Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Where do we go from here? And who's to blame?

Now that the season is all but lost, what's next for the Sox?

First of all, we know that in the Commonwealth there always needs to be a whipping boy to blame the Sox miseries on. From Harry Frazee to Lou Gorman, and Dan Duquette to Grady Little, those at the top need to be called out for their actions that derail this beloved franchise. It's our birth right. So who's next on the hit list? None other than former golden boy Theo Epstein.
The reasons for his demise are widely recognized and starting to grow, and it all started with his fallout w/ CEO Luccino and subsequent "sabbatical" from the team. While he was walking around Fenway in a gorilla suit, the front office let promising GM prospect Josh Byrnes go to the Diamondbacks. After Theo's soap opera-esque return, thanks to clueless owner John Henry's intervention, his actions and lack of reactions in the GM chair has left him firmly on the Hottest Seat in the Hub.
Let's face it, the construction of this pitching staff has been a colossal failure. Matt Clement- major bust who may never pitch for Boston again; Josh Beckett- just signed a 3yr, $30 mil extension and now appears to be the second coming of Bert "Let it Fly" Blyleven; is he one of the most confusing pitchers ever to don a Boston uni or what? Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez- should be with Jose Canseco in the California Penal League, or wherever he's playing. Timlin & Wakefield & Wells? Didn't anyone think "hey, these guys are like 60 years old, they might break down this year, we better plan for that. "

Oh yeah, they did, with the "untouchable" herd of kids that are going to turn the club into pennant winners into the next decade. Except the bumper crop of MattapanManny, Lester,
Hansen, and Van Buren have proven to be the "Not Yet Ready for Prime Time Players", and with two pitchers released in the past three days (Jason Johnson, Rudy Seanez) this rotation is in an absolute shambles. Even the rock-solid closer Paplebon, he of the miniscule ERA and dominant appear-arances, has lost his way, either hitting the proverbial wall or getting figured out by AL hitters who are familiar with his stuff now, no matter how nasty it is.

Besides the staff, the lineup is also a mess. Despite the two stars, the rest of the lineup has been disappointing to say the least. Coco just finished the Massacre II with a 1-20 showing and looked like frail in comparison to Demon's awesome speed and lively bat. Moving him back to leadoff has proved to be a costly miscalculation by Tito, as both Coco and Youk as well as the whole team have all suffered since. The Demon deal will go down as one of the worst in front office history, and although Theo was on hiatus when it went down, it still technically happened during his tenure. Losing Trot certainly hurt, but in hindsight it would have been a great move to deal him before the deadline and cutting ties with the-oft injured OF. And Tek going down proved to be the biggest blow of all, despite his hitting slump. His leadership and handling of the staff is an immeasureable loss. Sure it was cute getting Wake's personal catcher back, and Belli has had some big hits of late, but he's batting .236 and he's 36 years old; didn't anyone plan on the possibility of Tek going down? No, and then they try to get by with the likes of Corky Miller, Ken Huckaby, and 35-year old wannabe catcher Javy Lopez, who makes Mike Piazza look like Carlton Fisk.

But the biggest blunder was not making any move whatsoever at the trading deadline. Two years ago, Theo rolled the dice and pulled the trigger on one of the most controversial deals in history, Nomah to the Cubs, and it brought a Championship to town for the first time in 86 years. This year, Stand Pat Theo choose to save his young talent and not go for an Abreu, Zito, Willis, or Maddux. Heck he didn't even go for a Julio Lugo or the Lowell for Peavey deal that was reportedly on the table. Look, I love Lowell too, and he's been huge for us, but Peavey is a young stud who could be an excellent pitcher for years, and Lowell is on the tail end, for sure.
Point is, no deal is sometimes worse than a bad deal, just for psychological reasons alone. Look what it's done for NY, and not done for Boston. Case closed.

As the Sox try to regroup on the West Coast and prepare for the always-brutal 9-game trip thru ANA, SEA & OAK, those of us in The Nation are left in the smouldering aftermath of BM II, asking questions and pointing fingers. Manny begged out of the finale yesterday in the 5th, citing a "cramped hamstring"; more likely the 5-game tuning was cramping his free-spirited style. Now comes word that SS Alex Gonzalez will go on the DL with a back strain, and hotshot prospect Dustin Pedroia will make his big league debut. Another one of the whiz kids supposed to save the day now, as opposed to into the next decade. It's all about now with RedSoxFan, and right now all fingers are pointing at the man in the gorilla suit.

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