Running the Option Pedro, Sox: Not Enough in the Tank

By Tim Sullivan Running the Option

Ha ha ha ha ha. I picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated last week and I have barely been able to stop laughing long enough to sit through my classes. You saw the issue, the one where the braintrust over at SI actually predicted that, ha ha ha ha, the Boston Red Sox are going to, hold on to your hats here folks, win the World Series.

Not the World Series of Golf. Not the World Series of Bowling, or even poker. This is that championship series that is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic, and Sports Illustrated has actually posited that the Red Sox, of Boston, are going to win it.

Apparently, stupidity is highly contagious in the sports writing world (I’m bound to get it myself; hell, I probably have it already) because I logged on to espn.com and some clown there made the same prediction. Is there something in the water? Has the entire world gone absolutely nuts? How many Red Sox fans am I about to insult?

Let me say this now, once and for all. There is absolutely, categorically no way, barring an act of God who obviously hates the Sox anyway, that the Red Sox are going to win the World Series. No way. None. You can quote me on that, not that I really think it will impress anyone when you cite my name.

Where are these guys coming from? The Red Sox simply do not have the talent to compete in a year where a solid number of teams are poised to challenge for the World Series. Pedro Martinez is a hell of a pitcher, by leaps and bounds the best in the league, and he is coming off of one of the most impressive campaigns in recent memory. He went 23-4 on the year, a mark which obviously sets him off as the best in the game. In games in which Pedro did not get a decision, however, the Sox were a mediocre-at-best 71-64.

It is clear that you cannot rely on one big star to win a World Series, and the Red Sox are an excellent example of why. When Pedro wasn’t on the mound in the playoffs, especially against the Yankees, the Red Sox simply had no chance of winning. To think that that much has changed over the off-season is absurd.

In a seven-game series against the Yankees, Pedro would have to win games one, four and seven just to give the Sox a chance, and he has consistently demonstrated that he is not particularly good on three days rest. That means that the Red Sox would have to rely on the rest of their staff, which is not a particularly encouraging prospect.

The Red Sox’s biggest liability is the remainder of its pitching staff. With the loss of closer Tom Gordon, the bullpen is certain to be shaky. Ramon Martinez hasn’t pitched a full season in years, and Bret Saberhagen is going to be out until July with a torn rotator cuff. Even when he comes back, he will still be a washed up former Cy Young Award winner. (Saberhagen really isn’t that bad, I’m just still bitter about his God-awful stint with the Mets, who had to give up one of my favorite all-time players, Kevin cReynolds, to get him.)

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is a gimmick pitcher, so he may be able to fool his fair share of batters, but consistency is out of the question. Jeff Fassero just isn’t a very good pitcher. Brian Rose has a tremendous amount of potential and if the Sox want to do well, they will need a solid year from him.

As for their offense, the Red Sox did make a significant upgrade this year in centerfield with the addition of Carl Everett (another et that got away). Adding his power to a lineup that already boasts Nomar Garciaparra will certainly improve the Red Sox’s production.

Still, the Sox cannot expect several players to have repeat performances of last year’s numbers. Exhibit A: Brian Daubach, an early season sensation that fizzled down the stretch.

One of the arguments being made on the Sox’s behalf is that the Yankees won’t be as good this year. What? This is a team that has swept two consecutive World Series and has lost few key contributors. Top to bottom, their pitching staff is one of the most impressive rosters in all of contemporary sports. Mariano Rivera has a postseason ERA of 0.38 over the span of his career.

The Yankees have looked less than impressive in Spring Training, but does that really matter at all? When the Yankees won 114 regular season games in 1998, they started the season 0-4. As for the importance of spring training records, remember that this year the Twins had the best record over the spring.

Other teams that are clearly better than the Red Sox? For starters, the Atlanta Braves. They have suffered considerable losses in Ryan Klesko and John Smoltz, one to a trade, the other to an injury. But they have their emotional and offensive leader back in Andres Gallaraga, who is returning from cancer after just one year on the sidelines. If the Braves can get over the controversy caused by their other “offensive leader,” John Rocker, they will no doubt be better than the Red Sox.

You can probably make the argument that the Reds, Mets, Astros and Indians are all better than the Red Sox, too.

As yet, I haven’t even mentioned The Curse. Mainly, I don’t really believe that the Red Sox sold their souls to the devil when they sold their star to the Yankees, but you have to wonder. My earliest sports memory is watching the 1986 World Series with my dad, and obviously the memory that is burned into my memory is Bill Buckner letting that dribbler roll through his legs. All I can remember thinking is, at 6 years old, I could have made that play. Curse? Possibly. Forgetting the fundamentals of baseball? Definitely.

It’s been 82 years since the Red Sox have won a World Series, during which time the Soviet Union has come and gone, 14 American presidents have been elected and the Constitution has been amended nine times. Maybe this year, the Red Sox will finally do it. Red Sox fans, some of the best in all of sport, have been languishing for so long without a title that at some point they are due. Having gone so long without a championship, Boston fans lead one of the most disappointing existences in all of sports.

The saddest thing, though, is that Cubs fans think Red Sox fans have it easy.

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