August 19, 2010

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LONGSHOTS: Injuries or missed opportunities the story of Sox 2010 season?
By†Dave Long dlong@hippopress.com

The topic on the TV was what will the season be about after the story of the Red Sox 2010 season is written ó injuries or the missed opportunities due to under-achieving from some big-money guys?

Itís hard to argue injuries havenít been a big factor. When the biggest hit Dustin Pedroia in late June they had just made up nine games on Tampa Bay in five weeks, he was on a hellacious tear with a three-homer game the day before, and they were rolling. Then he went down, and Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek and Clay Buchholz soon followed to join five others on the DL at the same time! And then when they started to get healthy Kevin Youkilis went down for the year and Jacoby Ellsbury may join him after going to the DL for the third time since being barreled over by a runaway truck named Adrian Beltre in game five.

I wonít dispute any of that ó but did you know that since the Yanks and Red Sox faced each in other in mid-May the Sox have won exactly one game less than New York? Some would say that if they hadnít gotten steamrolled by the injuries they might have shot past the Yanks to take command of the AL East. But to some degree that takes away from the work of Darnell McDonald, Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida (until he got run over by Beltre), Daniel Nava et al., whoíve done a nice job plugging the dike to help the ship stay afloat.

And thereís also the last road trip, where they were 5-5 against the Yanks, Blue Jays and Rangers. Sounds OK, but with the Yanks 5-5 and the D-Rays 4-6 in the same span and stars like Jonathan Papelbon and Josh Beckett key figures in two blown games and another should-have-been-a-win, itís really a major opportunity blown that injuries had nothing to do with. And since this is Red Sox Nation, many are eager to assign blame with the usual snap judgments or accept the excuse of injuries. But itís a bit more complex than that, so hereís my take on the role all played to date.

Jonathan Papelbon: After blowing his league-leading sixth save vs. Toronto, heís number one on the Nationís hit list. Iíve been saying for two years heís not the same guy after losing command of and confidence in a second pitch. But he hadnít given up a run in five previous games and just one in his last 10 prior to Thursdayís implosion. He also had two big saves vs. the Yanks and another in Toronto to start the series. You can dicker as to whether Tito should have yanked John Lackey after the homer to start the ninth (I would have) but not as to whether he was the guy to bring it. He just didnít pitch well ó and that happens sometimes.

Make Daniel Bard the Closer: People say you canít do it now ó I say WHY not? Joe Torre just did it in L.A. But what difference will flipping him to the ninth make if Pap isnít any better in the eighth inning? The problem is not when he pitches, itís consistency. So if the trouble continues for him, all a switch will mean is theyíll lose an inning earlier. And by the way, who was it who saved Bardís behind after he loaded the bases vs. the Yanks in the eighth last Monday? Pap ó who then struck out three in the ninth.

Josh Beckett: Heís got three wins the entire year, thanks to ongoing durability issues, which make signing him to a five-year extension earlier in the year more insane than giving Paul Pierce four years as Danny Ainge just did. He was the starter in two of the three worst losses of the year including blowing an 8-2 lead to Texas on Friday. Simply put, he has not done the job and heís the biggest under-achiever on the team.

John Lackey: He does have 10 wins and the bullpen (or is it Titoís decision-making?) has cost him at least two more. But he got hammered by the Yanks in a big game, has a 4.54 ERA and has given up 176 hits in 151 innings. Thereís been some production but it doesnít match the paycheck.

Middle Relief: Scott Schoeneweis (7.90), Boof Bonser (18.00), Hideki Okijima (5.82), Joe Nelson (9.82) and Ramon Ramirez (4.42) have been out there and Manny Delcarmen, who more was expected from, has regressed since last year. They havenít done the job ó period.

The Manager: My friend Frank (Three TDís) Harlon told me in the grocery story Saturday Iím not being hard enough on Terry Francona, about five minutes after I overheard another guy in the fish section say Titoís been holding it all together. Personally I see a guy saddled with a huge assortment of major injuries that has had non-major-leaguers in key positions all year, personnel management issues like Big Papi early, Mike Lowell all year, Tim Wakefieldís non role and maybe Ellsbury to deal with, an inconsistent closer and a bad group of middle relievers and theyíre still in it. So even if you want to pick on individual things (as I have), the big picture says heís had a pretty good year.

Theo Epstein: I heard J. P. Ricciardi say the other day he thought Theo was having one of his best years. And while he has some nice pick-ups for the bench, was smart enough to keep Wakefield around as the eventually needed rotation insurance policy and he was right about Beltre at third over Mike Lowell, itís more of a mixed bag. For one, while Beltre has been dynamic offensively, he was brought here for defense and his 16 errors lead all third basemen ó but I wonít quibble about that since heís been a major plus. And you canít blame Theo for the injuries ó well, except an old guy like Cameron. And that of course led to the lame-brained idea to move Ellsbury to left, where he got run over by you know ó which as I noted in the spring was fixing something that wasnít broken. But his biggest mistake was spending too much on Lackey, for two reasons. First the obvious ó you mean they couldnít get a guy with a nearly 5 ERA for $10 million per for three years instead of five? And because they spent so much on him,

little was left to get quality guys for the pen. As much as I HATE the way staffs are used now, itís still obvious that if your starters are coming out after seven no matter what (six in Dice-Kís case) you HAVE to have quality coming in in the sixth and seventh. And by spending so much on a fourth starter, they couldnít afford it and have been paying the price all year.

So while injuries are a big part, missed opportunities cost them even more. Thanks to the grit of many, they hung in to stay close enough, and then when the chances were there in August guys who were supposed deliver didnít and it has cost them.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


8/12/2010 I don't wanna tell you I told you so, but I told you so

8/5/2010 Mailbag focuses on Pats, Sox and MLS all-star game
7/29/2010 Counting the way of managing a pitchers workload
7/22/2010 The rule of King George in Yankeeland ends after 37 years
7/15/2010 James gang steals the show
7/8/2010 Observations at baseballs midway point
7/1/2010 Danny's next trick needs to be pulling a rabbit out of his hat
6/24/2010 And baseball season finally kicks off
6/17/2010 NBA Finals schedule causing reporting issues
6/10/2010 Mood swings wildly in NBA finals
6/3/2010 LEssons learned from days gone by this week
5/27/2010 seven days in May filled with action
5/20/2010 The Cís saw something most didnít prior to current playoff run
5/13/2010 Anniversaries remind Reed and†Russell were two of a kind
5/6/2010 Sox have holes in early going
4/29/2010 Whirlwind weekend leads to whirlwind thoughts4/22/2010 NFL draft winds blow through Foxboro this week
4/15/2010 Five stories for the price of one on That Was the Week That Was
4/8/2010 The Nation makes a pitch for having best staff in baseball
4/1/2010 Offense the biggest question as Sox open 2010
3/25/2010 Dancing withthe stars in the NCAA tournament
3/18/2010 Mixed bag on Nomar's Red Sox retirement
3/11/2010 Are Sox spinning on the new move to defense
3/4/2010 Mail bags talks of Pats, Celts and the Olympics
2/25/2010 Tigers tail between his legs amid vast public attention
2/18/2010 This and that as the curtain goes up on other stuff besides football
2/11/2010 This and that as the curtain comes down on football
2/4/2010 Peyton's place in historical pecking order on the line Sunday
1/28/2010 The all-decade choices ó Part II
1/21/2010 The 2000s decade gets a last blast from the past
1/14/2010 Patriots marching toward an off-season rebuild
1/7/2010 Questions abound as second season arrives for Pats
12/31/2009 Numbers tell the story for 2009 in review
12/24/2009 Holiday presents for the sports naughty and nice
12/17/2009 Life can be like riding a tiger by the tail
12/10/2009 The mailbag beckons in a busy week
12/3/2009 Is hot stove turning into ho seat for Theo?
11/26/2009 Thanks and turkeys are the usual holiday fare this time of year
11/19/2009 Belichick's fourth-down cal lconfounds Patriot Nation
11/12/2009 the mid-year report for the NFL
11/05/2009 Ducks on the pond as Oregon drowns USC title hopes
10/29/2009 Run for the title looks in store for Celtics
10/22/2009 Mt. Rushmore of Patriots moments
10/15/2009 Changes I'd like to see happen
10/8/2009 Predictable ending to 2009 baseball prediction game
10/1/2009 Bay watch on for Sox MVP
9/24/2009 Pitch count police trigger another dreamlike episode
9/17/2009 The mailbags open for business
9/10/2009 Pats now see more clearly what needs to be done for '09
9/3/2009 On the shrink's couch in a near francoma
8/27/2009 Random thoughts and big refrigerator magnets
8/20/2009 Sixty-one years later and Ruth's still in the conversation8/13/2009 Empire strikes back during annual visit
8/6/2009 Ortiz and Manny's steroid story tests fans as well
7/30/2009 Trading places not as simple as "I'll take the old guy"7/23/2009 Mailbag delivers some interesting questions and answers
7/16/2009 Random thoughts for a lazy summer day
7/9/2009 Season's second half is when it'll get interesting for the Sox
7/2/2009 Declaring independence of how others play the game
6/25/2009 Finding the right plan is as easy as A, B, C with Celtics
6/18/2009 A great experience came in the Knick of time
6/11/2009 Ripping key to Rodney's broadcast success?
6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two ó finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
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9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial ó stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 ó Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury ó that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK ó it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
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9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat