McAdam: It's a start for the Sox

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McAdam: It's a start for the Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK - There were, of course, no celebrations or back-slapping in the Red Sox clubhouse late Sunday night.

True, the Red Sox had finished off a sweep of the New York Yankees, capped by a 7-5 victory, a win which left them with a 20-20 record and enabled them to reach the elusive .500 mark.

But for a team established as the consensus favorite in the division, burnished with a 165 million payroll, this was no monumental achievement. Rather than letting loose with a congratulatory cheer, the night called for a sigh of relief.

"It actually feels good," said Terry Francona with a slight hint of self-consciousness. "This is not really what our goal is. But we're making strides. We played a good series."

Mediocrity, at last.

And yet, however modest the accomplishment, it hadn't been easy.

Three times previously, they had been within a game of .500, only to lose the next game, as if the break-even point was some carrot at the end of a stick they could not quite grasp.

When they tripped over themselves at the start, going 0-6 en route to a 2-10 record, Francona warned it would take some time to clean up the mess they had made. But surely not even Francona thought that it would take more than six weeks.

In a sense, the Sox had spent the first month-and-a-half running uphill, a sort of extended spring training. They were fortunate that no one in the division sprinted too far ahead, allowing them to keep within three games of first place in the American League East.

As they had last month, the Yankees had served as a catalyst -- rather than an obstacle - for the Red Sox. Typically, these series bring out the best in both teams, but in two series now, the meetings have boosted only the Red Sox, who have dominated their rivals, winning five of six.

"It's definitely a positive," said Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who chipped in with two hits, including his first homer of the season, Sunday night. "But we can't focus on trying to get to .500 or trying to get through this week. We've got to focus on the next game.

"I think that's what we tried to do too early. We thought about what we were going to do, instead of just going out there and playing. That's what we starting to do - play game-by-game."

The schedule offers them an opportunity. Thirteen of the next 20 games are at Fenway, and of those 20, just nine of those are against teams with winning records.

Now would be a good time for the Sox to go on the kind of roll they experienced in late April - when they went 8-1- and build some actual progress.

Not that they are without some remaining issues. Until back-end starters John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka gain some consistency, it will be difficult to sustain any forward momentum.

And it would help for the offense to begin fully clicking, enough to at least occasionally overcome some less-than-quality outings from their starters. To date, the Sox have averaged slightly less than 4.5 runs per game, hardly the kind of powerhouse attack they expected.

Still, as they packed for home, there was the feeling that, at last, they were ready to engage. Like back-of-the-pack marathoners, they had taken a long time just to reach the starting line.

"It's not what we're shooting for," emphasized Francona of the break-even point. "But we're coming. We're getting better."

Much later than expected, it should be noted. But better, nonetheless.

Forty games in, it's a start.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Youkilis weighs in on Valentine possibly being Japan ambassador

Youkilis weighs in on Valentine possibly being Japan ambassador

Among the reactions to the news that Bobby Valentine was possibly being considered to be the US amassador to Japan in President Donald Trump’s administration was this beauty from Kevin Youkilis. 

Valentine famously called out Youkilis early in his stormy tenure as Red Sox manager in 2012. Remember? "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason," Bobby V said of Youk at the time. 

The Red Sox traded Youkilis to the White Sox for two not-future Hall of Famers, outfielder Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, later that season.

Youkilis, now Tom Brady’s brother-in-law by the way, had a 21-game stint playing in Japan in 2014 before retiring from baseball. 

 

Report: Bobby Valentine could be Trump’s US ambassador to Japan

Report: Bobby Valentine could be Trump’s US ambassador to Japan

Major league manager. Inventor of the wrap sandwich. Champion ballroom dancer.  And…

US ambassador to Japan?

Bobby Valentine is on the short list for that position in President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a WEEI.com report.

The former Red Sox manager (fired after a 69-93 season and last-place finish in 2012), and ex-New York Mets and Texas Rangers, skipper, also managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons. 

When asked by the New York Daily News if he's being considered for the post, Valentine responded: "I haven't been contacted by anyone on Trump's team." 

Would he be interested?

"I don't like to deal in hypotheticals," Valentine told the Daily News.

Valentine, 66, has known the President-elect and Trump's brother Bob since the 1980s, is close to others on Trump’s transition team and has had preliminary discussions about the ambassador position, sources told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. 

Valentine, currently the athletic director of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., is also friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like Valentine, attended the University of Southern California.