Monday, January 4, 2010

An Ace Up His Sleeve

Well, I guess I was wrong about Theo. Less than 24 hours after I put up my last post John Lackey is parading around Newbury street for a physical. And considering his new deal, he may actually be able to afford to buy a t-shirt there. Lackey’s deal is being classified as “the most expensive free agent signing of the Theo Epstein Era” with 5 years/$82.5M, although we should be fair and really say it’s only the second most expensive. The fat, out of shape guy from Japan is costing the Red Sox about $20M more.

When Lackey was with the Angels, let’s be honest, I hated him. He moaned, he whined, he was basically a perfect Mike Soscia disciple. I bet most of you can still remember his quote after the Angels lost to the Sox in the 2008 ALDS. (And if you don’t remember, “We are way better than they are. We lost to a team not as good as us.”) And entering the 2009 season, his numbers at Fenway blew. (From 2006-2008: 5.1 ERA) But in 2009 I started to gain more respect for the Texan. For one, he finally stopped fearing the Green Monster as much as Tacoby does when tracking a fly ball. He also nearly tore Soscia’s head off in the ALCS when Soscia came to the mound to take the ball from him. The last pitcher I can really remember doing that to a manger was Schilling. Not that Lackey is the same quality of pitcher as Schilling in his prime, but non-political references to Curt Schilling in a Red Sox uniform can only be a good thing.

With Lackey, suddenly this pitching staff looks like it could, on paper stand up to any in the American League. Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz, Dice-K and Wakefield. Lester, Beckett and Lackey probably shouldn’t be numbered one through three, but one-A, one-B and one-C. Buchholz and Dice-K both showed a lot of promise in the last third of 2009, and both of their hot streaks seem like they were caused by a specific repeatable change in their mechanics/workout that will hopefully carry over to 2010. And Timmeh, well, I just hope he can get to 192 in the next two seasons.

At the same time as the Lackey signing, Mike Cameron also picked up a Sox jersey. While Cameron’s numbers, including his date of birth, aren’t going to make people forget Jason Bay, the first time you see him read a fly ball it may change your mind. People love Tacoby’s speed in center, until they watch him an entire game from the upper deck. Then they realize that he needs the speed to make up for first the three steps he took in the wrong direction. If Schilling taught Beckett how to pitch and not just throw, then hopefully Cameron can teach Tacoby how to patrol center, and not just catch.

Clearly Theo has opted to go the “pitching and defense wins championships” method for building the 2010 Red Sox. It may not work, but unlike a few weeks ago when I was afraid of battling with Toronto for 3rd/4th place in the AL East, at least on paper, we’ve got a chance! (So do the Kansas City Royals…shit.)

posted by Matt at 1:27 pm