Bloody Sox

Red Sox Rants — and other random opinions about sports

Archive for the month “January, 2010”

Bridge over troubled waters?

The surest sign that spring is on its way is the day pitchers and catchers report to spring training. We’ve got exactly 30 days until that blessed event, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect a little on the Red Sox off-season moves.

First off, I want to comment on Theo Epstein describing 2010 as a “bridge” year. This hasn’t been a good year for bridges in my neck of the woods. For evidence, watch this video. Nevertheless, I took that word to be code for rebuilding; i.e. don’t expect any big moves and be prepared for a sub-par season. Hmmm. I don’t know if Theo’s definition of bridge is that much different than my interpretation or if he was spreading disinformation, because the team has been anything but treading water to 2011.

Signing Marco Scutaro was probably a sound move, if not a season-changing event. His contract is relatively short and, while he’s no Nomar, he’ll probably provide solid defense and a consistent, if not overwhelming, bat in the lineup. Just removing the question mark from the short stop position is a step in the right direction, and no one has to worry about it for the next two seasons.

The John Lackey signing is a good move, too. He won’t be the ace of the staff (I hope!), but he will be a dependable arm in the starting rotation. I was surprised that Theo went five years on the contract for a pitcher over the age of 30, but I guess that’s just the economics of the game. Theo will certainly have to offer Josh Beckett the same contract at a minimum if he wants to resign him. But having Lackey is insurance should the Sox fail to lock Beckett up for the next few years.

With Lackey, the Sox have a very strong starting rotation. I won’t say it is the best, but it should be effective, especially with the new emphasis on defense.

With Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre, the Red Sox bolster that defense, and with short-term contracts that give them flexibility to make other moves over the next two seasons (yes, I’m talking about Adrian Gonzalez). Still, I wonder if the Sox are really going to be better with Kevin Youkilis at 1st base and Beltre at 3rd, than they would have been with Casey Kotchman* at 1st and Youk at 3rd. I suspect Kotchman is going to have a breakout year (can you say Carlos Pena?) for Seattle.

So, the big question is this: Will the Red Sox have a better team in 2010 than they did in 2009? I think so. I think they will have enough offense to complement a crazy good defense and very good starting pitching.

My biggest concern at this point is the bullpen.  Jonathan Papelbon was shaky through much of ’09, and we all know how the season ended. Can he regain his form? If not, is Daniel Bard ready to take over the closer role? And if that happens, who is the set up man? Plus, Manny Delcarmen hasn’t exactly been progressing in his development as a quality reliever. Okijima is a year older. Ramon Ramirez was effective early last season, but the work load seemed to get to him. Boof Bonser?

It is nice having good starting pitching, but if the bullpen regularly blows late-inning leads, then you might wish you had some more offense. Or maybe the hope is that with steady starting pitching and defense, we’ll get more complete games…

What will be indicative of the faith the team has in the bullpen will be the number of relievers they carry. In recent years they’ve kept 12 pitchers, meaning they had seven arms out of the pen. If they believe the starting pitching and defense is good enough, they should only need five relievers, plus Tim Wakefield. But if they are not sure about the arms in their pen, they may keep that 12th pitcher. We’ll see.

Anyway, the Sox have a serviceable lineup, and they aren’t locked into too many long-term contracts… at least not ones they currently regret. So maybe this year will be a bridge year.

*Speaking of Casey Kotchman, what do you think is going through his mind now? Two seasons ago he was traded for Mark Teixiera. Last summer he went straight up for Adam Laroche. Then, this winter all the Red Sox could get for him is Bill Hall! Next time he’s traded, it will probably be for a used DVD of Major League!

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Steroids and the Hall of Fame

Isn’t yesterday’s admission by Mark McGwire that he used performance-enhancing drugs a little like Liberace coming out of the closet?

So let the reactions begin!

By all accounts, McGwire is a decent guy, so I’m sorry he is going through this. But at least he’s finally getting it out there and perhaps can put it behind him as he begins a new career as the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The question remains, however, what about the Hall of Fame? Should McGwire or any PED user be inducted into the Hall? My answer is, No.

The Hall of Fame should not just be about objective numbers. And it is not. If it were, there would be no need to keep players on the ballot more than one year. They would either make it on one vote or they wouldn’t. That the thinking about players — see Jim Ed Rice — changes over time shows that this is a very subjective process. And I like that. The Hall of Fame is the place we immortalize the baseball players who we want future generations to know, players whose exploits on the field deserve to be remembered 100 years from now. Cheaters do not deserve this honor. Period.

If you put Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, or Barry Bonds in the Hall of Fame you are allowing them to cheat the clean players twice; first on the field and then in immortality.

There are those who will argue that because we don’t know who did what that we can’t just single out those players who got caught. I hope these people are never prosecuting attorneys… Can you see their closing arguments?  “Yes, the evidence of guilt in this murder trial is overwhelming, but you can’t convict the defendant because other murderers in other cases have yet to be caught.”

The other argument you hear is that players who cheated in other ways are in the Hall, players like the notorious spit-baller, Gaylord Perry, and George Brett who got caught with a corked bat. I admit there is some validity to this argument, but it is also different. There are people on the field, umpires and opposing managers, who can — and do — catch these cheaters. And when they are caught, there are consequences. But there is no way to catch a PED cheater during the game. There is no way the umpire can detect a steroid user. No, taking drugs is a different and more insidious form of cheating. Since the players involved already cashed their paychecks, already “set records,” what other way can they be punished? If you elect them to the Hall, then you validate their cheating, and create absolutely no consequences for the deed. It is not fair to the clean players and it is not fair to the game.

Keep McGwire out.

Out on a limb: 10 predictions for ’10

In the tradition of the Amazing Kreskin, Joe Namath and Jean Dixon, here are 10 intrepid Red Sox predictions for 2010:

  1. David Ortiz will hit more home runs than Jason Bay.
  2. Ted Williams’ head will NOT be a story this year.
  3. J.D. Drew will play fewer than 110 games due to various ailments.
  4. John Lackey and Josh Beckett will each win 16 games.
  5. Terry Francona will bleed from at least two orifices before the season is over.
  6. Marco Scutaro for the Red Sox will hit fewer home runs than Alex Gonzalez will hit for the Blue Jays.
  7. Adrian Gonzalez will be playing first base for the Red Sox by August 1st.
  8. Coincidentally Jacoby Ellsbury will be roaming center field for the Padres by August 1st.
  9. George Steinbrenner will die, go to hell, where Abner Doubleday will hunt him down and kick the crap out of him.
  10. The Red Sox will qualify for the post season as the wild card team with 94 wins, but they will lose in game 5 of the first round to the Texas Rangers on a walk off home run by Mike Lowell.

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