The familiar scapegoats were on display in the Boston clubhouse Tuesday. The train wreck of the Bobby Valentine story carried the pre-game conversation, and another Josh Beckett stink bomb (5.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR) detonated during the loss at Baltimore. Those stories aren't going away. There's a solid chance neither Valentine or Beckett will be in Boston next year.
Near the end of the game, quietly and without any fanfare, Andrew Bailey emerged from the Boston bullpen. He mopped up in the eighth inning, walking a batter and recording a strikeout. He threw 13 pitches, seven for strikes. It was his first MLB appearance of the year, coming back from a thumb injury and some arm tightness. His rehab work in the minors went smoothly enough, thank you (6.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 10 K).
Alfredo Aceves has been ordinary as a closer, some good moments, some ugly moments. Add it all up and he's 23-for-29 on handshake conversions, a 4.14 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. He was batting practice in April and he's struggled this month, while the three months inside of that were smooth sailing. You can say almost anything you want with arbitrary endpoints.
Boston's season probably isn't going anywhere. The Red Sox are three games under .500 and 6.5 games out in the coin-flip chase (more importantly in the Wild Card standings, they're behind five teams). The season is going to take on an experimental theme soon enough. With that in mind, the club might as well give Bailey the ninth inning back at some point, see where he's at, start making plans for next year. That's what losing teams do.
Bailey is surprisingly available in 48 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Handshakes are handshakes, saves are saves. For all that's gone wrong in Boston this year, it's still a team close to .500 - and it's healthier now than it was earlier in the season. Perhaps Bailey can be a difference-maker down the stretch.
• I didn't think too much about Josh Willingham last winter. He hit a surprising 29 homers for the A's in 2011 (making up for a .246 average), then signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Twins. He was a forgotten name in the middle of my outfielder ranks, and I didn't land him on any of my teams.
Pity for that. The veteran outfielder has turned into one of the sneaky stories of the year (Roto curmudgeon Fitzy nods his head.)
Willingham cranked his 30th homer of the year in Tuesday's loss to Detroit, and he's pushed his RBI count to 88. He's going to wind up with a career year through the power and run-production stats, while maintaining an average around his career norm. Quite a haul from a journeyman who turned 33 back in February.
There hasn't been much actionable to Willingham's roto case in 2012: when a surprise career year jumps up from a veteran, he turns into a forced hold. You usually can't find someone else to believe in the story, and you can't risk trading him on the cheap — what if the big numbers are real? Fernando Rodney's nonsense year follows the same path.
The interesting Willingham takeaway comes from the home/road splits. He's ripped 18 of his homers at Target Field, posting a .304/.411/.633 slash in front of Ted Baxter & Co. If Willingham could do that everywhere, he'd sneak into the MVP debate. Alas, he's not the same guy on the road: 12 homers, .221/.339/.462 slash. That's closer to the Willingham I was expecting back in March (though I called for a slightly better average). If nothing else, let's grasp one key fact: Target Field is not a big deal when it comes to right-handed power. It's the lefty sluggers who get crushed here.
For the keeper league folks among us, here's a back-of-envelope Willingham 2013 projection to consider: .261-78-26-85-3. Feel free to argue for and against those numbers in the comments. To be clear, I won't remember this projection next spring. I'm just making conversation with the crew.
• Time for some Thursday streamers, using the three-light system. Wins streamed are twice as sweet as wins drafted.
Green Light: Keep riding with Kris Medlen (28 percent) until he does you wrong. You certainly want him at home against the Padres, and you'll love the dual eligibility in some formats. He's only allowed three runs over his first 16.2 innings back in the rotation. I'm also signing off on Daniel Straily (15 percent) at Kansas City.
Yellow Light: It's been an up-and-down month for Homer Bailey (31 percent); stop me if you've heard that one before. You're on your own as he hosts the Mets. Matt Harvey (29 percent) also goes into this category; he's been ordinary since that splashy 11-strikeout debut. Also in yellow: Trevor Cahill (54 percent) at St. Louis, though his better turns tend to come on the road.
Red Light: I'm not using Ivan Nova (60 percent) against Texas; he's got a gopher problem and that obscures the pretty K/BB numbers for me. And you can wait for a better Derek Holland spot. Other no-gos: Francisco Liriano (42 percent) at Toronto, Ricky Nolasco (23 percent) at Colorado, Luke Hochevar (five percent) anywhere.