Author Archives: cgoogs

Should the Red Sox Fire Bobby Valentine?

 

After dropping 3 out of 4 to one of the few AL teams decidedly out of the playoff picture in the Minnesota Twins, the Red Sox currently sit at 54-55 on the season. All year the home town nine have hovered around the .500 mark and still have not played as well as the roster would lead you to believe it could. And now with 53 games left in the season, and the Sox stuck 4.5 games out of the second wild card spot behind three other teams, the inevitable calling for the manager’s head has hit full speed.

Bobby Valentine was hired by the Red Sox a type of clubhouse enforcer who would hold players accountable and not let the inmates run the asylum as they did in the 2nd half last year. However, Valentine has not lived up to the hype, though it’s not particularly his fault. Beginning as early as Spring Training it was clear we were not getting the outspoken and opinionated manager many had heard on ESPN. Within the first couple of weeks Valentine backed off comments made on Sunday Night Baseball last year about Beckett’s pace of play and Crawford’s batting stance. Combine that with the most recent story of someone going behind his back to upper management about a comment aimed to pick up Will Middlebrooks after a tough inning in the field and we can all see that this was not the leadership Larry Lucchino was hoping for.

So should the Red Sox just go ahead and fire Bobby Valentine and begin to try and fix this team the way they should have after last season’s collapse? I will explore several points in favor of keeping Bobby V at the helm as well as why it’s best to just part ways right now.

Why they should fire Bobby V:

  • There is an outside chance that a change of manager could spark the team and maybe propel them closer to grabbing the second wild card spot. It is not an unprecedented event as Joe Morgan was appointed interim manager in a similar situation at the All-Star break in 1988. The team then won 12 straight and the AL East.
  • A lot of talk over the past ten months has revolved around the unity inside the Red Sox clubhouse and whether or not they are a team that actually fights for each other. There is a chance that Bobby is so disliked by the players that just removing him from the team could unite the players more than anything else.
  • As odd as it sounds, firing Valentine right now would actually gain favor towards the Red Sox ownership from the fans. All we have gotten from Henry, Lucchino, and Werner over the past few years are various sales pitches on stupid items like bricks, coffee table books and CDs. It would be a huge step forward for them to come out and admit to a mistake and finally put the focus back on winning baseball games.
  • If Tim Bogar (current bench coach) is someone the Red Sox are interested in seeing as a managerial candidate, this would be a great chance to see him in action. Letting Valentine go would allow Bogar to be appointed interim manager and give the team an extended interview for the open position come November. It is very unlikely that even if Bobby V makes it through the 2012 campaign that he would still be in charge come February, so why not see what you have in Bogar now and perhaps the team will take a shine to him.

 

Why they should keep Bobby V:

  • If the Red Sox do fire Valentine now, there would be the perception that the clubhouse wins and ultimately has more power than the manager. After last season had ended, Francona admitted himself that he has lost some players in the locker room and could not reach through to them for motivation. All season it has been clear that the players do not like Bobby and rarely (if ever) have come to his defense. Even upper management has stranded Valentine alone on an island at times. So by getting rid of Valentine, you give full power to the players to simply force out any manager they do not see fit going forward, which is a dangerous precedent to set.
  • Whenever a manager is fired in the second half of a season, it is can almost be seen as a waving of the white flag for that year. Although the Sox haven’t passed the “eye test” all season, the second wild card spot is not yet entirely out of reach. As I mentioned before, there are some cases where a managerial change could light a team for a stretch run, but that is a long shot and most of the time getting rid of the skipper signals the end of a team’s season.
  • Although Valentine has received a lot of the attention this season, he is still not the biggest problem this team has. Valentine should not get most of the blame for the performances of Lester and Beckett this year or Buccholz’s and Adrian Gonzalez’s first half. The team chemistry was already questionable coming into Spring Training with guys looking for the “snitches” about the fried chicken and beer story being leaked. Valentine is also not the reason for Carl Crawford’s and Andrew Bailey’s always ongoing injury sagas.

 

I personally believe it is best to just fire Valentine right now and see what you’ve got in Tim Bogar. Best case scenario is that the team surges a bit and makes a bid for the playoffs. Worst case they stay around .500 and begin the evaluation process in October. Either way, the Sox should clean house in the off-season and re-build the team’s coaching staff and try to find a way to part with Josh Beckett and maybe even John Lackey.

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Who Is The Biggest Disappointment Of The First Half?

After dropping 3 of 4 to the Yankees in the most important series so far this year, the Sox limp into the All-Star break at an even 43-43. The Sox seemed to have turned a corner last week, going five games over .500 after trudging through the first few months of the 2012 season. But at 40-35, they split with the Mariners and got swept by the Athletics, scoring just 14 runs in 7 games out west. This was a horrible stretch of games, dropping five out of seven to two of the worst hitting teams in the MLB.

After a disastrous road trip, Boston returned home to get slugged around Fenway by the Yankees. The final first half series against the Bronx Bombers highlighted the biggest disappointed for the Red Sox since last year’s September collapse, the starting pitching. Despite all the injuries on the offensive side of the ball and Adrian Gonzalez’s continued power outage, the home town team still stands 2nd in the American League in both hits and runs scored.

Coming into this season the Sox rotation looked pretty formidable, featuring Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, Dubront, and Bard. Daniel Bard then went all Rick Ankiel on everybody and cannot find home plate with a gps anymore. Beckett is a coin toss for every start on whether he goes seven strong innings or is out after four and given up six runs. Buchholz was terrible in his first six starts (despite his record) allowing at least five runs in all six games. Just when Clay started pitching well and getting his act together, he goes down with a somewhat freak injury (esophagitis) and misses the final few weeks of the first half. Dubront has been decent, and would be considered a pleasant surprise to this rotation had the top three played anywhere close to their potential.

But the biggest disappointment in the 2012 season so far has got to be the man at the front of the rotation. People in Boston have been waiting for Jon Lester to finally have that one break out season where he was in the running for his first Cy Young and carried this team on his shoulders. Lester so far this season, is 5-6 with a 4.49 ERA. Since 2008, Lester has not won less than 15 games (including winning 19 in 2010) or lost more than 9. In those four seasons, his highest ERA was 3.47 (2011). Even more telling this season are his strikeout and walk numbers. Since 2010, Lester’s K/9 has dropped from 9.74 to 7.53 and his BB/9 has increased from 2.71 to 3.13. Just using the eye test with the “Ace” of the staff can tell you how much Lester has struggled this year, routinely throws 20+ pitches in the first inning and rarely in the game past the 7th inning (twice all season).

The Sox are currently 4th in the AL East, 9.5 games back from the Yankees. However, with the new second wild card added to baseball this season the Red Sox are still in the running for a playoff spot. They sit only 2.5 games back from the Orioles for the chance to play their way into a Divisional Playoff Series. If the Red Sox are going to contend in the second half, they are going to need the offense to tread water until healthy and for Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz to step up their performance and win games for their team.

But what do you think?

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Red Sox Draft Roundup

Red Sox first draft pick Deven Marrero

Unlike the NFL, and to some degree the NBA, the MLB First Year Player Draft does not come with much fanfare or hordes of writers breaking down every potential draft pick. This is mainly because many players drafted in the MLB Draft are still in high school. There are a lot of college kids drafted as well, but outside of scouts not many people have ever heard of any of these players. There are the rare times where you know of a Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper, but those players are few and far between.

When all was said and done Wednesday night, the Boston Red Sox had selected 42 players in the 2012 MLB Draft. There first round selection (24th overall) was Deven Marrero, a shortstop out of Arizona State. The reports on Marrero indicate that he is similar to Jose Iglesias. Marrero is solid in the field, but has room to improve at the plate.

I’m not going to analyze every pick because it would take forever, and I would just be copying and pasting from MLB.com or other scouting websites. So instead I just put together a quick break down of the players the Red Sox drafted this year.

Total Players Drafted: 42

Positional Breakdown:

RHP:  20         LHP:  3

1B:  2              2B: 2       SS: 4

3B: 1               C: 3         OF: 7

Demographic Breakdown:

High School: 15

College: 27

*International: 0

*Bucky has informed me that international players are not draft eligible. I was not sure if there was some sort of timing or age thing that put some international players into the draft pool. I guess that there is not.

To get a look at the entire MLB Draft board, or just to get a better look at the Sox picks, visit the MLB Draft Tracker

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Pedroia Potentially Out For A Month

Dustin Pedroia came out of Monday’s game against the Tigers with a thumb injury after making a great diving play at second base. That play, combined with a jam shot at the plate in his previous at-bat, has aggravated a lingering problem with the right thumb of the Laser Show. News came out yesterday that there could be a muscle tear involved and that the Sox starting second baseman could miss 3-4 weeks of action. Pedroia is hopeful that only a couple days rest will be enough to get him back on the field, but it seems likely that the Sox will be without Dustin for a few weeks at least.

If Pedroia was to miss a month of baseball, then the Sox will have to decide how to proceed with their line-up. The most likely and most logical choice seems to be to call-up fielding phenom Jose Iglesias to play shortstop and move Mike Aviles over to right side of the bag to second base. However, Iglesias has missed the last five games in Pawtucket with lower back stiffness and may not be ready to go for a couple more days himself. As of now, Nick Punto looks to get the start at second until an official decision on Pedroia is made. In limited playing time this season, Punto is only hitting .140 (6 for 43) with 16 strikeouts.

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Minor League Update

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I was going to do an update on some Red Sox prospects a week or so ago, but seeing as pretty much all of them are on the big club right now out of necessity or on the DL, I figured I’d hold off until now. The Paw Sox are currently 29-18, which puts them in the top spot of the International League.

Batting:

Jose Iglesias – .275/.320/.645 with 1 HR, 13 RBI, 7 SB and 6 Errors (Mike Aviles has 3 so far)

Ryan Lavarnway – .262/.355/.709 with 2 HR, and 13 RBI

Lars Anderson – .244/.362/.769 with 3 HR, 18 RBI and 33 SO (in 123 AB)

Mauro Gomez – .301/.344/.946 with 10 HR, 33 RBI, and 11 2B

Pitching:

Junichi Tazawa – 1-1 with a 0.95 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 19.0 IP

Mark Melancon – 0-0 with a 0.60 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 23 SO in 15.0 IP

Daisuke Matsuzaka – 0-1 with 4.86 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 12 SO in 3 Starts (16.2 IP)

For more in depth analysis on each player, visit soxprospects.com

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$3 Tickets? Sure, I’ll Go

Over this past weekend, me and a friend of mine were talking about how low ticket prices were getting on the secondary market for Red Sox games in wake of dropping 8 out of 9 to the As, Orioles, and Royals. This led to a discussion of “how low would they have to be to just go, no matter how bad they are?”  Well, it turns out $3 was that price.

Here Comes the Rain!

Around 3:00 EST yesterday, StubHub was offering Grandstand and Bleacher seats for $2.99 (Of course there were $10 in fees because apparently it costs that much to send someone an email that they print themselves, but whatever).  The Sox had just won the last 3 against the Indians and seemed to be getting their act together again, so we figured we might at least get a decent game on the cheap. However, seemingly simultaneously to my friend clicking “Buy” it starts pouring and the radar did not look good for later in the evening:

Based on the radar, I knew the rain would break for a while. But I thought it would start up again around the 2nd or 3rd inning. As I was watching the rain through my window, I began to think about a blog article for this site about a half full Fenway Park in bad weather with a team still looking to prove itself worthy of a 3-hour investment. So the wheels in my head were turning about how they would spin this one to be counted as the 731stconsecutive sellout.”  However, things turned the other way last night and I was very surprised to see the turn out at the park. In an unexpected twist of fate, last night was probably one of my most enjoyable Fenway experiences in a long time.

We got to the park at the top of the second inning (because my friends are never on time for anything) to find the Sox already up 2-0 and Lester hadn’t thrown 40 pitches in the Top of the 1st. We made our way to our section 42 bleacher seats and settled in, waiting for the inevitable rain delay. The bleacher seats are either more comfortable than I remember, or it might be that I am used to grandstand seats that are three inches between rows. It also helped that we each had a buffer seat between us so we could stretch out a bit. Around the 4th inning I took a glance at the crowd to see if how full the park was. It really took me off guard to see that the place was pretty full. So much so, that I would believe them calling it a “sellout” when keeping the secondary market tickets in mind. I did not see the posted attendance because I would have had to leave in a neck brace if I kept looking back at the screen, although ESPN says it was 37,334.

A Look at the Bleacher Crowd

The attendance was the first surprise to me while sitting about 530 feet from home plate. The next was the weather. The once daunting Doppler radar produced zero rain fall and the temperature was at a very comfortable level throughout the night. The last thing I expected to see when leaving my house in the rain was a nine-inning game.

Then we come to the game itself. I have been so frustrated with Jon Lester this year. His pitch count after the first two innings is routinely in the 40s or 50s. Even if he doesn’t give up a lot of runs, he still throws a lot of pitches and the game time suffers because of it. But, just two and a half hours later, Lester struck out Alex Liddi to record the Complete Game, 6-1 victory over the Mariners. The game moved quickly and we got to see some great pitching as well as some power from Nava and Shoppach.

So, with a quick game, good weather, decent seats, and a convincing win, the bitter trip I had envisioned turned into probably the second best time I have had at a Red Sox game in the last 10 years. The first was sitting in the bleachers with a drunken Bucky. High comedy right there.

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D-Day for Aaron Cook

By midnight tonight, the Red Sox will have to make a decision on how to proceed with Aaron Cook this season. Aaron Cook’s contract has a May 1st opt-out clause if the Red Sox decide not to promote him the big league club. In 5 starts in Pawtucket this season, the sinker-baller is 3-0, posting a 1.89 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 2 Complete Games.

Before signing with the Red Sox in the off-season, Cook played 10 seasons in Colorado where he went 72-68 with a 4.53 ERA in 238 Games. Cook’s great numbers this season in Triple-A could just be the result of a veteran pitcher who knows how to get young, inexperienced players out, but he is definitely proving worthy of a call up.

The Red Sox will have 48 hours from the time Cook decides whether or not to opt-out to make a decision. There are 4 possibilities for how this goes:

1 – The Red Sox call Cook up to the majors and place him in the starting rotation. This seemed like the best option a week ago, but the rotation has settled down and pitched well of late and forcing Cook into the rotation as a 6th starter or taking out someone like Buchholz, who has struggled late in games, may cause unneeded issues at this point. Cook would probably pitch best as a starter, and if someone goes down for any period of time, he would be a very solid fill-in.

2 – The Red Sox call Cook up to the majors and place him in the bullpen. This is the most pressing need for this team right now, but it is uncertain how Cook would adjust to the move and pitching 3-4 times a week instead of once every five days. If Cook could adjust well, he could be a great asset for the Sox pen. Being a sinker ball pitcher, Cook pitches to contact and could be best used coming into games with people on base where you need a double play to keep a lead or keep the game close.

3 – The Red Sox try to extend the opt-out deadline. This would require Cook to allow this to happen, which I just cannot see happening. Cook is pitching too well in Triple-A, and would have immediate calls into starting rotations around the league. There would be no reason for Cook to stay on with this team in Triple-A instead of starting for team such as the Yankees who are in need of another starter.

4 – The Red Sox let Cook opt-out. Again, this would mean Cook would be free to pitch for anyone right away and would not have a shortage of suitors who would come calling.

I think the best option for the Red Sox right now is to call up Cook, put him in the bullpen and try to work it out from there. Whether he stays there or eventually moves into the rotation, he is too valuable to let go right now. Will Cook have an ERA under 2.00 in the majors? Of course not, but you cannot risk him going somewhere else and being a great piece to a contending team.

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