Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

Archive for the category “Red Sox Evaluations 2012”

Closing Arguments

I feel like I was sold a product that turned out to be a far cry from what the salesman presented on the showroom floor. It’s not that I feel like I was cheated. Instead, I’m just kind of confused.

Wasn’t Bobby Valentine supposed to be the smartest man in the room? I’m pretty sure he was billed as the guy who was going to hold court with the media, manipulating the media with his every word, right?

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, he seemed like he was constantly searching for the right phrase to use in press conferences. His post-game interviews with Jenny Dell were brutal. It wasn’t Valentine’s fault that “Jenn-ay” (Forrest Gump’s voice) knows as much about baseball as Snowball, my sister’s dog, but did he really have to do that weird stare into the camera? I mean Jenny freakin’ Dell is to your right. Don’t look at me. Look at her for Christ’s sake.

Valentine proved to be more awkward than charismatic. He was decidedly unfunny, often making odd remarks that could not be easily determined as either jokes or serious comments. I honestly believe that he truly didn’t know what he meant most of the time.

Whether it was in pressers or radio interviews, Valentine was often passive-aggressive. It was like he really believed he was above the people he was speaking to, like he somehow possessed some sort of superior brand of knowledge when it came to not only baseball, but life too. That sort of disposition doesn’t play well here.

Valentine’s firing has been met with more celebration than it probably deserves. He is not the devil. Removing him, in and of itself, is not going transform a team that ended its season with 93 losses, into a championship organization.

But it is a step in the right direction.

Beyond Stupid

I wasn’t watching the Red Sox game on Sunday. I didn’t see one pitch. Instead, I was busy watching the Patriots piss away a victory against the suddenly pesky Arizona Cardinals. At home. In a week where both the Ravens and the Jets lost.

But I digress.

The Sox were north of the border, completing an utterly meaningless three-game series against the equally as awful Blue Jays. It was the top of the seventh inning, and the Local Nine found themselves in a scoreless game with two outs. Pedro Ciriaco delivered a single, and Jose Iglesias stepped to the plate. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Ciriaco swiped second base.

Enter Idiot.

Bobby Valentine sent pinch hitter Daniel Nava to the plate to relieve Iglesias. In the middle of his at-bat. In a 2-2 count. In a game that most literally means nothing. Nava, who was probably just as uncomfortable as the 22-year old Iglesias, promptly grounded out on the first pitch he saw. Inning over.

I have no issue with Valentine attempting to win ballgames in the final handful of weeks of the season. Of course that is until he starts acting like a total assclown on the field.

If Valentine is truly determined to pile up as many meaningless wins as he can, here is an idea: Pinch hit Nava for Iglesias before the young shortstop even digs in the batter’s box. That move would have at least been justifiable, given the fact that Nava would be hitting from the left side, making it more difficult for the right-handed throwing catcher to nab the soon-to-be stealing Ciriaco. Let’s not forget that any hitter prefers a fresh count rather than being thrust into a two-strike situation.

Valentine is still employed by the Red Sox, and I’m not sure why. But if this latest act of utter stupidity does not force ownership’s hand, I don’t believe anything will. Count on Valentine managing this team throughout the remainder of the season–that includes the three-game series in New York to end the year.

 

Advice for the Red Sox: Farrell, Morales, Ortiz

It’s not that these September games don’t matter at all. There is plenty of room for evaluating guys like Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway, and Ryan Kalish. However, every move that this organization makes going forward must be done with an eye towards the future. The 2012 Boston Red Sox are officially about the 2013 Boston Red Sox

Here are nine pieces of advice for a ball club in desperate need of putting its best foot forward.

—Do what you have to do to pry John Farrell from the Blue Jays. If Toronto’s GM Alex Anthopoulos demands a player like Clay Buchholz or even Daniel Bard (yes, that Daniel Bard), you move on–because that’s ridiculous. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Farrell should be the top candidate to replace Bobby Valentine.

—Bring David Ortiz back on a one-year deal. I love these tough-talkers who call into radio shows and proclaim how they’re sick of Ortiz, how he’s a baby, and the Sox need to move on. Get real. I wouldn’t necessarily offer him arbitration, but Ortiz has to be the anchor of that lineup next season. And remember: A pissed off Ortiz is a productive Ortiz.

—Sign Cody Ross this offseason and never let him play right field again. Ever.

—John Henry must empower GM Ben Cherington. He is an intelligent, qualified executive who deserves more autonomy. If that means somehow lessening the importance of Larry Lucchino, so be it. Wins are more important than selling commemorative bricks.

—Give Franklin Morales a fair shot to start in 2013. I’d go to battle with that guy as my fifth starter any day of the week.

—Integrate some patience this offseason. The Red Sox have gotten away from their bread and butter–taking pitches, working the count, and wearing down the opposition. You can get away with a couple of free swingers like Will Middlebrooks, but for every young, anxious hitter, you need two players who are willing to take what is given to them. ESPN’s Jeremy Lundblad explores this in more detail here.

—Trade Jacoby Ellsbury in the offseason. Fans will undoubtedly gripe, but it is the best decision. Here is why.

—Find a way to harness Alfredo Aceves. He is undoubtedly volatile, quirky, and, at times, troublesome. But he is a weapon, a guy who can pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen, spot start, or even close an occasional game. If he proves to be detrimental to the team, cut bait.

—Do not be afraid of bad publicity. When discussing the idea of firing Valentine before season’s end, WEEI’s Rob Bradford advocated the idea by saying “rip the band-aid off.” I don’t necessarily agree with firing Valentine now, but Bradford’s point is actually a good one. This organization has gotten away from what is most important: Assembling a quality team that is capable of playing consistently good team baseball. Are there going to be bumps in the road along the way? Sure. Rather than compromising what is best for the franchise in order to avoid a few potholes, hit them head on. Face the music and learn from the mistakes.

Bad Investment

The Red Sox scratched a winning lottery ticket last weekend. It was a one in a million winner, and they cashed in. Suddenly, this franchise finds itself with sacks of money and not a ton of toys to spend it on.

With roughly $260MM heading from John Henry’s wallet to the bright lights of Hollowood, it is almost natural to believe that Jacoby Ellsbury will remain with the Red Sox after the 2013 season, when the talented center fielder hits free agency.

Not so fast.

For an organization that is suddenly preaching the practice of discipline when it comes to baseball decisions, Ellsbury is simply not the individual the Red Sox want as the spokesman for their new campaign.

Generally speaking, there are three different avenues that the Red Sox can take when dealing with last year’s MVP runner-up. The team can allow Ellsbury to play out the final year of his final arbitration-eligible season and allow him to walk after 2013. GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox can explore trading the Oregon State product this offseason or potentially at next year’s deadline. Finally, they can vigorously pursue Ellsbury when he hits free agency after the culmination of the 2013 season.

The third option is no doubt a popular one given the newly acquired fiscal flexibility of the team, and the fact that Ellsbury is a homegrown World Series champion who happens to be a fan-favorite. However, if Red Sox brass is serious about taking a disciplined stance when it comes to free agency, they will trade the speedy outfielder this offseason.

Unlike Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Clay Buchholz, or Jon Lester, Ellsbury and super-agent Scott Boras will not be willing to ink an extension that will keep the former first-round pick from hitting free agency. And you really can’t blame the Ellsbury camp.

He is a dynamic, marketable player who possesses tremendous skills with the glove and the bat. Let’s not forget that Ellsbury is one year removed from a year that saw him post a .321/.376/.552 line to go along with 32 home runs and 39 stolen bases–a truly remarkable season.

Boras will certainly attempt to parlay Ellsbury’s MVP-level 2011 season into a contract that resembles what Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp received from the Red Sox and the Dodgers, respectively. Let’s say the asking price lands somewhere in the middle of the two aforementioned stars–an eight-year, $155MM contract seems realistic. Depending upon what the Red Sox do between now and the end of next season, it is fair to assume that they could afford to offer Ellsbury that type of high-priced deal.

But it would be a mistake. Ellsbury will be 30-years old when he gets his first crack at free agency. He is a player who relies heavily on legs, hits from the left side, and occupies center field.

Sound familiar?

Ellsbury is a talented player, but he is not middle of the lineup run-producing slugger. So why pay him like one?

Instead, the Red Sox should deal him this offseason when his value is at its highest.

No Voice, Just Noise

“You’re right that some of his [Josh Hamilton] at-bats aren’t very impressive from the standpoint that he doesn’t work deep into the count. He’s swinging at a lot of bad pitches. He just doesn’t seem to be locked in at all. So what you’re hoping is that his approach will change, and he’ll start giving quality at-bats because there’s a lot of those at-bats that he just gives away.” – Nolan Ryan, President of the Texas Rangers

The Boston Red Sox do not have a voice. John Henry, despite the mass-email that he sent to various media outlets and beat reporters on Monday, is not the backbone of the organization. Larry Lucchino may, according to Henry, run the Red Sox, but when he speaks (or writes), it’s hard to not feel like you’re being sold something. Ben Cherington can be refreshingly honest, but he does not possess the autonomy necessary for a GM to be completely successful. Lucchino lurks. Castration occurred early for Bobby Valentine. He is a hard-nosed manager being forced to toe the company line. Because of that, fans are much more apt to roll their eyes when he speaks, not listen.

From ownership, to baseball operations, to the on-field leaders, the Red Sox have proven to be exceptionally good at organizationally undercutting one another.

Let’s examine.

Dale Sveum, Cherington’s first choice as the next Red Sox manager, is pushed aside by Lucchino in favor of Valentine, a sexier name who brings a reputation that runs perpendicular with Terry Francona’s style. Before Valentine is done unpacking, a combination of Dustin Pedroia and Cherington scold him for being himself, something he was seemingly brought to Boston to do. Would I publicly criticize a veteran player like Kevin Youkilis? No. But I’m also not Valentine, and when you make a hire like the former glasses and mustache-wearing Mets manager, that type of incident should be expected.

Roughly two months ago, Valentine makes a comment to rookie third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, as he comes off of the field follow an inning where he apparently made a couple defensive miscues: “Nice inning, kid” — or something of the like. It was a completely innocuous comment, designed loosen up what was likely a white-hot Middlebrooks. A player in the dugout witnesses the exchange and deems it necessary to mention it to a member of the Red Sox front office. Valentine is later approached by ownership, discouraging him from making comments similar to the one he made towards Middlebrooks.

It has been dysfunction at its finest.

Worst of all, there is not a figure like Nolan Ryan or Cam Neely to set an organizational tone for the Red Sox. Both Ryan and Neely, although experiencing success in two different sports as players, serve as presidents of their respective franchises and command the respect that is often needed to bridge the gap between ownership and on-field employees. Do you think Henry, Lucchino, or Cherington could get away with criticizing David Ortiz‘ approach at the plate the way Ryan (see above) dissected Josh Hamilton’s two weeks ago? Me neither.

The Red Sox advocate the idea of everyone contributing before a decision is made. Everyone gets a seat at the table, sort of thing. But that is likely the root of the problem.

No one in that organization just goes to work and does the job assigned to him. The players know that ownership will listen when they complain. Sometimes they’re even rewarded for their gripes. Cherington is promoted to be the GM and oversee baseball operations, but Lucchino pauses his perpetual Red Sox sales pitch to choose the manager, subverting his new GM’s authority. Henry has deep pockets but seems disinterested with the product he owns.

Ideally, players would stick to hitting, fielding, and pitching. They would respect their manager enough not to go to ownership about an exchange in the dugout they witnessed–and if they did, they would not be heard. Ownership would back their manager, simultaneously fostering a sense of respect for him within the walls of the clubhouse.

Ideally, Cherington would be allowed to do the job he was assigned to do by his bosses. He is the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox because somebody believes strongly in his skills as a decision-maker when it comes to baseball operations. In turn, if Cherington believes Sveum puts his team in the best situation to succeed on the field, he should be the manager, not Valentine, not Joe Torre, not Casey Stengel.

Ideally, Henry would identify that his ball club is in complete disarray. He would care enough not to let it continue. He would be vocal. Lucchino may “run the Red Sox”, but Henry owns them. He can do what he wants–that includes firing Lucchino.

From the players on the field, to the coaches in the dugout, to the executives watching from above, there is a tangible lack of respect that permeates throughout the organization. Everyone steps on each others toes and thinks that it is perfectly fine because no one says that it’s not. When things go awry, nobody in the Red Sox organization steps up to right the ship because they’re too busy bumping into each other.

Until a sense of respect is injected back into this organization, it would be silly to expect anything but mediocrity out of the Red Sox. With or without Valentine at the helm or whether Josh Beckett is on this team or not, the Red Sox will be .500 on the field because they’re .500 everywhere else.

Quietly Unproductive

The Red Sox misbehaved. Their starting pitchers have been escorted to the principal’s office, while the members of the offense got to take their recess.

Somehow, the hitters have gotten off the hook. And I don’t believe that’s very fair.

The arms and the bats have worked together to get this team in the perilous situation it is in.

Have the starting pitchers, notably Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz, fallen well short of their preseason expectations during the first half of  the 2012 season? You bet. If you could augment only one area of this ball club as it is currently constituted, starting pitching would be the unanimous selection.

Pitching has been so consistently terrible throughout the course of the season that it has actually drawn attention away from the deficiencies of the offense. The first three weeks of the season, it was the bullpen taking the grenades. Alfredo Aceves and Co., have righted the ship, but the starters have not experienced the same success.

When one is asked about the failures of the 2012 squad, it is almost instinctual to immediately point towards the top of the starting pitching staff. The Red Sox have lacked consistency since the first toss towards home plate of the season was thrown in Detroit, but one theme for this team has remained the same–it is the pitching, not the hitting, that is to blame.

Beckett is an apathetic boat anchor on a staff that doesn’t need any help sinking. Buccholz cares more about vodka and partying than he does about the welfare of his team. Lester is fat.

These days, it seems as though whenever a starter not named Felix Doubront or Aaron Cook toes the rubber, fans, writers, and experts alike almost root, or at least expect, a poor performance. It has become trendy to hate the Red Sox, especially the three “aces”.

Whenever there is a scapegoat, there is a person or group of people tiptoeing away, looking over their shoulder, hoping that no one notices.

The point is not that the Red Sox lineup deserves the bear all, more, or even an equal share of the burden for the failures of the team as a whole. Instead, it is to highlight that its league-wide perception of being comprised of a group of hitters who consistently throw up crooked numbers against the opposition at will does not quite run parallel to the reality of the situation.

Let’s get a couple things out of the way now.

1) This is a lineup that has operated without two of its biggest offensive pieces for the majority of the season. Yes, it is true that Carl Crawford has yet to appear in a regular season game, and Jacoby Ellsbury has been sidelined since the home opener. Ellsbury’s absence has certainly taken a toll, especially when the Sox have faced right handed pitching. Crawford, on the other hand, is paid like a savior but is far from one. Evan Longoria, you’ll remember, has played in a grand total of 23 games for offensively bereft Rays. It wouldn’t be difficult to make a case that he is more vital to his team than any other player is to his respective squad in all of baseball. Have injuries negatively impacted this team? Of course. But don’t look to the DL for bailouts–the Red Sox have enough bullets in the chamber to spare a couple and still have enough to succeed.

2) The Red Sox offense, for all intents and purposes, has been good. Through 86 games, Sox hitters have produced 432 runs, good for second in Major League Baseball. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that the Red Sox are stellar in blowouts and lackluster is close, grind-’em-out games. They’re excellent at winning the contests that lack pressure and relatively poor in the white-knuckle affairs.

Despite the Red Sox statistically robust offense, they often corner themselves into situations that require a clutch hit in order to score a run. In other words, Sox hitters, in spite of those classic 10-5 wins, tend to put themselves in favorable situations at the beginning of innings, only to fail to produce productive outs in key situations that ultimately lead to a plethora of stranded runners and missed opportunities. 

Essentially, the Red Sox have a hard time hitting their foul shots.

Free and easy opportunities to score runs without getting a base hit do not often present themselves in close, well-pitched games. Let’s take a look at two recent, glaring examples that occurred in back-to-back innings in a game that should have been an easy win.

On July 3rd, while the East Coast was getting ready to celebrate its independence, the Red Sox were busy giving away a victory. In the top of the eighth inning, the Sox were clinging to a 2-1 lead. Here is how the inning unfolded:

Pedroia walk — Pedroia steal — Ortiz walk.

As a reminder, that is a runner on first and second with no one out, and Cody Ross due up. The best case scenario here is obviously a base hit by Ross. But here, expectations are not that high. It would be unfair to ask the powerful righty to lay down a bunt, and a ground ball to the right side could easily result in a double play. It is fair, however, to look for Ross, at the very least, to lift a semi-deep fly ball to right, right-center, or center field–all three of which would have resulted in Pedroia tagging up and getting to third base with less than two outs, a prime run-scoring position.

Instead, Ross failed to produce a productive out and struck out swinging. At this point, the Red Sox officially lost the opportunity to score a “free run”. They now needed a base hit to record any insurance in a tight ballgame.

Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate and drove a deep fly ball to center field, which is the exact result the Sox needeed one batter earlier. Pedroia tagged and went to third. First and third with two outs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia proceeded to strikeout looking to end what initially appeared to be an extremely promising inning.

Thanks to some nifty pitching in the bottom of the eighth by Vicente Padilla, the Red Sox headed to the top of ninth still gripping a one-run lead. Here is how the inning unfolded:

Ryan Kalish single — Mike Aviles walk.

Here we go again. First and second, no one out–a situation where the Red Sox had the opportunity to score a run without a hitter getting a base hit. Nick Punto is headed towards the dish, the players on the field and the dozens of people at O.co Coliseum knew the bunt was coming. Punto squared and attempted the bunt, which was popped up and resulted in a double play for the Athletics. Kalish, for some strange reason, attempted to steal third and was promptly dispatched to end the inning.

Aceves went on to blow the save, as the Athletics came back to the tie and win the game in the bottom of the ninth. The loss went to Ace, but it really belonged to the Red Sox offense.

In close, well-pitched games, the margin for error is slim and opportunities are few and far between. Runs are often not doubled home or delivered by a round tripper. Instead, they are carved out by getting timely hits, earning walks, and selflessly finding ways to make productive outs.

The Red Sox have struggled against quality competition this season. According to the Boston Globe’s Tony Massarotti, they are 24-35 against American League teams who are at or above .500. The Red Sox are rarely able to match-up with the quality teams in their league. That is a fact. But it not just a pitching problem.

To pin the failures of this year’s Sox squad solely on the starting pitching staff is shortsighted, incorrect, and most of all, entirely too easy. It is the lazy fan’s excuse for why their team is perpetually treading water.

If the 2012 Boston Red Sox hope to succeed in the second half, it will be contingent upon their ability to find ways to beat quality teams. Improved starting pitching, combined with a more efficient offense will certainly increase their odds of nabbing a postseason berth.

My Thoughts on Kevin Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis is a member of the Chicago White Sox. Will Middlebrooks is here to stay. There was never a real controversy. Trading Youkilis wasn’t the right move–it was the only move.

I was wrong. Close to two months ago, I argued that if Youkilis was healthy, Middlebrooks would not overtake him. The husky corner infielder was healthy–he simply did not produce. The young kid from Texarkana, Texas, did. Youkilis, who willed himself into becoming an All-Star caliber major leaguer, spent more time arguing with umpires since he return from the disabled list than he did putting together quality at-bats. Middlebrooks, on the other hand, chose to do his talking on the diamond, rather than in the runway that leads to the clubhouse at Marlins Park in Miami.

Injuries, declining performance, and the emergence of a bright young star combined to spell the end of the Youkilis Era in Boston. But it was a heck of a good run.

If you’re someone like myself–a high strung individual who feels anxious when he is not able to watch or listen to the Red Sox when they’re on–then you possess a deep rooted appreciation for the way Youk approached the game. It didn’t matter whether it was April or September–each game mattered immensely to the Cincinnati native. I hang on the result of each pitch whether it is overcast in May, blisteringly hot in July, or refreshingly cool in October. So did Youk. If Youkilis made a soft out in a game, it wasn’t “that’s okay, I’ll get him the next time.” It was a failure. It was an opportunity missed, a chance to help his team squandered. Fans saw pieces of themselves in Youkilis.

The former Gold Glove winner will always be cast in the same “dirt dog” light as fellow champion Trot Nixon, but Youk was more than just a dirty uniform. In 2008, a year that saw Youkilis finish with a smooth .312/.390/.569 slash line, the gritty then first baseman finished third in MVP voting behind teammate Dustin Pedroia and Justin Morneau. Not bad for a guy who used to provoke talk radio callers to refer to him as You-Kill-Us. That year was simply the apex of a Red Sox career that included two World Series titles. He served as a vital cog on the 2007 championship team.

I’ll never forget the job Youkilis did in the 2007 ALCS against the Indians. The Red Sox rallied to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and beat the Tribe, spurring them on to a World Series win over the rusty Rockies. Youk had 28 at-bats in the ALCS. He collected hits in 14 of them. You could rely on him.

When Youkilis was right, he grinded out at-bats. Nothing was made easy for the poor guy on the mound. He got on-base. He scored runs. He drove them in. He was productive. As fans, we trusted him. When Youkilis came to the plate, we felt like we were in good hands. In baseball, you’re going to make an out more often than you get a hit, but with Youkilis, you never felt cheated. For at least four plate appearances each game, you got your money’s worth.

And for the better part of nine seasons, so did the Red Sox.

Ryan Kalish is Needed in Boston

Ryan Kalish should be in the next available Lincoln Town Car that takes him from McCoy Stadium to T.F. Green Airport and on a plane that heads for either South Beach or the North Side.

Either way, he needs to be up with the big boys. Now.

Since being deemed healthy enough to participate in games, Kalish has shined. In a small 13-game sample that spans from High-A ball to Triple-A, the 24-year old outfielder has hit at a .367/.475/.673 clip with an eye-popping OPS of 1.148. He’s launched four home runs, swiped two bags, and drawn nine walks.

This isn’t just some sort of aberration by a minor league standout. Kalish is a guy who has already showcased his talents on the major league level.

In 2010, the left handed hitter was called to Boston during the latter half of the season. The Red Sox were in need. In 53 games, he slugged four home runs, drove in 24 runs, and stole 10 bases. He navigated center field like a veteran (e.g., diving, tumbling catch in Tampa). Kalish looked like a kid that belonged.

Injuries derailed Kalish’s ability to immediately solidify himself as a fixture in the Red Sox outfield. Nevertheless, the Red Sox front office held enough confidence in Kalish to deal Josh Reddick to the Athletics. That’s the same Reddick who has 14 home runs this season in a cavernous home ballpark.

The point is that Kalish possesses both the pedigree and the production that warrants a promotion. More importantly, like in 2010, there is a need.

Offensively, the Red Sox have been potent this season. They’re second in the American League in runs scored and fifth in slugging percentage. Batting average? They’re third.  As of late, however, they have been stagnant to say the least.  In their past five games, the Red Sox have scored 12 runs. That’s an average of 2.4 runs per game. Good luck winning ballgames at that rate.

Over the course of those five games, the Red Sox have faced quality pitching courtesy of both the Nationals and the Marlins. Whether it is Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, or Josh Johnson toeing the rubber, scoring runs is not going to be easy, even if you have a lineup that consists of guys who flat out mash. And the Red Sox lineup certainly does not possess the thump that’s needed to combat quality starting pitching.

Right now, who are you confident in to get a hit, let alone a big hit? David Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are the only acceptable answers. Adrian Gonzalez is mired in a prolonged slump that forces followers of the team to count the number of walks, rather than home runs. Dustin Pedroia‘s thumb is not right, and, as a result, neither is he. Kevin Youkilis is either too busy grounding out to the left side or yelling at an umpire to actually care that he has been miserable at the dish since returning from the disabled list.

Have there been honorable contributions from Ryan Sweeney, Daniel Nava, and Mike Aviles? Absolutely. And they should be damn proud of themselves. At some point, however, good pitching beats mediocre hitting. And when the hitting isn’t very good to begin with, the good pitching makes said hitting look even worse.

Kalish is a polished, young hitter who can make an immediate impact on a team that is starving for a spark. The Red Sox have been lackluster against right handed pitching. Kalish would help. Their bench lacks any sort of substance. The broad shouldered kid from Jersey would help create roster depth.

If the Red Sox were ten games over .500, it would make sense for Kalish to remain in Triple-A Pawtucket in order to get back into baseball shape. But they’re not. They’re 30-32 and have exactly 100 games left to turn their season season around.

Reinforcements are needed. There is one less than sixty minutes away from Boston. Kalish should be playing with the Red Sox.

Some, if not many, will disagree. And their reasons are valid.

I recently had an exchange with the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson–who does an excellent job covering the Red Sox. MacPherson indirectly raised a fair point: Who do the Sox part with in order to make room for Kalish? MacPherson believes it would have to be Scott Podsednik, who has been better than good since getting called up. Here is a portion of our conversation via Twitter:

MacPherson’s point is well-taken. Nevertheless, whether it is a Podsednik decline, a Nava DL stint, or a different roster move all together, Kalish will impact the 2012 Red Sox at some point this season.

Eventually, no matter what, the cream will rise to the top.

Tough Love

Toughness and intelligence are not synonymous. There may be not be a better example of the distinction between those two characteristics than the situation surrounding Dustin Pedroia‘s most recent injury to his right thumb.

According to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, Pedroia will return to the starting lineup on Tuesday night as the Red Sox open up a three-game set against the Orioles.

Pedroia has been out of commission since he was removed from the game against the Tigers on Memorial Day. MRI results ultimately indicated that the scrappy second baseman had partially torn a muscle in his thumb. As a handful of days passed, it was revealed that Pedroia originally suffered the injury on May 2nd, a home game against the Athletics, during an at-bat against reliever Ryan Cook. He fouled off a pitch, clearly grimacing afterwards.

(As an aside, I was at that game in May. It was a cold, rainy Wednesday night at Fenway. No one wanted to be there, whether you were in the bleachers or at the plate.)

Since that game against the A’s, Pedroia had been able to successfully manage the discomfort in his right thumb. During the 24 games that followed Pedroia’s foul ball against Cook, the former AL MVP hit at a .296/.360/.429 clip. He slugged two home runs during that time. Nothing exemplary, but certainly more than acceptable.

Prior to the injury, it is safe to assume that Pedroia was nothing but healthy. In the 23 games that led up to the game in which he originally hurt his thumb, Pedroia’s numbers are surprisingly similar his statistics mentioned above. His slash line of .296/.337/.469 compares favorably. From Opening Day in Detroit through May 1st, the All-Star second baseman clubbed three home runs, just one more than he would eventually hit with an ailing thumb.

Essentially, Pedroia remained the same player, despite operating with an injury to the worst part of a ballplayer’s body–his hands. Nevertheless, the former Rookie of the Year successfully took batting practice in Toronto over the weekend. He did use a brace during the sessions. According to Bradford, if Pedroia was able to pass a final examination on Monday, he would be ready to go on Tuesday.

Apparently, he aced the test.

So we are here. The Red Sox and Pedroia have avoided a trip to the disabled list. He would have only missed six games. Nick Punto will go back to his familar position–the bench, while Pedroia returns to second base. He will bat in the tw0-hole against Jason Hammel, a right handed pitcher that he has worn out (4-7).

It is very likely that this aggressive approach will work out. If anyone can do it, Pedey can. Red Sox players, fans, and members of the media will applaud Pedroia for his toughness, and his legacy in Boston will be augmented yet again.

However, there is always a chance that this backfires. Pedroia could go out tonight, get buried with a hard sinking fastball, and re-aggravate his injury, forcing him to go on the disabled for who knows how long. It would be ignorant to ignore the inherent gamble that Pedroia and the Red Sox are making.

I’m not a doctor, but I have to think that rest and rehabilitation would help heal a torn adductor muscle in one’s thumb more than taking at-bats against the best pitching in the world (that isn’t a compliment directed the Fighting Showalters, but rather for Major League Baseball as a whole).

But that’s just not Pedroia. If he feels as though he can help the team win, you’re going to need to do more than threaten to place him on some sort of silly list that says he can’t play for 15 days.

And that’s why he is a beloved figure in a city that cares a tiny bit about its baseball. It’s why Jacoby Ellsbury could have another MVP-like year in 2013, as he did in 2011, and he still will not surpass Pedroia in the fickle court of public opinion. Toughness is a quality that is lauded. It is met with immediate respect and deservedly so.

But toughness does not beget intelligence.

Maybe it will breed luck.

The Perils of the 2011 Boston Red Sox

Since that fateful night on September 28th last season in Baltimore, the Boston Red Sox have been criticized by fans and media mercilessly. And rightfully so. They collectively let their foot off of the gas. They didn’t have each others’ backs. Their manager lost control of a clubhouse that was filled with players who wanted the luxuries of a five-star hotel but lost the ambition to work for the right to stay at one. They won seven times in the final month of the regular season. They lost 20. They were the ’04 Yankees. They were the ’09-’10 Bruins. All choke artists. And the Red Sox painted a masterpiece.

So I’ve been fine with the unabated criticism from talk-show hosts, writers, and fellow fans. It is well-deserved, and without it, accountability is often lost. However, there have been some serious inconsistencies when it comes to the appraisal of last season’s version of the Red Sox and their relationship to the 2012 team.

Under no circumstances is it acceptable for one to trash the 2011 team for being lazy, fat, spoiled, and drunk, then, out of the opposite corner of one’s mouth, discuss, and find consolation in, the fact that yesteryear’s squad began the season miserably before ascending to the top of baseball hierarchy a couple of months later.

Fans and media members have abused last year’s team, using it as both a punching bag and a comfort pillow. Can’t have it both ways, folks. That just simply is not fair. But let’s delve deeper.

I’m going to put forth two summations of the thought process for many Red Sox fans and media members concerning two subjects: The perceived ringleader of “Beer-Gate” and the sluggish start of this year’s version of the Red Sox.

1) During interviews conducted at the beginning of Spring Training, Josh Beckett doesn’t show a tremendous amount of contrition for faltering down the stretch and participating in activities that could not be described as intelligent at the end of last season. In his first start of the season, the Texas native promptly gets flogged by the Tigers on their turf on national television, rendering the Sox 0-2. Beckett goes on to pitch well against the Rays, Rangers, Twins, and White Sox. He skips a start at the advisement of his manager due to some minor discomfort he felt in his lat muscle. He plays golf with Clay Buchholz on an off-day. His next turn in the rotation is against the Indians, and Beckett gets bruised for seven earned runs over the course two and one third innings. In his post-game presser, Beckett is defiant, angry. His off-days are his off-days. Clearly, the Texas Tough Guy has learned nothing after his choke-job September that was filled with Bud Light and chicken thighs. Trade him. For what? Anyone, anything.

2) The Red Sox start off turtle-slow in 2012? No big deal, so did the 2011 Red Sox, and they were perfectly fine. In fact, that team started the season 2-10. Remember that? The Greatest Team Ever looked awful in April and pristine in July. Keep in mind that World Series rings are handed out in October, not April. A major league baseball season is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, a grind, a war of attrition. Meaningful games are played when the NFL regular season is in its infancy, not when OTA’s are just getting underway. We know this. We lived through it last season. Things don’t look good right now, but give it a couple of months, and they’ll be fine.

You can’t have both. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

The 2011 Boston Red Sox have been portrayed over and over again as the paradigm for not-to-be as a sports franchise. They were the anti-Bruins. Overpaid, under performers, who would rather carry a cold twelve pack to the clubhouse than their team to a victory. Fans, scribes, and sports radio hosts treated this team like Mike Tyson would handle a speed bag in his prime. Beckett quickly transformed from World Series hero into the Prince of Darkness. Jon Lester and Buchholz, his minions.

And you know what? Good. Because when you’re getting your legs taken out from under you by the Orioles deep in September in must-have, gotta-win games, you deserve the inevitable backlash from a fan-base in a region that, despite all of the championships captured in other professional sports, invests more of its heart and soul in baseball than any other athletic endeavor.

But don’t turn around and look to that team for comfort. You can’t blast Beckett one day, and then argue that the Sox will be fine by the time July rolls around because that’s what occurred last season. The same guys who walked off the field at Camden Yards in late September after ripping your heart out were the same cast of characters who beat up on their competition throughout the majority of the summer.

The 2011 Boston Red Sox remain a troubling narrative. But just because they lost in historic fashion does not give people who follow the team the right to pick and choose what they want to shape their arguments. Ultimately, the team was similar to a beautiful, expensive house that was built on a foundation of straw. A storm touched down, and the home fell apart. Their demise was part fluke, part inevitable.

Criticize them. Rip them apart. They deserve it. Just don’t seek solace in the fact that the 2011 Red Sox were 11-15 after the month of April, and this year’s team was .500 when May 1st rolled around.

Last year’s team did not show us that slow starts can be overcome. They demonstrated that how you finish is all that matters.

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.