Sunday, December 18, 2005

See No Evil

"See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." That might not work for the "Check".

As the Stooges might say, "if at first you don't succeed, then keep on sucking until you do suck seed." Let's review where we are concerning the question marks.

The Sox needn't be desperate at shortstop, with at least the possibility of an Alex Cora/Dustin Pedroia platoon. Pedroia can't be any worse at shortstop than David Eckstein, and half the world is ga-ga over the diminutive ex-Sox prospect. I'm not in that half. Cora was decent defensively and played heads-up baseball, which isn't necessarily a Sox staple. Pedroia injured his hand and became persona non grata.

At first base, Kevin Youkilis is rumored to be asking, "what do I have to do?" Is Bill Lajoie part of the group that's overly concerned about Youkilis not looking like Gabe Kapler? Kapler, a good guy, is a career .330/.421/.751 guy in 2544 plate appearances. Youk is .376/.411/.787 in 343 plate appearances. Admittedly, not a large sample size or great power numbers for a corner infielder, but he hasn't gotten a chance to fail. Contrast Jeremy Reed of Seattle who is .338/.364/.702 with 15 stolen bases and 12 caught stealings in two years and 610 plate appearances. Finding a backup defensive first baseman shouldn't be a tenth as hard as, let's say, finding a competent general manager.

Nomar Garciaparra won't be walking back in that door either, joining Red Sox exiles Grady Little, Derek (THE derrick) Lowe, and Bill Mueller in Dodgerland. If Nomar got six EXTRA LARGE plus incentives, then his agent did well for a guy who has spent most of his roster time on the DL in the past few seasons. Is Nomar a Hall-of-Famer? On the www.baseball-reference.com site, Nomar has black ink stats of 15 (compare average Hall-of-Famer 27) and grey ink stats of 78 (HOF average 144), but HOF batting stats of 43.7 (average HOF 50) and HOF monitor of 115 (average HOF 100) so he's on the cusp of greatness. Let's hope that Nomar doesn't do the toe-tapping tic at first base.

The Manny Ramirez watch simply shouldn't be happening. Yes, Manny may be a rock in the shoe for certain Red Sox executives, but if one frames the Ramirez-Ortiz numbers as dependent not independent variables, then you don't vote Manny off the island.

Finally, there's the WWJDD matter (what will Johnny Damon do?). Damon is what he is, a run-scoring machine (910 in eight years) who works pitch counts, with net below average defensive skills. He has better-than average range, but his arm makes Jose Tartabull look like Jesse Barfield. I think Damon will come back, because his market isn't as big as his wallet is.

So the lineup I project will look something like this:

CF Damon
2B Loretta
DH Ortiz
LF Ramirez
3B Lowell
C Varitek
RF Nixon
1B Youkilis
SS Cora/Pedroia

SP Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield, Papelbon, Arroyo/Clement
RP Fouke, Timlin, Hansen, Delcarmen, Bradford, LOOGY to be determined (probably not Lester)

The Sox 'turmoil' has more to do with the need to stay in the news than the need to do something newsworthy. It's just that simple.

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