Friday, September 24, 2004

Go Time

Let's be honest, the Sox are in. As of Friday morning, Boston is 6 games ahead of Anaheim in the loss column with 10 games to go. I know that everyone is terrified of junkies, curses, ghosts, and specters so they don't want to say anything, but let's be adult about this. The Red Sox are going to the playoffs. So now we have to ask, who are they bringing with them?

A lot of these are obvious:

1. Curt Schilling - that's right, I wrote #1.
2. Pedro Martinez - the best #2 starter since, well, see #1.
3. Bronson Arroyo - you predicted he'd be the third best starter on the team, right?
4. Derek Lowe - bullpen? starter? Or, like last year's ALDS, both?
5. Tim Wakefield - so good in the playoffs, so bad in the last two months.
6. Mike Timlin - taking over Williamson's role as Captain Eighth Inning.
7. Alan Embree - can he repeat the last year's six crappy months, one good one?
8. Mike Myers - pretty good get for free, hu?
9. Keith Foulke - forget the home runs, it happens. Best Sox closer since Monster.
10. David Ortiz - anyone else feel an October swoon coming on?
11. Kevin Millar - touch of the Troy O'Leary syndrome: looks bad even when he's good.
12. Doug Mientkiewicz - good glove, no stick. Remember Rico Brogna?
13. Mark Bellhorn - never heard so much nonsense about K's in my life. 80 R / 86 RBI.
14. Orlando Cabrera - was definitely wrong about him. whatever, so were you.
15. Bill Mueller - somebody make a knee donation. seriously, it's important.
16. Pokey Reese - man is he a crappy hitter.
17. Manny Ramirez - .232/.332/.473 in the playoffs. Uh, Manny?
18. Johnny Damon - Boston's third best position player this season.
19. Trot Nixon - coming on strong, could be the key to this whole thing.
20. Gabe Kapler - overrated defense, underrated speed.
21. Dave Roberts - unbelievable weapon in close games late. Great great pick up.
22. Jason Varitek - would be nice if he started hitting again.
23. Doug Mirabelli - doublin' doug, double it up.

So that's where it stops being obvious. There is a 100% chance that all of the above players will be on the roster. The leaves two more slots for depth. At least one of those will be a relief pitcher, but which one? Mendoza has been good, but not spectacular. He would be the only the reliever who could handle long innings, but the fifth starter (likely Wakefield) could probably fill that role. I think Boston would love to use him, but he's had a few bad outings of late. Scott Williamson is another potential, but he just hasn't looked healthy. Obviously his value at 100% is through the roof, but you don't know when his arm might blow or if you can ever use him back to back. His fastball has been much closer to 90 than 95, showing that he's not all the way there. Would be a big leap of faith. So who does that leave? Terry Adams? Pedro Astacio? Don't panic, there's Curtis Leskanic (and no, I never get tired of that). Not a great option, but not a terrible one either. You know what you're gonna get from Curtis: a gritty, hard-nosed battle with mediocre stuff. He doesn't have a lot left, but he will give you all of it. In a lot of ways, he's Rod Beck all over again. So as long as he doesn't pitch to Bernie Williams, he should be fine.

So what do they do with that last slot? Youkilis is an option, and if they're concerned with Mueller's knee, he'll get the call. He's been used so little lately though (less than 20 AB's in September) you don't get the feeling that Francona is in love with his play. And Bellhorn can easily slide over to third. Kevin might be a nice bat option of the bench, but when the Sox have their full lineup on the field, who are you really going to pinch hit for? The best choice for this slot would be a healthy Ellis Burks, who could give you some pop, but that's not gonna happen. So do they go with Youk as insurance, or an extra bullpen arm? If I had to guess, I'd probably say they go with Kevin, but I'd lean to Mendoza. I can forsee them needing a big double play a lot more than a double back up at third. Of course, the truth is, any time you need your 25th man to really come through, you're in a lot of trouble to start with.