Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hearts and Minds

Question. If you 'run' the Red Sox as a business, what is your first off-season priority?

Answer. Restore credibility in the franchise, which didn't just underachieve, but embarrassed itself taking some lickings at the hands of Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and their ilk.

Question. How do you accomplish that?

Answer. The American League has become the league of both pitching and OFFENSE. Statistically, the Sox had two superior players (David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez) and one productive player (Youkilis), and the remainder of the lineup chipped in here and there, but no baseball afficionado would consider the rest of the lineup offensive dynamos.

Question. Where do you start?

Answer. Short of getting back Hanley Ramirez (not happening), the Sox need to rebuild the offense, starting with another power hitter, hoping that a healthy Coco Crisp can get the job done in center field. Is Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soriano a possibility? Where will Youkilis hit?. He strikes out a lot to be in the two slot, but on the other hand, the Sox aren't going to become a running team either.

Question? Do you want another quality starter or a closer?

Answer. That's like asking do you walk to school or take the bus? It doesn't matter how you get there, you need to get there. Presuming the current rotation is Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, and Jonathan Papelbon, with two aging veterans, if you're going to get pitching you can't get another Matt Clement. Yes, Jason Schmidt is available, but does he want the East Coast cauldron, or just the dollars?

Tomo Ohka is better than some appreciate and of course, Sox killer Ted Lilly would look good NOT pitching against the Sox.

Question. Who's your middle infield?

Answer. I could live with Alex Cora at shortstop (if you get what you need offensively elsewhere), but I've expressed my concerns about Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia hit better when he stopped overswinging, but his ability to 1) go to his right and 2) make plays off the BACKHAND really bothered me. If the Sox are paying attention, they saw Pedroia repeatedly come off the bag at second, often because he refused to play balls with his backhand.

When Papelbon first came up, he was tipping his pitches. I won't say what he was doing, but suffice it to say that he corrected it, and the rest is history. Only time and a full spring will tell whether Pedroia can make the adjustments. Adam Kennedy is available in Free Agency as is Julio Lugo, after whom the Sox inexplicably lust.

Everyone waits for everyone else to 'set' the market, but sometimes the best answer is to 'strike while the iron is hot'. Oh to be a fly on the wall at Fenway...at least Theo Epstein doesn't have to fetch coffee for the Business Side anymore.

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