Monday, May 07, 2007
  Forget the Short-Term Rocket, the Sox have Long-Range Missiles
In a Boston Globe column this morning, one AL front office executive pondered about the next step.


What would the Red Sox do?

In Nick Cafardo's piece, the executive was quoted as saying: "One thing you learn pretty quickly is never rule out the Yankees. I'm guessing Boston is going to come up with something at a later date to trump this. Short of obtaining Rich Harden, not sure what that would be."

I'm sorry, but no. The days of the Red Sox making moves just to trump the Yankees are over.

It ended on October 20, 2004, with a ball that began in Alan Embree's hand, then bounced off Ruben Sierra's bat and the Yankee Stadium infield, into Pokey Reese's glove, and then went from his hand into the glove of Doug Mientkiewicz. (no word on the whereabouts of that ball, either).

That's when it ended. That's when it all changed.

Not to get all mystical, but things sort of had a cosmical shift at that point.

And in the moves made since - as the Red Sox took a youthful approach, lending toward player development rather than player purchase, the pattern has been established. And through 30 games this season, it's been a success.
Meanwhile, at stately Steinbrenner manor, the 21st Century Yankees resemble the Celtics of the late 1980's-early 1990's. The old guard, the ones that brought home title after title, are getting old. They're breaking down. A wise sage once spoke of the Celtics as Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, and Larry Bird not walking through a door. And if they did, the trio would be old.

He spoke of those three retired players as a point of reference for his young, inexperienced and - pardon the pun - green team.

The 2007 Yankees are a living, breathing, walking (and losing) museum of their winning ways from 1996-2000.

You get to watch Mariano Rivera break down in front of your eyes - yielding 13 hits, nine runs and three walks in 9.2 innings. Andy Pettitte gets to throws out of the bullpen out of sheer necessity, while sporting a close-to-six ERA over his six starts. He's also flirted with the DL with a bad back. Mike Mussina can't stay healthy, either.

And the other bags of shit - Kei Igawa, Darrell Rasner, Jeff Karstens and Chase "back-to-back-to-back-to-back-and-belly-to-belly-to-belly-to-belly" Wright - haven't exactly kept the ship afloat.

And now, the Yankees get Roger Clemens back on the hill in the month of June, picking up close to a million dollars per six-inning start.

The Yankee bullpen - once a feared entity, 1-5 - is fortified with the likes of Sean Henn, Colter Bean, Kyle Farnsworth and Brian Bruney. Mike Myers threw three innings the other night. Scott Proctor's arm might just fall off, like Frank Fitchard's in Anchorman.

Where have you gone, John Wetteland and Jeff Nelson?
The Roger Clemens sweepstakes was - and always has been - about one thing. Money.

It wasn't about the chance to be with his family (perhaps helping wife Debbie use the bedazzler on a few more articles of clothing), or to have a chance to throw to his boy - to have a Major League Baseball box score display a Clemens-Clemens battery. If it was, the Rocket would have stayed in Houston.

It was never about passing Cy Young as the all-time winningest pitcher in Boston baseball club history. If it was, Joe Cochran would have to issue the #21 jersey for the first time since the 1996 season.

It also wasn't about going to a team where he had the best chance to win a World Series title, because that would also be the Red Sox.

It was about the money.

It took a pro-rated $28 million dollar contract that will pay him close to a cool milly per six-inning stint (it's costing the Yankees $1.4 mil., more proof of their desperation) to "woo" Roger to the Bronx.

Because if he cared to do his homework, he'd see that in his final two seasons in the AL East, his ERA was 4.11. Not terrible, but not the mark of 2.40 he had in his last three seasons in Houston. And if you look at his innings pitched in Houston - a little more than 6.1 innings per outing - and factor in that the lineups he faced in the NL Central were not as daunting as the Blue Jays, Red Sox, or even Devil Rays (they'd be a GREAT NL team).

So, for the sake of the argument (and without some excel sheet to give me projections), say Rocket pitches six-solid every start for the Yanks. Say he gives up 3-4 runs per start. It opens up a second set of questions: who does Joe Torre hand the ball to?

The Yankees, at last check, were not a particularly good-hitting team after the 7th inning. I know during the recent Red Sox series, the Yanks were about at the Mendoza (not Ramiro, but the Yanks might want to see if he can join the bullpen, too) line, batting .204.

Now, take out Derek Jeter's numbers - who at that time was on an 18-game hit streak or so - and the Bombers dropped to .125. That was with Mr. April's 14 home run spree. A .125 BA? Damn, that's lower than Tony LaRussa's BAC in Spring Training. (wow, that was unnecessary)

No moves are necessary for the Red Sox. None. Not now.

Why? Because they're dedicated to their plan. And the plan is working. And like Hannibal, I love it when a plan comes together.
In full disclosure, I'd have liked to see Roger Clemens come to Boston and for the simple fact that I'd like to see his number retired in Fenway.

I don't think much of the man, or his money-grubbing ways, but he was a hell of a hurler for the hometown team, and it'd be pretty neat to have such a guy as the fifth starter.

There. That's the rub. Fifth starter. He'd be taking Julian Tavarez' spot in the rotation.

Tavarez, by the way, has done a solid job in the five-hole. He's faced five "aces" in each of his five starts for the Red Sox. Five aces isn't good to face in poker, or in baseball. But he's managed to pitch well enough to win two of those games (vs. Roy Halladay on 4/19 and against Chien Ming Wang on 4/29), while keep it respectable in two others (against Kevin Millwood on 4/7 and Johan Santana on 5/5). That's the two-time reigning Cy Young award winner, the runner up from '06, and the guy who won it before Santana's days. The Sox are 2-3 in those games. Respectible for the #5 starter. (quick, name the other #5 starters in the AL East).

Clemens coming to the Hub would help those numbers, but he'd be a fifth starter. He'd be holding the spot for Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, or whomever else is waiting in the wings for next season. He'd give Josh Beckett a chance to team up with his idol. It'd make for a cool picture with Curt Schilling. It'd give Tim Wakefield a chance to have someone who could actually answer the question: "remember what a douche Dan Duquette was?"

He'd be a stopgap and nothing more. Signing/renting Clemens would be an "old-time" move, certainly not along the same lines of the recent way of thinking on Yawkey Way.

The Red Sox made their new moves of spending money and thinking already. They made their investments with an eye on the long-term, not a three-month bandaid. They spent money on 26-year old Daisuke Matsuzaka with a six-year deal. They locked up Josh Beckett, another 26-year old, for three years. They opted not to re-up Curt Schilling, all 40 years of him, but would still have a chance in the offseason. Tim Wakefield and the Sox have a sweetheart of a deal - if both parties want to stay, they do. If not, they don't. And they have Jon Lester and others in the farm system.

Right now, the Yankees' rotation is old, older, and Clemens. Mussina, Pettitte, and Clemens are in the twilight of their careers - ok, maybe that's a bad reference, but still... Their best years are behind them. Chien Ming Wang is terrific and, by all accounts, so is Phillip Hughes. But what else. What next?

The Red Sox have their long-term plans set up. The Yankees don't. Which is why Cashman and crew will continue to try to win press conferences and headlines, stirring up Yankee lore while throwing money around in the same fashion that has yielded zero World Titles under the practice.

Let them do that. Because Theo and Terry will focus on putting together a roster and plan to pile up more important wins: the ones on the field.
A couple of points...

#1-If it all changed in 2004, why do you spend so many words dissecting the weaknesses of the Yanks?

#2-If the Rocket wanted to win a World Series he would have signed with the team with the best record in baseball. However, there is not a spot for him in the rotation right now.
1. Because the coaching carousel ended and I have time to kill at work before it becomes "twilight time" at the local 9. And I write words good, me.

2. If he wanted to play with the team with the best record in baseball, I think he might have bumped Dave Bush from the rotation (he of the 6.03 ERA Bushes). Just a hunch.
Don't talk bad about Dave Bush. He is friends with Bill Hall.
Also if the Crew wanted the Rocket they would call up the best pitching prospect in the minors (Lincecum is in the majors now) Yovanni Gallardo....
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