Have you seen the panic button anywhere … ?

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That scratching noise you hear is the Redsox desperately trying to cling to 2009 playoff hopes, which are slowly slipping away.

Yo, Terry Francona. Yes, you. Being a nice guy, a players manager, is great. But just now and then it all falls to bits. That time is now. Time to bang heads, slam doors and kick butt.

The Redsox began the season with pitchers coming out of their ears, yet is ending it pondering the wisdom of the “you can never have too much pitching” adage.

Yet, as woeful as the pitching situation is – with Japanese ace, Daisuke Matsusaka the poster boy for the shambles – the batting is looking even worse. Thirty-one futile bat-wafting, scoreless innings at new Yankee Stadium were followed by a mini revival at Fenway only for the slump to resume as they succumbed to wild-card rivals Texas in Arlington.

All this while multi-millionaire right-fielder, the under-performing, under-achieving JD (allstar) Drew was whimpering about yet another twinge, and asking out of games.

Finally exasperated by the self-centred whines of Drew, Francona barked back. Yet, so high did the farce become, that the hapless Francona was forced to use ‘3rd’ pitcher Clay Bucholz as a pinch runner in the second game of the Rangers series, with Bucholz predictably making an ass of it all on the base paths.

And then there’s shortstop (or is that shortstop-start-stop-no-start). Defence or offence, hitter or fielder? Paper, rock, or scissors? If General manager, Theo Epstein, ever had a strategy on this then the Redsox have ripped-it up, torched-it and buried the ashes in a parking lot in New Jersey.

The Redsox’s shortstop procession includes (from memory) Alex Gonzales (fields can’t hit), Edgar Rentaria (can’t field or hit), Julio Lugo (Error City), Ged Lowry (the next big thing except for injury), Nick Green (the saviour, oops, no too many errors) and Ged Lowry again (oh, not another injury). Finally in a moment of desperation/madness/sanity Epstein pulled the trigger on trade to reinstall the safe but silent hands of Alex Gonzales back at shortstop. So OK, he still can’t hit the pants of the Mendoza mark but at least he can handle the ball.

Nonetheless, even is shortstop is sorted (temporarily at least), the skeletons are beginning to pile-up in the office cupboard of Epstein.

Whilst no one can lay the blame for injuries (Wakefield) or ill-preparedness (Dice-K), which have dogged the pitching, on Epstein’s shoulders, it may be that the trades of deadline days past haunt the GM’s dreams at night. Ghostly mocking phantoms of Dice-K and JD and Edgar float in the empty confines of a ramshackle Fenway Park, whilst a grinning and zombie like Eric Gange toe’s the rubber on the over-grown pitchers mound. Out in the parking lot a gorilla dressed in a dinner suit revs a high-end Volvo getaway car style.

Gange’s signing to the bullpen last season – despite steroid concerns – effectively sabotaged an otherwise effective bullpen and is probably the most visibly damning ‘trade’ on Epstein’s resume; although the over-payment for JD Drew and the hefty investment in Dice-K are running that close.

The youngest ever GM (at 28) Epstein has delivered 2 world championships since taking the reins in 2003 and no Redsox fan can deny him some slack because of that. Yet those over-priced under delivering signings may yet drag him and the Boston club down to mediocrity.

No GM will get a 100% strike rate for their talent hunting, we know that, but the failure to land Mark Texiera (Yankees) in the past close season underlines the hit-and-miss nature of Epstein’s trades to date. Furthermore the lack of bats coming through the farm system undermines the otherwise feelgood factor produced by Boston’s efforts in that sector.

August 18th may be a tad early to write this season off as a transitional one; but with no bats and only two reliable pitchers (despite improved outings from Bucholz in his past two starts), maybe this year we can take October off

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