Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your 2006 Red Sox! Probably.

Today we get right down to it. You can view the mostly complete active roster here. These are the guys who will be wearing the shirts we root for in 2006.

Obviously there will be a change or two; almost certainly there will be with respect to Stern once he satisfies the Rule 5 requirements and gets sent down to AAA to play everyday. Wells will start the season on the DL, and will replace Dinardo when he returns. If Mohr accepts assignment to Pawtucket he could be called back up when Stern is demoted, although he probably would not play barring injury. Harris is a better bet in my mind with his speed - he could be this year's Dave Roberts - and because his contract allows him to leave the team if he has not spent any ML time in April.

In terms of the non-roster guys optioned to AAA you have to be pretty pleased. Durrington has shown tremendous versatility and is an Aussie, so you know he can booze. Enrique Wilson is a friend of Manny's and that always has entertainment value, not to mention he has some mentoring aspects that could benefit the Sox' young infielders. There is some appeal to shysty Mike Holtz as a LOOGY; he has looked fairly good in ST, with 13 Ks in 9.2 innings and a 1.33 WHIP. Of course, there are no more damning words in the sports lexicon than "looked good in spring training", but still.

Overall, and I've said this before, this team looks good on paper. This has been an exciting few weeks in getting to this team though. In typical 2006 offseason fashion, there had to be some drama.

The first shoe to drop was the trade for Wily Mo Pena, Super Genius, as we have covered already. This hurt Mohr, and of course we all feel badly for him, but he is not a super genius, nor does he hit the ball far away. At least, not by WMPSG's standards. I suppose a lot of people would argue this hurt Arroyo too, but I feel this move helps his career (his baseball career). As I have stated before, from a pure entertainment value perspective, Wily Mo is the greatest acquisition of the decade.

The second shoe to drop was the waiver claim of Korean behemoth Hee Seop-Choi, a name which in Korean means "behemoth". Choi is a hulking first baseman with some power whose best isolated skill is his batting eye, as evidenced by his career .349 OBP. Despite this, he also strikes out a ton, a weakness that according to the Korean national coach (read the article in Donga - that's right, the Donga need food - here) can be attributed to Choi's resistance to making adjustments to counter holes in his swing. This doesn't make me feel good, but the kid is just 27 and there is time for him to come to the table. Given his treatment by the Dodgers and LA media, I would think he has to understand this could be his last chance.

Walking barefoot out the door was embittered second baseman Tony Graffanino. I have to be honest, I think Graff was ill-used to some degree by the Sox in the whole arbitration play, and is just a guy who, overall, probably hasn't gotten a fair shake in the bigs. He came over to the Sox in the middle of a pennant race in Boston, and put up the following line while playing very solid defense:

51 188 39 60 12 1 4 20 86 0.355 0.457 0.319

I've heard people say that Graffanino is a utility guy only who isn't starter material, and last year was a career year that's an aberration, but I think that's bullshit. Last year was the most at-bats the guy's ever seen. He moves from Kansas City, baseball's burial above ground, to Boston, where every fan should be medicated, and ups his game to a new level. All this guy does is bring a professional attitude to the field, to the batter's box, and to the team, and perform. He should be starting for a half-dozen teams in the bigs on opening day, IMO. I suppose I should be thankful the Sox are not one of them though, as Loretta has the ability to tear it up if he's healthy this year.

One of the stories to watch over the course of the first half of the season will be the supposedly much-upgraded bullpen. I say supposedly because the word "supposedly" means "pertaining to things that I have doubts about". Foulke looks good so far but knees always worry me. Timlin at some point has to realize he's old. Riske has more or, just more, actually...sucked thus far, against guys he should be getting out. And Tavarez is crazy as a shithouse rat.

All the other stuff will work itself out, in my opinion, so let's look at Taverez. First of all, his last name is Tavarez, not Tavares. Tavares was a 1970's disco band, best known for their inspired - but not at all relevent to crazy Julian - single "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel". Butch, Chubby, Pooch, Ralph and Tiny would be horrified to learn that they were being lumped together with a sociopath who has the added burden of looking like the "Jeep" from the Popeye cartoon:

One has to wonder if we are looking at another Jay Payton situation in which a player's douchy personality outweighs the things he can do on the field. Now, granted, given that the Jeep is a much more highly leveraged player than Payton, he will have to be a much bigger douche (it's hard to believe I am typing this) to reach that tipping point, but given what he's shown us thus far, I don't think it's out of reach. Standing at home plate punching people as they arrive is not a subtle message that you are unwell, it is the Citgo sign of unwell messages.

So, the 2006 Boston Red Sox. If I had to pick one word to describe this team so far it would be "bemusing". I am always looking at them, thinking about all the possible outcomes. Bemusing is better than ambivalent, for sure, so we're making progress. I mean, I can't think about this team without worrying a little bit and chuckling a little bit at the same time. Of course, that behaviour would fit the description "ambivalent" pretty aptly, so I suppose really I have no point here.

What I think I'm trying to get at is that the 2006 Red Sox are a bit like a puzzle right now, a puzzle with many solutions, some more elegant that others. I'm reminded of the triangular peg solitaire Howard Johnson's used to place on the booth tables (I think Cracker Barrel had them as well). If you solve the puzzle with only one peg remaining you are a genius, with two remaining you are very very smart, and so on down to like seven remaining, at which point you are Julian Tavarez. I am eager to see how many pegs are remaining on Theo's puzzle come August, and I honestly have no idea what that number will be. But here's hoping it's one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too look forward to the laughter; the psychosis, not as much. Nice work shale, keep it up!