It has been a little bit since the last entry… needed time to cool off, simmer down and just plain get over it. But of course, New York goes on. So one does indeed have to ask the question (as most everyone does at some point during the spring training, regular and post season) are the Yankees back? Will we be seeing another 4 titles in five or six years again? It’s entirely possible.
Many here in the Nation will look back on the Hot Stove Season of 2008/2009 as a huge misstep in Theo’s tenure. He allowed the Evil Empire to buy a gift card and have free reign of the toy store in some baseball billionaire’s sweepstakes. Theo and the Sox meantime went to Goodwill and picked up a few hand-me-downs.
Now obviously not all of this revolves around Mark Teixeira… but it does revolve around ‘Tex’ and C.C. Sabathia. The two biggest free agents this half of the decade were basically escorted to NY to try on their pinstripes while we drove the limo. Through either lack of effort or severe underestimation of Boras/Teixeira the Sox missed out on a cornerstone and it did, over the course of this season alone, hurt. Teixeira has used the Sox before (as a darft-pick), as has Boras (let us count the ways) and they played their card extremely well this time around, knowing the Sox were hot for him and pitting the two biggest rivals in sport on and off the field at each other once more. Credit the Yanks, they used Sabathia and Burnett as a smokescreen to quietly take the ‘dark horse’ role and slip Tex in their pocket. The Sox meanwhile were luke warm in the Sabathia hunt and too busy plucking “Low risk High reward” stalwarts such as Penny and Smoltz out of the sky. The Yanks, who since the dawn of the Free Agent era have shown themselves to be very much in the “Big Risk Big Reward” mold, and with the exception of the mid 80’s to mid 90’s (where they couldn’t learn to adapt, spend properly and very few teams in baseball were overly impressive) and the Giambi era of this decade, have had a little something to show for it.
Now, all of this, at this point, is moot. The road to riches goes through Philly and currently they match up fairly well.
However, consider this. While the Sox were feeding us the happy, yummy goodness of “Mike Lowell will recover, as will Big Papi and Jed Lowrie is the shortstop of the future blah blah blah..” NY was adding a Cy Young and MVP to the roster to compliment A-Rod (steroids or no), Jeter, Pettite and Rivera. Wonderful and wishful thinking. Of course the Nation was bursting at the seams come mid-season as we torched the Yanks for 8 straight and they looked like they couldn’t hit batting practice. And while we hobbled along on the backs of Lester and Beckett the Yanks suddenly (as all teams do) jelled together upon A-Rod’s return and uh-oh, ouch time. Think of what Sabathia may have done to round out the top 3 spots and drop Dice-K in at four. Yeah, awesome but a friggin’ pipe dream. Or how about Tex hitting third or fourth behind Youk or Petey. Now imagine we still got Victor Martinez and installed him right there in the four or five hole. Yeah… I know.
But here we are going into the Hot Stove Season for 2009/2010 and now we’re right back where we were, only worse. Bay may be gone. Theo and Scott Boras are like oil and water at this point with the ill-liked Boras holding all the cards. Matt Holliday is the most obvious candidate and perhaps a better one, but he prefers the National League and again, St. Louis is nuts to let him walk while they still have Pujols in his prime. This may be Theo’s time to shine and shock the sh!t out of everyone. If Prince Fielder is on the market as the Brewers have said… get him. He’s an impact player who could do serious damage at Fenway. Sure, there’s the weight issue which could translate to a health issue… just like Papi’s declining age and Lowell’s balky hip. Some have suggested switching Lowell & Youk on the corners, allowing for Mike’s now limiting range… a short term answer which seems fine. Insert a new powerplant at 1st, Youk at 3rd and platoon Lowell with Papi at DH or make him the DH all together. Yes, Papi is that much of a question mark if you couldn’t tell by Theo’s end of season comments.
The Sox came of age in 2003 and matured in 2004. But that core is gone, through either FA or age. Schilling, Pedro and Damon are not here anymore, neither is Millar. They were not interchangable parts on that squad, they were the heart and soul of it and when they left we carried on with their successors in Beckett, Youk, Petey, Lester and Papelbon… but there was a constant… Varitek, Papi and yes, Manny. Even with Bay for Ramirez, Papi is looking as old as no one really knows he is and Tek has just met reality in the form of a heroic, older, weatherbeaten catcher. Even for all his fire, Fisk couldn’t stop time. Unlike many teams in both leagues before them, the Sox have an advantage… they can financially compete with New York. As many teams watch their legacy crack, fade and crumble in on itself while grasping at ‘veteran’ (see old, overpriced) talent while waiting for the next big phenom to arrive and save them (ask Lou Gorman), Boston like NY can skip all that. Got older veteran talent and a good young core that hasn’t quite developed or matured yet? Buy the peices and slip them in. Not a sure fire thing for immediate results, but again look at NY. Mixing their veterans with their youngsters was a fairly good success, add the two best players in the game at their positions and all of a sudden everyone is the same age and working like a team. The Scarlett Hose need to bridge that gap. Victor Martinez was a great help, but now who?
Luis Tiant was the soul of a mid-seventies Sox powerhouse that ownership p!ssed away.
“Looo-eee” bridged the gap between Yaz and Jerry Remy so to speak and for three years, those teams were solid, it was ownership and a slightly misguided Zimmer who sucked and completely failed under the new Free Agent system (to retain talent, nevermind import it). The 80’s epitomized the “25 guys 25 cabs” era while the 90’s started off poorly for a word (see the above mentioned Lou Gorman; Jack Clark, Andre Dawson, et al). As Frank Viola said “We were waiting for the youth movement.” Jim Rice and Dwight Evans never seemed to have a bridge. Pedroia and Youk are bridges, young, lively heart & soul guys who can relate the wisdom of Varitek and Tim “I played with Roger Clemens in Red Sox” Wakefield with Ellsbury, Tazawa and Josh Reddick. They are cornerstones who along with Ellsbury and now Vic Martinez need a few big guys slipped in till the next crop of Paw Sox are ready to shine in two or three years, and according to most, they will be ready.
So, where are we now? What is the state of Red Sox Nation? Fairly good for all intents and purposes to this point, but what do we do to improve next year and solidify ourselves for the next three to four years. Good thing we have time to ponder it….