Digging through the Red Sox rubble

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Playing nine innings while waiting for John Henry to park the yacht, turn off Roush Racing Liverpool FC Network NESN, and hustle over to Fenway to explain this mess . . .

1. Seriously, I still can’t get over the utter tone-deafness of Linda Pizzuti’s tweet Saturday about the condition of her husband, John Henry, who as you may have heard suffered a fall on his yacht Friday at roughly the same time Terry Francona was made the fall guy for September’s sunken ship.

Happy John is home! He slipped down stairs, injuring his neck. Kept at hospital as a precautionary measure, but was home for the derby.

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Home for the derby. That’s just swell. The update on his condition was appropriate, even a relief. But those last six words? Exactly what Red Sox fans wanted to know in the aftermath of the awkward departure of the most successful manager modern franchise history — that the boss made it home to watch the soccer match. As if suspicions that the Red Sox were no longer the top priority in his portfolio weren’t strong enough. Yet so much was still left unsaid. Hey, any word how Carl Edwards is doing in the Chase for the Cup. AND WHO WON “SCHOOLED”? MICHAEL SHOWALTER IS A MAJOR STAR. Sheesh, did Friday really happen?

2. Read the spin any way you want, but the bottom line to me is that if John Henry wanted Francona here, that option would have been picked up sometime over the course of what looked through the summer to be an extremely promising season.

Never happened. Never was rumored to be happening. Tells you all you need to know.

Now that Francona has departed — a somewhat friendlier word for scapegoated, I guess — there has damn well better be some fallout on those most responsible for messing up this season. The starting rotation was historically inept in September — and if presuming the yet-to-be-denied reports of in-game beverage consumption are true, it turns out they let the team down more than we even suspected.

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John Lackey has to go; I can’t believe it’s possible that he’s a worse influence than he is a pitcher, but that seems to be the case. Josh Beckett should be ashamed, and they should shop him, though it’s hard to figure right now how he would be replaced.

As for the everyday players, I don’t doubt for a second that Kevin Youkilis‘s temper and sarcastic attitude are issues at times. David Ortiz didn’t have his manager’s back . . . ah, you know the list of suspects.

All we can hope at this point is that as the transgressions keep leaking out — and they will — those guilty of submarining this season from within are held accountable for their gross entitlement.

3. If Jon Lester is among the “Hell, Yeah, I Like Beer (In The Clubhouse During The Game Don’t Mess With Texas Or Tacoma Redneck Remix)” crew, man, that must feel like the biggest betrayal of all to Francona.

I keep thinking back to Lester’s no-hitter against the Royals in May 2008 — a moment that came with an additional layer of emotion because of his battle with lymphoma two years earlier — and Francona’s obvious pride in and happiness for the pitcher.

“He’s a wonderful kid, not just because he threw the no-hitter,” Francona said that night. “To watch him do that tonight was beyond words. What a story. You feel like a proud parent.”

The admiration was reciprocated by Lester.

“It’s something I’ll remember for a long time. “[Francona] has been like a second dad to me. He cares a lot about his players. It’s not just about what you can do on the field.”

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It would be a shame if something changed in their relationship along the way.

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4 My first choice to replace Francona as manager among the rumored candidates?

Actually, I can’t think of a realistic one at the moment, particularly since there’s no chance of getting John Farrell or Joe Maddon.

My last choice: Trey Hillman, whose issues in Kansas City indicate he’s not a great bet to learn from his mistakes as Francona did in Philadelphia.

My best guess as to who will get it: A.J. Hinch, the former D-Backs manager who has sabermetric bona fides and is working for Jed Hoyer in San Diego.

Of course, I’m the same person who thought they’d hire Glenn Hoffman over Tito before the 2004 season.

5. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced the Red Sox should make Daniel Bard a starter. He has enough of a repertoire beyond his blazing fastball to be a very good rotation regular, perhaps an excellent one. As valuable as he was as the relief ace before his September nosedive, he’d be even more valuable as a 200-inning starter.

While keeping in mind that he’d probably pace himself more in the rotation — at his best, he can come in and let it fly Gossage-style in his current role — his career numbers right now look like one extremely impressive season for a starting pitcher: 197 innings, 132 hits, 76 walks, 213 strikeouts, 1.06 WHIP, 2.88 ERA.


6. For all of the howling I’ve done about the season’s horrible and prolonged plot twists, don’t count me among those who think that the collapse suggests that the future is grim.
Sure, there are clubhouse probably to be mended and a lot of personnel in flux — the manager, possibly the general manager, the designated hitter, the closer, the right fielder — but there is still a tremendous core here.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, and Dustin Pedroia finished third, fifth, and sixth in rWAR.
Lester and Beckett are a capable 1-2 tandem who should be motivated by this year’s embarrassment, and there is plenty of talent — sure, some with questions attached, such as Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford — deep into the roster.
It’s understandable — hell, even encouraged — to be pessimistic now. But by the time February comes around, we’ll recognize this team as a contender again.
7. Here’s hoping the Rangers and Tigers both finish off their respective series and advance to the American League Championship Series.
Not only would it be somewhat cathartic to see the Yankees and Rays bounced early, but in a small way, Sox fans can live vicariously though Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez, who made it to the postseason this year after being two of the better things about the 2010 Red Sox squad.
You’re not buying it, are you? All right, commence with the Beltre/VMart vs. Gonzalez/Crawford debate. I’ll be in the break room, weeping.
8. I recognize that Theo Epstein’s detractors now have a decent amount of evidence in their case against his competence as a general manager, though I will submit via my Theo Excuse Generator that A) he was burned by several players with long track records of success elsewhere, and B) I strongly suspect that at least the Crawford signing was nudged along by ownership hungry to generate buzz.
What I do blame Theo for is not pursuing Bruce Chen, Chris Capuano or another decent veteran starting pitcher well before there was the possibility of Game 163.
As the insightful fellas at Over The Monster pointed out, the Red Sox had 10 pitches make at least four starts. Kyle Weiland should not have been among them — and I’d argue that Tim Wakefield shouldn’t have been, either — and Theo should have found an adequate substitute before it was too late.
One or two more wins along the way, and maybe John Henry has no decent reason to ditch Tito.
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:

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I don’t want him anywhere near the Red Sox dugout, either, though the thought of him trying to demonstrate his genius with the remnants of this year’s Boston bullpen is amusing.

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