Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

PITCHING WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS

Pitching wins championships, and I'm not sure if the Red Sox can slug their way around their present pitching issues. I'm sure they'd love to have Pedro on the staff right now. They should have foreseen their current predicament - especially with Schilling's injury last year. They could have signed a cheaper interim shortstop, and given more money to Pedro instead. Hanley will be ready next year, or the year after, and now the Renteria signing has completely bungled payroll in a couple of ways. First off, he's clearly not worth $10 million per season. Secondly, what are guys like Johnny Damon, or other free agents, worth now?

Omar Vizquel was available, and cheap. He's a 3-time All-Star, a 9-time Gold Glove winner, and owns best fielding percentage in Major League history among shortstops . He's been playing great ball in San Francisco, and his numbers are similar to Renteria's.

Hindsight is 20/20, but the Sox brightest baseball minds should have seen this coming. There are only about ten truly "great" pitchers in all of baseball, and the Sox gave up on one who is only in his early 30's. Guys like that don't come along often and are hard to replace. Yeah, Pedro was a head case and a prima donna, but he could really help right now and in the playoffs - should they get that far. It's clearly not a lock. Even if Pedro couldn't fulfill the last year of the contract, he might have been worth the money anyway. He has a 2.77 ERA, and 182 strike outs, which are far better than any Sox pitcher. He's averaging a strike out an inning. He's also gone 13-5 for a team that hasn't helped him win many ball games. As of today, Pedro had only given up 126 hits in 182 innings. That's far fewer than any Sox pitcher, and a much better ratio too.

This could be Roger Clemens, part deaux. The Sox should have learned their lesson the first time.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE

Keith Foulke will finally be activated on Thursday. But don't get too excited yet. Coming off his recent rehab stint, the former bullpen anchor sounds a lot less than convinced, and therefore less than convincing, about his current status.

Speaking of his two outings in Lowell, Foulke said, "Velocity was down, command wasn't as sharp as I want it to be. I'm not out there to fool myself. Saturday didn't go very well. I wasn't happy with that at all. (Sunday) I went out and made some major adjustments, and was a lot closer to where I want to be."

And Foulke sounds as mystified as everyone else about the decline in his velocity to the mid 80s this year.

''Maybe I'm just getting old. I don't know what the deal is. A few years back I was a 90-93 guy, consistently. That's when I was dominating. That's where I want to be. Hopefully, over the next month or so we can get back there and keep working toward next year."

Next year? What about this year? There is no next year right now! All we've got is this year. We're in the middle of a pennant race for goodness sake!

''I got plenty to prove. ''The day I have nothing left to prove you will never see me again."

If he doesn't prove that he can still be an effective big league closer, we might not see him in a Sox uniform again after this season.

If anyone expects him to be the solution to the bullpen's continuing woes, Foukle sought to limit expectations. ''I'm not a savior. I'm just a part of the puzzle." Not the kind of words that inspire confidence.

In the meantime, the Sox claimed Houston reliever Chad Harville on waivers. Harville was 0-2 with a 4.46 ERA in 37 games for the Astros. It's curious that a playoff contender would release a pitcher at this point in the season, and it begs the question, why? The good news is that in his last 13 appearances he allowed just two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings, resulting in a meager 1.17 ERA.

Let's hope he works out better than Mike Remlinger did. If we're lucky, Houston's loss could be the Red Sox gain. We can only hope.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

AS GOOD AS IT GETS

On Saturday, Bronson Arroyo matched a season high by allowing seven runs over 5 1/3 innings, which included a Dmitri Young grand slam on a weak fastball. In the fourth inning alone, Arroyo surrendered five runs on five hits, making it the 17th time this season a Sox opponent has scored five or more runs in an inning. It was both sad and disconcerting to watch Arroyo blow a six run lead.

The 28-year-old righty is now 10-9. Amazing. Pitching for the highest run producing team in the majors, he's still just one game above .500. But his career record is worse. At 29-32, he's three games below the even mark. At present, his record is the same as it was at the end of last season. So he'll likely end up with more wins, but he'll also end up with more losses. His ERA now stands at 4.44, and the Red Sox have to face up to the fact that Arroyo is, and will always be, nothing more than an average pitcher. He is, at best, a number four starter and maybe even a number five. Arroyo is in the prime of his career, and this is likely as good as it gets.

But he not alone. No Sox starter will win 20 games this year. Tim Wakefield leads the staff with 13 wins backed by 10 losses and a 4.35 ERA. Matt Clement, who the team saw as a solid number two starter, is 11-3 and will likely top out at fifteen wins this year - at best. His 4.35 ERA puts him in tie with Wakefield for the team lead. Very telling. David Wells is 11-6 with a 4.44 ERA. Before going on the DL, Wade Miller struggled with his shoulder - and his command - on his way to a 4-4 record and a 4.95 ERA. And Curt Schilling looks like a shadow of his former self. He appears to still be injured, or aged - or both. The man the club was counting on to be their ace sports an uninspiring 6.89 ERA, and a losing 5-6 record.

The Red Sox are on pace for another 90 plus wins this season - 93 to be exact - and not one member of their staff will compile 20 wins. Simply put, they have no ace. Including Schilling and minus Miller, the starters have a combined 4.89 ERA. Substitute Miller for Schilling, because he was injured or in the pen most of the year, and the ERA falls to 4.51. Big deal. That's not a championship caliber staff. If the offense fails to produce at least 4 1/2 runs in a given game, the team generally loses. There is no balance to their attack.

Sox pitching has been getting lit up as of late. As of Saturday evening, the staff had surrendered 27 runs in their previous 26 innings. The bullpen continues to be a mess with a composite 5.45 ERA - the second worst in baseball. The relievers are lucky if they don't have to come in before the sixth inning. Sox starters often don't last very long. The team wins games by out-pounding the competition. That's all well and good until they meet top flight playoff pitching. If the old axiom holds true - that pitching wins championships - then this team is trouble. This may be as good as it gets.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A NICE SURPRISE

Jeremi Gonzalez continued his fine work out of the pen on Tuesday night. Gonzo pitched three scoreless innings and faced ten batters without giving up a hit. Gonzalez has started three games for the Sox this year, but it has been in his recent relief appearances that he's started to shine. In his last six outings, spanning 11 2/3 innings, the 30-year-old has given up just three hits and only one walk. Most importantly, he hasn't allowed a single run. Though his ERA stands at 5.09, that number has declined in each of those six successive appearances.

Those are some impressive numbers, and Gonzo has picked the right time to get hot. So far this year, Gonzalaez has arguably been the best surprise out of the Sox pen. Let's hope he can maintain it down the stretch. The team will need it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

SCHILLING TO RETURN TO TOP OF ROTATION

Before Saturday's game, manager Terry Francona announced that Curt Schilling will finally get his wish. Schilling is due to resume his role as the staff's number one starter on Thursday against the slumping Royals. It's an ideal situation for the 38-year old. The Royals lost their 19th consecutive game on Friday night, the longest such streak in the Majors since the Orioles lost 21 consecutive games to begin the 1988 season.

Schilling's move into the rotation creates as many questions as answers. First, who's spot will he take? Wade Miller is the likely option. Due to Miller's shoulder stiffness, and inconsistent performance this season, rookie Jonathan (don't call him Jon) Papelbon is filling in during his absence. Secondly, who becomes the closer? As of now, Mike Timlin is expected to serve as the primary closer until Foulke returns. Lastly, who assumes Timlin's valuable and consistent set up role? Any combination of the rookies Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, and Craig Hansen will likely see action. Another possible and interesting scenario would have Foulke becoming the set up man, and the tenacious Timlin remaining in the closer's role. Timlin has just the sort of aggressive and competitive personality, not to mention experience, to excel as the closer. Furthermore, after being booed at Fenway earlier this season, Foulke complained about the pressure of being the closer, saying he'd be happy pitching in any capacity. The team might be better off with him setting up Timlin.

During an incredible run in last year's post season, Foulke pitched in seven of the eight games and finished five of them. During the World Series, he closed all four games, winning Game 1 and saving Game 4, while allowing one run on seven hits in five innings. In whatever cpacity he serves down the stretch, the Sox will need him to be at, or near, that level if they expect to repeat as champions this season.

Schilling returned to the active roster on July 14 and became the closer when Foulke went on the disabled list following knee surgery. Foulke is expected to begin a rehab assignment next week and could be back in the pen by the end of the month. According to Foulke, "If I'm not back by Sept. 1 there's something worse going on than my knee. I suspect I should be pitching well before Sept. 1. That's just my opinion."

The concern with Schilling won't be just his surgically repaired ankle, but his stamina as well. Since coming back on July 14, he's appeared in 30 games, accumulating a 4-3 record and nine saves. Schilling will turn 39 in November, and most players that age take longer to heal and also find their stamina to be decreasing.

Since his July return, Schilling has thrown 362 pitches. The average major league pitcher would hit that mark in just over three starts. Schilling doesn't think it will take him long to return to form, but his velocity has been inconsistent and many have questioned his ability to push off with the still recovering ankle. As Schilling said himself on Friday night, "The ankle won't be right for at least another eight to 10 months."

Overall, the big righty is 5-5 with a 6.37 ERA in 23 appearances this season. Before pitching two scoreless innings on Friday night, striking out four on 27 pitches, Schilling's August ERA had ballooned to 8.31. That swollen ERA is due to outings like the one he had on Monday night against Detroit. After holding a two run lead with one out in the ninth, the wheels fell of the wagon. Schilling surrendered four hits and three runs in one inning, culminating with John McDonald's two out, walk-off single. After that meltdown, Schilling had been scored on in three straight outings, though the Sox persevered on the previous two occasions.

Perhaps Johnny Damon put it best after that game. "He's not the Curt Schilling that finished up last season. He needs some work. He knows it. This was a rough outing for him. He'll find it."

All of Red Sox Nation hopes so, and would love to share Damon's optimism. If the Sox are to advance through October, they'll need Schilling to pitch like he did on Friday night against the Angels, and not like he did on Monday against the Tigers.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Always an Adventure

So far this season, the Red Sox Nation holds its colective breath every time Terry Francona goes to the bullpen. It seems that it's never easy; instead it's always an adventure.

To this point, the Mike Remlinger experiment hasn't fared so well. Remlinger's first three appearances in a Red Sox uniform were abysmal: 1 IP, 5 H, 9 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 1 K. Acquired by the Sox from the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 9, the 39-year-old Plymouth native was unable to record an out in his first two appearances. After recording two quick outs in Tuesday's contest against Detroit, Remlinger gave up two walks and a base hit before yielding a grand slam that brought the Tigers back to within three. After the game his ERA stood at an incomprehensible 54.00 with the Sox. The Cubs seem to have given up on the 14-year veteran for good reason. He may be one cast off the Sox will regret signing. He doesn't seem to be the answer to their problems, and he obviously wasn't the answer in Chicago either.

Aside from Remlinger, the Sox have also acquired Ricky Bottalico, and Matt Perisho since the July 31 trading deadline. The club is so desperate for bullpen help that they're actually considering a call up of recently signed Craig Hansen from Double A Portland. The youngster has only had five appearances with the Sea Dogs but hasn't given up a run. Only time will tell if he can deliver at the big league level this early in his career, but just the fact that the organization is considering such a move indicates just how desperate they are. As the old adage states, beggars can't be choosers. Right now the team is winning despite it's bullpen, simply due to their monumental offensive output. But it will take more than that to win in October.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Belhorn: Over & Out

Even before Mark Bellhorn was placed on the DL after suffering a sprained left thumb, all signs indicated that he wasn't going to remain in the starting line-up much longer anyway. In the midst of a season long slump, Belhorn was hitting a meager .216 at the time - the lowest of all American League regulars - and was leading he league with 108 strike outs.

Belhorn's woes were even more pronounced at Fenway, where he was hitting just .170 - a sign that he was pressing in an attempt to avoid the ire of the Fenway Faithful.

With the inspired play of Tony Graffanino, now hitting .314 while exhibiting tremendous defensive prowess and terrific base running instincts, Belhorn would've had a difficult time cracking the starting line-up again anyway. But his struggles in Pawtuckett seem to have all but sealed his fate. During a rehab assignment with the PawSox that began on Aug. 1, Bellhorn is batting a woeful .111. It now appears that his time with the Sox may be over.

The second baseman will likely be placed on waivers and, provided he clears, then be offered an outright assignment to Pawtucket.

Red Sox Nation should thank him for his contributions in 2004, and wish him well in the future.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

THE STATE OF THE STAFF

The Sox have a lot riding on Keith Foulke's return to the bullpen. Just four-and-a-half weeks after surgery on his left knee, Foulke is already throwing off the mound but says his leg still gets tired. ''I'm not as ready as I thought I was. There are times when I don't do things right. And I still feel my knee, " says the reliever.

Foulke said his troubled right knee may also require surgery in the future. ''Over the next week and a half, it'll be interesting to see how it responds. If it starts to bother me, we'll go and shoot it up and kind of get through the season and correct that after the season is over."

Foulke won't begin throwing batting practice until next week, and will hopefully be ready for a rehab stint in the minors shortly thereafter. The best guess is that he won't be back until the end of the month. It can't come soon enough. The Sox are counting on his return in order to get Curt Schilling back into the rotation. Without those two events occurring, a repeat of last year's miracle won't be likely.

The Sox desperately need a confident and reliable Schilling heading the rotation. Things could fall into place nicely with him anchoring the staff. A rotation of Schilling, David Wells, Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo could be very competitive in a playoff series.

Arroyo now has 10 victories this season, matching his total from last year, and he thinks he will make 8-10 more starts before the year's over. "It's huge," said the young righty. "Last year, I struggled to get 10 wins. It took me until the last start of the season. I'm throwing the ball pretty well, so I'm happy to be at 10 right now. I feel good and I'm looking forward to hopefully tacking on some more wins."

Arrroyo's success this year has built the confidence of his teammates and his manager. "When you give a guy the ball and you think you're going to win, that's a pretty big compliment," Francona said. "He has turned himself into a real pro. He's a good pitcher."

The Sox will not only rely on Arroyo continuing to be a "real pro", but also on having a healthy and effective Schilling and Foulke. They will also need the best possible performances from each of their other starters down the stretch and into October. Right now, not one starter has an ERA under four. The Sox 4.75 team ERA, is 24th in the majors this year, and the highest among division leaders. People have knocked the Yankees' and Orioles' staffs all year long, yet they both have a lower team ERA than the Sox.

The staff continues to win games, despite itself, because of an offense that supports them with an average of 5.85 runs per game - the highest in baseball.

This isn't last year's team, a squad that had Pedro, as well as baseball's 11th best team ERA. Their record may not indicate that they miss Pedro at the moment, but come October they may. They will need their entire staff - with Schilling and Foulke in their proper and intended roles - to make a Herculean effort and come up big when it counts.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

SOX NOTES

Edgar Renteria now has 20 errors this season, putting him on pace for 29 errors. That would surpass his career high of 27, set in 2000 with St. Louis. ER doesn't just lead all major league shortstops in errors, he leads all major league players in errors. $10 million this season for 20 errors, a .278 average, 6 homers and 41 RBI? Can you say OVERPAID!

Tim Wakefield ended yet another Sox skid on Sunday. It marked the fourth time this year he's halted a losing streak at two games and the third time he's helped the team avoid a series sweep. Wakefield notched a career high 11 strikeouts, which is also the season high for a Red Sox pitcher.

The Sox have maintained a winning record in every month dating back to July 2004. That's the right kind of consistency.

Go Sox!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

INFIELD POWER OUTAGE

As a group, the Boston infield has struggled to clear outfield fences this season. Kevin Millar (4), Mark Bellhorn (7), Edgar Renteria (6) and Bill Mueller (5) have combined for eight fewer home runs than Manny Ramirez's 30 blasts.

The starting infield has produced only 150 RBI in total this year, and the additions of Alex Cora and Tony Graffanino haven't made much of a difference in those numbers. The pair have combined for a total of 5HR and 30 RBI between them.

This lack of infield production makes it all the more amazing that the Sox lead the league in runs, RBI (tied w/ Texas), and are fifth in homers. The Sox are also first in hits, doubles, batting, and on base percentage, third in total bases, and fourth in sluging percentage.

If every infielder was simply having a decent year, then each would be expected to drive in about 75 runs by seaon's end. Since the team is exactly two thirds of the way through this year's campaign, each should have about 50 RBI at at this juncture. Yet, Mueller leads all Sox infielders with 44 RBI.

Almost the enitire infield is hitting below their career averages in homers and RBI. Just two years ago, the year he won the batting title, Bill Mueller hit 19 homers while driving in 85 runs. Prior to this year, Kevin Millar had a career average of 17 home runs per season and had knocked in an average of 85 RBI over the last two seasons. Renteria will almost surely finish below the 75 RBI and 12 HR that he's averaged over the course of the past six years. Belhorn belted 27 homers for the Cubs in 2002 and and drove home 82 runs for the Sox last season. The four of them are simultaneously having an off year, and yet the team is still producing offense at an incredible pace. That is a testament to the phenomenal output of the rest of the squad. Just imagine the production if everyone in the infield was simply having an average year.

Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Wakefield's Place in Sox History

When you consider the list of all-time great Red Sox pitchers, names like Cy Young, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez come to mind. Players like Smokey Joe Wood, Mel Parnell, and perhaps even Luis Tiant also merit consideration.

That's for good reason. Clemens and Young are tied for first on the club's all time wins list at 192 victories each; Mel Parnell is third with 123 wins; Tiant is fourth at 122; and Martinez and Wood are tied for fifth place with 117 wins apiece. Oh, by the way, the guy in second place is none other than Tim Wakefield. I know - hard to believe, huh? Not necessarily what you'd expect. On the evening of his 39th birthday, Wakefield won his tenth game of the season and took sole possession of the number two spot on the esteemed list.

Wakefield is second in games, third in innings pitched (trailing only Clemens and Young), and third in career strikeouts, behind Clemens and Martinez.

In eleven years with the Sox, Wakefield has slowly amassed a respectable sum of victories, albeit quietly. Perhaps that's because his very best season was way back in 1995, his first year with the team. That year, Wakefield posted a 16-8 record with a 2.95 ERA. Three years later, Wake posted a 17-8 record, but his ERA shot up to 4.58. Of the seven pitchers listed above, Wakefield has by far the highest career ERA - 4.32. The next closest is Tiant, and his 3.36 career ERA is almost a full point lower than Wakefield's. In fact, Wake is #33 on the team's all-time list.

The veteran knuckler's career has been highlighted by a series of ups and downs, perhaps the best example being his career win / loss percentage of 53%. Not only does the 38-year-old place highly on the team's list of all time leaders in some very distinguished categories, but he also ranks rather highly on some not so desired lists. For instance, Wakefield is first in total earned runs, and he trails only Clemens in walks allowed. By a long shot, he's given up the most home runs in team history (263), and unfortunately this year (if not early next year) he'll become the losingest pitcher in Red Sox history. That mark is currently held by Cy Young (112), and Wakefield is just five losses from surpassing the Hall of Famer.

Wakefield's career hasn't been marked by greatness so much as it has been by tenacity and grit. The man possesses a very competitive nature and an overriding will to win, or at least compete. He doesn't easily give up, or give in. Wakefield has shown a willingness to take the ball under almost any circumstances, placing the interests of the team above his own. His selfless acts, such as stepping up and making a lost cause relief appearance against the Yankees during their humiliating beating of the Sox in last years' ALCS, have shown true team spirit and class. He was also on the mound in extra innings at Yankee Stadium, in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, against You Know Who, pitching his heart out for an exhausted staff. Wakefield has come out of the bullpen at various times in his career without complaint. He's never concerned himself with inflating his career numbers, or padding his stats in a contract year. With him it's always been team first.

And that's why there's a certain poetic justice as Wakefield encroaches upon the milestone numbers of the team's all-time greats - players whom Wakefield probably wouldn't even feel comfortable being compared to. Tim Wakefield will play at least one more season for the Red Sox, and then his place in Red Sox history will be debated. Is he one of the greatest in team history? Some of his numbers would indicate yes, others no. But one thing is certain; numbers don't tell the story when it comes to heart, courage, desire and team spirit. Tim Wakefield may be number one in all of those categories. But those types of stats don't show up in the record books though.


Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Disappointed by Deadline Dealing?

A legion of Sox fans were likely stunned by the lack of a big-time trade at Sunday's deadline. For a month there'd been an unrelenting buzz about a pending upgrade to the pitching staff. Then when Trot Nixon went down with an oblique strain that could keep him out for an indefinite period, the sentiment was that something big was surely in the works. It was just a matter of time. Seemingly everyone wanted Kevin Millar and Mark Belhorn traded. But with their sub-par performance this season, neither had much trade value. Third baseman Bill Mueller seemed like one of the most tradable assets. Mueller, a batting champion just two years ago, is still a clutch hitter and has great defensive skills. But, at age 34, he's been plagued by knee injuries and is a free agent a season's end. With the young and talented Kevin Youkilis waiting in the wings, most believe that Mueller won't won't be back with the team next year anyway. There was a line of thinking that reasoned that the Sox should trade Mueller now and get something in return while they still can.

People feverishly checked the Globe, Herald, ESPN and numerous internet sites for a preview of what to expect. The consensus was that the Sox would make a play for a starting pitcher like AJ Burnett, or Jason Schmidt and, in the absence of Keith Foulke, would most certainly try to obtain a frontline closer like Billy Wagner. Boston likes stars, and the fans expected a big name. At the least, the Twins were rumored to be sending reliever JC Romero to the Sox for Mueller. And when Red Sox Nation awoke on Sunday morning, they found to their great surprise that the team had acquired the great....Jose Cruz Jr.? What? That's it? No superstar? Many Sox fans likely felt gipped or, at the least, let down.

Many may be asking how this could have happened. How could the team not address its most pressing needs? But on closer inspection, just because the Sox didn't acquire an acclaimed starter to bolster the rotation, a big name reliever to aid the pen, or even a stud outfielder, doesn't mean that Theo and company stood pat. In fact, they were busy and they were active.

Truth be told, as far as transactions go, July was a very busy month for the Red Sox. There are quite a few players now with the club who weren't on the 25-man roster just a month ago. To start with, the Sox acquired utility infielder Alex Cora from the Indians for the ineffective Ramon Vazquez. That move was clearly a defensive upgrade for the team. They traded a dissatisfied Jay Payton for a much needed righty set-up man, Chad Bradford, complementing lefty set-up man, Mike Myers. The club then replaced Payton's backup outfield spot with speedy Rule V pick up, Adam Stern. Next the team re-signed popular outfielder Gabe Kapler, an important role player on last year's championship team. Then, as an insurance move, they acquired the versatile infielder Tony Graffanino from Kansas City to fill in for an injured Mark Belhorn. And on the evening of the deadline, they sent two minor league prospects to the Diamondbacks for former Gold Glove winning outfielder, Jose Cruz Jr. Cruz has had 20 or more home runs in four of the last five seasons, and has 12 so far this year. And the 31-year-old was a 30/30 man for the Blue Jays as recently as 2001.

But that wasn't all. The Sox made use of their deep farm system by calling up promising pitchers Manny Delcarmen and Jon Papelbon, as well as journeyman, Jeremi Gonzalez. Perhaps most important of all, the team got top pitcher Curt Schilling back from the disabled list, and even if he's only 90% effective, he's better than any available player on the trade market. Best of all, it didn't cost the team anything to get him. When all was said and done, the Red Sox vaunted farm system remained largely intact, and the team added a total of 10 new players to the 25 man roster in the span of month.

The club also signed a much-heralded draft pick, pitcher Craig Hansen. Though it's clearly a long shot, some see Hansen as being big league ready now, and possibly joining the other newcomers in Boston as soon as next month.

July was a time for change, and the Sox didn't just acquire new players, but they also said farewell to others. Matt Mantai was lost to the DL, and has likely pitched his last game for the Red Sox. And aside from Vazquez, Payton, and Adam Hyzdu (once again), gone are relief pitchers Alan Embree and John Halama.

So in review, the Sox didn't exactly stand pat. They made changes that they hope will strengthen the club, while protecting the valuable minor league assets that they hope will help them in the near future. Furthermore, they didn't disrupt the vital chemistry of the club, and still have many of the core players from last year's squad. Manny Ramirez will finish this season, and perhaps his career, with the Sox. But the players who started the season at first (Millar), second (Belhorn), and third (Mueller) will likely be gone next year, and center fielder Johnny Damon could be lost to free agency as well. So the team could have a very different look come April, but this year's squad appears to be set, barring a waiver pick-up later this month.

Let's enjoy this team while we still can. It could be a very different looking squad next spring. Just two more months until the playoffs begin again. Go Sox!


Copyright © 2005 Kennedy's Commentary. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.