What is it with players from the Dodgers? It seems like whenever the Sox sign a guy that is formerly of the LA and National variety, they get a bad rap. It started with J.D. Drew and now the torch has been passed to the Sox's No. 4 starter, Brad Penny.
Former Phillies manager Larry Bowa really hated Penny. His recent words about the fireballer were made infamous:
"You mean the same guy who was never on time, out of shape and has one complete game? He has more stuff to worry about in the A.L. East than me. He has to worry about getting people out. He was never on time, was out of shape and never helped the kids out. Put that on the (expletive) dot-com. Put it in the headline.''...
"He never watched the game (when he was on the DL). Jason Schmidt watched the games. Nomar Garciaparra watched the games. Mark Sweeney watched the games. You go right down the line, everybody who was on the DL watched the games. But not him. He was out of there.''
The Globe's Chad Finn isn't exactly on the same page as Bowa, but also isn't a fan. He predicts John Smoltz will win twice as many games as Penny this year:
I know, not exactly going out on a limb here, given that Penny showed up at camp looking as though he’d swallowed Larry Bowa whole and has already had his first spring start pushed back because of "weakness" in his right shoulder. That’s the same shoulder that bothered him last season when he put up a 6.27 ERA in the feeble-hitting National League West. Maybe he’ll surprise us, but right now he looks like a prime candidate to be the one among the Red Sox’ low-risk, high-reward pitching acquisitions who doesn’t pan out.
What else? Insert you fat and lazy jokes here. But you might want to save your breath because we've heard all of them already.
I want to know where the hate is coming from. Bowa's beef is something different because he's obviously dealt with him a lot longer than any one person in Red Sox Nation has. But when I see it from people in Red Sox Nation that know virtually nothing about the guy other than he's a -- we'll say "sturdy" -- dude, then I just need to know what's behind it.
Let's just look at what he's done since he started wearing a Red Sox uniform. He's been battling arm problems so he's only made two starts. His first start was successful (3 IP, 3 SO, 0 R) while today's start against the Twins is still ongoing (3 IP, 2 R so far -- in the 4th). Other than those numbers and the fact he might not be our No. 5 starter when the season starts, what do we know from our experiences? Nothing! It's not like the guy has come in and been lazy and been a jerk to teammates. All reports have been that he's been working hard and doing what he needs to do.
I know not everyone rides in this boat, but I'm the kind of person that will judge a baseball player on what he does with a new team. I don't care what happened with his old team. If he comes to the Red Sox and shows he's going to work hard and does, then that's what I want to see. Anyone know the name Randy Moss? Of course he's a football player, but what was the knock on him? What wasn't the knock on him before he came to the Pats? That's a better question. And just look what he did for the Patriots the last two seasons. (Your counter-argument can be the fact Terry Francona is NOT Bill Belichick, but hey, he's not too shabby either.)
This is what I want out of Brad Penny and it's simple. It's only a two-step process: pitch well and don't be a jerk (Wait. Guy in LA now that used to be a Sox and the word "jerk" floats around him ... who am I thinking of? I'm blanking). It's really not a hard concept. You'll see a lot of it out of guys like Smoltz this season (who, by the way, is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, so I guess that strategy works).
So before Penny even gets on the mound at Fenway, don't you think we give this guy a shot before we attack him for his beer belly? I'm going to give him and his 95 m.p.h. heater a chance, I know that. Horror stories or not, he could be the best No. 5 pitcher in baseball this year.