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Bill Foley (@Foles 74)
Contributing Writer


Why does it take an executive order to get Mookie Betts to steal a base?

(AP Photo)
That’s basically what happened in the first inning of yet another impossible-to-watch Red Sox loss Wednesday afternoon in Minnesota.
Red Sox Nation President Jerry Remy apparently had enough watching Betts park himself on first base and said he’d really, really like to see Mookie steal a base to try to jump start the struggling team. A batter later, as if he was listening to the NESN color man, Betts easily swiped second.

It was Betts’ sixth stole base of the season. Yes six. Let that sink in for a minute. Six stolen bases.

The speedy Betts has just six steals in seven attempts through 46 games, and two of them came in one play. That’s only four more attempts than the jogging Hanley Ramirez.

As a team, the Red Sox have 15 stolen bases on 20 attempts this season. The Yankees have twice the steal attempts.

Whatever happened to the aggressive John Farrell who brought the double steal to Fenway with him when he managed the Blue Jays? Now it is like he has Billy Beane looking over his shoulder.

The last time the Red Sox had an offense that wasn’t impossible to watch was in 2013, when Jacoby Ellsbury was the lead-off hitter. He hit .298 and got on base at a .355 clip.

More importantly, Ellsbury was a threat to steal every time he reached base. He stole 52 bases and drew attention from pitchers on every pitch.

Since Ellsbury took the money and ran to the Bronx, the Red Sox haven’t had anybody even remotely threaten a stolen base.
Before going on the disabled list, Ellsbury stole 14 bases in 37 games this season. The pressure Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, who has 12 steals, put on opposing pitchers is a big reason the Yankees got off to a faster-than-expected start.
When they were winning before Ellsbury went on the DL with a knee injury, the Yankees were leading 1-0 in the first inning almost every game. That’s how the Red Sox were with Ellsbury at the top of their lineup.

The 2015 Red Sox, on the other hand, are trailing in the first inning almost every game. Thanks to Joe Kelly et al, it is often been by a touchdown.
You don’t have to be Harrold Reynolds to know that stealing bases makes things harder on the opposing pitchers. It also makes things easier for the batter. Stolen bases lead to more fast balls. They also lead to rushed fastballs that tend to straighten out and miss their location.
Stolen bases lead to more runs, and boy could the Red Sox use more of those.

More runs means less pressure on pitchers like Kelly who have the stuff but lack the makeup.
The old saying says speed never goes into a slump. Well, it sure does if you just park that speed on first base while waiting for the two-run home run that is never coming.

Betts has scored just 20 runs while batting at the top of the order most of the season. That’s not going to cut it.

Changing the lineup around isn’t cutting it for Farrell, either. The Red Sox need a change of philosophy. Giving Betts, who stole 33 bases in 99 games in the minors last season, the green light and a kick in the butt is a good start.

If the Red Sox aren’t going to take advantage of all that Betts has to offer, they might as well include him in a trade for pitching.

Or, they should bring in a manager who will.

Bill Foley 5/28/2015 11:14:00 AM Edit
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