Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The current version of the Red Sox reminds me of the movie 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'. Unfortunately, the Sox aren't Butch or Sundance, but the relentless posse chasing them. "Who are those guys?"
Three quarters of the way through the season, we're trying to figure out who this team really is.
The heart of the team (David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek) has struggled with injury and offensive inconsistency. A pair of younger players (Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia) have become the soul of the team, with a dogged determination that makes every at-bat Armageddon. The corner outfielders are solid and at times have been spectacular. The other two kids, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie have been polar opposites. Ellsbury, cursed by unlimited potential, has not met the fans' expectations while Lowrie has overachieved from day one, supplanting the high-priced shortstop du jour, Julio Lugo.
The pitching staff likewise has turned inside out. Cy Young runnerup Josh Beckett struggles to stay over .500, the inscrutable Matsuzaka has an unorthodox approach (pitching away from contact) but keeps winning, and the Comeback Kid, Jon Lester has simply been special. Tim Wakefield has pitched better than his record, and nobody has claimed and held the fifth starter
Similarly, the bullpen regularly puts out Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performances. The closer, Jonathan Papelbon, remains near the top of his game, and after that, who does Terry Francona REALLY trust. If you had to get out of a jam in a close game in the seventh, do you go with Okajima who has come on, Masterson who can be nasty, or simply roll the dice with any of Delcarmen, Aardsma, or Lopez, who all pitch trick or treat? Does Mike Timlin have something left in the tank?
So parts of the team have the NFL conundrum, the clash of ability and durability, while others have the ability but not the consistency to carry the team.
If the Sox get 'hot' and healthy, it wouldn't be hard to imagine them running the table, especially if Beckett 2008 became Beckett 2007. But if the Road Worriers meet Mr. Injury Bug, then even the deepest Diehards wouldn't be surprised to see the Angels, Rays, Chisox, and Twins in the postseason. And you don't have the feeling that Mssrs. Epstein and Francona can do much to change that.