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Thoughts On Thoughts

The Globe's Peter Abraham has posted some thoughts on the state of the Red Sox at the Globe's Extra Bases blog. He makes some good points (the team shouldn't allow beer in the clubhouse, Francona is a smart man and will likely manage again soon), but fan of Mr. Abraham's coverage that I am, I have to take issue with some of his points.

First, Mr. Abraham writes,

At last count, four scouts, two assistant general managers, one manager and one general manager have asked me roughly the same question: How did the Red Sox get to a point where Francona had to start Tim Wakefeld four times and Kyle Weiland three times in September?

My first instinct is to say don't hire any of the guys who asked that question. As we've said before here at OTM, the Red Sox used ten starters, none of whom made fewer than four starts. The team was beat up. They were dredging the depths of available starting pitching in their system. Most teams don't have ten starters who can step in and provide adequate pitching, nor do they need that many.

The Yankees got 78 starts from non-prospect Ivan Nova, waiver filler Freddy Garcia, and out-of-baseball non-entity Bartolo Colon. That's 476 innings of well above average pitching. The difference between the Red Sox and Yankees this season is that. The Yankees went into the season needing to get about 500 innings of above average pitching from, well, they had no idea where. The Red Sox went into the season as prepared as any team in baseball in the starting pitching department, but fell apart beyond what anyone could reasonably have expected. How much of that falling apart could reasonably be expected is up for debate. But look at it this way: all analysts, which includes Mr. Abraham, who said at the beginning of the season that the Red Sox would have severe pitching problems please step forward.


Later Mr. Abraham writes,


And the Yankees had Ivan Nova. And the Rays had Matt Moore. And Texas had Derek Holland. Who's the young stud starter for the Red Sox? Who's the guy in spring training next season everybody will gather around to watch and marvel at his stuff? There isn't one on the horizon. Clay Buchholz is 27, people.

Moore was the best starting pitcher in the minor leagues, but was picked in the eighth round of the 2007 draft. If the Rays thought he was going to be what he turned out to be don't you think they'd have picked him seven rounds earlier? This isn't a knock on the Rays, they identified Moore, drafted him and did their part to turn him into the pitcher he is today. But Moore's success can't be held against the Red Sox either.

As for Nova, here's what Baseball Prospectus had to say about him in their 2010 annual:

Ivan Nova made it to the 40-man roster in December, a year after being temporarily hijacked by the Padres in the 2008 Rule 5 draft. He represents the Portrait of the Back-End Starter (or Middle-Reliever) as a Young Man. Nothing in particular stands out about him...

That doesn't sound like a player who is going to step into the Yankees rotation and throw 165.1 innings of 119 ERA+ baseball. Give the Yankees credit for Nova of course, but if they thought he was this good why'd they try to sign Cliff Lee to a seven year contract?

The gist of all this is Mr. Abraham is accusing the Red Sox of bad talent evaluation in the draft. I don't think there is a way you can argue that is a fair accusation.

In another point, Mr. Abraham's writes,

Don't know how this can be addressed, but Fenway Park has to change. It's obscene that people were dancing and singing to "Sweet Caroline" when the season was going down the toilet. Fenway Park used to be a place where fans applauded when a batter hit a ground ball to the right side to move a runner to third. Now 75 percent of the people in the joint on a given night have no idea why that's important.

Don't play "Sweet Caroline" when the team is losing. Just don't. People need to care more about the game than a song.

What this has to do with the 2011 Red Sox is unclear, but I'd like to address it anyway. People pay good money, lots of good money, to see the Red Sox. They do this to see the Red Sox win, yes, but also to have fun. Going to a baseball game is a fun thing to do. If it wasn't all the winning in the world wouldn't fill the stands. I don't particularly care for the whole Sweet Caroline thing either, but my wife loves it. She's not much of a baseball fan, but she loves going to Fenway. She loves the pageantry, the big event that a Red Sox game is, and Sweet Caroline is part of that. If you want fans to pass a baseball literacy test to get into Fenway, well, good luck with that idea.

Also, I disagree with Mr. Abraham that "75% of the people in the joint on a given night have no idea why [moving a runner over is] important." That's hyperbolic and clearly untrue. Were the fans who stood and cheered Tim Wakefield doing it because they like the sound of their own applause?

With all the disagreement, I should note that I do agree with Mr. Abraham when he writes,

Francona led the team that broke the Curse and under his guidance, the Red Sox were a team you could be proud of. It fell apart at the end, as it inevitably had to. But Francona is owed a huge debt of gratitude by the people of New England.

I'd amend that to say Red Sox fans everywhere owe Francona a dept of gratitude. Francona was professional, engaging, open minded, and unfailingly prepared. If the next Red Sox manager is as successful as Terry Francona the Red Sox will have done very well for themselves.