Hippo Manchester
October 13, 2005


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Longshots: Too many holes in Sox for repeat

By Dave Long

After going three and out against Chicago, thatís all she wrote for the Red Sox. While its suddenness might have been surprising, elimination wasnít.

It almost always comes down to pitching and the Sox just didnít have enough to win in the post- season, when the runs are much harder to come by. In this case, the American League leader in runs was held to a meager 3.3 a game, while in 15 and a third innings its starters gave up 17 runs. So it is over for 2005, except for the real fun ó post- mortems and second-guessing. Hereís some of those.

Pedro: Since pitching was the issue, letís start here. Yes, theyíd have been better this year if Pedro stayed. But, itís oversimplifying it to say Theoís at fault, as the Big F did in Sunday News. The decision was more complex than that. If theyíd passed on a one-year arbitration then maybe. But it was a four-year deal worth $50 million, which they correctly passed on for two reasons: first, payroll flexibility matters, so club policy for giving no more than three-year deals to pitchers is 100 percent correct; second, concerns over Pedroís fragility made a four-year deal a risk that they werenít willing to take. I agree with them. Hereís a third reason: he couldnít beat the Yankees when it counted. Will you take my word on that one, or do I need to go to the videotape? To be at the top of the rotation in Boston he has to do that, plain and simple. This doesnít mean it may eventually turn out like not signing Roger Clemens but if Pedroís so good, how come David Wells won as many games as he did?

The brass: The problem was not letting Pedro go, itís who they got to fill his shoes. So I think Theo had a terrible off-season. Trying to pass Wells off as a number two was silly. Fifteen wins is a good year for the number-four guy in the rotation, which Wells really is, but bad for the number-two guy who had huge run support. Theoís approach was similar to the one taken with the disastrous bullpen-by-committee a few years ago. It failed not because the idea was bad, but because the guys in the committee werenít any good. After Curt Schilling thatís what the rotation was like ó a bunch of serviceable fourth and fifth starters being called something else.

Revolving door at shortstop: Signing Edgar Renteria was a bad idea because he wasnít needed. They already won the series in a year that turned the day Orlando Cabrera arrived. Why do you need a new guy to play that spot, especially when heís making $2 million a year more? This was a Bill James signing, which shows all that OPPS baloney, like batting average and saves, is overrated. I said this before the free agency period opened so, technically, itís not a second guess.

Manny: If trading Manny gets them get a starter of the caliber of Pedro and a 120 RBI bat like Miguel (you say tomata and Iíll say) Tejada, who costs in the neighborhood of Mannyís $20 million, do it. But Theo almost traded him in the middle of the pennant race for Aubrey Huff. If it happened in the off-season, while making deals that also brought prospects to make you better for 10 years, then maybe. But in July, when youíre in first? That could be a catalyst for a class action suit for malpractice. Be very careful trading Manny. Guys who drive in 140 a year are hard to come by, even if youíre spending the weekend in Cooperstown. I say, just live with the Manny-being-Manny moments unless the right deal comes along or they will regret it.

The needs: Talk all you want about a closer. The biggest priority is a number-one starter. Schilling, healthy or otherwise, will be 40. History says, other than Warren Spahn, Nolan Ryan and Clemens,  guys slow down at that age. If he doesnít, great ó then the Sox will have two number ones again. Second, nope, not a closer, a real number three who can win in post-season. The best formula to win includes three starters who can turn on the juice in a short series. Having said that, the Sox already have one in Jonathan Papelbon. But the question is, how quickly will he get there? Third, get a closer. Is it Keith Foulke? Maybe. But if it was me, Iíd give Mike Timlin two more years, acquire a lefty who can get all hitters out, bring Craig Hansen along and close by committee for two reasons. (1) It protects against a big bullpen injury, like the one to Foulke that caused so much trouble. (2.) As all who saw El Duque magnificently get out of the bases-loaded-no-outs jam in Game Three can tell you, the biggest three outs donít always happen in the ninth.

I have more, but as usual Iím out of space and and have the rest of the hot-stove season to pontificate. So weíll leave it there for now.