Don't blame Ron Roenicke for this


Alex Cora wouldn't have made a difference. Neither would have Tony La Russa, Terry Francona, Whitey Herzog, John McGraw, Jim Leyland or anybody else who represents the best of the best in that manager's seat.

Ron Roenicke is in an impossible situation, as Saturday night's 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays highlighted.

The Red Sox manager has put himself in the critics' crosshairs plenty of times on the way to this 5-9 start. Too slow with the hook. Not riding the hot hand. Wrong guy at the wrong time. All of it would seem to be fair considering what kind of results we're dealing with.

But at this point, Roenicke is managing a team that is about as difficult to manage as any Red Sox club we've seen in years. And he's doing it while trying to fix many of these problems via Zoom calls, text messages or socially-distant conversations through masks. Not exactly ideal.

This isn't an excuse. This is just the reality. One which he was slapped in the face with in the fourth inning.

With Andrew Benintendi -- he of the .059 batting average -- coming up for his second at-bat of the game the Blue Jays brought in lefty reliever Anthony Kay with runners on first and second and the Red Sox clinging to one-run lead. Roenicke's counter made all the sense in the world, pinch-hitting the guy who was 2-for-34 on the season for the right-handed-hitting Kevin Pillar. If he didn't do it criticism should have rained down.

But this isn't how games usually are managed after just 13 games in a Major League Baseball season, and Roenicke knew it. But this is what he was working with.

"It’s still tough and I still didn’t like it," the manager said. He added, "I would have never have done it in 162 games. I shouldn’t say never, but I probably wouldn’t have done it in 162. And for sure if we were swinging the bats well I wouldn’t have done it."

Roenicke talking about pinch-hitting for Benintendi in the fourth inning ...

— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) August 9, 2020

Benintendi was supposed to be his up-and-coming leadoff hitter. Rafael Devers was going to contend for MVP honors. J.D. Martinez is one of the best middle-of-the-order hitters in the game. As bad as any pitching might be, this was going to be the one thing Roenicke didn't have to worry about. Nope.

Devers and Martinez were another combined 0-for-7, moving their averages to .170 and .212, respectively. Jackie Bradley Jr. is 1-for-17 this month. Jose Peraza has one extra-base hit since Opening Day. Despite the hope that Alex Verdugo will emerge as the solution, Roenicke really has no semblance of a true leadoff hitter, with the team carrying the worst OPS (.403) for the spot in the majors.

And we haven't even talked about the pitching.

It's upside-down when a celebration has to be had for a starting pitcher that goes four innings, with Zack Godley getting the atta-boys after his scoreless stint to begin the game.

"Not much more we can ask for than what he did," Roenicke noted.

And ultimately while there are pieces in the bullpen, running out so many guys so often is ultimately going to land you in some kind of hot water in these kind of close games. In this case it was Heath Hembree giving up a run in the seventh and Marcus Walden allowing another in the eighth. Openers or no openers, managing a team that is averaging less than four innings a start while living life with a collective ERA of 5.60 just isn't going to work unless you have the bats to make up for it, like the Yankees. The Red Sox don't

We BO-lieve you wanted this --We're in FLIGHT!

— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 9, 2020

These two postgame quotes from Roenicke summed things up:

"It’s a proven fact that when you’re stressed out and you’re stressing you don’t see as well."

"We know we have to play those guys to get them out of the funk they’re in."

What a helpless feeling.

So as frustrated as any Red Sox fan might feel right now just know this, it could be worse. You could be the manager.