Red Sox owner John W. Henry is in Seattle, but said in an email he is not there to fire manager Bobby Valentine, despite rampant speculation that the team’s disastrous West Coast swing might prompt him to do so.
"No!" he wrote in answer to a question of whether he had gone to Seattle for that purpose.
General manager Ben Cherington also has joined the club in Seattle, where the Sox begin a three-game series Monday after being swept by the Angels and Athletics in the first two legs of this trip, losing six games while being outscored, 54-15, but said he was planning to do so all along.
“Nothing going on other than a bad losing streak," Cherington wrote in an email.
A team source reiterated Monday that despite the appearances of a “death watch,” Valentine’s fate will not be addressed until after the season. The 62-year-old Valentine has a year remaining on the two-year contract he signed last December.
The Red Sox have been in freefall since July 31, when they were 53-51 and just 3 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot. They had recorded back-to-back, last at-bat victories against the Yankees in New York, returned home to beat the Detroit Tigers two straight, and Valentine -- who had been given the backing of owners after they held a turbulent meeting with players -- still spoke confidently of making the playoffs.
Since then, the club has gone 9-22 to fall 11 games under .500 for the first time since July 1997, and with a 62-73 record are on pace for a 74-88 record, which would be their worst since 1992, when they finished 73-89. That was the team’s worst finish since 1966, the year before the Impossible Dreamers, when the Sox went 72-90.
The team’s performance has disintegrated during its current six-game losing streak, longest of the season, all of the losses coming on the West Coast. The pitching staff has a 9.80 ERA on the trip. Since pitching coach Bob McClure was fired on Aug. 21 and replaced by Randy Niemann, the team is 3-10 with an ERA of 7.08, while the starters’ ERA is 7.99, with seven starts of five innings or fewer.
Sox hitters, meanwhile, are batting just .231 on the trip, have been outhomered, 13-3, and have just 6 extra-base hits, compared to 20 for their opponents. A lineup that at the start of the season was built around David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez now is missing all three. Ortiz has played just one game since July 16 because of a strained Achilles tendon, Youkilis was traded to the White Sox in late June, and Gonzalez on Aug. 25 went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a waiver deal in which the Sox also dealt Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. Youkilis’ replacement, Will Middlebrooks, subsequently fractured his wrist and was lost for the season.
The only Sox hitter performing at a high level is second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who is batting .352 since Aug. 1, with an on-base average of .409 and slugging percentage of .544.
In a season in which the club has exceeded its capacity to hit bottom many times over, the team achieved its latest nadir in a 20-2 loss Friday night in Oakland. The A's outscored the Sox 33-5 over the weekend, the most one-sided spread in a single series since the notorious "Boston Massacre" of 1978, when the Yankees outscored Boston 35-5 in the first three games of a four-game set.
Now the team is in September. A year ago on this date, the Red Sox were 84-54, 30 games over .500 and just a half-game out of first place. They won just 6 of their remaining 24 games, and Terry Francona was fired after the season.
The last Red Sox manager to be fired during the season was Jimy Williams in 2001. A week after Joe Kerrigan replaced Williams, whose team was 12 games over .500 at the time he was fired, the Red Sox lost 13 of 14 games and went 17-26 overall under Kerrigan, who was fired the following spring.
Henry has fired two managers, Francona and Grady Little, but both terminations came after the season. Unless he has a drastic change of heart, Valentine’s fate awaits review after the season.