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Another season, another horrid start, and a lot of concerns surrounding this year’s Red Sox squad. Mark Melancon’s ERA is higher than Jamie Moyer’s age, the DL has a higher payroll than the San Diego Padres, and Jacoby Ellsbury won’t be throwing the javelin anytime soon (let alone play the outfield).
One trend that hasn’t been discussed, however, is Bobby Valentine’s heavy reliance on the bench. On one hand, it could be argued it’s the beginning of the season, which for some reason means players need to ease back into things (because that’s not what the two months of Spring training are for). Nevertheless, the team with the better players tends to win. So when a team’s best players are constantly sitting out, is it that surprising when they don’t win?
To prove this point, look no further than Kelly Shoppach. Kelly Shoppach is not a good baseball player. Yeah, he’s hitting .375 now, but unless MLB’s drug testing policy loosens up, he’ll most likely return to his sexy .226 career average. Despite having a solid catcher in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Shoppach has started 5 of the first 12 games. That’s about 41% of the games, which over a full season translates to 67 games. Didn’t Jason Varitek in his prime play about four out of five games (leaving the backup to play 20%)? Additionally, the timing of when he plays is curious. Salty has not had a great start to the year, so when he hits his first home run of the year, the obvious thing to do is bench him in favor of a lifetime backup. None of this is to say that if Saltalamacchia had started those 5 games the Red Sox would be 5-0, but a lineup with Salty in it is always better than a lineup with Shoppach in it.
Since Ellsbury is injured and Ben Cherington refuses to acquire legitimate major league talent, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of this guy. Can we first pause a minute and ask why? McDonald has been a career minor leaguer and probably wouldn’t crack the Kansas City Royals opening lineup, so what is he doing here?
Additionally, he’s 33…which doesn’t leave a lot of room for growth. And the most irritating part of all is everyone who cites his “strong 2010 campaign.” In 2010 he hit 9 home runs and 34 RBIs, with a .270 average. Am I missing something?
Wouldn’t Boston be better off letting someone from the farm play some major league ball to help development? Darnell McDonald has no business donning a Red Sox uniform and it is foolish to think Boston has the slightest chance of competing if he is depended on for anything more than filling up cups of Gatorade for a somewhat talented major league outfielder. Josh Reddick never looked so good.
(As a side note: Didn’t Mike Aviles work on playing right field over the Winter? With the Ellsbury injury, this could bring an end to the Aviles is blocking Iglesias nonsense. Why not put Aviles in right and let Iglesias and his non-existent bat give it a go? The Red Sox have nothing to lose except the 150 games left in the regular season.)
My favorite. Before we begin, let’s ignore the fact that a Scutaro/Aviles combo would have been significantly better than an Aviles/Punto/extra $6M (that will never be used) combo. Nick Punto has played 5 games this year (again about 41% of the games). When mastermind Valentine decided he doesn’t think Youkilis is trying, he benched him (why didn’t this receive any fan fare?) in favor of Nicky P. The only problem is that a one-legged Youkilis would still be better than Nick Punto. So far, the Red Sox have played third basemen including Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, and Evan Longoria. When Nick Punto is the guy you’re sending out to play, it doesn’t take a genius to predict the outcome.
Over the offseason, Bobby Valentine was hailed as a traditional baseball strategist, but all I see is a fidgety, attention-seeking, control freak. The elite of the American League can boast Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Curtis Granderson among others at their disposal. When you sound out Kelly Shoppach and Nick Punto, what do you expect?
A huge amount of blame falls on the incompetent front office for not being prepared, but at the same time maybe the starters should be allowed to…well, start. Twelve games is a small sample size, but it is absurd to think the Red Sox can play like a top team when they constantly send out borderline major leaguers. It’s simply a matter of playing the guys who put the team in the best position to win. How often do position players need a day off? Once every one or two weeks? Right now, it just seems like a little much.
The criticism directed towards the Red Sox is probably deserved, but maybe we should see what the starters can do before staring baffled at the American League East standings.