While I'm not ready to jump off a building two games into a 162 game slate, I've also watched enough baseball to recognize issues and needs when I see them. The Boston Red Sox have a need for some starting pitching. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Today's 4+ inning outing by right-hander Matt Clement was a case in point. With a 90-92 mph fastball, great slider and 7 years of major league experience, Clement should be poised to step forward and assume the number two spot in the rotation. His short outing today did little to assure me that Clement is any better than a #4 starter in a rotation. Last season, that wouldn't have been an issue. Unfortunately this year, other than Schillling, this Red Sox staff is a collection of #4 and #5 guys at best.
With the season only two games old, the Sox are going to their bullpen too often and way too early. The other night's opener saw manager Francona use seven pitchers. Today's abbreviated outing by Clement had the skipper once again forced to dip into his bullpen early.
Despite my concerns, I'm confident that a GM like Theo Epstein will do what he needs to do to stabilize the pitching. The problem is that without making a blockbuster deal or trading for unproven talent, there isnt' any pitching out there that will bring the Sox a pitcher the likes of the departed Martinez or Lowe.
Did you happen to catch Ian O'Connor's (who) article in today's USA Today? I don't know if he's a regular contributor to this McPaper or not, but O'Connor (who writes for that household publication, The Westchester Journal in upstate New York) is quick to pile on the Red Sox. O'Connor, that grisled vet of the sportsbeat has seen enough baseball to conclude that the Sox are full of themselves.
Where the hell does he get that from? With an article full of overused metaphors and cute phrases reminiscent of one writing for his school yearbook, O'Connor shows himself for the pathetic hack that he is.
O'Connor derives great pleasure from lines like these; "The notion that the Boston Red Sox have grown fat and happy on their once-every-Halley's comet parade was fed by the image of David Wells in the opening-night lights, the former Yankee appearing as if he had eaten Central Park for lunch. Even in a 162-game season you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and the Red Sox began defending a world championship in a most predictable way: like a team that hasn't had much practice defending a world championship."
You can usually measure the skill of a writer by the lengths they go in their attempts to be cute. This guy doensn't deserve to write for the local historical society's newsletter, let alone a national daily, even if it is USA Today.
While I was ready to write the finale, with Keith Foulke on the mound and Varitek's homer making me absolutely giddy, the comeback victory hopes were thwarted by the Yankees "Mr. Clutch", Derek Jeter. With the Sox staging more late inning heroics against Mariano Rivera, this one had a script that read victory.
One of the bright spots that had me encouraged prior to Jeter's walk-off blast, was the work of the Red Sox bullpen. With clutch pitching coming form a trio of veterans the likes of John Halama, Matt Mantei and Alan Embree, the Sox bullpen showed itself to once again be one of the team's strongpoints in '05. Unfortunately, Foulke made a mistake to Jeter, who doesn't usually miss when the game is on the line.
While its cliche to say "it's only two games", the problem is that games that get away in April have a tendency to come back and bite you in the ass in September, when you are battling for a wildcard birth.