Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Red Sox Should Be Concerned Heading Into Playoffs

  • Indians 4-Red Sox 3:
The playoff matchups in the American League are pretty much set and the Red Sox, despite their
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successful history against the Angels, have reason to be concerned this year. The Angels are on a mission this season and two of the Red Sox main strengths as they've won their championships----starting pitching and clutch power hitting in the middle of the lineup----are question marks as they prepare for a trip to Anaheim.
Something clicks in Josh Beckett's brain at playoff time, so they're not going to have to worry about him; but Daisuke Matsuzaka is very likely going to have trouble with the Angels patient hitters as they run up his pitch count and gladly accept his propensity to walk people. Jon Lester's been excellent this year and knuckleballers like Tim Wakefield are always hit or miss.
The bigger problem is going to be the lineup. Jason Bay has been everything the Red Sox expected when they traded Manny Ramirez away; that being said, Jason Bay is not Manny and has never once played in a big game on the national stage in his entire career. The Angels are not going to let David Ortiz beat them and are going to force Bay to deliver in the clutch as Manny did. Even with the MVP-quality years being had by Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, they're not additives to what was already a championship recipe;
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they're actually picking up for the departed Manny; the injury-diminished Ortiz; the aging Jason Varitek; and the injured J.D. Drew.
No matter what Bay's stats look like and how well he's replaced Manny on paper and especially in the clubhouse, he's not Manny and he's not someone that the Angels are going to sit there and say, "we have to stop this guy if we're gonna win"; that could end up being a miscalculation, but it's a strategy not to allow Ortiz to beat them and to make Bay come through; if he does, you tip your hat to him. The Angels were never intimidated by the Red Sox just as they were never intimidated by the Yankees; the reason the Red Sox beat them so consistently was that the Red Sox weren't a favorable matchup for the Angels and the Yankees were; now that's changed and the Red Sox are in for a rough time heading to Anaheim unless Bay can make up for Manny's absence when it really counts, and that's a big question mark.
  • Diamondbacks 4-Cardinals 2; Brandon Webb saves his second Cy Young Award:
I think it's safe to say that in addition to keeping his team alive in the playoff race, Brandon
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Webb's last two starts have saved his 2008 Cy Young Award. If the situation calls for it, he may even do more than that; if the Diamondbacks see an opening to catch the Dodgers on Thursday, there's no way Doug Davis is going to start that game and Dan Haren and Webb will be moved up to start on short rest. If they're alive going into the weekend against Colorado and the Giants see the opportunity to knock out or severely damage the playoff chances of their archenemy Dodgers, the Diamondbacks could still have a chance.
  • The trades you don't make are often the best ones:
Ervin Santana winning his 16th game last night brought back memories of spring training
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when the offensively challenged Angels were discussing a trade that would've sent Santana to the White Sox for Paul Konerko. Think about the dominoes that would've fallen had that deal taken place. Konerko has picked up his game lately, but he was so awful early in the season that he was benched; Santana jumped out of the chute for the Angels and (along with Joe Saunders) took over as the team's ace to counteract the absence of John Lackey and get the team off to a good start. Then there likely wouldn't have been a deal for Mark Teixeira and Teixeira may have ended up with the Diamondbacks because they were the other team with whom the Braves were having serious discussions. What would that have done to the NL West?
Then there were the rampant rumors of Brian Roberts being sent to the Cubs. With the addition of Kosuke Fukudome, there probably wouldn't have been room to keep Roberts, Fukudome and Mark DeRosa and DeRosa might've been traded; DeRosa has never been the power hitter he's proven himself to be this year (it's likely his career year), and the Cubs have
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discovered that Fukudome may be just an average player, and not what they were expecting; he's lost his starting job to boot. Looking at the numbers, DeRosa has had almost identical numbers to Roberts except with more power and a ton of clutch hits. How many teams would've had interest in DeRosa, a player who can play every position competently except catcher?
These are just two examples of rumored moves that didn't happen and would've made things worse for their team if they had happened. It's easy to look at trades that were made and judge them in the long and short term, but sometimes more can be learned from looking at trades that were said to be "near completion", but never came to pass for one reason or another and ended up working out far better than any completed deal could have.

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