"Nothing," they said, hiding their mouths behind their hands as they smirked and chortled to each other. "In fact, we'll give you the Red Sox. Enjoy yourself, Bobby. You deserve to be back in baseball."
That may be farce, but Valentine's managerial tenure with the Red Sox certainly took a turn into the unbelievable on Saturday, when what was once a certain victory over the Yankees devolved into another mess.
Valentine has seen it all this season. His starting trifecta of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz has put up awful starts. Then the offense failed to score for games on end. Finally, the flavor of this week: the great imploding bullpen. It's not a stretch to start thinking that this couldn't all be Bobby's fault.
Valentine got his share of boos during Saturday's loss to the Yankees, a game the Red Sox led 9-0 until the Yankees scored 15 unanswered runs. But Terry Francona — or even the Zeus of the baseball gods, for that matter — couldn’t have made a difference in this one.
Valentine is driving a car that's three parts Ferrari, one part junker. And if that wasn't a big enough challenge already, the junker pieces keep moving to different parts of the car.
Felix Doubront was terrific Saturday, one of the first times this season that could be said about the starting pitching. He went six innings, allowing four hits and just one earned run on a solo homer.
The offense came to play, too. David Ortiz is batting .436, Ryan Sweeney .390, Mike Aviles .294. The team combined for 17 hits, including five doubles and a home run on Saturday. The bats were roaring.
But it took six pitchers to drag the Red Sox through the final three innings of the game. In the seventh and the eighth, those pitchers gave up seven runs apiece. The final line: three innings, 12 hits, 14 runs (13 of them earned), five walks, two strikeouts.
Mark Melancon, now bunking in Pawtucket, was apparently not the weak link.
The Red Sox still led 9-8 when Valentine made his most daring move of the night. He called in closer Alfredo Aceves in the eighth inning to keep the tenuous lead.
Aceves ended up being the only Sox reliever not to record an out, even with his throwing 30 pitches.
The next few times Valentine emerged with his hook, he was also accompanied by boos.
But what could he have done? Aceves, who has been able to take out opposing batters ever since the disastrous opening weekend series in Detroit, was the Red Sox' best hope in that situation. Vicente Padilla and Franklin Morales have also been good in long relief for Boston this season. Who would have known that they would crumple against the Yankees?
The Red Sox have faced very tough competition ever since the season began — the class of the American League, really.
It's fair to guess that this is as bad as it can get, that the breakdown of one or more part of Boston's game was only to be expected with night after night against the heavy hitters.
So, is that it? That the Red Sox just stink this season?
No, the Red Sox have too much talent for this to be the end. Boston really is loaded with excellent players on the pitching staff and throughout the batting order (and no, not Marlon Byrd, although he could plug a hole).
The Red Sox just need to get all of these different parts that were once performing very well here or there to start working together. Instead of the bullpen falling apart for 14 earned runs, how about four? The offense can contribute five or six runs a game, instead of one run here and nine there. The starters can ramp up their performances and go a little deeper.
That's fine in theory — like telling the team, "OK, so we need to start winning now." Of course they do.
But the Red Sox are finally at a point in the season where they can start doing it. After Sunday night's final hurrah with the Yankees, Boston hits the road. The Sox play three in Minnesota, four in Chicago and three in Oakland before returning home to face Baltimore, Kansas City, Cleveland and Seattle. That's a dream schedule.
Valentine and the rest of the team were right when they said you can't just look at the first six games of the season and draw conclusions. That's also true about the first 14 games. It's especially true when all of these games have been against the American League's best.
Let's see where the Red Sox are in a month. Give them some time with the Twins, the Royals, the A's and the O's.
It's not a case of Boston feasting on inferior competition — these are major league teams, but they're teams the Sox should be able to handle. They can use the games to figure out what needs to change and how to make it happen. Up until now, it's been a guessing game — a guessing game in the jowls of opponents who are ready to pounce. Once the Sox have some time working out the problems, then they can return and face the big guns again.
If Valentine goes back for another word with the baseball gods, all he should ask them for at this point is one more month. The Red Sox could be a very different team by then.
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