Commentary

Bobby's not helping his cause any

Keeping Morales in too long Wednesday is manager's latest early-season blunder

Updated: April 19, 2012, 10:25 AM ET
By Steven Krasner | Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- On Friday, the Boston Red Sox are throwing a big party to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, and the rival New York Yankees will be in town for the start of a three-game series.

The festivities will include, among other things, introductions of former players, and there no doubt will be highlight reels of past glories playing on the video screen to what will be a standing-room-only crowd.

Unfortunately for the organization, the timing isn't the greatest.

The Red Sox are in the American League East basement. They have a 4-8 record after falling to Texas 6-3 on Wednesday night at Fenway, extending Boston's losing streak to three games.

[+] EnlargeFranklin Morales
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaEven Franklin Morales looked like he'd welcome the hook from manager Bobby Valentine after giving up three runs to the Rangers in the eighth inning Wednesday.

The fans are restless, with aggravation going back to the end of last season, when the team staggered to a 7-20 record in September and missed the postseason for the second consecutive year under Terry Francona, who was, in effect, let go as manager.

It hasn't gotten better this season. And one focal point of the fans' dismay is the new manager, Bobby Valentine.

Valentine was booed again Wednesday night when another curious managerial decision with his pitching staff backfired and helped saddle the team with another loss.

Valentine brought in left-hander Franklin Morales to start the eighth inning with the Sox trailing 3-2. After a fly out, Josh Hamilton singled to right and moved to second on a passed ball. At that point, Valentine had Morales intentionally walk Adrian Beltre, a powerful right-handed hitter.

By this time, the Red Sox had had warm-up action behind Morales. Vicente Padilla initially began warming up, but that right-hander was replaced by another right-hander, Matt Albers, in the bullpen. Albers was loose.

Valentine, though, stuck with Morales, who walked another right-handed slugger, Nelson Cruz, on a 3-and-2 pitch, loading the bases. Texas manager Ron Washington sent up Craig Gentry, a right-handed batter, to pinch hit for David Murphy, a left-handed hitter.

Time for a pitching change with the bases full and a 3-2 game? Wasn't that why a right-hander had gotten ready in the bullpen?

No. Valentine stuck with Morales, who got ahead of Gentry, 0 and 2. Gentry fouled off two pitches and then took two pitches out of the strike zone. And Morales' next pitch plunked Gentry on his left foot, forcing home a run that made it a 4-2 Red Sox deficit.

Now, time to bring in the right-hander? Nope.

Again Valentine stuck with Morales, this time against right-handed hitter Mike Napoli, who had homered three times in the two-game series, including a two-run bomb Wednesday. The result? A two-run double to left-center. Texas on top, 6-2.

Finally, Valentine came out of the dugout, took the ball from Morales and called for Albers, who ultimately got Brandon Snyder to bang into an inning-ending double play.

The fans booed Valentine's appearance.

"I was booing myself. It didn't work out," Valentine said when asked whether he was surprised the fans booed him.

After the Sox's rally in the ninth fell short when pinch hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia's liner found the glove of first baseman Snyder for a game-ending double play, Valentine explained his thought process regarding the bullpen. It was all about showing confidence in Morales, he said.

"Franklin threw a lot of good pitches," Valentine said. "I want him to pitch against both sides of the plate. The battle with Cruz was real good. The battle with Gentry went well until the hit batter.

"Then I wanted to [show] confidence [in Morales]. Didn't want to pull the plug too soon. He's had four good outings for us. Was hoping to salvage that one. It didn't work," he said.

[+] EnlargeBobby Valentine
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesBobby Valentine was booed as he left the field after removing Franklin Morales three batters too late Wednesday.

Then why have someone warming up? Why switch from Padilla to Albers? Was Padilla, who pitched Tuesday night, unable to work a second night in a row?

"I was leaving Franklin in for Franklin, not because of who was up or who wasn't up in the bullpen," Valentine said.

This situation marked the third time in 12 games that Valentine's moves with his pitching staff have been second-guessed, even by Valentine himself.

In Toronto, there was a similar situation in which he kept in left-hander Justin Thomas to face J.P. Arencibia, a right-handed hitter, in the sixth inning with Albers loose in the bullpen. Arencibia doubled home two runs, stretching a Toronto lead.

And then there was Daniel Bard's start Monday. Clearly he was tiring, but Valentine left him in, and Bard walked home the only run in a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay. Valentine blamed himself for not pulling Bard sooner.

Managers' moves don't always work out. There is always a reason for a manager to make a move or not make one, but some decisions are more befuddling than others.

On Friday, ex-manager Terry Francona (now an ESPN analyst) is likely to receive a warm ovation at Fenway Park, even though he was the manager of the chicken-and-beer Sox who suffered a historic September collapse.

Bobby Valentine is the new manager. And, to be fair, it's only 12 games into the season. His tenure has not gotten off to a rousing start, though, and tactical decisions he has been making haven't panned out, hardly endearing Valentine to his new fan base.

Steven Krasner is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

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