Let’s Take A Look At What The Sox Have Done Thus Far This Season
It isn’t time to panic anymore now is it? Ever since the Sox were swept by the New York Yankees in the Bronx about three weeks ago, the local nine have turned up their play and now stake a 3 1/2 game advantage in the AL wildcard.
The recipe to the recent success isn’t easily replicated. Day in and day out, Terry Francona and the Red Sox send out either a new pitcher, new reliever, or new lineup card. So let’s take a closer look at what’s been working and how we can assess the moves and makeover of the 2009 Boston Red Sox.
It’s been no secret, Theo Epstein has been a very busy man this season. His reclamation projects in John Smoltz and Brad Penny did not work out. Plain and simple. But a lot can be said about how the Sox offense has stepped up without the presence of Manny Ramirez this season and the lack of an MVP like season from Dustin Pedroia. Their offense has come alive of late, thanks in large part to the bats of Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, and more importantly David Ortiz. Mike Lowell has been groving it well of late as well as Kevin Youkilis. The Sox are clicking on all cylinders at the plate and are still trying to find their stride on the mound from the starting five.
Josh Beckett has been anything but Beckett-like in his past three starts, falling victim to the long-ball. The only constant seems to be Jon Lester as Junichi Tazawa was recently demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket and Tim Wakefield has been battling a sore back. Clay Buchholz has proved to be a commodity for the Sox staff, producing three wins, all against the Toronto Blue Jays. The bullpen struggled a little during the summer months but still remains to be the best in baseball and the acquisition of Billy Wagner should help an already strong area for this ball club.
Let’s take a look at the three major moves that Boston has made in 2009:
1) Acquisition of Victor Martinez for Justin Masterson and others…
Sure, the Red Sox loved the versatility and competitiveness that Justin Masterson brought to the mound on a daily basis. But in order to not part with some higher prospects, Masterson had to be dealt. And what a deal it turned out to be. Victor Martinez is batting over .300 since coming to Boston, finding himself sub-planted into the number three spot in the lineup. His versatility, either at catcher or first basemen, allows Francona to assess the best match-ups for each and every game which can only help this old ball club. Good move Theo.
2) Placing Dice-K On The Disabled List…
We all called for Daisuake Matsuzaka’s head earlier in the season. We wanted nothing to do with him and how could we have felt otherwise? We had Beckett, Lester, Wakefield, and Penny with Smoltz, Buchholz, and Michael Bowden all waiting for an opportunity to crack the starting rotation. But now, about three months later, we need Dice-K and it turns out that everything might work out after all. Paul Byrd and Tazawa cannot be our fourth starter in the playoffs and with the health of Tim Wakefield up in the air and his playoff pitching ineffectiveness, Boston may need Dice-K. With Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz slotted as the first three starters, the Red Sox will need another man. Who better than the cool-under-pressure Matsuzaka who has had plenty of experience pitching when a season is on the line? Yes, he may frustrate fans with his walks and tenuous innings but in the end he is the answer to the problem. With a lot of rest and time to clear his head, Dice-K can come back to the starting rotation with a fresh arm and a chip on his shoulder. Let’s see how that works out.
3) Trading For Billy Wagner…
Okay, so we haven’t had much time to dissect whether or not this acquisition will work. But we do know one thing, Wagner is a gamer. Whether the high-profile left-hander can acclimate to the Boston media and locker room has yet to be seen but the facts are undeniable. He is a dynamic lefty that still has a 95 m.p.h fastball, even after surgery, with a devastating slider. He has closing experience and is a veteran of the game of baseball. A $3.5 million rental for the last months of the season may be a steep price to pay for a guy who will only pitch about 20 or so innings, but the reward of a healthy and effective Wagner, is much more than money. It could mean rings.
An assessment of the 2009 season and the work of Theo Epstein can only come after the season. In the end, it comes down to pitching and defense in playoff baseball. But the Red Sox have to get there first. A big series starts with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday and a win of the series or sweep of the Rays could go a long way in securing a spot in the 2009 MLB playoffs for our beloved Red Sox.