Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pitchers Wanted

The Red Sox could really use a pitcher of Martinez's ilk these days (Fox Sports)
It's a good thing that Pedro Martinez is going into the Hall of Fame today, because Red Sox Nation needs something to celebrate.

They're not going to find it at Fenway Park, the place that shook with excitement every time Martinez took the mound during his seven Red Sox seasons. The team that was a perennial contender during Pedro's eventful time there, finishing second in the AL East every year (to the Yankees, of course) and winning 90+ games five times, is now the doormat in the division it used to own. And they're not just bad: they're boring. There's nobody close to Martinez's caliber in terms of talent or watchability on the current roster, -which just sent Brock Holt and Holt alone to the All-Star Game in Cincinnati (but kudos to Brock for making the most of it).

You don't need to look at a map to know that Cooperstown is a long ways from Beantown. While several current Red Sox may one day join Martinez there, none of them are as captivating as Pedro was in his prime. Heck, I'm pretty sure Pedey could come out of retirement right now and earn a spot in Boston's dreadful rotation.

It's been more than a decade since Martinez last suited up for the Red Sox, and a lot has changed since then. David Ortiz is his only active former teammate. The club has won two additional World Series after not having won any in the 86 years prior to Pedro's last in Boston, but has also finished last two (soon to be three) times. The sellout streak that began during Pedro's penultimate Red Sox season has since ended, and the once-fierce rivalry between New York and Boston has fizzled.

The intervening time has also reminded Red Sox fans just how lucky they were to witness Martinez at his best. Pedro was, without a doubt, one of the best pitchers of all-time. During his peak in 1999 and 2000, he was probably the best there ever was. Boston has had several aces come through since then, be it Josh Beckett or Jon Lester or pre-injury Daisuke Matsuzaka, but there may never be another Pedro.

Red Sox fans were particularly spoiled in that they had just experienced 13 years of Roger Clemens before Martinez arrived on the scene. From 1984-2004, there was only one season--a bridge year in 1997--where the Red Sox did not have either the Rocket or Pedro to call their own. It's just too bad Dan Duquette didn't keep Clemens, because the Sox probably would have ended their championship drought a few years earlier with that dynamic duo at the top of their rotation.

Ben Cherington opted not to pursue such an ace this year, a misstep that's yielded disastrous results and may potentially cost him his job. Boston's pitching has been as bad as everyone feared, and for the second year in a row the team has scuffled at the plate. What was supposed to be one of the best offenses in the American League has been among the worst, failing to generate much run support for a rotation that needs all the help it can get. Throw in shaky defense around the diamond, inexperience behind the plate with Blake Swihart, and the inability of John Farrell to ignite his team, and it's been a real bummer of a summer for Sox fans.

And so Boston enters play today a season-worst 12 games below .500 and 12 out of first in the AL East--their largest deficit of the season. They just endured an eight-game losing streak that effectively ended their season, and their bats have gone back into hibernation mode (they've scored 16 runs in nine games since the All-Star Break). With Dustin Pedroia back on the DL, Clay Buchholz sidelined until September, and Joe Kelly rejoining the rotation, things are only getting worse.

At least with the trade deadline now only five days away, a shake-up appears imminent. Not the kind that will save Boston's season--it's too late for that--but the kind that may allow them to play respectable baseball again in 2016. Hopefully Cherington and co. will re-evaluate whatever idiotic reasoning led them to give Rick Porcello nearly $100 million before he ever threw a pitch for the Red Sox rather than re-sign Jon Lester at a similar cost last spring, or bring in James Shields for less over the winter. Hopefully they go out and acquire some real pitching talent for a change rather than try to make do with a rotation of Justin Mastersons and Wade Mileys.

Pedro Martinez won't be trying on a Red Sox jersey at a press conference next winter, but David Price or Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija better be. Because if they aren't, then Boston hasn't learned a thing from this busted season.

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