Bobby V. and questions of 'what if?'

900553.jpg

Bobby V. and questions of 'what if?'

Bobby Valentine was fired today, and everyone wants to throw a parade. But before we get too wrapped up in the planning, lets take a quick look back at the season. Real quick. I promise.

Bobby Valentine managed the first half of the year without his closer, his MVP-caliber center fielder and his 20M a year left fielder. Over those first few months, he also saw his former MVP second baseman fall victim to a nagging thumb injury, his first baseman (and one of the AL's best hitters) slump like a chump, his No. 1 and 2 pitchers revert back to Little League and his No. 4 starter fall off a psychological cliff. All while spending 24 hours a day tumbling in a dryer of certifiable media insanity.

At the All Star Break, the Sox were 2.5 games out of the Wild Card.

Less than two weeks later, just as Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia re-joined the line-up, Andrew Bailey was getting closer and Clay Buchholz had established himself as a legitimate ace, Valentine lost David Ortiz for the season (minus one game). Ortiz may have been a pain in the ass but he was also hands down the most reliable and essential aspect of that line-up.

On the day Ortiz went on the DL July 18 the Sox were one game back in the wild card.

After that, with the offense unable to make up for the absence of its best hitter and the pitching staff still a mess, everything slowly spun out of control. On August 10, they were 5.5 games back. On August 20, they were seven back. On August 25, they were 9.5 back, and then finally said uncle essentially trading Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett for James Loney.

Post- trade, Valentines fourth rate line up went 10-27; leaving the Sox with their worst record since 1966.

Obviously, along the way, Valentine pulled plenty of crap that's more than worthy of the criticism hes received and will continue to receive for the next couple hundred years. Theres no question that he needed to be fired this morning. Its all part of the process of cleansing that clubhouse and taking another swing at a fresh start. But for all the anger, frustration and criticism, it's fair wonder what would have happened if Ortiz had stayed healthy. Or if at any point, Valentine had been afforded the services of his entire roster at the same time.

It may not have made a difference. In fact, there's a good chance that nothing could have saved this team from eventual collapse. And maybe that's the point. But all things considered, Valentine tread water for much longer than he should have this season, and had far less to do with the disaster than history will remember.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Report: Shane Victorino released by Cubs

victorino.jpg

Report: Shane Victorino released by Cubs

Shane Victorino's career may be approaching the finish line.

The 35-year-old outfielder's attempt to catch on with the Cubs is over, as Carrie Muskat of cubs.com reports he's been released. He had suffered a calf injury in spring training and was sidelined for about a month-and-a-half, then hit .233/.324/.367 in Triple-A Iowa. 

Victorino's first year in Boston, 2013, was far and away his best, as he hit .294/.351/.451 with 15 homers and 61 RBI in helping the Red Sox win the World Series. His next two seasons were riddled with injuries, and the Sox traded him to the Angels last July at the deadline for infielder Josh Rutledge. He struggled in Anaheim (.214/.292/.286 in 98 at-bats) and was allowed to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

Bradley’s hitting streak continues, but it’s not getting any easier

trennibb1463963342825_3450k_1280x720_690700355538.jpg

Bradley’s hitting streak continues, but it’s not getting any easier

BOSTON -- The Cleveland series exposed the one glaring issue that arises when batters are on a lengthy hitting streak -- pitchers will stop pitching to you.

Although the word apparently didn’t reach them about Xander Bogaerts, who now has a 16-game hitting streak of his own, Terry Francona’s pitchers avoided Jackie Bradley, Jr. like the plague. After getting walked three times in the Kansas City series that preceded the Indians' visit to Fenway Park -- a season high in a series until that point for Bradley -- he was walked six times by Cleveland over the weekend.

In games 14 through 19 of Bradley’s 27-game streak he was 15-for-25 (.600), clearly the height of his performance in that span. Since game 20, he’s hitting .346 -- still very impressive -- but he’s only had one multi-hit game through his last eight games of his streak.

And in three of his last five games, he hasn’t gotten a hit until there have been at least two turns through the lineup.

“He’s addressing any different type of pitch thrown at him,” John Farrell said of Bradley following Sunday’s 5-2 win. “Yesterday and today, knowing that they might pitch him carefully, he’s not expanding the strike zone.”

While the walks are a testament to his impressive run, Bradley isn’t looking for any free passes. Because instead of getting three at-bats where pitchers are going after him, he’s often getting two, sometimes one at-bat with pitches he can work with.

“[I’m] just trying to see good pitches, put good swings on them and take what they’re giving me,” JBJ said about his late-game adjustments.

He claims he hasn’t noticed any tendencies from pitchers throughout the streak -- even though it seems that every single is on a pitch down and away, while every extra-base hit is a mistake on the inner half.

Either way, a few things can be said from the last eight games of JBJ’s streak.

The obvious first is his walk total is going to go up, giving him fewer opportunities to extend the streak.

Second, the real JBJ is starting to show himself. The question, “What’s going to happen when he cools down?” that arose during the point of the streak where he hit .600, is already being answered.

Bradley is showing that he’s not the same free-swinging kid Boston rushed up in 2013. He will wait for his pitch -- and take advantage of it when he gets it.