Despite what ESPN might have to say, even the most die hard Red Sox fans know that this season has been over for a while. Too many injuries, too much Yankees and Rays, too much Papelbon. 9 back in the East and 7.5 back in the Wild Card with 21 to go, it would take a 2004 Yankees collapse and a huge winning streak for the Sox to even smell the playoffs. But injuries and a few blown saves can only deter a team so much. Yes, the Sox have lost 4 opening day starters for the season due to injury (Ellsbury, Cameron, Youkilis, and Pedroia), but to me the 2010 season was doomed from the beginning. Theo Epstein’s flawed approach to building a team around pitching and defense left the Sox without the firepower to win games on nights when the pitching wasn’t there.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see the point in using your big free agent signing of the year on a pitcher like John Lackey. Yes, he was an all-star and a “big game pitcher” in Anaheim. But without him, the Sox would have had a rotation of Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Buchholz, and Wakefield. Wake may not be the stud he was a few years ago, but with those 3 power pitchers and a grinder at the top of the rotation, a knuckleballer who can eat up innings might not have been such a bad idea every 5th day.
Granted there weren’t a ton of big bats on the free agency market. But how much could it possibly take in terms of prospects to take, say, the seemingly always available Adam Dunn off of the Nationals’ hands? Aging, expiring contract. On the trading block to start the season. Perfect world lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz (he will always be a 3 hitter, not a 4, a 3), Youk, Dunn (in left field where his defensive shortcomings would be minimized), Victor, Beltre, Drew. Lefty, righty, lefty, righty. Opponents would have to choose between depleting their bullpens by working the matchups or leaving a reliever in to battle 7 straight 30+ HR hitters.
The Yankees have obviously taken this approach and ran with it. Berkman, Teixeira, A-Rod, Cano, Swisher, Granderson. Again, all 30+ home run guys. The Yankees lineup is relentless. Every spot does damage. Even Brett Gardner is a threat at the #9 spot because if he walks or singles, he’s almost automatically in scoring position. There is no Marco Scutaro or Mike Cameron in the lineup, guys who are talented but don’t scare anyone. The Yankees roster is scary.
And that’s not to say they completely ignored pitching. Sabathia’s the Cy Young, while Burnett, Vasquez, Pettitte, and Hughes are all solid #3 pitchers. So while the Sox may have had the better rotation up and down, wouldn’t you trade a John Lackey type pitcher for an extra bat?
All I’m saying is that in order to compete with the Yankees next year, the Red Sox need to move away from the Babe Ruth mentality and start playing like big boys. Good hitting beats good pitching every time. If the Red Sox want to win in 2011, Theo can’t have Scutaro and Cameron facing Sabathia for 7, Joba in the 8th, and Rivera in the 9th when it counts.
P.S. – Notice that I barely mentioned the Rays. If the Yanks and Sox play like they can, the Rays become an afterthought.
Holla if ya hear me.