Saturday, June 20, 2009

Keeping Faith

The manager's job never gets any easier, arbitrating among egos, streaks, the vicissitudes of baseball, and personal problems that we will never know. What affects a player, illness or injury, frustration, depression, or personal problems?

How a player gets treated also depends on the alternatives? Consider the choices:
  • Jason Varitek versus George Kottaras
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka versus John Smoltz
  • Julio Lugo versus Nick Green
  • J.D. Drew versus Rocco Baldelli
Each pairing has a 'starter' paired against a challenger. Let's avoid Matsuzaka for last...

Jason Varitek handles the pitching staff and calling the game. His offense has exceeded last year's performance, but lately he too suffers from "the dwindles." His June numbers are .154/.298/.256/.554. Whatever he tried in April and May seems to have evaporated in June. His left-right statistical differential is huge. Nobody (as far as I know) screams, "sit the old man down". The alternative doesn't sound that attractive either.

Nick Green has simply supplanted Lugo at shortstop. Lugo played the role of Wally Pipp, except Green and DiMaggio's only commonality remains letter G in their last name. So far Lugo has played the good soldier, and even produced in light duty. Their potential replacement, Jed Lowrie, won't make anyone forget Cal Ripken either. In other words, the amplitude of the discussion stays low.

J.D. Drew has yet to emerge in his third Sox season. Season one brings memories of a grand slam against the Tribe in the postseason and a decent World Series. Last year, he excelled in June, but didn't make anybody forget Babe Ruth. Aside from the megabucks he earns, Drew doesn't incite passion among Sox fans. He hustles, keeps to himself, and again the alternative, either Rocco Baldelli or innumerable "not ready for prime time" minor leaguers doesn't solve the problem.

All of which brings us to Daisuke Matsuzaka. No monetary consideration comes into play. He has a no-trade clause, the only one on the team. Almost nobody can muster an argument for Matsuzaka, but I'd recommend they let him use his approach and let the chips fall. Viable alternatives enhance the 'difference' with Matsuzaka, because the Sox have choices:
  • Five man rotation with Beckett, Lester, Penny, Smoltz, and Wakefield
  • They have two additional starters that fans don't cringe at the possibility, Buchholz and Masterson, and another back burner possibility in Bowden.
  • The guy most likely not to have a month-to-month lease has become Brad Penny, who has quietly seen his value skyrocket in the past month. His ERA has fallen each month, his K/BB ratio looks good at 2, and his June ERA is 2.70.
We don't have to make excuses for Dice-K, who we know to be a tireless worker, whose biggest fault emerged as his loyalty to his company over The Nation. He could be injured or just mentally out of sorts. Let's not forget that he won 18 games last season amidst our "what have you done for me lately?" mantra.

Sox fans know that the "too much pitching" problem always works itself out via performance changes, injury, or other Acts of God. With that in mind, patience might sound corny, but the best answer.

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