We spent a lot of time this winter saying that we would finally learn what kind of manager Ricky Renteria is. For the first time, he has been given a competent roster so now, and only now, is it fair to evaluate his performance in the dugout. Well, if the first weekend is any indication, we have a major problem on our hands. We've lived through three years of decisions that have been questionable, which is the nicest way I can put it.
The opening series against the division favorite Minnesota Twins did little to inspire confidence in Ricky's ability to make critical decisions with the lineup card. We saw Nicky Delmonico start all three games of the series, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. The problems started on Saturday when Renteria made the decision to sit Yasmani Grandal, the player to whom the Sox gave the largest contract in the history of the franchise and the team's best on-base threat, because it was a day game after a night game. Keep in mind, it's the second game of the season, not a normal July weekend series.
The Grandal decision is troubling on a number of fronts. As I mentioned above, Grandal is the Sox best on-base threat while providing patience and power from both sides of the plate. If Renteria wants to give his leg a rest and not have him catch the day game after a night game, he has a way to do that because the DH spot does indeed exist. Now, I know this may be sacrilege, but that would require the Sox to tell Jose Abreu or Edwin Encarnacion to *gasp* sit for a game. This team still isn't littered with patience from top to bottom, so the idea of removing your highest on-base threat is, for lack of a better term, absurd.
While we are on the subject of Jose Abreu, I have some bad news. If Ricky is truly serious about trying to win this year, he's going to have to tell the big Cuban to take a seat or hit lower in the lineup against *select* right-handed pitchers. One such instance would've been on Sunday against Kenta Maeda. For his career, Maeda has held RHH to a slash line of .199/.251/.339. Contrast that with his slash line against LHH of .257/.330/.436, displaying a huge contrast in his effectiveness. Simply put, if "every game counts" this year the way the Sox marketing ads have told us, they need to do everything they can to maximize their chances each day.
For those of you screaming about sitting Abreu or putting him lower in the lineup because he led the AL in RBIs a season ago, save your breath. In his last 1,169 plate appearances against RHP dating back to the end of 2017's first half, Abreu's slash line is .268/.318/.488. I can't stress this enough, this is simply not enough production from a guy hitting third in your lineup. For contrast, during that same time frame:
Yasmani Grandal - 987 PA: .241/.349/.470
Edwin Encarnacion - 992 PA: .256/.346/.523
So the team has other options if they want to fully optimize their lineup. Again, if "every game counts", it's about time Ricky starts managing like it. You can't keep penciling in a guy with a .318 OBP against RHP into the number three spot in the lineup when you have options available that record fewer outs.
The idea that the original lineup on Sunday featured seven, yes, seven RHH, shows that Ricky either doesn't understand data that he is presented with or just simply chooses to disregard it. I'm not sure which is more damning. To further compound issues on Sunday, the Sox best player, Yoan Moncada, was not in the lineup.
Now if they are simply trying to manage Moncada's quick ramp-up from his return due to COVID-19, that would be one thing. But the follow-up quote about limiting the throwing simply doesn't make sense. Because again, the DH does exist. Moncada again could've provided some left-handed balance against a pitcher that carves up righties.
As I mentioned, the original lineup on Sunday featured seven righties, however, there was a change shortly before game time as Nicky Delmonico was substituted for Adam Engel. What followed was both unexpected and inexcusable. Renteria made the decision to bat Delmonico second in the lineup. Not Yasmani Grandal, but Nicky Delmonico. It's almost as if Renteria is trolling someone on the front office analytics staff at this point. There is truly no justification for a thought process that would put Delmonico in the two-hole against a team like the Tigers, let alone a division favorite.
So here we are a mere three games into the season, and it appears as though it's more of the same from Ricky Renteria. He finally has a full complement of talent on his roster and he's continuing to make the same flawed decisions he was making in 2017. Many in the Sox social media community have taken jabs at those of us who have questioned Ricky's thought processes for the last three seasons, believing that he couldn't be held accountable because he wasn't given enough ammunition by the front office. While there is a layer of truth to that, at what point does it no longer become excusable to continue making the same mistakes in a season where every game's importance is magnified?
I wrote a few months ago that this season would tell us a lot about whether Ricky Renteria was the right man to lead this team as its contention window opens. I can tell you from my perspective, this weekend did nothing to inspire any confidence. Sure it's only three games and there are still 57 to go, but my fear is that this is a harbinger of poor decisions to come from Ricky. If things continue down this path, I for one hope he gets the Doug Collins treatment after the season and the organization does the unthinkable and brings in a competent manager to finish the job.