Monday, October 27, 2008

What went wrong?

Tonight the World Series could be over, and Boston will have no part in it. Tampa Bay earned the right to represent the American League by thumping the Sox in what should never have been a seven game series. As a Sox fan, I’m left wondering what happened. How could the defending champs have prevented this? I’m not really sure. But, there were a few problems with the 2008 Sox that could be addressed.

First, they weren’t as good as the Rays. It’s that simple. The Red Sox team that played in the ALCS was not as good as the Rays team. The Rays have built themselves a nice little organization there. Anyone who thinks it’s just because of the high draft picks they have received should let me know when we should expect the Pittsburgh or Kansas City pennant winners. They built a good team, and made some shrewd free agent signings to fill in the gaps. Kudos to them, they were the better team.

As far as things under the Sox control? I’ll bypass the obvious problems that occurred thanks to the happenings of July 31. That’s been well covered I think. Beyond that, it would have been nice if everyone was healthy. But, by the numbers, Lowell absence wasn’t devastating. In 7 games, his production probably wouldn’t be dramatically different than Kotsay’s. But, it did hurt some of the flexibility of people coming off the bench. It would have been nice to have Kotsay sitting there ready to come in, instead of having him already in the line-up. But, that’s a minor thing. It also would have been nice to have someone one the roster better than Mike Timlin. I could count that as a fault of Theo, but I’m not sure it was. Chances are that Timlin would have been on the roster as a lifetime achievement award anyhow. If the last man in your bullpen is the reason you don’t win a series, you obviously have other problems.

The big question is, was the lack of offense because the Sox were slumping, or because the Rays were pitching so well? Did the Sox need better or hotter batters, or was it inevitable? It’s the age-old question of which came first. When Cardinals fans suggested that the Sox got lucky in 2004 to get the Cardinal attack when they were all slumping, I protested. It seemed that the rotation of Schilling-Pedro-Lowe might have been the cause, as opposed to a sudden universal slump. Same held for the super hot Rockies last year. Sure the layoff might have cooled them down a little. But, Beckett-Schilling-Dice-Lester can cool down some bats on their own. So, in this case, I should give similar credit to the Rays rotation. My only problem is, I don’t think the Rays rotation is that good. I don’t look at the list and see pitchers I’d rather have in Boston. Maybe in a couple years, I’ll look back and see this as the start of the rotation establishing itself, much like I now look back at Lester’s ’07 game 4 start. At the time, it was a youngster getting lucky. Now, it’s when a youngster turned the corner. For the Sox’s sake, I hope the ALCS wasn’t the Rays rotation all turning the corner at once.

Going forward? Hard to say. A couple tweaks here and there. I don’t see the need to go crazy for a Teixeira or Sabathia. I admit, a Peavy trade idea is interesting, but I don’t know enough about Peavy to fully endorse it. Just fill in a hole here, and a bench player there, and hope to play better next year.

We just can’t count on beating up on Tampa next year.

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