Why So Many Holes in the Sox?

What luck for the BoSox, in danger of slipping to the bottom of the MLB’s power rankings and they get pitched against the Minnesota Twins, one of the four teams actually worse than them. Despite being on a five game snap, the Red Sox overcame a late deficit to be at the Twins 6-5. While the win will put a shinier gloss on this article it is a bit like dropping  a cake on the floor then putting the frosting on.

Going into the game Boston were ranked 26th with a 4-10 record. They had the second lowest win record of all the teams, joint with the Chicago Cubs and one ahead of bottom team the Kansas City Royals who were on a ten game losing streak. The Twins, meanwhile, went into the first game with a 5-11 record having played two more games. Dread rivals the Yankees were in 6th in the power rankings with a 9-6 record.
Why have things gone so bad for the 2004 and 2007 World Series Champions? In the five years since their latest championship, the Red Sox have needed wild card picks to get into the 2008 and 2009 playoffs. The 2010 season ended with them missing the playoffs and 2011 started with six straight defeats, their worst start since 1945. This season has not started much better either.
At the end of the 2011 season Terry Francona admitted the club were lacking in the leadership department and some pitchers like John Lackey and Josh Beckett had been drinking in the dugout. Over the two seasons the disabled list was often bigger than the first team roster. At the end of 2011, Francona decided not to continue as coach and Theo Epstein left for the Chicago Cubs. In came Bobby Valentine who returned to the MLB after 5 years coaching  the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan.

Maybe the BoSox are in transition. Maybe another season needs to be written off while Valentine finds his feet, but that does not excuse some terrible performances. After their 18-3 loss to the Texas Rangers (ranked 1st), Valentine was unable to explain what went wrong, but he knew that pretty much everything that could go wrong, did. It was their worst loss in 12 years and included starting pitcher Jon Lester’s, and possibly baseball history’s shortest start in history. He lasted two innings, just.
As bad as that debacle was, the Sox were about to record their own titanic. Not that it appeared that way in the beginning. Boston steadily built up a 9-0 lead against arch rivals the New York Yankees. Could the season be saved? No. It took just three innings to dismantle that lead and then add some. Six pitchers combined forces to lose 15 runs in a collapse equal to Sauron’s tower in Lord of the Rings. The pitching was so bad the Yankees could have mailed their runs with a home delivery network and still would have won the game.
Valentine was not underestimating things when he said his return to Major League Baseball has been a difficult one. When any manager has been away from sport a while, things can be challenging. Just look at that other sporting team owned by Fenway Sports Group, soccer club Liverpool, who have had a disastrous season in the English Premier League. Their manager had spent longer than Valentine away from the national game and it’s shown. Valentine’s woes have been compounded though by a raft of injuries to major players in the BoSox team.

Andrew Bailey, a new acquisition to close out games, has needed reconstructive surgery on his thumb and is out until the All-Star break. Meanwhile Jacoby Ellis dislocated his shoulder meaning the Sox were without the second placed player in the AL MVP race of 2011. Last season he batted .321 with 32 home runs, 105 runs in total and 39 stolen bases.

Sure, players are suffering a hangover from the late season collapse of 2011. The injuries are not helping either, but Valentine has struggled to find his place. Some believe his public criticism of Kevin Youkilis (third base) has undermined team morale, while his constant pitching changes suggest Valentine has not found the right balance yet.

With the club’s 100th anniversary at Fenway Park coming up this year and with a 14-year winning seasons streak to protect, the team need to buck their ideas up to make it a more memorable year. The return of injured players will help and Valentine believes all they need is a winning mentality.


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