What the Red Sox Should Do

by Greg Sullivan

Ah, the Red Sox. Every season, full of promise, is somehow dashed, along with the hopes of fans all over New England, by late-season disappointment. Call it what you will - the curse of the Bambino, the Sports Illustrated jinx, or the hex of the peanut-brained manager - but the 2000 Red Sox season came down to three major problems:

  1. Poor coaching
  2. Lack of quality starts from the #2-#5 starters
  3. Lack of offensive production at key positions

Looking at this list, it's actually remarkable that the Red Sox won as many games as they did this year. But let's not kid ourselves - the Red Sox are built to win, and win now. They have the single best pitcher and one of the best shortstops on the planet in their primes and locked up for the next four seasons, so they need to find answers to these three problems, and find them soon. Let's take the problems one at a time.


Let's just get this out there right now - Jimy Williams is completely insane. Whether it was pinch-running in the sixth inning of tie games, losing the designated hitter in back-to-back games, or using 162 different batting orders, he just didn't have the same luck with some of his bizzarre managerial tactics that brought him the Manager of the Year award in 1999.

That being said, Jimy is not the only one to blame. Hitting coach Jim Rice took a hands-off approach to the offense which led to impatience at the plate from the top of the batting order to the bottom, and by mid-season, some players were even working with first base coach Tommy Harper rather than him. And third base coach Wendel Kim waved runners into certain death at the plate so frequently that a SportsCenter anchor actually refered to Nomar Garciaparra as being "Wendel Kimmed" after he was gunned down at home at one point this season.

Thankfully, Rice and Kim have already been fired, so the real question mark for this season is Williams. Given a better staff, Jimy should be able to do a better job this season, but if the insanity continues, Boston may have to consider replacing him with a more conventional manager. As of right now, though, the coaching staff as a whole is in good shape to produce a few more wins in 2001.

Starting Pitching:

Obviously, they were fine at the number one slot all year, with Pedro Martinez boasting a sub-2.00 ERA, which is just unheard of these days. But, as any Yankee fan will tell you, Pedro can't pitch every day, and even with the overworked yet brilliantly effective bullpen behind it, the rest of the Red Sox rotation was abysmal.

Well, maybe that's a little harsh. Arguably the worst performers in the rotation, Ramon Martinez and Pete Shoureck, are gone. Brian Rose and Jeff Fasserro were equally horrifying, but by the end of the season they were in Colorado and in the bullpen, respectively - replaced by Rolando Arrojo and Tomo Okha, who actually pitched well enough to win spots in the rotation in 2001.

The big problem is that nobody behind Pedro could give the team innings, which led to the bullpen being so overworked. Since releivers Fasserro, Rheal Cormier, and Hector Carrasco most likely won't be back, they'll need a stud starter behind Pedro to give them seven or eight innings consistently. The solution here is a no-brainer: sign Mike Mussina. Yes, he'll be expensive, but he'll be worth every penny come playoff time, and he subtracts another question mark from the rotation, making things a lot easier for everyone.

As far as the fifth starter, Paxton Crawford pitched well enough late in the season to get a legitimate shot, but if Bret Saberhagen is ever healthy again the job will be his. In the bullpen, the Sox need to sign a proven lefty to take the place of Cormier. John Franco would be nice, but given the price tag, I would see what miracle-working pitching coach Joe Kerrigan could do with a question mark like a Scott Radinsky or a Randy Myers.

Offensive Production:

Trading Kim and Rice for Gene Lamont and Rick Down automatically makes the offense better, but the Sox lacked offensive punch at both corner outfield positions as well as third base, first base, and DH in 2000. Obviously, some on-field changes need to be made.

It appears that it might be time to stick a fork in Troy O'Leary. If I can get anything for him in a trade this off-season, especially a lefty out of the pen or a low-end starter in case Ohka or Crawford prove that they're not ready for a full season, I'd do it. Dante Bichette could play left-field if absolutely necessary, since the Sox don't have the payroll flexibility to bring in a stud performer who could field the position every day, especially after singing Mussina. A short-term solution could be a free agent such as Dave Martinez or Glenallen Hill.

In right field, you have to stick with Trot Nixon. Down can definitely help him out at the plate, and he's absolutely fearless with his golve. If Jimy would just let him play every day and get some experience versus lefties, he could continue to build on his promising rookie seasonof 1999.

Third base is a question mark because of John Valentin's health. Due to the lack of quality, affordable third base help available, the Red Sox should do everything they can to trade for San Diego's Phil Nevin. He's a solid contributor who could catch or DH if needed and only carries a $4 million contract over the next two years. With the Padres' impending loss of Tony Gwynn to free agency, a package of Troy O'Leary and a minor league infielder should get the job done.

First base and DH will have to stay as is for this season - there just aren't that many ways to upgrade these positions considering the payroll that the Sox are already carrying. After the contracts of Mike Lansing and Bichette run out, the team might be able to make some significant upgrades, but if Daubach can find any level of consistency at first and Bichette can thrive in the DH roll as he did after Boston picked him up last season, then they should be okay in 2001.

Plan B:

If the severe number of question marks in this scenario seems too risky for Boston, they should trade Everett and fly by the seat of their pants for a year until the payroll opens up in 2002, when they can sign Johnny Damon.

2001 Suggested 25-man roster:

2B - Jose Offerman
RF - Trot Nixon
SS - Nomar Garciaparra
CF - Carl Everett
DH - Dante Bichette
3B - Phil Nevin
1B - Brian Daubach
C - Jason Varitek
LF - Dave Martinez

C- Scott Hatteberg
IF - Mike Lansing
IF - Lou Merloni
OF - Darren Lewis
OF - Midre Cummings

Pedro Martinez
Mike Mussina
Rolando Arrojo
Tomo Ohka
Paxton Crawford

Derek Lowe
Rod Beck
Hipolito Pichardo
Scott Radinsky
Rich Garces
Juan Pena

Disabled List:
3B - John Valentin
SP - Bret Saberhagen

Send Sully your opinions, comments or verbal abuse at sully@JBaseball.

© 2000 JBaseball

"How can you not be romantic about baseball?" - Moneyball.
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