Who will bench the bencher?

Rick Renteria pulled his fourth benching of the regular season by pulling Avisail Garcia from the game on Friday night, and he’s not getting any closer to a good reason for one.

The summary on Friday: Renteria said Garcia didn’t run to first hard enough on a routine, inning-ending fly to right field. Garcia said that his knee had been bothering him. Renteria said if Garcia is healthy enough to play, he’s healthy enough to give a certain effort. Garcia agreed, because he’s in no position to disagree.

Then on Saturday, Renteria effectively undermined his own case when discussing Garcia’s knee issue:

“You just manage it,” Renteria said. “It’s not going to get any worse, it won’t get any better. Like most athletes, when you have a nagging issue in the body, you deal the best that you possibly can with it.

“At some point, if it becomes so problematic that you can’t perform, then obviously we can (react) at that point. But he’s not in that stage right now. The conversation that I had with him (Friday) and the conversations that we have all had about where he’s at, he’s just going to have to deal with it and continue to move forward.”

Well, how does one go about managing a knee issue? By easing up when strenuous effort won’t accomplish anything. Like when it’s an easily catchable fly to right for the third out of the inning when Matt Davidson is a base ahead.

Here’s the play, which nobody on either broadcast made note of at the time:

Renteria called it a “Texas leaguer,” when it was really a routine mid-range flyball that Jorge Bonifacio caught with less of an effort than Garcia gave. It’s fitting that Renteria trumped up the charges, because when it comes to this kind of punishment, he’s acting like a cop trying to meet a quota.

To catch you up, Renteria’s first benching in games that counted involved Welington Castillo, who didn’t leave the dirt circle around home plate on a pop-up that was caught in play. Castillo out-and-out quit on the play due to frustration, Renteria benched him and had every reason to.

But Renteria’s been chasing that high ever since, and he hasn’t connected with any of his three subsequent benching. There was:

  • Leury Garcia, who was benched after easing up once he realized he wasn’t going to beat the first baseman to the bag in a foot race on a 3-unassisted putout.
  • Tim Anderson, who was benched after not running on a ball he saw was caught, although umpires didn’t see it at the time.
  • Avisail Garcia, who is trying to manage a knee issue.

Anderson’s case comes the closest to being valid because he didn’t run and the play looked awful because of it, even if a review would have overturned everything. Renteria had a point about not leaving it up to umpires when the play hasn’t been called dead, but he could’ve met his shortstop halfway on the postgame explanation. Renteria might have the people skills to smooth it over in person, but he shoudn’t have to use them this much.

The upside of “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit” is that it captured the feeling of a rebuilding season that was more fun than it had any right to be. The downside of “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit” is that Ricky’s boys can never look like they’re quitting*, especially when they’re on a pace for a triple-digit loss total.

(*Unless it’s Jose Abreu.)

It’s now at the point where Renteria is demanding eyewash, and it’s especially silly during a season in which the front office has stopped trying to provide Renteria a better team. If Rick Hahn were as committed to a winning culture in 2018 as Rick Renteria is, Michael Kopech would take Dylan Covey’s spot in the rotation, Eloy Jimenez would stop the revolving door in left field, and Ian Hamilton would join Covey in trying to solve the Sox’ high-leverage issues. Hahn looks content to run out the clock instead.

That makes Avi Garcia’s situation even stranger, because when he takes it easy on his knee, he’s doing the front office a huge favor. If he were to exacerbate his issue into unplayable pain, Hahn couldn’t pretend that Ryan LaMarre was more worthy of the roster spot this time, as there are no center field duties to handle. Garcia’s reward for this service is getting scolded on multiple broadcasts.

I suppose this is one the hairy aspects of the tanking business. When the prevailing instincts up top, as they pertain to the matters at hand, are so unconcerned with competing, it makes the effort to shape winning instincts levels below all the more futile.

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roke1960

I can’t think of one positive thing that Ricky brings to this team. Yet Kenny says Ricky can absolutely lead this team to the playoffs. What is wrong with this organization? Are they blind? We need new leadership.

GrinnellSteve

Apparently “checking boxes” is a thing. Here’s Bud Black talking about Matt Holliday at AAA:

Rockies manager Bud Black has taken notice, saying: “He’s checking off some boxes. The thing that we’re happy about is the physical side. Mentally, Matt’s been a longtime player. You get back up to speed real quick. That didn’t take long, I’m sure. But the confidence that when he faces all sorts of pitching — there’s a difference between big league pitching and minor league pitching, but he’s been able to face a lot of different styles of pitching in Triple-A — will continue to get him closer to coming to us.”

35Shields

I’m really not sure what to think of Renteria. On the one hand, I’m irritated by his bunting, benching and bullpen management.

On the other hand, it’s hard not sympathize with his efforts to keep this team afloat when the front office has no interest in helping him out.

karkovice squad

It’s difficult to evaluate him given the overwhelming lack of talent he’s had to deal with. However, Pythag and BaseRuns do have the team underperforming by anywhere from 1-6 wins to date.

Rick really needs to give Ricky something to work with for 2019 even if the target isn’t a definite postseason appearance.

PauliePaulie

“he’s acting like a cop trying to meet a quota.”
Wow, Jim. That is so perfectly stated. Bunt quota, pitching change quota, benching quota, and on and on.

gibby32

You have succinctly put into words what I generally have been thinking since the Avi benching. Here’s my take: Ricky generally wants to be a manager that does not tolerate loafing AND does not want to be perceived as tolerating loafing. Unfortunately, he is not smart enough to contextualize what actually constitutes loafing, and is not self-confident enough to withstand the scrutiny that he thinks would come his way if a player might be perceived to be loafing when Ricky does not do anything about it. The benchings are a problem if the players feel that he’s being erratic. The smarts question and the self-confidence question are problems in any event.

ndsoxfan

My offseason plan is going to include hiring Girardi 

metasox

I don’t claim to be an expert in developing players but strikes me that if a team wants constant hustle and doesn’t feel it is getting it, then it should start with players who provide that, including to develop that culture throughout the minors.
And much of this can be policed by the players themselves. Start with a group of guys who have that attitude and they will ensure that anyone new coming in embraces it as well.
Plus an occasional lapse will happen – remind the player, set up a kangaroo court…. whatever, but keep it simple. If there is a recurring problem, then talk with the player and consider benching for several games which sends a message and doesn’t affect the team mid-game.

polishwith

I think the problem with the benchings is once you start, you have to continue or you lose the respect of the guys you previously benched.

Somewhat unrelated…can someone give me a logical reason why the Sox would want to re-sign Avi next year? I mean, are we still holding on hope for this guy? Sheesh.

ndsoxfan

It’s his last year of arbitration and we have no one better to play there.  

polishwith

Can’t we sign someone in the offseason?

ndsoxfan

It’s worth giving him the chance to be a trade candidate.  Should be less expensive due to injuries this year and won’t be an issue cutting ties if someone else jumps up

sausalito pale hose

This 26 year old guy hit 330 last year and was an all star. He has developed his long game this year and should have 20 25 HR’s after missing the first two months of the season. He has turned into a above average outfielder with one of the better arms. If he avoids injury next year, I think he is a 100 RBI, 25-39 home runs, and 300 or above average. Why would anyone think they should get rid of him. Harper is hitting 215 and some teams think he is a 400 Candidate for a FA contract for 2019. I would take Avi and 10 MM contract next year and save 390MM

polishwith

Well…with the exception of last year, he’s a replacemnt level player who has never hit more than 18 HRs in a season, and is injury prone. I hope you are right, of course, but chances are you are going to see the same thing next year as this year.

karkovice squad

His contract won’t be guaranteed. They’ll have the diminished skills clause to fall back on like they did with Viciedo. Avi’s the low-cost, high-variance option.

The free agent class doesn’t look as good as it did a few years ago, age and injuries have taken their toll on the OF behind Harper. There are a handful of players with a decent likelihood to produce around league average for another season but with similar down-side risk, lower ceilings, and higher cost than Avi. Gambling on Avi’s variance might be the better play for 2019 while waiting to see if anyone takes a step forward in the minors.

They have plenty of other places they can upgrade.

Marty34

Garcia needs to manage his knee by saying he needs the day off not by not running during a game. That said it’s impossible to place blame without knowing the conversations that have taken place between Renteria and Garcia.

Smclean09

I would bench a guy that runs on that ball if he has already had 2 DL trips for his hamstrings and is scheduled for an offseason knee surgery.

That ball is caught in the Majors 499 out of 500 times and the depth wouldn’t allow him to get to 2nd even if it was dropped.

WilburWoodWasTheMan

Time to start warming Omar Vizquel in the bullpen. He’s already established himself with a lot of players who will be very important in the future. Plus, who knows how much he could help Anderson & Moncada with their defense. I am not hoping for a change when the Sox are “ready” to win. I want competence now!