Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why this is a lost season for the Sox

At the beginning of the year, the term "bridge year" was the buzzword. But looking at the payroll, it seemed like the usual instead. Well, the bridge mainly refers to the lack of homegrown talent coming up this year (or that was expected to make it up in a year or so - this is part of the problem). Remember, the Yankees just went through their own bridge a couple of seasons ago, and look where they wound up. Some more minor league experience and some free agency turnover and all will probably be OK again.

Anyhow, here's why they're toast:

- Way too many injuries to stay afloat. The starting lineup has missed the bulk of the season. Both catchers broke bones. Pedroia's been out over 6 weeks, Ellsbury has only played about 10 games (and just went back on the DL), Youk is lost for the season, Cameron probably should have had surgery in April because now he's lost as well, and Josh Beckett's missed almost 3 months and has been spotty since he came back.

- The Yankees and Rays are just having too many things go their way - and there's only one wildcard spot.

- Too many career minor-leaguers on the big roster.

- Jonathan Papelbon is not a dominant closer anymore. He's just not. He's still effective most of the time, but he's not consistent enough. Most closers aren't Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman. We've gotten 3 dominant seasons out of Pap as a closer, and 2 decent ones. He'll be gone as a free agent at the end of next year, so prepare to have Daniel Bard as your closer next season and Papelbon will be traded.

The reasons they still have a (faint) shot:

- They have quite a few games left against the Rays and Yankees. Win those head-to-head matchups and you make up a lot of ground quickly.

- David Ortiz got back enough of his stroke that he can demolish righthanders again. Good lefties can tie him up, which wasn't the case a few years ago. He may be worth another season or two as a DH, but not at the pay he's slotted for next year. I expect a renegotiation instead of free agency or his option year being picked up.

- Mike Lowell's done his job with class and dignity, they way he has his whole career. And he's filling in admirably for Youk.

- Adrian Beltre may be a one-year rental, but other than his habit of running into outfielders he's been a force for good.

- JD Drew is having a typical season. You barely know he's there, but he's got 16 homers to date, 22 doubles, and is playing solid defense. Also, no time on the DL though he's missed a few games.

- Pitching. Beckett and Dice-K may have been spending time on the DL (and inconsistent when they're back up), and Lackey may be pitching like a number 3 starter (though he's been mainly better the last month or so), but Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have turned into studs on the roster. Absolute studs. And there's some talent on the young arms, with Josh Bard as the closer of the future.

In other words, I think this team for this year is as good as it's going to get - but I wouldn't be shocked to see them make a run. I expect a lot of roster turnover for 2011, and we'll see what we get for that season. I think next year will see the departures of (at least) Beltre, Wakefield, Okajima, and Varitek to free agency or retirement. I think Ellsbury and Papelbon are both traded away. Thus is the fun of baseball.