Haggerty: Sox not helping cause with Valentine vote of confidence

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Haggerty: Sox not helping cause with Valentine vote of confidence

BOSTON The Boston Red Sox management and ownership are starting to take on the look and sound of FrankDrebinfrom the Naked Gun movies.

You know the one.Drebinyelling into a bull horn and exclaims to a curious group of bystanders to Move along. Theres nothing to see here. Please disperse while a warehouse is lighting up like the Fourth of July behind him.

Despite a 175 million-plus payroll team glumly sputtering along playing .500 baseball and a well-chronicled system of dysfunction between players, management and ownership, there are no changes that need to be made. Thats what John Henry and Ben Cherington are saying to the entirety of Red Sox Nation by giving the dreaded vote of confidence to Bobby Valentine on Monday afternoon.

It was done in a closed door meeting with Valentine shortly after 4 p.m. Monday afternoon when Cherington, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner met with the Sox skipper in his office.

Bobby is our manager and were not considering anybody else, said Cherington. Hes as committed to managing the team as he ever has been, and were committed to supporting him every way that we can to make this work. When the performance isnt what you want and its not and we acknowledge that winning and losing always has more to do with the players than anything else. I dont question the effort of our players. I think our players have fought and battled, and worked hard and played hard. Theyve fought out of tough things.

Its not a question of effort. But at some level the players are a reflection of me and the front office. If players win or lose more than anything else I need to be accountable for that, and I am accountable for that. In the meantime whatever puts us in the best position to win were going to continue to work on those things.

Thats got to make Valentine especially excited because the dreaded vote of confidence is usually followed by a pink slip not too long afterward.

The Sox front office and ownership are telling their fans that theres nothing to see here while an underachieving organization continues to flounder like a dying fish on a kitchen counter behind them.

Everybody knows the players are the individuals most responsible for an uninspiring 54-55 record nearly 100 games into the regular season. But Sox management made their decision to keep the Island of Misfit Baseball Players together during the July 31 trade deadline, so theres little that can be done to alter a group of grousing, underperforming ballplayers.

That relative inaction at the trade deadline was something Cherington almost sounded remorseful about while reserving judgment until after the season when asked whether the team needs a shake to jolt them awake.

Usually when that question is asked it relates to a player move, and at the deadline we were in a little bit of unfamiliar territory, said Cherington. Part of the conversation was about justifying a middle ground approach based on where we are, but would be there be some benefit in something bold to give the team a bit of a shakeup.

Ultimately we decided that we believe in our core of players and our best chance was to mostly keep them together given the opportunities we have. We werent going to make a shakeup move and get worse in the process. Well see. Time will tell moving forward if those decisions were the right ones. I dont think necessarily that is what needed. The biggest shakeup would be to collectively perform better and that starts with me.

News flash to Cherington: waiting until after the season to determine whether a team needs a shakeup is way, way too late.

Something is rotten along Yawkey Way, and its not last nights half-eaten hamburgers from RemDogs.

The team is badly in need of a spark or a shake-up after dropping three out of four to the lowly Minnesota Twins in their latest achievement in mediocrity. Its part of the general managers job description to determine when an underperforming team needs a swift kick in the backside.

A Red Sox team 10 games back in the division, five games back in the wild card and one game under .500 in mid-August most definitely qualifies for a punitive approach.

But Cherington, Henry, Lucchino and Co. seem to expect the Sox to suddenly find some inspiration and reel off 20 wins in 24 games without any outside impetus.

Sometimes its unfair to turf the manager in professional sports, but more often than not a team responds to that kind of personnel change regardless of whether hes the person most responsible for lackluster performance.

Valentine has done some good things. He recognized the talent of Franklin Morales as a starting pitcher, and has found a diamond in the rough in infielder Pedro Ciriaco. He appears to have a keen eye for talent when it comes to evaluating players at the big league level.

But hes suffered from a fractious relationship with the bulk of the Sox nucleus from the very beginning, and he offers very little explanation for his managerial moves after the fact. He appears to have a very tenuous hold on the status of his injured players, and is routinely looking around for help from the PR staff when going over any number of players rehab progressions.

For a baseball market that demands precision, accountability and unwavering confidence in their skipper, Valentine inspires none of these things. NESN replays in the dugout following Joe Mauers heart-breaking ninth inning home run uncovered Valentine as a lip-licking, fidgeting bundle of nerves that appeared ready for a nervous baseball breakdown.

Thats not the kind of leader of men the Red Sox need when things are going bad, and its not the kind of manager thats going to inspire confidence that the moth-ridden Red Sox are about to climb out of their year-long funk.

Valentine might not be the biggest problem as Henry surmised in an email hours before Mondays big game against the Texas Rangers.

But he sure as hell is not a part of any solution that will ultimately get Boston out of their baseball morass, and that should make the decision to jettison Valentine a relatively easy one.

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.