Changes

Well, it’s been almost a month since the Red Sox lost game 7 of the ALCS to the damn Tampa Bay Rays. I think it’s finally time to come out from the dark recesses of thefoulline.com headquarters, dust myself off, and talk about what I think Boston needs to do to improve their team.

This is a pivotal offseason for the Red Sox. There are some glaring holes in the Sox lineup that need to be filled. If this team remains unchanged, they’ll be watching the playoffs on television in 2009.

There’s going to be a lot of Hot Stove activity going on in the next couple of weeks. The damn Yankees have $90 million coming off their books and are eager spend to improve their poor pitching, and like it or not, the Rays are going to be here for a while. If Tampa acquires a legitimate closer and a quality right fielder they’re going to be dangerous. The American League East is no longer a two-horse race.

So if I were Theo Epstein, this is what I would do, in order of importance.

1. Sign Mark Texiera.

Tex would tear up Fenway Park offensively and play Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. This MUST be done! A switch-hitting. perennial All-Star first baseman does not become available very often. As an added bonus, Tex is a free agent, so it wouldn’t cost Boston any of its young talent to acquire him.

Of course, this means Kevin Youkilis is moved to third base, and Mike Lowell is odd man out. I would try to convince a healthy Lowell to learn how to play first base and become Boston’s super-sub. With Lowell playing a mix of first, third and DH, he could prove to the rest of the league that he is healthy, and improve his stock for a trade. (Minnesota and the White Sox need a third baseman). It wouldn’t be the most popular move in Boston, since Lowell is such a class act, but we are here to win ball games. Get out your checkbook, Theo, and make it happen.

2. Derek Lowe makes his triumphant return to Boston.

Lowe is the type of sinker-ball-throwing, ground-ball-inducing pitcher that is tailor-made for Fenway Park. He’s proven to come up huge in big games, as in the 2004 playoffs, when he won the deciding game in all three playoff series. Not to mention, he wants to pitch in Boston again. He may even give Theo a discount.

I look forward to a rotation of Beckett, Lester, Dice K, Lowe, and Wakefield. This would keep Justin Masterson in the bullpen to help solidify the 7th and 8th innings before turning it over to Papelbon.

3. Deal a solid pitching prospect, namely Michael Bowden or Clay Buchholz, for either of Texas’s catchers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden.

They each have different strengths: Salty is still a raw talent that hits pretty well but needs to improve defensively. Teagarden is a solid defensive catcher with a laser-rocket arm, and he has the potential to put up some big power numbers. What they have in common is that they both are ready to be a starting catcher in the majors.

I’m starting to lean towards a  Buchholz for Teagarden deal, but either way it’s an upgrade of the aging Varitek. Thanks for all of your hard work, ‘Tek. We’ll see you at Jason Varitek Appreciation day.

4. Trade Julio Lugo for a bucket of used baseballs.

Jed Lowrie is ready to be the everyday shortstop. Lugo sucks. Find some sucker GM to take him off our hands.

…..
It almost seems too easy to improve this team. If Boston makes these moves, you can go and get the champagne on ice. If not, it may be a long season.

Hey Man Nice Shot

Good teams find ways to win.

Sometimes it’s a pitcher throwing a complete game to give a tired bullpen the night off, or a great defensive play to keep your team in the lead. In the case of the Red Sox, it’s been back-to-back games with a game-winning home run in the 9th inning.

Thefoulline.com quick hits:

  • It already sucks to be a Cleveland Indians fan. It must suck even more when the Red Sox come to town and you know that your team is going to find a way to lose. The Indians have a ton of talent and should be running away with the division, but with a 5-9 record they are one game out of the Central Division cellar. Maybe they need some Lake Erie Midges swarming around their heads to get them back in the groove.
  • Did you see the lineup Terry Francona put out last night? Coco, Ellsbury, Lowrie, Lugo, and Cash. I thought they were mailing it in before another Yankees series. I guess even the Sox reserves can beat most teams.
  • It was great to see yet another Red Sox prospect live up to the hype. Two years ago it was Jonathan Papelbon. Last year it was Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Manny Delcarmen. After last night’s 3 RBI performance in his first Major League game, it may be time to add Jed Lowrie to the list of legitimate prospects.
  • Which reminds me, how are the over-hyped Yankees Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy working out for New York? Last time I checked, Hughes was was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA, and Kennedy was 0-1 with an impressive 8.74 ERA. Do you think the Yankees are regretting not dealing these guys for Johan Santana?
  • Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano will make a combined $22,071,029 this season.
  • Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon will make a combined $4,775,000 this season.
  • To further reinforce how crazy the Steinbrenners are, these idiots actually dug up the “cursed” Ortiz jersey buried in Yankee stadium. News Flash, Hank! The shirt is not the reason your team stinks. It’s the lousy pitching pitching staff, over-hyped prospects, and $28 million cancer playing third base.
  • The Red Sox are in first place. Woo-hoo!

A blessing in disguise

Yesterday when I read that Curt Schilling had an injured shoulder and was going to miss the first half of the season, I was pretty worried. I was hoping that Schill was going to have a solid final season in the major leagues and make a push for making the Hall of Fame someday. I was concerned that the Red Sox would miss his leadership. I wondered how the Red Sox rotation would fare with two young guns assuming a very important role. I was wondering if Theo Epstein blew it by not making a serious run at Johan Santana.

But then I came to my senses.

The Red Sox had the best rotation in baseball last year in spite of the elementary performance of Schilling. Schill came into spring training looking like a poor man’s Joba Chamberlain, and it showed with his injury. The once dominant fast-baller had morphed into a finesse pitcher with a weight problem. Hitters were no longer intimidated by him, which was evident by his 9-8 record. He couldn’t blow the pitches past the hitters and resorted to nibbling the corners. I was on the edge of my seat every time Schilling pitched last year, because he was always one pitch away from serving up a three run home-run. I had big hopes for Schilling this year. He seemed motivated to come to camp this year in better shape and erase the memories of his disappointing 2007 season.

With Schilling missing at least the first half of the season, this is the opportunity Clay Buchholz needs to prove why he is Boston’s top pitching prospect. Buchholz was dominant during his short stint with the Sox last year, but being that he is only 24 years old and still developing, the Sox will want to limit his innings this season. So maybe he can assume the #5 spot in the rotation until Schilling comes back, then go to a six-man rotation for the playoff run. This will give everyone a little rest and get them ready for the playoffs.

I still really like Boston’s rotation this year. Beckett will be Beckett and should chalk up another 20 wins. Dice K, with a season of experience under his belt, should take his game up a notch. Wakefield is always good for at least 12 wins. Then we have the always improving Jon Lester, and the wild card Clay Buchholz. If any of these guys falter, Boston will have some options. Kyle Snyder and Julian Tavarez are always available to start. There some kids in the minors worthy of a call-up. And if all else fails, Theo will make the deal to shore up the rotation.

We all know pitching wins games. We’ll soon see if the Sox have enough to defend their title.