SEATTLE -- If Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry was anything like his friend the art collector, Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, the news that Bobby Valentine is planning to be in Fenway Park this week might inspire some pretty wild speculation.
But unlike Loria, who fires managers almost as quickly as he hires them -- since buying the Marlins from Henry in 2002, Loria has had eight managers, with the fired Mike Redmond’s replacement to make it nine on Monday -- Henry doesn’t fire managers in-season.
That’s happened just once since Henry got in the business of owning big-league baseball teams, when as boss of the Marlins he signed off on the firing of John Boles in 2001. Henry partially made that up to him years later when the Sox hired Boles’s son Kevin, now managing Triple-A Pawtucket (though Boles fils did not get his job because Boles pater got whacked).
So even though the most expensive payroll in Red Sox history isn’t hitting a lick these days, Henry will not act as impulsively as Loria and lop off the head of John Farrell. The random pitching coach? Sure. (See Nieves, Juan.)
Valentine, it turns out, will be on Yawkey Way not as unrepentant job applicant but as guest analyst on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball, which should be only slightly less awkward than Terry Francona doing the same for ESPN months after being replaced by Bobby V as manager in 2012.
The Sox can live with some feigned bonhomie. What has to change, however, is an offense that collectively is sinking toward the Mendoza Line in the month of May, their .206 average for the month the worst in the big leagues.
The Sox have 12 home runs in 17 games this month, which puts them just two ahead of Washington’s Bryce Harper (10). They’ve scored 38 runs, an average of 2.2 runs a game, and were held to two runs or fewer in seven of the 10 games they played on their just-completed three-city trip, including Sunday’s 5-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners, and 12 of the 17 games they've played this month.
And it will take an archeologist to unearth what has become a rare artifact this season, a hit with a runner in scoring position. On the eve of this trip, Dustin Pedroia had defiantly declared that such hits would soon be coming.
"The guys who are s--- right now with runners in scoring position, that s--- will change," he had said. "Fact. So there's your answer. Thanks."
Well, the fact is, that bleep hasn’t changed. The Sox were 10-for-57 with RISP on this trip, a .175 average, and 2-for-20 in four games in Seattle. At .201, they rank at the bottom of the AL with RISP, and only Cincinnati has a lower average in the NL.
It simply defies belief, and explanation, that all six Red Sox position players drawing eight-figure salaries -- Pablo Sandoval (.192), Shane Victorino (.182), Hanley Ramirez (.179), Mike Napoli (.172), Pedroia (.158) and David Ortiz (.138) -- are sub-.200 with RISP.
It is a tribute to the resuscitated starting rotation -- 1.65 ERA in the past five games -- that the Sox managed to split 10 games on this trip, but scoring fewer than three runs a night is no formula for success. The Sox are 4-11 this season when doing so.
Sunday, it was perfectly understandable that Farrell would want to give Ortiz, who had homered the night before off Felix Hernandez and had four hits in his past two games, the day off. Day game after a night game, lefty on the mound (Ortiz is 6-for-43, .140 vs. lefties), the chance to give Ortiz two consecutive days off, since the Sox do not play Monday.
It looks less understandable when Ramirez, who served as DH in his stead and customarily crushes lefties (.355 this season), goes 0-for-4 and strikes out three times. With runs at such a premium on this trip, the counterargument could well have been made that this was no time to be sitting Ortiz, especially when he colorfully noted that his home runs, like grapes, come in bunches.
The Sox, however, prefer to take the long view.
"Overall, we come off this trip, I think, we’ve been able to get some things solidified in our rotation, guys out of the bullpen have done a good job overall, the timely hitting is still something we’re working to get a little more consistent," Farrell said.
The starting pitching has indeed taken a leap forward. Closer Koji Uehara is unhittable again at the end of the game. The defense has been very good, with shortstop Xander Bogaerts showing in his second full season a comfort level that was not evident a year ago. The energy level remained high despite the brutal schedule.
But the bats? Might be time for Imperator Furiosa to stage a jailbreak from wherever Immortan Joe has stashed the Sox's offense. Rusney Castillo is waiting on deck in Pawtucket, but he can’t play first base, where Napoli (.162/.269/.282), whose future beyond this season is at stake, remains locked in the worst slump of his life.
"We’re looking at different combinations," Farrell said. "This series alone, everybody has been on the field. I don’t know if we’re looking at a complete lineup shakeup. We need guys to perform as they’ve done for many years. Nothing more. Just perform as they’ve got a long track record at the major league level.
"These are our guys. We believe in them. We trust them. But we’ve got to get some things going."