Valentine is the least of Boston's problems - NBC Sports

Valentine is the least of Boston's problems
Pitching is terrible, too many players are on the DL ... but, hey, 4-8 isn't THAT bad
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Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine pulls starting pitcher Jon Lester in the third inning of Boston's 18-3 loss to Texas on Tuesday.
April 20, 2012, 6:04 pm

The celebration long ago had been planned for Friday - Fenway Park turns 100, and all former Red Sox players have been invited back - but truth is, the timing doesn't look good.

Terry Francona says he will be on hand, and while some of the Fenway faithful wouldn't mind seeing the former manager back in uniform and in the dugout, the Red Sox's issues go much deeper than who's writing out the lineup cards and holding pre- and post-game media briefings:

Roster construction: For a team with a payroll above $175 million, this isn't exactly the 2004 or 2007 Red Sox roster in terms of talent. Of that total, $108 million is tied up in only seven players, and $137.75 million in the 11 highest-paid players (numbers from Baseball Prospectus): Adrian Gonzalez ($21 million), Carl Crawford ($19.5 million), Josh Beckett ($15.75 million), John Lackey ($15.25 million), David Ortiz ($14.575 million), Kevin Youkilis ($12 million), Daisuke Matsuzaka ($10 million), Dustin Pedroia ($8 million), Jacoby Ellsbury ($8.05 million), Jon Lester ($7.625 million), Bobby Jenks ($6 million).

Image: New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox

Images of former Boston Red Sox legends and fans who turned out for the ballpark's anniversary celebration.

And now, the two supposed answers for the lack of pitching depth that cost the Red Sox so dearly down the stretch last September aren't on the active roster.

Bailey's injury history should have been more of a red flag, and while it's hard to explain the depth of Melancon's struggles, you can question trading Jed Lowrie - one of two shortstops dealt in the off-season - along with pitching prospect Kyle Weiland, for him.

Melancon is back in Triple-A trying to sort things out after a disastrous couple of outings, including three home runs allowed, another hit and two walks to six batters in the 18-3 Texas massacre Tuesday. Melancon also took the loss on Opening Day, and allowed five home runs in two innings after only five in 74.1 innings in 2011.

Injuries: It's hard not to notice how many of the names listed above are on the disabled list - $62.7 million worth in Crawford, Lackey, Matsuzaka, Ellsbury, Jenks and Bailey.

The good news is Crawford is playing in extended-spring games, and appears to be relatively close to returning. Ellsbury is expected to return within two months - as opposed to undergoing a season-ending surgery. Matsuzaka's return could occur in June, and Bailey could be back for the second half.

But in the meantime ...

It's not Bobby Valentine's fault he has an outfield of journeymen best suited for time-share situations in Ross, Sweeney, Darnell McDonald and Jason Repko. Not exactly Jim Rice, Freddy Lynn and Dewey Evans - or even Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Trot Nixon.

But there isn't anything better in the system, with Ryan Kalish also injured - one of 10 players on the 40-man roster on the DL.

Ross - a nice, veteran role player - wasn't even re-signed by the offense-starved Giants this winter, and hit cleanup Wednesday.

But even without Crawford and Ellsbury, the offense will produce. Through 12 games, the Red Sox sat fourth in the AL in runs scored. The pitching, on the other hand, has been disastrous: Dead-last in the majors (and it wasn't really close in any category) in ERA, runs allowed, opponents' batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.

In the 18-3 loss to Texas, the 20 hits allowed was Boston's most since 2008, the 15-run deficit the club's biggest since 2000, and six homers allowed for only the 13th time in club history.

In light of those numbers, leaving in left-hander Franklin Morales to face three consecutive right-handed hitters in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 6-2 loss - while certainly second-guessable - is hardly the worst thing that's happened with Red Sox's pitching through the first two weeks.

It was a Valentine decision that backfired, turning a 3-2 game into a 6-2 loss. And again, it's not like Jonathan Papelbon was left sitting in the pen; it was Matt Albers and Vicente Padilla.

Valentine has made matters worse by publicly questioning the emotional commitment of a long-time grinder in Youkilis. But truth is, the flap will disappear with a few wins, and if it doesn't, news flash: Players don't always like their managers. Besides, Youkilis does look slow afield and off at the plate, hopefully the result of a nagging groin injury, as opposed to age catching up to him.

And 4-8 isn't 7-20 - the Red Sox's record down the stretch last season. And it's not 2-10, the Red Sox's mark after 12 games last season.

The schedule also hasn't been kind, as the Red Sox already have seen the Tigers, Blue Jays, Rays and Rangers before the weekend series against the Yankees. It finally lightens up next week, with a stretch of 22 games against the Twins, White Sox, A's, Orioles, Royals, Indians and Mariners. Let's see where things stand at that point.


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