to manage all of the personalities. Maybe, hopefully, his approach is so different than that of Terry Francona, that the Red Sox are trying to over-correct last year’s flaws with the ultimate hope of just getting back to even keel. I have no idea, but this 2012 edition might just be high entertainment on a number of levels.