Monday, August 21, 2006

Lost in Translation

Last year, Fenway was 'America's Most Beloved Ballpark'. A radio ad today called it 'Boston Best Ballpark'. Tomorrow it will have to be 'The House of Pain'. The Bombers dispatched the Red Sox five straight, Cool Hand Luke cryin' shame, for the first time since 1951, ergo the worst beating of most of our lives.

But let's not confuse justice with just is. The Yankees have a superior player to the Sox at every position except leftfield and DH, and in most instances it's not close. Yes, there is a payroll difference, and yes Jason Giambi still looks 'artificially enhanced', but those are still the facts. The better team won (even with two blown games), and the Red Sox are not one player away. Period.

The absence of Jason Varitek has been telling and the truism about 'strength up the middle' didn't lie. Yes, Johnny Damon has added something extra to the Gothamaniacs, and even the most loyal Red Sox fan can't seriously croon, "Nomah's Bettah".

So what's the team to do? Hair shirt, fall on their swords, or try to suck it up? I'll continue to insist that the Sox aren't going quietly into the night, that would be letting us off too easily.

Youth will be served. Nobody is saying that Papelbon, Lester, Delcarmen, and Hansen belong in Cooperstown, or even the Red Sox Hall of Fame. But what they do provide is more than hope; they lend financial flexibility, payroll flexibility to a team that (no matter what you think) has a payroll 70 million dollars less than the Steinbrenners.

Their presence probably allows something like 30 million reasons why the Sox can compete more effectively next season (not discounting the chance of some late season heroics this year). Presumably the infield will look something like Lowell or Hinske, Pedroia, Youkilis, and Loretta or Gonzales. If Alex Cora slipped in there somewhere, it wouldn't be a loss, to have the highest baseball IQ in the lineup.Yes, the Sox could use more power at the corners, but stout defense brought smiles and wins, until Varitek went down and the pitching went south with him.

The outfield isn't the problem, and Varitek presumably will be back soon. The thirty million dollars fixes the pitching staff. Starters next year can include Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Lester, and either Wakefield or another $tud. Hansen, Delcarmen, Timlin in a narrower role, and some $tandout reliever$, including a clo$er, and you're back in business.

Everyone wants to crucify Theo Epstein for not making the Godfather move at the trading deadline. Maybe the GM saw this team for (pardon the expression) the transition team it is, preparing to try to make the playoffs every season, instead of trading the Bagwells, the Schillings, and the Eckersleys of the organization.

Will the front office make mistakes? Inevitably. Could the manager make a different move occasionally? Surely. But the product on the field isnt' of championship caliber now and understanding it sooner, rather than later, might help some of the Nation sleep better.

I have no dog in this fight. But Pyrrhic victories aren't Series victories, and the season isn't over yet. Firing the GM, the manager, the pitching coach, and the batboy isn't going to make the lineup better than the Yankee$. Dong ma?

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