CLEVELAND — The Red Sox have lost three straight, seven of nine and 13 of their last 20 games. At 55-58, the one reasonable goal remaining is to try and finish with a winning record.
To dream of anything beyond that is foolish.
The players know that, too. The clubhouse was unusually silent after Thursday night's 5-3 loss against the Indians, even for a team accustomed to losing. The Sox haven’t formally surrendered to their fate but are deep in negotiations at this point.
That being the case, here are a few ideas:
Shut Felix Doubront down: The lefty is clearly wearing down in his first full season as a starter, having allowed 16 earned runs on 27 hits and 14 walks over his last 20 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old has thrown 122 2/3 innings, 35 more than he did all last season, majors and minors.
Doubront had no fastball Thursday and could not get out of the fifth inning. Using him every five days now is inviting an arm injury. The Sox would be better served getting a few more starts out Daisuke Matsuzaka then heaping more innings on Doubront.
“Maybe,” Bobby Valentine said when asked if the workload was getting to Doubront. “His command is not quite what it was.”
Trade Kelly Shoppach, play Ryan Lavarnway: What is the point of having Lavarnway here if he is not going to catch somewhat regularly? Shoppach was signed as a stop-gap player and did far better than expected in that role. Now is the time to see what Lavarnway can do.
Trade Cody Ross or sign him: Ross has value on the market. He is hitting for power, getting on base and has playoff experience. Getting a solid prospect would be a nice return on a player originally signed for $3 million to platoon.
If you believe he's a great fit at Fenway Park, then sign him. Otherwise, take advantage of his value being so high.
Trade any other fringy veteran who can be traded: If Aaron Cook is not part of the plans for 2013, see what he might bring back. Is there a market for Mike Aviles? Ben Cherington needs to be Crazy Eddie for a week.
Clarify Bobby Valentine's status: If John Henry is planning to fire Valentine once the season is over, do it now. Let Tim Bogar manage and determine whether he is a viable candidate for the job.
If not, Henry needs to come out and say, "Regardless of what happens, Bobby is my manager next season. Period. I blame the players, not him."
Otherwise, you're inviting seven weeks of Valentine being a piñata for attention-seeking media people who love an easy target and a bloodthirsty audience. He doesn't deserve that. Valentine came to Boston with good intentions and was handed the keys to a lemon built by Epstein and Co.
Form a council of team leaders: You want better communication? Have Valentine appoint Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester and the least crazy reliever as the team's leadership council. Their job will be to meet with the manager once a week and discuss any issues that come up. They also could be a conduit to ownership and the front office. The Red Sox have dozens of people with the same goal all moving in a different direction. Some kind of map is needed.
Think it sounds silly? It worked pretty well for the New York Giants last season.
Give the people something they can cling to: Jose Iglesias playing shortstop every day for two weeks? A September cameo for Jackie Bradley Jr.? Find something that will make some of these games watchable.
It's going to be a slog to the finish no matter what. The only question now is how productive that slog will be.