First Pitch: Thursday, September 22

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First Pitch: Thursday, September 22

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

Welcome toFirst Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Wednesday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(hardballtalk.nbcsports.com).

CHECKLIST:Let's see. They can't win when putrid starting pitchingputs them in an early hole from which they can't escape.

Theycan't win when they take a lead into the late innings and hand the ballto their most trusted relievers.

And now we discoverthey can't win whenthey hand their ace a 4-1 lead after five innings, or a 4-2 lead aftersix. (csnne.com)

More and more,that little joke we made yesterday is looking like an absolute truth:The only way the Red Sox will make the playoffs is if the Rays (and nowthe Angels, as well) lose all the rest of their games, because the Soxthemselves apparently plan on going0-for-infinity.

Not that it isn't a possibility, aswe'll see in a moment (at least as far as the Rays are concerned), butas strategies go . . . well, I've seen better.

Lastnight's goat wasJosh Beckett (csnne.com), who did it differently than hisrotation brethren -- he actually got out of the third inning -- butcouldn't hold a comfortable, late-inning lead against an awful opponenton a night when his team absolutely, positively needed him to step up.It was just thelatest in a series of pitching failures (Boston Herald) that havemade the Sox a national laughingstock and placed them on the precipiceof an historic September collapse. Ex-Sox GM Dan Duquette concurs,saying, "Ifthey don't make the playoffs, it's pretty clear why they didn't: It'sbecause of the pitching." (weei.com)

There's a little more to it than that -- assi.com's JoeLemire points out, thestreaky Sox' offense has scored 66 runs in the team's 5 wins thismonth, and 56 runs in the 16 losses -- but good pitching canwipe out a variety of ills. What the Red Sox have been getting thismonth barely resembles pitching, at least not of the major leaguevariety.

Which explains quite a bit about what'shappening now.

BEEN THERE: Orioles coach Willie Randolph wasmanager of the Mets when they blew a huge lead in 2007, and heknows what Terry Francona is going through. (ProvidenceJournal)

DONE THAT: Red Sox fans traditionally wouldblame the manager during bad times, but two championships seemed toinoculate Francona from that kind of criticism. Notanymore, says Tony Massarotti. (boston.com)

AND THAT: Controversy alsoseems to rear its ugly head during stretches like this, but JasonVaritek nipped one of them right in the bud. (BostonHerald)

GIVE ME SOMETHING, ANYTHING TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT:Well . . . ClayBuchholz may pitch this weekend. (csnne.com)

'YOU FEEL LUCKY': And whynot? The Rays have lost three straight to the Yankees andonly lost half-a-game in the standings. (St. PetersburgTimes)

LET'S GET REAL, SHALL WE? Ken Rosenthal saysthat, while you have to admire their spunk, the Rays -- as the Yankeesare demonstrating -- don't have the talent to be in the postseason andthe Red Sox "shouldbe embarrassed that the wild-card race is even close."(foxsports.com)

I think theyare, Ken. I think they are.

GUESS WHAT: The Rays aren'tthe only team in the Sox' rear-view mirror. (espn.com)
EVERYTHING HAS A PRICE: Yes, the Yankees helpedout the Red Sox by beating the Rays last night . . . but theyclinched the A.L. East in the process. (New York Daily News) Itcertainly madethem happy. (New YorkPost) JorgePosada, especially. (New York Post)

ONE MAN'S FLOOR IS ANOTHER MAN'S CEILING:Old friend David Pinto thinks the Yankees' division titleis BrianCashman and Joe Girardi's finest hour. (baseballmusings.com)

SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY:Cashman, incidentally, says one of the reasons for theYankees' resurgence from their mid-2000s doldrums is that hestudied the Red Sox and copied the 'Moneyball'-style tactics of TheoEpstein. (si.com)

MISERY LOVES COMPANY: Don'tfeel bad; theRed Sox aren't the only ones collapsing. (baseballmusings.com)

OLD FRIENDS: Derek Lowefinally came through for the Braves, butit didn't help (mlb.com) . . . After all that talk about histhreatening the record for home runs allowed, wouldn't you know that BronsonArroyo would go out and pitcha shutout (rotoworld.com) . . . There'd be no 'Moneyball'withoutBill James (si.com). But that would be fine with ChrisRusso . . .
AND FINALLY . . . who showswhy theycall him The Mad Dog. (siriusxmsports.com)

Rosenthal: 'Some' Sox players question Farrell's leadership, game management

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Rosenthal: 'Some' Sox players question Farrell's leadership, game management

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal ignited a local firestorm when he made a seemingly off-hand comment a few days ago that he "wouldn't be surprised" if the Red Sox fired John Farrell this year. (He quickly added he also "wouldn't be surprised" if Farrell stayed on and led the team to the A.L. East title this year, but that got scant mention.)

Today, however, Rosenthal expounded on Farrell and the Sox in a lengthy column on foxsports.com. While acknowledging the team's injuries and beyond-the-manager's-control inconsistencies (in the starting rotation and with the offense), he also ominously added, "The excuses for the Sox, though, go only so far — all teams deal with injuries, and not all of them boast $200 million payrolls. Other issues also have emerged under Farrell . . . "

Farrell, even when he won the 2013 World Series as a rookie manager, was not popular in all corners of the clubhouse. Some players, but not all, believe that he does not stand up for them strongly enough to the media when the team is struggling, sources say. Some also question Farrell’s game management, talk that exists in virtually every clubhouse, some more than others.

And then he mentioned two leadership problems:

The first occurred during the Red Sox’s prolonged dispute with the Orioles’ Manny Machado. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, after Matt Barnes threw at Machado’s head, shouted across the field to Machado, 'it wasn’t me,' then told reporters that it was 'definitely a mishandled situation,' without mentioning Barnes or Farrell by name . . . 

The second incident occurred last Saturday, when Farrell engaged in a heated exchange with left-hander Drew Pomeranz in the dugout . . . [Pomeranz's] willingness to publicly challenge Farrell, in an exchange captured by television cameras, offered another indication that the manager and some of his players are not always on the same page.

Hmm.

Rosenthal's piece comes at a time when some of Farrell's harshest local critics are more or less giving him a pass, instead blaming Dave Dombrowski's flawed roster construction for the Sox' early season struggles , , , 

But there has been speculation hereabouts on whether or not Farrell has control of the clubhouse . . . 

Now that Rosenthal has weighed in, that sort of talk should increase.

In the end, Rosenthal makes no prediction on Farrell's future other than to conclude "If Dombrowski senses a change is necessary, he’ll make a change." 

But one prediction that can be made: The should-Farrell-be-fired? debate, which raged at unrealistic levels last year when the Red Sox won the division, isn't going to end anytime soon.