Bobby Valentine Far From Sole Reason for Red Sox’ Struggles and Other Thoughts From the Week in Baseball

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Bobby Valentine Far From Sole Reason for Red Sox' Struggles and Other Thoughts From the Week in BaseballThe Yankees sure know how to ruin a party, huh?

The Red Sox' longtime rivals came into Fenway Park this weekend and put a hurting on the Boston pitching staff, taking the first two games of the series before rain washed away any chances of a sweep on Sunday night.

It's clear that Sox fans aren't happy with what they've seen on the field, but for some reason, that anger continues to be directed seemingly solely at Bobby Valentine.

That's where this week's 6-4-3 starts.

Six Red Sox Thoughts

1. Bobby Valentine is far from the sole reason for the struggles this season

The Bobby V era hasn't gotten off to a start that anyone would like, and because of that, fans want blood. It's become Valentine who's been the object of that anger, and it's a little bit unfair. At some point, like we said last September, the players need to step up. Is it Valentine's fault that his bullpen can't hold a nine-run lead. Sure, Valentine has made some poor decisions when it comes to handling the bullpen, and he needs to be better, but a manager can only do so much.

2. The Fenway Park celebration was pretty awesome

There haven't been many positives through 14 games for the Red Sox, but Friday's celebration of Fenway Park's 100th birthday was enjoyable. Particularly, the return of some local heroes (as well of some of the more obscure names from the past like Bob Zupcic and Luis Alicea) was really a neat trip down memory lane. Of course, if you're a Red Sox fan, you kind of wish the actual in-game action was a little bit better.

3. Rain, rain, please don't go away

How bad has it been so far this season? So bad, in fact, that if you're looking for the top moments from the early going, Sunday night's rainout would be near the top of the list. The Red Sox needed that thing in the worst possible way, that even if rain wasn't in the forecast, you wonder whether or not someone would sneak onto the field and turn the sprinklers on a la Crash Davis in Bull Durham. The washout allowed the Sox to get a night with their families, recharge their batteries and perhaps allow them to keep their minds off the game before heading out on to the road.

4. The road ahead may lead to some success

We knew heading into the beginning of the season that the first few series were not going to be easy for the Sox, and clearly they were not. However, if Boston is going to right the ship, don't be surprised if they do it in the coming weeks. The Sox are entering a stretch of games in which they play Minnesota, Chicago, Oakland, Baltimore, Kansas City, Cleveland and Seattle. None of those clubs are exceptional baseball teams, and it is absolutely imperative that the Sox take advantage of that. If the struggles continue, particularly over the course of the next 22 games, things may get even uglier than they are right now.

5. Bard back to the bullpen?

Valentine announced that Daniel Bard's spot in the rotation (which was supposed to be Sunday) would be skipped and the right-hander would return to the bullpen leading up to his next start on Friday. This isn't totally unusual, but it will get a lot of attention, given Bard's past as a reliever combined with the bullpen issues right now. Bard wants to start, but with the continued success of Aaron Cook in Pawtucket and Daisuke Matsuzaka getting healthy, it may be for the best of the team to return Bard to the bullpen. It's not ideal, especially for Bard, but neither is blowing nine-run leads over the course of just a couple of innings.

6. Ortiz continues to surge

We mentioned David Ortiz's fast start last week as well, but he continues to be just too darn good to ignore. Ortiz had six hits, including a home run, over the weekend against the Yankees to help his batting average to .436. No one in the American League can boast a better average, and it's second to just Matt Kemp and David Wright in all of baseball. Ortiz has been terrific in the four Sox wins hitting an absurd .688 (11-for-16), but he's also been pretty good in losses hitting .333 (13-for-39). Someone else in that lineup is going to need to step up, though, because Ortiz can't carry an entire team by himself, no matter how hard he's trying to right now.

Four Observations Around Baseball

1. The Texas Rangers are a wagon

The additions of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson made the Angels the trendy pick in the AL West, but the Rangers are sending a reminder to the league that they're still pretty good. We got an up-close-and-personal look at how good this team, especially its offense, still is. The Rangers poured it on, scoring 24 runs in two games in Boston this week, highlighted by an unreal, eight-run showing in the eighth inning on Tuesday. Texas took two of three over the weekend in Detroit and begin the week at 13-3 on the heels of nine wins in their last 10 games.

2. Philip Humber gets perfect matchup against Mariners

Give Philip Humber credit. He was outstanding on Saturday, and thus, he was able to retire every batter he faced for a perfect game. But it was against Seattle. Again, a perfect game is a perfect game, but it's tough to describe how bad the Mariners are at the plate. What was really impressive, though, was that Humber went to a full count on Brendan Ryan before recording the 27th and final out in arguably the most "blah" of 21 perfect games in big league history.

3. Philly power outage

The Phillies' struggles aren't yet resembling the Red Sox' problems, but Philadelphia is also failing to live up to expectations. Unsurprisingly, the offense is Philly's biggest problem right now, which is to be expected when you're without both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. The Phils are averaging just 2.7 runs per game, and the result is a 7-9 record.

4. Stephen Strasburg is anchoring the NL's best team

The Washington Nationals continue to roll, and Stephen Strasburg is already assuming his role as the club's stud ace. Through four starts, the former No. 1 pick is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA. He's got 25 strikeouts in 25 innings of work and a stingy 0.92 WHIP. If he stays healthy, and the Nats continue to get strong performances out of Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler (2-0, 0.56 ERA!!) they look like the favorites in the NL East. Seriously.

Three Things to Watch This Week

1. Rangers welcome Yankees to Arlington

The Rangers will get their latest chance to prove how good they really are this season when they welcome the Yankees to Arlington for a three-game series. The Rangers were just 2-7 last season against New York, so they can go a long way in establishing their place among the AL's best this week.

2. Which ace(s) will finally break through?

There's a handful of big-name, frontline starting pitchers who are still looking for their first win of the season, and they're all on the mound either Monday or Tuesday of this week. All of these guys are looking for their first win of the season after forgettable starts to the season.

Tim Lincecum (0-2, 10.54 ERA)
Adam Wainright (0-3, 9.88 ERA)
Josh Johnson (0-2, 5.94 ERA)
Jon Lester (0-2, 5.82 ERA) 

3. Will the Royals, who enter the week losers of 10 straight, win this week?

Probably not.

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