Boo Hoo in Boston Induces No tears Elsewhere

David Ortiz--who is not the problem--contemplates historic Sox collapse.

As a Yankees fan I’m in Dawg Heaven over the Red Sox collapse, officially the biggest choke since hanging was outlawed. If you’re a Sox fan, don’t look for much sympathy outside of New England. All that Red Sox Nation is a load of crap and the Old Towne team is just as hated as the one you like to call the Evil Empire, and it has considerably fewer fans outside the region. (The Yankees have the odd distinction of being both the most-hated and the most-beloved team in the country.) The big question is what next for the Sox. Heads will and should roll for a team that played as if the season began in May and ended in September. As a baseball observer, not a Yankees fan, here are a few things to watch for.

Reports out of Boston say that Terry Francona is on the hot seat. Are you kidding me? There is, simply, no better manager out there with the possible exception of Mike Scoscia of the Angels and he’s going nowhere. Francona isn’t the problem; I’d happily trade Joe Girardi even up for Francona. The anti-Francona nonsense reminds me of those who wanted Bruins’ coach Claude Juline’s head when the eventual Stanley Cup winners went down 0-2 to Montreal in the first round.

If you want a scapegoat, a better choice is GM Theo Epstein, who assembled this Yugo and tried to pass it off as a BMW. Theo the Boy Genius is another myth the magnitude of Red Sox Nation. The ’04 team that won was Dan Duquette’s team for the most part, as was the ’07 roster. Theo’s only real slam-dunk signing was Curt Schilling. How did the Daisuke Matsuzaka thing work out? Epstein is also the architect of 2011 signings such as John Lackey, Dan Wheeler, Bobby Jencks, and Carl Crawford. Just as important, he’s the guy who did not sign Victor Martinez or Adrian Beltre, and thought that a washed up Jason Varitek and a never-will-be Jarod Saltalamacchia could hold down the catching corps. He’s also the guy who thinks Marco Scutaro is an everyday shortstop. He’d better be; you heard it first: heir apparent Jose Iglesias will not hit MLB pitching. If you’re looking for help down on the farm, don’t; Theo gutted the system in free agent compensation and ill-advised midseason trades. (Did someone say Erik Bedard?) What the Sox have mostly are guys who’ve worn the “can’t-miss” tag for so long that it’s faded on their Pawtucket uniforms: Kyle Weiland, Michael Bowden, Felix Doubrant…. (I actually think the latter has promise, but the Sox have misused him as a middle reliever instead of back-of-the-rotation starter.)

I’m also hearing that David Ortiz may be non-tendered. My word! What more can that man do for the team? All he did was put up a line of .309, 29 dingers, and 96 RBIs. Do they think that September flash Ryan Lavarnway will duplicate that? He’d have to because few scouts think he’s an everyday catcher. If anyone has earned a Derek Jeter-like contract for past services rendered, it’s Big Papi, who will have no trouble finding work if the Sox cut him.

So who needs to go? You can forget about dumping Crawford; no one will touch that contract. Label him J. D. Drew Redux. Lackey, on the other hand, must go no matter how much of his contract they have to eat. In a rational world the Sox and Yankees would exchange bad contracts--Lackey for A. J. Burnett—in the hope that a change of scenery would get a decent year out of each. My thinking, though, is that he returns to the Angels with the Sox picking up about two-thirds of his salary in exchange for a few middling prospects. Two others who should go are Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick. Each is a decent player, but Lowrie plays no natural position that’s open and Reddick would fetch a needed second-tier relief pitcher.

Many people call for Jon Papelbon to be dumped, but I think the Sox must squeeze another year or two from Pap because everyone else in the pen except Alfredo Aceves should go. My list includes the overhyped Daniel Bard, who should be traded before everyone in MLB figures out that his pitches are fast, but straight and Scott Proctor- hittable. Unless he’s hiding a cut fastball somewhere, this kid is not a future closer. The rest of the pen is yard sale material, if there’s a buyer. Otherwise, take a good look at next year’s Pawtucket bullpen. My pare-down list includes a sad call: Tim Wakefield is done. Wake is a class act, but all good things must come to an end. (Hatchet man Josh Beckett should have half of Wakefield’s class—among the Sox needs is a catcher who will protect the everyday lineup from tit-for-tat retaliation by reining in Mr. Beanball.)

How much wiggle room the Sox have is disputable. It’s very possible they may need to unveil Nomar Chapter Two and move a very popular player to fix the roster. Jacoby Ellsbury might win the MVP award, so he’s probably untouchable, and GMs will lowball the injured Clay Bucholz. Sox fans will cringe, but Dustin Pedroia is probably the team’s most-tradable commodity.

1 comment:

Scott Hersey said...

Agreed. You are the first one to come out and say this that i have seen. Theo's Emperor has no clothes. Duquette -- for all his problems -- brought in Manny and Pedro and Damon, among others. Theo has whiffed more than he's hit, especially lately. Especially disingenuous of him to let Francona take the fall. Not often I agree with a Yanks fan. But you are spot-on here.
Go Rays!