Do or Die for Valentine?

RED SOX IN MUST-WIN SERIES AT HOME VS. YANKEES

The Boston Red Sox are certainly disappointed with their 4-8 start. But, entering this weekend's series with the New York Yankees...they realize it hasn't been a disaster yet. Frustrating, but not the end of the world.

That could change very quickly if Boston can't take at least two of three from the Yanks. Red Sox Nation is already restless. Dropping a home series to New York after getting crushed by Texas and embarrassed by Detroit would make it very clear that this team isn't up to playoff standards. And, should Boston GET SWEPT by New York...then we could well be looking at one of the shortest managerial stints ever.

Bobby Valentine:

  • Was not a popular choice with Red Sox players when his hiring was announced.

  • Was not a popular choice with the Boston media.

  • Was largely ridiculed as a choice amongst the sharpest baseball writers.

  • Hasn't won anyone over with this slow start.

  • Has arguably made things WORSE in terms of player relations.

Isn't it best to just cut your losses right here if you're the Red Sox? Can you stubbornly stick with Valentine for much longer when it's pretty obvious you made a boneheaded mistake when you first hired him?

Maybe Valentine can get things turned around. But, you get the feeling that he wouldn't deserve much credit if Boston did start winning. He doesn't have the respect of his players. He doesn't inspire a fighting spirit when the team falls behind. There's talent here, and they're overdue to start winning regardless of who the manager is.

Quick examples:

  • Josh Beckett sports an ERA of 5.03, and has only 11 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. He's obviously very likely to move toward much more impressive numbers.

  • Jon Lester sports an ERA of 5.82, and has an ugly WHIP of 1.53 so far. He's been around awhile. History is clear that he's going to post better numbers than that going forward.

Unfortunately for the sake of this weekend, both of those "due to improve" pitchers won't be on the mound! Let's see what the pitching matchups look like for a series that's going to be all over your TV screens the next three days.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON (MLB NETWORK)
Nova: 2-0, 4.15 ERA, 5 ER in 13 IP, 15 K, 2 BB
Buchholz: 1-0, 9.82 ERA, 12 ER in 11 IP, 7K 5 BB

Nova was great down the stretch last year, and certainly looks in fine form so far given that 15-2 strikeout to walk ratio. Yes, the ERA is a little higher than you'd like. But, that stat can be volatile early in the season with a small sample size. You see that with Buchholz and that high mark near 10.00. We place a lot of weight on strikeout to walk ratio. We'll have to think about Nova at a fair price, with the understanding that Fenway may not be the ideal park for that kind of pitcher.

First game...and Boston's already in tough shape in the pitching matchup! We may or may not play the game for our clients. We're just pointing out that the Yankees have been playing better ball so far, and have a pitcher who's in better form. You do-it-yourselfers will have to think about line value and regression to the mean issues. Sign up with JIM HURLEY to get the games he considers the best on the board.

SATURDAY (FOX)
Garcia: 0-1, 6.97 ERA, 8 ER, 10.1 IP, 8 K, 3 BB
Doubront: 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 6 ER, 10 IP, 13K, 4 BB

Boston gets the best of it here, even if Doubront doesn't have a great ERA. The early evidence suggests that Garcia has turned back into a pumpkin after last year's semi-miracle season. Doubront's 13-4 ratio on K-BB gets our attention. Garcia isn't having control problems, but looks to be throwing batting practice thus far. We'll have to look at the Over in a day game in Fenway Park with those ERA's. Maybe Boston will offer value because Doubront's an unknown quality while Garcia's magic pixie dust has worn off.

SUNDAY (ESPN PRIME TIME)
Sabathia: 1-0, 5.59 ERA, 19.1 IP, 12 ER, 22K, 6 BB
Bard: 0-2, 4.63 ERA, 11.2 IP, 6 ER, 13 K, 8 BB
 
Sabathia's ERA is an issue...but how about a 22-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio! That's still a reflection of the old CC, even if he had a bad inning or two in early action. An interesting challenge for handicappers here, because Sabathia obviously is a much better pitcher overall than Bard...but he might not be in terms of recent form in a hitter's park against a good offense. We'll try to find you a winner in this one Sunday because we know you love watching yourself make a fortune on the TV games. By the way, this is a double get-away game because the Yankees play in Texas and Boston plays in Minnesota on Monday Night. In past years, that's meant UNDER on Sunday Nights.  Can we pull the trigger on an Under here?

Whenever the Yankees and Red Sox get together, you know there's going to be fireworks. The added drama surround Valentine provides even more sizzle this weekend. Let's not forget though that there are other big games in the sport.

Other Marquee Weekend Series:
Texas at Detroit
Miami at Washington
San Francisco at NY Mets

Texas opened the series with a win Thursday Night, as Yu Darvish moved to 3-0 this season. The Rangers are sure sending early messages about their plans to dominate the American League this year (and maybe this decade!). What a great start for a team many pundits thought might be down in the dumps this season.

In the National League, Washington is one of few surprise division leaders with everyone about 14 games into their seasons. But, Miami's within striking distance after a sluggish start. Everyone used to talk about Philadelphia playing Atlanta in the NL East. Will Washington and Miami be the new powers this year?

Oh...there's also BASKETBALL!

Friday NBA Highlights:
Boston at Atlanta on ESPN
LA Lakers at San Antonio on ESPN

Another interesting doubleheader in what's been an entertaining week. That Boston-Atlanta game has a great chance to be another playoff preview with those teams on pace to be in the 4-5 slots in the Eastern brackets. The Lakers and Spurs are meeting for the third time in recent memory. The road teams have won both games! That could be a second round meeting in the Western brackets, as either a 1-4 or 2-3 matchup depending on how Oklahoma City and the LA Clippers close the season.

You can expect either a TV TERROR or a POWER PARLAY from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK in that ESPN combo.

As always, you can purchase our top plays in baseball and basketball every day right here at the website. If you have any questions about our service, particularly about creating combination packages with basketball, baseball, and Triple Crown horse racing, call our handicapping office at 1-800-323-4453.

It's going to be another big weekend in sports. Be sure you're with us here in the NOTEBOOK for handicapping developments, highlighted by a preview of Oklahoma City-LA Lakers in our Sunday edition.

It's a little late for "Valentine Weekend." But with JIM HURLEY, winning money is always as easy as taking candy from an oddsmaker!

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