Every week, The Lineup will take a comprehensive, numerical and often uproarious look back at the previous week of Red Sox action both on and off the diamond. We’ll go one through nine, from top to bottom in the order, covering all you need to know about your favorite team.
Without further ado, let’s get this party started:
Reconsidering Manny for Bay
Over the last month, the Red Sox are hitting at a collective .238 clip, the worst in the American League and third-worst in all of the majors. It’s a big reason they’ve lost their last five games.
"I think we’re a good offensive club having a horrific month," Sox GM Theo Epstein told WEEI on Wednesday.
"It's not a lack of energy or trying," said manager Terry Francona. "We're just collectively not putting any runs on the board."
But no individual has personified the team’s recent troubles more than Jason Bay. He’s hitting just .170 so far in July and is tearing it up at a .141 clip with one home run and three RBIs since June 24. Pretty shocking numbers for the guy who lots were touting as an MVP candidate back in late May.
A big part of the frustration for Red Sox fans is that this team-wide slump at the plate comes at a time when Mannymania is sweeping through southern California. His pinch-hit grand slam on his own bobblehead night was pretty money, no doubt. But based on the excitement surrounding him in L.A. lately, you’d think he saved a litter of dying puppies instead of missing 50 games due to a PED suspension.
The Jay Bay/Manny contrast was looking pretty good for the Sox when news of Ramirez’s positive test came down. Two and a half months have made a big difference.
In an attempt to wake up the Red Sox’ sleeping bats, Epstein completed two deals on Wednesday, bringing first baseman Adam LaRoche to Boston from the Pirates for two minor leaguers and getting outfielder/first baseman Chris Duncan from the Cardinals for the DFA’d (and effectively DOA) Julio Lugo and a Brinks truck worth of money.
LaRoche, who will join the Red Sox Friday at Fenway, is a powerful left-handed bat who is expected to spell Kevin Youkilis at first and DH. Duncan, another slugging left-hander, will likely report to Pawtucket to start, but he could be called up to provide some punch if this slump lasts much longer.
"I think we got a little more dangerous against right-handed pitching today," Epstein said. "We certainly have the ability to score enough runs to get where we want to go."
Bringing in LaRoche and Duncan wasn’t really just Theo conjuring up some ancient Bostonian slump-busting technique. In lots of people’s minds, it serves as insurance for third baseman Mike Lowell suffering another setback to his semi-ailing hip which recently landed him on the 15-day DL.
When asked about Lowell’s reaction to the trades, Francona told the Boston Herald, "He was very professional about it. … It’s my responsibility to make it work. That doesn't mean Mikey has to jump up for joy. I wouldn’t expect that."
"We're trying to add some depth to the team, some power from the left side and I would assume some versatility," Lowell told the Herald. "How it's going to affect me? We'll see. … I spoke to Theo and he told me they are always doing what they can to upgrade the team. I'd question him as a GM if he wasn't. That's his choice and we'll see how it'll play out.
"If I'm in the lineup and I'm hitting, I'm probably going to stay in the lineup and hit. It's not that big a deal to me."
With Lowell hitting .429 (albeit with just one RBI and zero runs) since coming off the DL last Friday, his spot seems safe. And as long as he keeps performing — and he's one of the few who is right now — there's no reason to think the addition of LaRoche will have much, if any, effect on Lowell's playing time.
So Much for That Six-Man Rotation
People critical of the Red Sox looking into a trade for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay consistently fell back on the argument that the depth of the Boston pitching staff would make a trade of that nature unnecessary.
"Seriously," they'd say, "we've got Beckett, a legit No. 1; Jon Lester, a legit No. 2 on the way up; Tim Wakefield having the best season of his 17-year career; Dice-K, an 18-game winner last season; Brad Penny, who performed very solidly in the first half; and former Cy Young winner and future Hall of Famer John Smoltz."
Obviously, there's no such thing as too much pitching.
Matsuzaka: basically back in spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. Wake: on the DL. Penny: 0-2 with a 5.20 ERA over his last five starts. Smoltz: 1-2 with a 6.48 ERA since joining the big club back in late June.
Despite looking solid last Friday in a win over the Blue Jays, Buchholz was markedly less so Wednesday night in Texas. He was regularly missing spots with his fastball and he was leaving his breaking ball up, which resulted in three runs allowed on six hits in just four innings. It wasn't his best performance. But there will be better days.
Is Halladay still available? If the Jays are asking too much, what about bringing in Cliff Lee from the Indians? Or another lefty reliever to help Hideki Okajima (er, Okajeemer for you Jerry Remy fans) out in the bullpen?
Or what about a serious, everyday, power bat, a la Victor Martinez or Matt Holliday? All are options.
As TC wrote earlier in the week, this time of year isn’t easy on a general manager. But this is where Theo’s at his best. Is there anyone you'd rather have in the baseball war room than Theo? Methinks not.
Coming Up Short?
The return of Jed Lowrie to the Red Sox was supposed to mean … well, we didn’t really know what it was going to mean. Would he get the starting gig back from the overachieving Nick Green? Or would they platoon, Lowrie starting against right-handed pitchers and Green getting the go against lefties? The mixing and matching seems to be the plan so far.
But whatever the case, the hope was that Lowrie's return would bring even more offensive production from the six spot on the lineup card.
It hasn't happened yet. Lowrie is 2-for 10 since coming back, while Green is 1-for-10 with six strikeouts.
That could be why the Red Sox are reportedly looking at Blue Jays utility infielder Marco Scutaro as a potential inclusion in a deal for Halladay.
Scutaro can play short, second and third and, as Eric Wilbur of the Globe writes, "would slide nicely into the leadoff spot that has been so troublesome for Red Sox manager Terry Francona, and perhaps provide a spark at the top of what has been a dreadful stretch for the offense."
"C'mon, he's hitting more like Nancy Drew!"
Yes, he of the zero hits since before the All-Star break. He of the .121 batting average in July. He of missing the cutoff man in the fourth on Wednesday, allowing a Rangers runner to advance and setting them up for a go-ahead, two-run inning.
Drew is frustrated with his hitting, telling the Globe that he's been more unlucky than bad at the plate. But missing a cutoff man? That's either an overestimation of your arm or a lack of focus, and from a veteran player who knows his abilities, the latter seems more likely.
"I don't know what to say other than a big question mark," said Drew after Wednesday's loss. "I don't know what in the world [is going on]."
If you've been on Mars for the last few months and haven't heard, Red Sox legend and NESN analyst Jim Rice will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sunday. He'll get his No. 14 retired by the Red Sox Tuesday, July 28, prior to a game against the A's at Fenway.
The team here at NESN would like to congratulate Jim for this truly amazing, well-deserved and long-overdue honor. Let's go to the videotape: