So what's wrong with the Red Sox?

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As I type this the Red Sox are down 8-2 to the Rays, and are about to lose their fifth straight game and their sixth out of seven. In ATH this morning I wrote that we’d see a bunch of “what’s wrong with the Red Sox” articles today, but I didn’t see any. With this fresh debacle to the Rays, however, I’m sure we’ll see them tomorrow.

Ah, screw it. Let’s write one of our own!  So what is wrong with the Red Sox?

  • Cold bats: As I type this the Rays game is still happening so it may get worse or may get better, but currently they’re 1 for 30-something with runners in scoring position (that one came courtesy of a Bill Hall single a few minutes ago). They’ve scored nine runs in the past five games.  Dustin Pedroia is hitting so far this season. Youkilis is doing OK too. Everyone else is snoozing. At least one of the snoozers — David Ortiz — may never wake up.
  • Health: Two-thirds of the outfield is out, Cameron with kidney stones and Ellsbury with his bruised ribs. This has contributed to the cold bats, of course, as well as some recently shaky defense. When those other “what’s wrong” articles come tomorrow morning you just watch: they’re going to say that the whole run prevention/defense approach is a failure. They won’t acknowledge that it’s hard to play good defense when two of your best defensive players are on the shelf.
  • The Competition: Like I said this morning, part of the reason the Red Sox have looked so bad over the last week is because their competition has been so good. The Rays don’t look like world beaters simply because they’ve been playing the Sox. They’re really, really good in their own right (I picked them second this year). Same goes for the Twins, who could run away with the AL Central if they keep doing what they’ve been doing. Getting beat by good teams doesn’t mean you’re fatally-flawed. It just means you’re not as good as the other guys.

But you know what? We can sit here and talk about what specifically ails the Sox all afternoon, but ultimately it may not matter. As soon as this game ends the Sox will be six games back of the Rays and 5.5 back of the Yankees. That’s an awful big hole for this early in the season in a division like the AL East.

So can what’s wrong with the Red Sox be fixed? I don’t know, but it may already be a pretty irrelevant question.

Dan Straily suspended five games, Don Mattingly one for throwing at Buster Posey

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Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Marlins pitcher Dan Straily has been suspended five games and Don Mattingly one game for throwing intentionally at Giants catcher Buster Posey on Tuesday in San Francisco. Straily plans to appeal his suspension, so he will be allowed to take his normal turn through the rotation until that matter is settled.

Everything started on Monday, when the Marlins rallied in the ninth inning against closer Hunter Strickland. That included a game-tying single from Lewis Brinson, who pumped his fist and yelled in celebration. Strickland took exception, jawing at Brinson who was on third base when the right-hander was taken out of the game. Strickland went into the clubhouse and punched a door, breaking his hand.

The next day, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez hit Brinson with a fastball, which prompted warnings for both teams. Mattingly came out to argue with the umpires about the fairness of issuing warnings right then and there. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly apparently said, “You’re next” to Posey, who was standing around home plate. The next inning, Straily hit Posey on the arm with a fastball, which led to immediate ejections for both him and Mattingly.

Neither Rodriguez nor Giants manager Bruce Bochy were reprimanded, which is ludicrous because it was plainly obvious Rodriguez was throwing at Brinson. But neither team had been issued warnings. Essentially, Major League Baseball is giving free reign for teams to get their revenge pitches in. Furthermore, Straily’s five-game suspension is hardly a deterrent for throwing at a hitter. The Marlins could simply give Straily an extra day of rest and it’s like he was never suspended at all.

Beanball wars are bad for baseball. It puts players at risk for obvious reasons. When players have to miss time due to avoidable injury, self-inflicted (in the case of Strickland) or not (if, for example, Posey had a hand or wrist broken from Straily’s pitch), the game suffers because it becomes an inferior product. That’s, of course, second behind the simple fact that throwing at a player is a tremendously childish way to handle a disagreement. When aimed intentionally at another human being, a baseball is a weapon. That’s especially true when it’s in the hands of someone who has been trained to throw anywhere from 90 to 100 MPH.

Commisioner Rob Manfred has spent a lot of time trying to make the game of baseball more appealing, such adding pitch clocks and limiting mound visits. He should spend some time addressing the throwing-at-batters problem.