Three things we learned about the Red Sox on Thursday

Three things we learned about the Red Sox on Thursday
July 25, 2014, 11:30 am
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TAMPA -- Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 8-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday in Toronto:

1) Conspiracy theories grow in the strangest places

When David Ortiz felt a muscle pull in his back Wednesday night, then aggravated it again in the ninth inning Thursday afternoon, it set some to deduce that Ortiz was feigning injury.

Why would Ortiz do such a thing? Well, to evade having to face David Price Friday night, of course. Or so it was suggested.

It's hard to know where to start with this. Let's begin with logic, which seems in short supply. Is Ortiz faking because he's afraid of being hit again by Price, as he was earlier this season? The chances of Price deliberately throwing at Ortiz -- with all the attention this matchup has gathered -- is less than zero. Price narrowly escaped a suspension last time. But now, with more watching, he's going to drill Ortiz again? In a must-win series for his team? In what may be possibly be his last start for the Rays with the deadline beckoning?

Or is Ortiz reluctant to face Price? Until Thursday, Ortiz was on one of his patented hot streaks, having hit four homers in the previous three games. Wouldn't this be precisely when Ortiz would want to face Price?

Say what you want about Ortiz, but he's seldom -- if ever -- ducked opponents. He has a well-documented history of responding to the game's biggest moments. But now, he's afraid of facing Price?

Ortiz, of course, is not without his faults. His refusal to run hard to first base on ground balls is, at the very least, disappointing. And his petulance when circumstances (or media) turn against him is far from admirable.

But labeling him as a malingerer, inventing injury to avoid a specific pitcher, is so off-base it's laughable.


2) Thursday was a vivid reminder that young pitching needs time to develop.

Two starts ago, Rubby De La Rosa was brilliant, allowing a single run in seven innings. Thursday afternoon, he was brutal, chased in the fifth inning after allowing eight runs.

De La Rosa has plus stuff and can be dominant. But he made his major league debut in 2011, and here it is, three years later, and there's still some stark inconsistency to his outings.

The lesson? If the Red Sox don't extend themselves financially and re-sign Jon Lester, claiming that the stash of pitching prospects will be enough to replace the veteran lefty at a fraction of the cost, they're fooling themselves.

Without Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz will be the lone experienced holdovers in the 2015 reputation. That means that the likes of De La Rosa, Brandon Workman and someone else (Anthony Ranaudo? Allen Webster?) will grab the fifth spot.

That's a lot of inexperience for one staff, one that will provide flashes of brilliance, along with the inevitable downturns like the one seen Thursday at the Rogers Centre.

3) Maybe Bud Selig isn't such a bad commissioner after all.

Imagine the outrage if a baseball player -- and a well-known one at that -- beat a woman senseless, in a public elevator, with the entire incident caught on video. And then imagine that Selig, after months of deliberation and stalling, finally responded with a 20-game suspension.

You'd near earplugs to tune out the anger, all of it justified.

But when Roger Goodell does the same things -- a two-game suspension for Ray Rice is the equivalent of 20 in a baseball season -- there's some pushback, but not much.

Very few columnists, or football beat writers, have called Goodell's punishment for what it is: a joke.

No, there's nothing funny about a woman being assaulted. But this type of behavior has become fairly routine in the NFL and Goodell's chance to take a strong stand on it resulted in a mere slap on the wrist.

Selig gets rightfully criticized for taking too long to address the steroid epidemic that infected baseball, all on his watch. But he's since made up for that with the strongest testing program and strongest penalties of the four major sports, including regular HGH testing. (By contrast, the NFL has dragged its feet on this).

And Selig went to great lengths to prosecute players who were implicated by the Biogenesis scandal, handing out harsh penalties to
All-Star players.

If the blight on Selig's legacy is his slow response to PEDs, then Goodell's will be a failure to address the increasingly violence -- to women and others -- off the field.

You tell me which is a bigger failing.