Just a few thoughts while watching the World Series:
Beckett, not Lackey, might be the one who cost the Red Sox a shot at Cliff Lee
The Red Sox signed John Lackey last December 14th. The Philadelphia Phillies traded Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners on December 17th. Before Lee was traded, it was believed that the Phillies would do anything they could to try to re-sign the lefty. Once he was traded to the Mariners, you had to believe that it was a one-year rental.
I don’t blame the Sox for not holding out for Lee by not signing Lackey, but you could question extending Beckett knowing that Lee would be on the market at the trade deadline or during the offseason. I really thought that the Sox would hold out and wait and see how Beckett did throughout the season, and more importantly late in the season, seeing that he had struggled down the stretch in the two previous years. Don’t get me wrong, once they signed him to the four-year deal, I may have been surprised they didn’t wait, but I still thought it was a good deal at the time. But, did it cost them a shot at Lee? I think it did.
You need more than an ace come playoff time
If you look back at the American League Championship Series, there were two clear cut aces in CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee. After that, there were a lot of question marks.
Lee wasn’t available at the start of the ALCS, after pitching Game 5 against the Rays in the ALDS. So, to me, the big game to me in that series was Game 2. The Yanks used their playoff experience to come back and take advantage of a “fragile” Texas bullpen and take Game 1. It had me wondering if the Rangers could come back from that disappointing loss. It was left up to the Game 2 starters Phil Hughes and Colby Lewis. Lewis gave the Rangers exactly what they needed, keeping the Yankees bats in check early in that game. The same could not be said about Hughes, as the Rangers jumped all over him early. The same three guys in the Ranger ‘pen that got beat up during game 1 — Clay Rapada, Darren Oliver and Darren O’Day — bounced back and shut the door on the Yanks. After that game, it was over.
Fast forward to the World Series. After the much-hyped (but disappointing) pitching duel between Lee and Tim Lincecum, it was left to the Game 2 starters. Did you have more confidence in C.J. Wilson or Matt Cain?
The moral of the story: If your “ace” happens to get beaten in Game 1, you have to have confidence in the next guy to even the series.
Don’t underestimate Ortiz — a DH doesn’t come that easy
I expect that David Ortiz will have his option picked up. If you ask me, that option should be ripped up and replaced by a two-year deal this winter. I’m hearing a lot that the DH has been devalued these days. That’s because there just aren’t that many hitters in the game who can do what David Ortiz can do. Do you really think that the Tampa Rays are happy platooning Willy Aybar and Dan Johnson? No, they do because they don’t have a “David Ortiz” to plug in there everyday. (Tampa Bay tried to get a real DH with Pat Burrell. That was a failure. Burrell never produced for the Rays, who released him this summer.)
Ortiz’ struggles against left-handed pitchers are well documented. His numbers aren’t what they used to be. But at the end of the day, when the season is over, the numbers are there. Over the last two years, he has hit 60 home runs and has driven in over 200 runs. Good luck finding someone who can do that through free agency.
Bullpens are a must
I’ve always felt that World Series are won and lost because of bullpens. Obviously your starter needs to set the tone, but as we’ve seen in this World Series and ones of the past, even “good” starts may only last six innings. After that, the pressure is on. If you don’t have a guy that can get you out of a jam in the sixth and then have another two or three guys to hand it off to your closer, you are in big trouble. Which brings me to the closer. You often hear that pitching the ninth is a “different animal.” It is, but pitching the ninth in the playoffs or the World Series is a completely different level. The game has to be over if you have the lead in the ninth.
During the course of a season we see a lot of plays that, if they were made, would be considered great plays. If they are not made, more often than not they go down as a hit. In the postseason, those plays NEED to be made. The games are so intense that every mistake gets magnified. When you play the best teams in the game, you cannot give them outs by kicking the ball all over the field. Ask Brooks Conrad. If the poor guy didn’t have a meltdown in the field during the NLDS, the Giants may not be in the World Series.
Curt Young should be the next Red Sox pitching coach
Curt Young should replace John Farrell. Young was a minor league pitching coach with the A’s when Terry Francona was the big league bench coach. The Oakland A’s struggled to score runs but pitching was not their problem. Their staff had the lowest ERA in the American League. Curt Young is more than qualified and a great guy to boot.
Where did this come from with Javy Lopez?
Javy Lopez….really? Lefties hit .162 off of the former Red Sox lefty in 2010. That would have been nice to have, huh? Unfortunately for Javy, he got off to such a poor start with the Sox in 2009 that he just couldn’t recover. He is a left-handed specialist, not a mop-up guy. If you look back in April of ’09, Javy was brought in for some tough situations for someone who is asked to just get lefties out. Too often he was brought in to give the Sox innings in a blowout. Because of that, Lopez often found himself facing all right-handed hitters. That is not putting him a good position to succeed. He lost his confidence to get guys out, but as we are seeing in the postseason, he is still more than capable of getting the job done.
The Sox shouldn’t let the marketing department dictate their offseason
There is a feeling out there that the Sox need to make a splash this offseason in an attempt to create interest in their product. I don’t agree with that. If the marketing and sales department get involved in the team-building aspect of this organization, I will be shocked. The front office should not be concerned how their team is perceived by its fans. They should be concerned with doing what’s best for the organization and bringing a championship back to Boston.
All of last offseason, I listened to fans calling this station to voice their opinions of how bad this team was going to be, saying that because they let Jason Bay go, they weren’t going to score enough runs to compete. Theo Epstein and company knew that the team they put together would be just fine. I know they only won 89 games, but when they were healthy, scoring runs was not the problem. They were leading the major leagues in runs scored before they got hit with injuries.
As far as interest goes, those days are over. From 2004 to 2007, there were two seasons in this town, football and baseball. The other two big teams weren’t close to being championship caliber. Those were the glory days for both teams.
Why did ratings drop this year? It’s simple: The Celtics and Bruins were going deep in the playoffs and nobody really cared about the Sox for the first few months of the season. By the time the attention had switched over to Yawkey Way, the Sox started to lose piece after piece due to injury. Fans looked at this team and didn’t believe that they were capable of winning a World Series. That was the reality. No matter what they did at the trade deadline, the Sox could not win it all without Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury. Say what you want, but Kerry Wood was not bringing a championship to Boston.