The guy on the Red Sox you should feel at least a little bad for

Rob Bradford
September 02, 2020 - 8:18 am

The hits kept on coming Tuesday night at Fenway Park. Fourteen of them to be exact.

One Red Sox pitcher after another tried to get Marcell Ozuna and the rest of his Braves teammates out on a consistent basis in what would be a 10-3 Sox loss, with all too many of the showdowns going in the favor of Atlanta. Ozuna, for instance, torched Ryan Weber once and Kyle Hart a couple of times for 1,279 feet of home runs. (For a complete box score, click here.)

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When it was all said and done the Red Sox' pitchers sat with a collective ERA of 6.16, the fourth-highest since 1930 with only the 1996 Tigers (6.38) carrying a worse number in the last 84 years.

Not a lot of people can feel the discomfort then-Tigers pitching coach Rick Adair went through 24 years ago. Dave Bush, however, is one of them.

It is helplessness the Red Sox' first-year pitching coach can never let on to. But one would imagine when you are about to cart out your 12th starting pitcher while carrying a staff that has one pitcher who has thrown more than 4 2./3 innings that carries an ERA of under 4.58 (thank you Phillips Valdez) there are pain points that weren't exactly part of the plan.

"I will tell you I’ve learned a lot, probably more than I expected to in a short period of time," Bush said prior to the Sox' latest loss. "I always learn more when things are tough and there have been a lot of things that have been tough about this year, not only for us end not only for me but across baseball. And really across the world at this point with what we’re dealing with. But I have learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a coach, about how to deal with tough situations, about how to be adaptable. I’ve learned a lot about our players, too.

"Certainly at this point we’ve been together enough and we’ve had enough time together to get to know each other and have a feel for everyone wants to do things. So the process of learning the players, getting to know personalities, developing relationships, that’s all gone along as smoothing last it could be. Personally as a coach, my first time in this job, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to make the best of some tough situations. Even simple things. We do our scouting report meetings, our advance meetings the first game of a series. Trying to find a room that is big enough to get everyone into it is really hard. Small things like that don’t happen easily. And with all our players when we’re at home, with our players up in their suites instead of the clubhouse, tracking guys down and making sure we have the space we need to do is difficult. So small stuff like that I’ve just had to learn on the fly and be adaptable and adjustable. It’s been a good learning experience. In the long run, I will be a much better coach because of all the things we’ve had to deal with this year."

The prevailing thought in the world of Major League Baseball is that coaches get too much of the credit when things are rolling along and way too much blame when things go the wrong way.

Only the uninformed would blame Bush for this.

Ron Roenicke certainly isn't going to.

"Pretty difficult year to really assess what a guy does because there are so many things that have come up this year," said the Red Sox manager. "Me personally, looking at what he’s done, a first-year coach to deal with the things he’s dealt with, he’s really doing a good job. I know sometimes you look at a team ERA or what are the starters doing or what are the relief pitchers doing? But this is a weird year and I don’t think it’s fair to judge a first-year guy on something like this. But for me, I know the work he puts in. I know what he’s done. I know how he’s, even when things are going really bad, how he still stays focused on what he needs to do. Very difficult year for him. No question about it. I like what he’s done and I’ve relayed that message upstairs to let them know what I think."

This was supposed to be Bush's well-deserved big chance, having worked his way up through the Red Sox coaching ranks by showing the acumen and introspection that teammates took notice of during a nine-year major-league career. But through all the COVID chaos, injuries and rounds of reclamation projects, the dream job has turned into a nightmare.

Fortunately for the 40-year-old, most -- including the Red Sox front office -- should realize what an aberration this whole deal is. 

The Dodgers' pitching staff is on its way to post the lowest ERA of any team since the 1980 Astros. Mark Prior is a genius, right? Well, he is relatively the same age as Bush while also getting his first crack at a big-league coaching position. The difference? All but three of the 22 players who have pitched for Los Angeles this season have better ERAs than everybody but Valdez on the Red Sox. Also, for what it's worth, the Sox' starters also carry a combined record fo 4-18.

Bush will own some of the responsibility. That's another prerequisite for any coach. But when it comes to handing out the blame pie don't give this coach too big of a piece. He deserves a second first impression.

"Trying to get better," he said. "Trying to get everyone a little bit better. I know it’s not showing up on the scoreboard. I know it’s not always showing up in the stats right now. But there are some things we’re doing better. There are some guys performing better than we and they expected. I guess if you want to look at the big picture, that’s what we’re trying to get. We’re just trying to get everyone a little bit better each day. We’re trying to figure out exactly what each guy can do. Some of these guys have been put in roles that they’re not accustomed to, that are new to them. And some of them have handled it very, very well. Some haven’t. But that’s where we are this year with this group.

"It’s a lot of guys that don’t have a ton of big-league experience, so they’re still figuring out exactly where they fit in a game and then things they can do well to succeed at this level. There’s some trial and error involved, but there’s definitely some things I’ve been happy with. There have been steps forward that guys have made, and some guys have performed really well, out-performed our expectations. It’s been tough on the field. The results aren’t there. It’s been frustrating for all of us involved. We all want to win. That’s why we’re here. It’s a competitive game. It’s a lot more fun when you win – for players, for coaches, staff, everybody. We’re working towards that in the future. We’re working towards winning more games. There are some bumps in the road along the way, but there is progress being made. Both for this year and next year, we’re moving in the right direction. ... We’re definitely making progress."