OAKLAND, Calif. — Indians manager Manny Acta said it best recently after losing for the 13th time in 14 games: “We can be beat, but we can’t look beaten.”
The Indians and Red Sox seem to be in the same boat. They are out of the race, and the only thing left to play for is pride, and to develop younger talent such as Ryan Lavarnway, Ryan Kalish, Jose Iglesias, and Pedro Ciriaco. But what would reflect badly on Bobby Valentine now is if his players simply didn’t care or went through the motions.
Sometimes it’s difficult to discern whether a team is packing it in or feeling defeated or is simply not good enough to compete.
The September 2011 Red Sox felt defeated the moment they set foot on the field. The 2012 Red Sox are so depleted they are fielding a Triple A lineup with a scattering of veterans.
So you need to watch games a little differently now.
Wins and losses aren’t that important.
What is important is to find out what you have for next year and decide whether you can build around these players.
It’s a chance to recall Daniel Bard and watch him in a major league setting for the first time since June. It’s a chance to get Andrew Bailey going for next season as the closer. It’s a chance to get a good look at first baseman James Loney and decide whether he’s a player you want to re-sign.
Under these circumstances there’s a good chance you’ll lose more games than you win, but you still make sure your players — whether rookies or veterans — are playing the game the right way.
Acta had to reprimand catcher Carlos Santana for not running out a ground ball. In Philadelphia, Charlie Manuel benched Jimmy Rollins for dogging it down the line.
Manuel told Rollins, a veteran who should know better, “the two things I demand are that you show up on time and you play the game hard.”
And when that’s missing, it reflects poorly on the people in charge. They need to make certain the game is played with the respect it deserves.
The Red Sox went through the motions in a couple of their losses in Anaheim. That’s not good.
When the Red Sox put two base runners on with nobody out in the first inning Friday night against Oakland, Jacoby Ellsbury couldn’t get a bunt down. This is a professional baseball player, who until last season was someone who relied on his legs. Players with speed should know how to bunt.
Ellsbury could have changed the course of the game had he been able to execute a basic task. f He eventually grounded into a double play.
And as far as younger players go, Boston’s haven’t taken the league by storm.
Iglesias, for instance, was 0 for 9 since his promotion entering Friday’s game. All of the issues on his scouting report — namely a lack of offense — are still there.
Lavarnway has started to swing the bat a little better, but he was hitting only .186 entering the Oakland series and hitting is supposed to be his forté.
Kalish is now up for a third time in the big leagues. He hasn’t been very successful, but he gets a pass because his shoulder injury, and that type of surgery takes a full season to come back from.
Ciriaco has been the eye-opener.
He’s a 28-year-old minor league journeyman who is beginning to create decisions for the front office and for Valentine as to how he should be utilized in the future. The Red Sox know this: Ciriaco is a keeper.
Junichi Tazawa has done a lot of quality work out of the bullpen and it appears he can be a good reliever for years to come. He has a live arm with a good fastball, and when he begins to be more successful with his offspeed pitches, he should be a fixture in the Sox bullpen.
Will Middlebrooks, before his season-ending injury, was a rookie success story. He took the league by storm and fit in immediately. The Sox really don’t have to worry about third base for a while, as long as Middlebrooks can come back strong.
Rookies don’t always look good right off the bat. Pedroia hit .191 in 89 at-bats when he came up late in 2004. Conversely, Ellsbury hit .353 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 116 at-bats in 2007.
Valentine said Friday to beware of late-season statistics in making evaluations. Watch the talent, the attitude, the actions rather than the numbers.
It’s a whole new way of watching baseball. And yes, it takes some getting used to.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.