Wednesday, August 02, 2006

DISpassionate Advice

We're the Diehards, the Sox fans who have endured years as the fan equivalents of bridesmaids, only to enter Nirvana in 2004, and expect, well. polygamy. It doesn't exactly work that way. Championship teams need talent, execution, health, luck, and especially pitching.

The everyday Sox lineup has 'extreme' talent in David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Even accounting for injuries, those are the players who can start for every team in the majors. Trot Nixon (offensively) and Jason Varitek (especially concerning preparation and handling of pitchers) have their moments, but neither are consensus All-Stars. The rest of the Sox infield have performed admirably, and better than expected. But Mike Lowell is not Mike Schmidt and Mark Loretta isn't Joe Morgan, although Loretta turns the DP as well as any second baseman I've seen. Alex Gonzalez has far exceeded expectations with the bat, and has fielded brilliantly. Coco Crisp hasn't been the player the Sox hoped for. Sometimes the issue isn't getting better players, but the players getting better.

On the mound, Schilling and Beckett have performed effectively in the 1-2 spots. Jon Lester is a rookie with great potential, getting great on-the-job training. If we're playing Game 3 of the World Series, how comfortable do you feel with version 1.0 of Lester? Tim Wakefield is hurt, and David Wells isn't the David Wells of yesteryear. The rest of the starting staff is patchwork, and the bullpen has shown signs of wear beyond Papelbon and Timlin.

What am I getting at? Is the team, as currently constituted, a Championship team? This isn't a knock on the team that has overachieved to date, but I wouldn't fly to Vegas to put down a wager on them. Neither Randy Jones, Dalton Jones, or Andruw Jones traded for young pitching gets them there. I'm not anywhere close to sure that Roy Oswalt or Roy Hobbs gets them there either.

The Red Sox have good balance (when healthy), a solid front office, a very functional manager, and young pitching that has a chance to be special. The young talent also gives them payroll flexibility to get more pitching and another bat.

The key to the remainder of the season isn't acquisition of Roger Clemens, Ryan Shealy, or Javy Lopez. The current team has to become maximally accountable and play their best baseball of the season, the kind that they played against the National League. Was it all about talent differential or something more? We'll find out soon enough.

No comments: