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Going into this season most people, Cavman included, thought starting pitching was the Red Sox greatest strength.  I didn’t think the offense was as “average” as some people.  But so far the starting pitching has been the weakest link, despite numerous injuries to key position players.  We have seen Lowrie, Lugo, Kotsay and now Youkilis on the DL, with games also missed by Ellsbury, Drew and Papi due to injury.

Despite the games missed, the Sox are still 21-13 which would put them in first in most divisions (well, the Blue Jays have barely played any AL East teams).  No thanks to the starting pitching- Wakefield excepted.  Lester and Beckett have been greatly disappointing.

I think it is time to bring up Clay Buchholz who continues to dominate as he did in Spring Training.  This puts Masterson back in the bullpen where he is most effective.  When Dice-K gets back, give Lester and Beckett some rest.  They obviously need time to either rest or figure something out.  Go to a 6 man rotation, I don’t know.  But if the Red Sox have average starting pitching they would have a better record than the one they already do.  That speaks volumes about the fantastic job the hitters and bullpen have done, with the exception of the recently designated for assigment Javier Lopez.

I suppose they could just keep doing what they are doing.  But, will that help Beckett (6.42), Lester (6.31)and Penny (6.9) get back on track.  Seriously 3/5 of the rotation with ERAs over 6- two of them aces????  It is a miracle they aren’t hanging out with the Rays and Orioles.  I am grateful for this miracle, but we can’t expect to keep winning consistently unless we get better starting pitching.

Update: the Herald’s John Tomase agonizes over this after another lousy start by Lester.

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I just loved David Halberstam’s book, The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship.  It tells the tale of Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr’s last visit to see their friend, Ted Williams, before he died.  It was the story of 4 friends who shared more than a love for the national past time.

I am reminded today because another of those friends passed away.  While watching a replay of last night’s Red Sox victory over the Indians, Dom DiMaggio passed away.  The brother of Jolting Joe DiMaggio, he was a superb player in his own right- being a 7-time All-Star.  Ironic that he was the brother and teammate to the 2 greatest hitters of that era, and all-time.  Williams is the last man to his .400, and his .406 may never be eclipsed.  Joe’s 56-game hitting streak, the same season, is also most likely untouchable.  More irony, Dom holds the Red Sox hitting streak record to this day.  He drew great praise from those superstars.  Ted called him the best lead off man in the American League.  Joe called him the best defensive centerfielder he’d ever seen.

After baseball Joe was a successful businessman.  He was one of the original owners of the Patriots, and tried to buy his beloved Red Sox.  He was able to excel at the very thing his superstar friend and brother struggled the most- family.  He was not merely admired for his athletic skill, but for his character and intelligence.  All true Red Sox fans have a special place in their hearts for Dom.  I am so glad the Red Sox are wasting no time in honoring him.

HT: Boston.com

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The season opened with so much promise.  Suddenly the Red Sox were 2-6, getting slapped around on the West Coast.  And now their depth has evaporated.

  • Lugo and Kotsay began the season on the DL.
  • Lowrie’s wrist injury returned.  He’s on the DL and may need surgery.
  • Dice-K is on the DL with shoulder fatigue, well before Smoltz is available.

But it isn’t just injuries.

  • Big Papi is doing nothing to alleviate the fears of Red Sox Nation.  I’m ready to consider sitting him for a game or two to see how Chris Carter does.  Maybe he can help generate some offense.
  • Ellsbury and Pedroia are also hitting under .200 so far.
  • Lester and Dice-K have had 2 lousy starts apiece instead of looking like Cy Young candidates.  Dice-K’s one inning wonder put an incredible strain on the bull pen, which was already working too much with the problem with the other starters.

They really needed Wakefield, the old guy, to go deep into the game.  He did, going the distance.  He carried a no-hitter into the 8th and gave up 2 runs.  But the middle of the order finally produced today- 8 runs worth.

Just one game, but maybe it will restart their hopes and help them turn the corner in their first big slump, which has lasted the whole short season.

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Much has been made in some quarters about the “lack of power” in the Red Sox farm system.  The argument goes that they have done a great job developing pitchers (Lester, Papelbon, Buchholz, Masterson, and Bard looks like he’ll be ready soon).  They also have some good all-around players (Pedroia, Ellsbury and Lowrie), but no power.  The hope seems to fall to Lars Anderson.

Chris Carter looks to prove all that blather wrong.  He was the prospect the Sox got for the failed Wily Mo Pena experiement.  Unlike Wily, Carter still had minor league options.  The guy can swing the bat!  He showed that in his September call up, and has be crushing it in Spring Training.  It has earned him a spot in the bigs while Kotsay rehabs his back from surgery.

Carter’s weakness is his fielding.  He isn’t quite major league ready in that department.  Chris sounds like a classic DH to me.  He also sounds like the man to take Big Papi’s place in the line up.

But he isn’t all.  If Jason Place can re-discover his swing he could make it up to the big leagues too.  He’s a great defensive player who needs to bring his batting practice swing into real time.  Imagine a line up that includes Carter, Anderson & Place (and either Bay, Josh Reddick or Jeff Bailey).  This, with Pedroia, Youk and Ellsbury around them, could be quite the fearsome next-generation line-up.  The story of Red Sox power have been greatly over-rated.

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In the midst of juggling my 3 jobs, I’ve decided to come up for air and talk some Boston Red Sox.  Many commentators are focusing on their offense, as if it won’t get it done.

Let’s look back at last season.  We had a less than healthy Papi, a nearly crippled Mike Lowell, an injured Josh Beckett and an absent Wakefield.  Turns out our starting shortstop had a fracture in his wrist too.  Both our hitting and pitching were in trouble.  And we were one win away from the World Series.

This was because Dustin Pedroia continued to improve, and Youk had a career year.  Jon Lester discovered how to pitch deep, and strong.  Dice-K was one lucky guy with a big WHIP and low ERA to garner a good win total.

I’m not as pessimistic about this season as some people.  Yeah, no Money-Ramirez.  That also means far less drama. Jason Bay, while not the one man wrecking crew that an interested Man-Ram can be, is a very good hitter and a better defender who will give you a good effort night after night.  Papi no longer has to worry about his wrist, and Lowell will be healthy.  I don’t expect the 2007 Lowell, since he’s 2 years older, but he should still put up respectable offensive numbers for a 3rd baseman.

What excites me about the 2009 Red Sox is the pitching staff.  We seem to be witnessing a return of Beckett 2007, which means he could be a dominating pitcher now that he’s healthy again.  He has been that guy in Spring Training (yeah, it’s only Spring Training), which he wasn’t last year. 

Although we aren’t sure what we are going to get from Penny and Smoltz, if they flounder we could have Buchholz 2007 to step in.  He seems to have regained a good arm slot, and his confidence.  He’s not the tentative pitcher who was giving up runs like a 2-for-1 special was going on.  Lester has offered us no reason to doubt he’ll continue his domination of hitters.  He’s confident and strong.  With Penny and Smoltz, the Red Sox can occasionally rest Lester, Beckett, and especially Wakefield.

The bull pen should be better (though bull pens are tempermental things).  Masterson was the key to making it steady last year.  If Delcarmen can be consistent (which he seemed to be after Masterson joined the pen), and Saito can set-up and occasionally close, we can have a healthy, aggressive Papelbon for the playoffs.

Pitching wins championships, and the Red Sox have a championship caliber pitching staff.  While their offense will not reach the heights of the 2003-4 Red Sox, it should be more than sufficient to provide the runs this staff needs to be very successful.

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While fixing the kids’ lunch today, I was watching the Sports Reporters.  They were talking about the economy’s effect on salaries, and just about every team but the NY Yankees.  The salary cap was mentioned, and one of the reporters repeated an oft mentioned error.  I can’t stand it when supposed experts (like this guy and Colin Cowherd) don’t know the facts.  I think Cowherd also passed on this bit of incorrect information.

2008 MLB Salaries

  1. NY Yankees  $209 million
  2. Detroit Tigers  $138.6 million
  3. NY Mets  $138.2 million
  4. Boston Red Sox $133.4 million

It will be interesting to see how it all stacks up come the beginning of this season.  Both the Red Sox and Tigers have dumped salary.  Lots of teams have.  The Red Sox spent more the first few years of John Henry’s tenure as owner.  But these knee-jerk reactionaries refuse to face facts.  The Red Sox have been implementing their plan of player development in order to reduce their salary (they spent more than $143 million in 2007).  They don’t want to depend on high priced free agents.  To compete until they could develop guys like Lester, Pedroia and Papelbon, they spent money.  But to think they ever actually competed with the Yankees salary-wise is silly.  John Henry knew that the Red Sox could not sustain a system where they spent ever-increasing amounts on free agents (as the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes showed, they picked targets and set limits- just as with the A-Fraud trade which the MLBPA, not Bug Selig squashed [sorry Colin]). 

Henry doesn’t want the Yankees to be in a completely different stratosphere when it comes to salary (they may near the $100 million gap this season).  But they also don’t want those team who receive revenue sharing to just pocket the cash.  They want them to spend money on players’ salaries so ALL teams are better increasing the competition and the MLB product.  As a result, I don’t find the talk of a salary zone by John Henry to be disingenuous.  Whether or not it is good for the game is up for debate.  But to take the comments out of context, including historical context, is unfair, and not solid journalism.

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The Red Sox learned from one of their earlier mistakes.  Dice-K has done well in his 2 years with the Red Sox.  But not as well as perhaps anticipated.  The difference in balls (Japanese teams often use a smaller ball) and Dice-K’s relatively small hands meant that he had trouble gripping the ball for certain pitches.  John Farrell says they removed 2 pitches from his arsenal as a result.  If Dice-K had control of those 2 pitches … he would obviously be even better.

So, when the Red Sox tried out Junichi Tawaza they had him throw using MLB balls.  This gave them a better idea of which pitches he’d be able to throw well when he got to America.  Apparently they liked what they saw enough to sign him to a contract.

(HT: Peter Gammons)

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