EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 9, 2012

Red Sox' disaster resulted from bad communication, pitching

On Pro Baseball Christopher Smith
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Poor communication, horrific starting pitching, an ignorant manager, no team personality and a blurred chain of command sums up what we saw from the 2012 Boston Red Sox.

Season 100 of Fenway Park was an absolute disaster — uglier than the ‘80, ‘81 and ‘82 seasons of Friendly Fenway when Butch Hobson was skipper.

Boston finished below 70 wins for the first time since 1965 (not including strike-shortened seasons).

The season was a complete train wreck. Here’s why:

1). Bobby V’s ignorance.

Bobby Valentine, who was fired Thursday, will go down as one of the most ignorant managers in club history.

A few examples:

— He didn’t know when Carl Crawford was ready to start taking swings in spring training.

— He stacked his lineup April 25 with right-handed hitters thinking Twins righty Liam Hendriks was a lefty.

— He was wrong about the details concerning the team’s plan to give Crawford occasional rest after the left fielder returned from the 60-day disabled list.

— He said DH David Ortiz was without pain in his strained right Achilles tendon on a day Ortiz said he still experienced pain.

2). Lester, starting pitching stunk.

The starting pitching was as equally pathetic as the manager. The starting pitchers combined for a 48-72 record and 5.19 ERA.

After posting a 3.37 ERA combined from 2009-11, Opening Day starter Jon Lester went 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA this year.

Lester needs a “Life is Good” T-shirt. He walked around almost all summer like his dog had just got run over by a truck.

Yes, anyone would be angry and miserable if he had as miserable a season as Lester had, but maybe some positive energy from him would have helped him pitch better.

3). Salty added to pitching woes.

Starting backstop Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s ERA was 4.88, ranking him 89th out of the 108 players to catch in a major league game this season.

Lester’s ERA in 107 innings that Saltalamacchia caught was 5.62 compared to a 3.70 ERA in the 48 innings caught by Kelly Shoppach, who is known for his defense.

Clay Buchholz posted a 6.30 ERA in the 75.2 innings that Saltalamacchia caught compared to a 3.23 in the 78 innings caught by Shoppach, who was traded to the Mets during the season.

Meanwhile, Ryan Lavarnway had a catcher’s ERA of 5.96 in 28 games, 25 starts.

Lavarnway threw out only 3 of 31 (9.7 percent) of base stealers. Saltalamacchia caught just 18 of 98 base stealers (18.4 percent).

GM Ben Cherington and his staff must think long and hard if they can really rely on a Lavarnway and Saltalamacchia combo next year.

4). The issues beyond injuries.

The Red Sox had 27 different players combine for 34 separate DL stints, both of which are the most by a Sox team since at least 1971 and the most by any team since at least 1987, according to team notes.

Yes, the Red Sox offense was greatly hurt when David Ortiz went on the DL.

But here’s the real concern: Why were there so many injuries to begin with and why did it appear like there was a lack of communication and even disputes between the medical staff and the manager, especially when the medical staff was restructured last offseason?

5). No chain of command.

President/CEO Larry Lucchino admitted Thursday that he and Cherington did not empower Valentine as much as they could have.

So not only did Lucchino and Cherington fail to empower Valentine but Lucchino didn’t empower Cherington to pick his own manager.

Overall, issues of power and chain of command became a huge reason why this team went 69-93, why players ended up going behind Valentine’s back to ownership to hold team meeting regarding Valentine and why Alfredo Aceves demanded a meeting with Cherington when he lost his closer job.

Aceves didn’t receive the meeting and was suspended. But by that time, it was too late. The chain of command had been blurry all season and the Red Sox were a terrible team.

6). The biggest reason: The team had no personality.

The 2011 Atlanta Braves went 9-18 and the 2011 Red Sox went 7-20 last September.

The Braves were motivated by that and made the playoffs this season. The Red Sox, meanwhile, let the drama and poor performance carry into this year.

This team had some good personalities on it. But overall, the team didn’t have the right collective personality to even spend one day in first or second place despite a lot of talent.