It was after loss number 12 this season—a 6-5, 12-inning defeat in Baltimore on April 17—that Kennedy and general manager Dan Duquette decided that what the manager called Plan A must be junked. "We can't go on like this," Kennedy said. "We know it. The fans know it. The players know it. Dan and I already have Plans B and C. We wanted to go longer with this plan, but we can't anymore."
Plan A went something like this: Load up on big brutes who think defense is a way to kill time between at bats. Gee, that didn't work? There have been sunrises more surprising. Now, Kennedy says, he wants guys who actually can "catch the ball, turn the double play, run the ball down, hit the cutoff man, make the relay play, throw somebody out, hit to the opposite field, drive a run in."
Boston's roster is so poorly constructed that through Sunday, Kennedy already had used six leadoff hitters (with a combined on-base percentage of .274), four starting third basemen and three starting centerfielders. He is handcuffed because he has three designated hitters—Canseco, Mitchell and Reggie Jefferson. When former shortstop-leftfielder Wil Cordero looked like a disaster at second base, Kennedy talked about moving him to the outfield. But then a reporter informed Kennedy that Cordero injured his throwing arm last year playing leftfield, prompting the manager to ask, "Is that right? Maybe it's not such a good idea [to play him out there]. We've got to find a place for him. There's only one DH spot."
This spring Duquette and Kennedy made three grievous errors in judgment. They thought that Dwayne Hosey could play centerfield and bat leadoff, that Canseco could play rightfield and that Cordero would not hurt the team defensively at second base.
Five teams already had canned Hosey, 29, before Duquette claimed him when the Kansas City Royals waived him last August. After Hosey played well in a 24-game cameo in September and talked about an offer to play in Japan, Duquette traded Tinsley and gave Hosey a two-year contract worth $600,000, creating this head-scratching bit of irony: Hosey is under contract for next year but Clemens is not. Alas, Hosey has played centerfield like a Webelos in the woods without a compass or a scoutmaster. The Boston coaching staff has been appalled to see him frozen in place, not even showing the usual one-or two-step reaction when a batter hits a foul pop. At week's end, Hosey was batting .200 and had lost his job to journeyman Milt Cuyler, who was released by the Detroit Tigers in November.
Canseco hadn't played the outfield every day since 1991, when he led the league in errors. Nonetheless, Boston tried him in rightfield in spring training. Cue the calliope. Predictably, the sideshow failed, though Kennedy has not abandoned the idea. He put Canseco in rightfield in Baltimore last week with Mitchell unavailable because of a strained hamstring he suffered while trying to play there. When Greenwell asked Canseco about his defensive philosophy, Canseco shrugged and answered, "Don't hit it to me." After just one game in the outfield, Canseco complained of sore calves, a tender right elbow and an aggravated hip flexor muscle. After that game he also came up with one of the most unintentionally funny lines of the year: "I can't figure it out. Someone must have a curse on us or something."
The arrival of Cordero in a trade with the Montreal Expos prompted Duquette to cut Luis Alicea, who hit .270 last year and helped turn more double plays than any other second baseman in the league. Cordero made six errors in his first 14 games with the Sox and at week's end was hitting .159 with only two walks in 72 plate appearances.
Boston did tighten its defense recently. After booting 21 balls in the first 12 games, the Sox were guilty of only three errors in the next six. However, they still commit all manner of misplays. In a 9-4 loss to the Indians last Friday, Hosey broke three steps back on a third-inning pop with runners at first and third. The bloop single fell well in front of him, driving in one run and setting up another.
Boston's gaffes are like watercooler jokes. Did you hear the one about the Kansas City Royals runner? On April 6, Tom Goodwin scored from first base without a throw on a routine single to Mitchell in right. How about the foul pop that Vaughn caught against the Indians on April 14? He walked the ball back to the mound, allowing 40-year-old Eddie Murray to tag up and advance to second base.
"With better defensive play," Kennedy says, "I think our record would be at least .500. Prior to this road trip it was downright embarrassing."