Welcome to a new column gimmick called “Bobby’s Boners” where I chronicle the obvious (to everyone but Bobby V) boner moves that the new Red Sox manager makes. My goal here is not to say that Leatherface is the sole route of the team’s malaise. This team has problems that run much deeper than its sun-kissed skipper. My goal is also not to be nitpicky. Managers, broadcasters and fans all have different opinions on certain situations and often times there is no one right answer or no one wrong answer. I won’t be calling him out for a slow hook on a pitcher (unless it is wildly obvious like when he left Daniel Bard in too long against Tampa after 8 straight balls) or for ordering most stolen bases. But in the short 16 games he has managed this team and the 5 months he’s been a part of this organization, Bobby has had more boners than a Tijuana gang bang. Last night's boner came in the form of a sacrifice bunt.
It was the top of the second inning. Twins starter Nick Blackburn had already issued 5 hits and 3 runs in the first inning and was sitting on a 3-1 defecit to open the second. The first batter, the number 9 hitter Kelly Shoppach, doubled to deep right field. Man on second. No outs. 3-1 game. Top of the second inning.
The next batter was leadoff hitter Mike Aviles. In the 8 games since Aviles took over the leadoff spot, he was hitting .333, with a .371 OBP and .576 SLG thanks to 2 HR and 2 doubles. He opened last night’s game with a double to deep center field. In his subsequent at bats he had 3 hits including another double and a home run. Only David Ortiz, who is hitting .444, is more locked in at the plate right now.
So the team’s second hottest hitter comes to the plate with a runner ALREADY IN SCORING POSITION and no outs. A single (or better) to the outfield will score him. A grounder to the right side will move him over. A fly ball to the outfield will move him over. A strikeout will still give the next 2 batters the opportunity to drive him home. All 4 options will at least give the team a fighting chance to not concede an out in a situation where they do not need to concede an out. So what does Leatherface do? He has his leadoff man and second hottest hitter concede an out.
“Here you go Nick! I know that we’ve been destroying you all night already and you haven’t really gotten Major League hitters out at all this year. And I know it’s the second inning and we are winning 3-1 and a big inning could put this game away. But what if I told you I would give you a free out to move my runner who is already in scoring position to a DIFFERENT scoring position, meanwhile taking the bat out of my second best hitter’s hands, AND playing for a one run inning that will keep your team within striking distance for another inning. Is that something you might be interested in? If not, how about a wrap?”
Leatherface had the opportunity to go for the jugular with the top of his order coming up against a weak pitcher. He employs one of the top offenses in baseball and has already had no problems scoring runs. He also employs the worst pitching staff in baseball so it would behoove him to get as many runs as possible. Instead, he employed some pussy small ball tactic that has been proven with mountains of data to be the wrong move unless you absolutely need to play for just one run (like in the 9th inning of a tie game). While the team ended up piling on the runs in the 3rd and 4th inning anyway, to me this just justifies how completely boneheaded it was to call for a bunt in that situation. This isn’t Japan or the National League or the 1980s. We are the Red Sox of the new millennium and we hit the piss out of the ball. Do not deprive the players of that ability.
Mr. Valentine, your boner is showing. Please see yourself out.