Bobby V's back up plan

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Bobby V's back up plan

Now that the Sox are winning, and the insanity surrounding just about everything has finally simmered, Bobby Valentine has been a little more forthcoming about some of the team's early struggles.

For instance, here's what he told reporters before yesterday's win against the A's.

To tell you the truth, I didn't have a what-if at the beginning of the season. Im kicking myself for it," he said. The outfield and the bullpen, I didn't have a major plan for not having Jacoby Ellsbury. My fault. I should have. And two-deep in the bullpen. The two guys we traded for during the wintertime Andrew Bailey and Melancon, you figure one of them pitching the ninth inning come April 13.

"Im kicking myself a little. I think I didn't have a great plan. But its coming together now.

Now, I can't tell if Valentine's being serious or subtly sarcastic here. Or maybe he's just trying to show some humility in the face of everyone who won't shut up about his ego. But whatever the reason, there's no need to beat himself up over that ugly opening stretch. Not about that stuff, at least.

Seriously, is there a manager in baseball who has a plan for losing his closer a few days before the season, watching his set up man turn to mush and then having his superstar lead-off hitter and center fielder disappear for six-eight weeks? No way.

You don't plan for that. If so, then where do you stop? "OK, guys. So what happens if the team bus gets sideswiped on the way to a road game and we lose half our line-up for a month, what do we do? Come, we need a plan!" At some point, you have to stop preparing for worst case scenarios and focus on the present.

Which is what I assume Valentine was doing as the Sox drudged through an awfully unlucky start to the season. But to his credit, Valentine (with a lot of help from the players, obviously) has persevered. He's found the right guys to put in the right spots and, as a result, the Sox are winning.

Now all Valentine has to do is learn the rest of his player's names, take a little more time with the opposing scouting reports (example: ALWAYS check to see if pitcher is a righty or lefty) and he'll be golden.

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

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.