People that know me best, know when it comes to the Red Sox, I am a complete optimist. They can do no wrong in my book. When they are struggling, I always believe they will turn things around. Therefore, I am not jumping ship like the most of Red Sox Nation. I am simply riding out this long storm. It reminds me of the severe rain we had throughout New England last month. It went on for days and it kept getting worse. The good thing is, we knew eventually the sun would come out. So until the sun does come out, I am forced to focus on some of the underlying issues with my beloved ball club.
Let’s talk about this catchy phrase “Run Prevention.” Theo Epstein practically restructured this year’s team around this concept. What is “Run Prevention?” Essentially, it is winning games with defense. The combination of great pitching and stellar execution on the field equals “Run Prevention.” In years past, teams put their focus on offense, signing “big bats” to do the job. The problem is, we had a 15-20 year period of those “big bats” being chemically enhanced. This is causing teams to rethink how they structure their teams going forward. I find it interesting how many teams overload on offense. Come World Series time, if you ask anyone, “What does it take to win?” The answer is always, pitching.
Going into the 2010 season, Epstein made it clear he was all about “Run Prevention.” It started when the Red Sox let Jason Bay, one of Boston’s biggest bats, walk. They went on to sign 37 year old Mike Cameron. Age aside, he was still considered to be one of the best outfielders in the League. They signed Adrian Beltre, who is one of the best defensive 3rd baseman in the League, to a 1-year deal. They also upgraded at shortstop, bringing in Marco Scutaro. Jeremy Hermida (Outfield) and Bill Hall (Infield/Outfield) were also additions to the team. They signed John Lackey to a 5 year deal, locking in Boston’s pitching staff for years to come (Josh Beckett was signed at the start of ’10 and Jon Lester in ’09.) Prior to the start of the season, the addition of Lackey created arguably one of the best 1-2-3 pitching rotations in the league. That has yet to be seen.
In fact, all we have seen is poor pitching, countless errors (13 to be exact), terrible communication and unfamiliarity with the ballpark. Not very impressive considering their main goal was to PREVENT runs. Instead, other teams are running rampant on the Sox.
STOLEN BASES: The Sox have given up 36 stolen bases in 38 attempts. It’s no secret Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez have the arms of a child, which explains how the Rays and Rangers ran all over them. The catchers are not entirely to blame. The pitching staff contributes to this problem being incapable of holding runners. The Rays swiped 10 bases in the 4-game series and they opened the door for every other team in the league to do the same. Last Tuesday, Texas ran wild, swiping 9 in ONE GAME! I am unclear as to why all of a sudden (in particular this year), it has become such a problem. Why can’t these guys throw runners out? I know they play every day making practice a little unrealistic, but they need to start allotting time to this. Maybe the team needs to run simulated base running scenarios. Why was this not addressed and perfected in the off season?
ERRORS: The Sox are in the top 10 of the League with 14 errors in 20 games. Of 30 teams in the league they are 18th in fielding percentage. I am most worried about what doesn’t show up in the stat column: communication and knowledge of the park. At the moment, the only guys that are familiar with the park and each other, is the right side of the field (JD Drew, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis). Which leads me to go out on a limb and say that most of the errors are coming from the left side of the field and/or the newcomers on the team. Let me look that up……Yes, just as I suspected, 11 of those errors have come from the left side and are all from a newcomer on the team. I know they spend time in Ft. Myers forming chemistry on the field, but what happens when they come up north to Fenway Park? How much practice do they really get playing balls off the monster, in deep center field and learning how much room they have in foul territory? What about learning how to communicate and adapt to each other’s style of play? One would think that it is not necessary to devote much time to this given their “Big League” experience, but their performance on the field has demonstrated otherwise. They have clearly failed to execute, communicate and play the wall.
You probably wonder, what the hell do I know about playing baseball? I agree, it is frustrating listening to someone rant about a topic they probably couldn’t handle in real life, if given the chance. So here’s a brief background about me. I starting playing baseball at the age of 5 and was one of the only girls in Little League. I was eventually forced into playing softball for obvious reasons and went on to play college softball at the Division II level. I took tremendous pride in my defensive abilities. Let’s just say, if they were building a team back then based on “Run Prevention,” you would want me on your roster at 2nd base. Can I perform at the Major League level? Hell no, but I do know about fundamental baseball. This allows me the chance to look at these players in a way others might not. My point is, I know my baseball and I think it is important for your audience to know where you come from so they can put some trust in you. People may not agree with my opinions but hopefully there is no question related to my knowledge and passion for the game. Can you believe that in my first blog someone accused ME of being a “Pink Hat?”
With that said, Mike Cameron has only seen 11 games and I have not been very impressed with him in center field so far. I know the Sox have him in center because he was one of the best outfielders in the game for years. It doesn’t hurt either that he has a better arm than Ellsbury. Prior to the season starting, I agreed with that theory. Based on what I have seen so far, I am close to suggesting (if things don’t improve upon their return), moving Jacoby back to center field where he knows the park and have Cameron play left. The outfielders have already demonstrated their lack of chemistry, communication and wall experience. Therefore, it is silly to force two people to learn the ropes of the outfield walls if you don’t have to. Not to mention, Ellsbury and Drew already have chemistry, there is no need to change that. I know Cameron was one of the best, but he is no spring chicken and it has shown in the few games he has played. He hasn’t proved to me he can track down half the balls Ellsbury has in the past. Maybe he is still getting acclimated with the territory he needs to cover, so we’ll see what happens in the near future. If it does come down to being an arm issue, think back to Johnny Damon. He has one of the worst arms I have ever seen in baseball. Ellsbury is a delight in comparison. Plus, the few games Ellsbury played in left, have been an adventure to say the least. It brings me back to something I used to say often regarding Manny Ramirez. In my opinion, there was nobody that could play a ball off a wall better than Manny. Some say Yaz, but since I probably only saw Yaz once in my lifetime, I’ll stick with Manny. I am certainly not selling his other defensive skills because he really didn’t have any. He made it look easy out there, gunning down runners trying to leg out doubles all the time. I think it had something to do with him coming off as being lazy but then he would strike. My point is, these outfielders need to practice playing the wall and learning their surroundings. Unfortunately the communication and chemistry can’t be practiced, it will happen in time. Hopefully, it happens before we lose another player to the DL. Ellsbury’s collision with Adrian Beltre the first week of the season, is a direct result of the lack of communication this team has right now.
PITCHING: I’ll keep this short and sweet. It has been terrible. From the “1-2-3 powerhouse” of Beckett, Lester and Lackey to the extremely shaky bullpen. Stats of the day: Over the last three games the Sox pitching stats are: 28 innings, 47 hits, 25 earned runs. Hideki Okajima has allowed 5 runs on 8 hits in his last 2 innings. Last night Beckett gave up 9 hits and 8 earned runs on only 3 innings. They can only go up from here, right?
On a positive note, the Red Sox bats came alive last night in Toronto with the help of some atrocious pitching from Dana Eveland. The Sox won 13-12. Marco Scutaro returned to face his former team, having a huge night at the plate. He scored a career high 4 runs, going 3 for 5. Dustin Pedroia was 3 for 6 with 2 RBIs. Jason Varitek continues to shine going 3 for 5 with 4 RBIs. Kevin Youkilis was 3 for 4 with an RBI and Adrian Beltre was 3 for 5 with 2 RBIs. Let’s hope the Sox’ bats continue to stay hot. These next 5 league games are crucial to the Red Sox staying afloat in the American League East. Tonight’s matchup is Clay Buchholz vs Shaun Marcum at 7:05.
About the Author
Written by "Baseball Brenda" Sepanek
I was born a sports fan. Playing soccer, basketball and softball in high school, then moving on to play Div. II softball at Keene State on partial scholarship. In 2003, our team was inducted into the Keene State Hall of Fame. GO OWLS! I am a die hard Red Sox, Patriots and UNC Tar Heel hoop fan. Most of my friends call me Baseball Brenda because when it comes to ranking my priorities in life, the Red Sox always are first on the list. I average about 40 games a year and I have attended every home playoff game since moving back to MA in 2005. I am super competitive and excel at anything you can win at :) Horseshoes, ping pong, darts, pool, cornhole, and bowling. Always love a good challenge. I play a lot of golf in the summer and a lot of fantasy sports. I am always looking to meet local Sox fans so look me up on Facebook.