Aaron Cook had a bad night--his second in a row--and as Marc mentioned earlier today, for a guy like him that could be all he gets in a Red Sox uniform. If that's the case, Cook will leave behind 44.2 innings of 5.24 ERA ball and a 2-5 record.
Would that make him a failure? Hardly.
Heading into the 2011 offseason, the Red Sox had all of three starting pitchers they could rely on: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz. Now, ignoring the idea of just how "reliable" said arms have been this season, they were clearly in need of some options.
Striking out on the big names in free agency, the Sox turned towards their bullpen, converting three relievers in Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves, and Daniel Bard to the rotation. It was a risky proposition which paid some dividends in the form of Doubront, but clearly left some very real competition for the last two starting spots.
While any team would prefer to simply be set when it comes to the rotation, having five clear starters, those that do not are offered a small advantage when it comes to acquiring depth, and that's where Aaron Cook comes in. With players like Cook looking for a home, they will naturally gravitate towards teams where they think they have a legitimate shot at getting into the rotation and then sticking there. The Red Sox presented such an opportunity, and Cook decided to take their offer given the rare combination of a thin rotation and some hope for contention.
And what did the Red Sox get out of him? Plenty, if you ask me. When you're looking not at a #5 starter, but a #6 one--the first man up from the reserves when a player goes down with injury or is just too ineffective to be allowed to take the mound any longer--you're not expecting much. A guy who keeps you in the game most nights is a plus.
Yes, the Red Sox went 3-5 in Aaron Cook's eight outings, but in five of those outings he gave the Red Sox every chance to win. Account for a debut that was completely ruined by an injury, and you've got a pretty solid record. The fact is that the Sox simply didn't take advantage of the opportunities he provided them except for the two games he essentially provided the win himself, going for 16 innings of one (unearned) run ball against the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox.
Of course, we've seen Cook at his worst these past couple games, hammered by excellent offensive teams in such a fashion that it would be entirely fair to say he lost those games single-handedly. But that puts him at 2-2 on his own merits with the rest up to the team. If the Red Sox offense had supported him like their overall offensive statistics suggest they should have, then he'd likely have a winning record right now.
Acquisitions like Aaron Cook's are often overlooked in favor of the big money, big name signings that are guaranteed a 25-man roster spot, but they generally end up being more important than we are willing to give them credit for. Had the Red Sox been throwing Aaron Cook in September instead of John Lackey, Tim Wakefield, and Andrew Miller, that collapse likely doesn't happen. If they have another Aaron Cook in the system next year, then the Red Sox will be better prepared for all the bumps that are guaranteed to come along in any 162 game season.
That, and the Inevitable Failures of John Lackey.TM