My grandfather used to tell me, “You can never have too many women. And you can never have too much pitching.” Gramps knew his shit. The 2006 Red Sox thought they had a pitching surplus, so they traded away Bronson Arroyo, only to spend the bulk of the summer watching Wily Mo Pena chase his own ass around right field.
Learning from their mistake, Theo and the Trio have stocked up on as much pitching as they could get their paws on, including Brendon Donnelly, Hideki Okajima, JC Romero, and Runelvys Hernandez. But the weight of the season will obviously fall on the starters, so in advance of our mid-January Schlitz binge, Denton and I decided to sit down and discuss the pros and cons of the Sox’ 2007 rotation. We know nothing, so please… take these predictions about as seriously as you’d take a marriage proposal from a robot*.
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Daisuke Matsuzaka: Like any good hooker, Daisuke has gripped this town by the jublees before he’s even thrown one single pitch in the Major Leagues. And that’s just the thing: even though he’s revered in Japan, we really don’t know how he’ll fare when faced with half a million drunken, out-of-work plumbers at Yankee Stadium. But the tenacity with which the front office pursued him leads us to believe he’s the real deal. We hope.
Pros: He’s young, poised, and is no stranger to a media frenzy, something he’ll have to live with 24/7 once he shows up in Florida for spring training. He’s proven himself on the global stage as the MVP of baseball’s World Classic. He’s got that nutty “gyro-ball” and the hot wife he’ll be bringing over with him can’t possibly hurt the cause.
Cons: His inexperience in the MLB cannot be overstated; former Devil Ray Alex Cabrera was a home run champion in Japan, which kinda tells you something about the pitching over there. If AL batters get wise to the gyro-ball by, say, June 1, it could be a long summer. The amount of dough floated into D-Mat’s bank account likely won’t win him that long a grace period from the fans. Also, Mrs. Damon was actually a bit hotter than Mrs. Matsuzaka.
Verdict: We’ll go out on a limb and predict an 18-6 season for Matsuzaka-san. Not bad, but not as show-stoppingly awesome as we’re all hoping.
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Josh Beckett: Forget 2006. This guy was the f–king 2003 World Series Most Valuable Player. They don’t just hand out those things like Jesus Juice at the Neverland Ranch, you know. Don’t burn your Beckett jerseys just yet, this guy deserves another look.
Pros: Beckett is 26 years old, throws heat and has a nasty curve. When he takes the mound he looks like he’d just as soon kick batters in the softies and feel up their lady friends as he would strike them out. Did I mention the 2003 World Series MVP? Isn’t that enough?
Cons: Josh Patrick struggled mightily in the 2006 season. His welcome to the American League was a 5+ ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. His 16 wins were a little, how shall we say, deceiving. And that was without the notorious blister problems of seasons past. He also showed those Lowe-like signs of folding up when something went wrong — like not getting a call or a rare error behind him. It is possible that he is one of those NL-only kinda guys.
Verdict: It’s a hung jury on this one folks. All we can do is wait out the 2007 season. If I was the betting type, meaning if I hadn’t lost all my disposable income betting on football, I’d put it on Beckett to bounce back. The kid’s just got too much fire in his eyes to be mediocre. Seventeen legit wins for Beck with an ERA under 4 and at least one brawl.
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Curt Schilling: The Blond Bomber. The Prince of Medfield. The Sack-Up King. We like coming up with cool nicknames for Curt, because it helps us forget that he’s also The Forty Year Old Guy Whose Ankle Could Give at Any Moment. He claims 2007 will be his last pro baseball season, but a good year might encourage a comeback.
Pros: It’s allegedly his last year before retirement, so Curt will certainly want to go out on a high note. He’s been a consistent performer for the Sox, running a 44-21 record since arriving in 2004; take away the blemish of his injury-shortened 2005 season, and he’s at 36-13. He’s a proven commodity; a go-to guy for the big games who takes a ridiculously high amount of pride in his performance, and you can never go wrong with these types of players in your stable.
Cons: That ankle thing is like a Sword of Damocles hanging over all of us. His otherworldly addiction to Everquest brings the constant fear that he’ll dump baseball for full-time elf hunting. Combining his penchant for calling out non-performing teammates with Matsuzaka’s English language difficulties sets potential for an “international incident.”
Verdict: Are you shitting me? This is a guy who had his ankle stapled up hours before hitting the mound at Yankee Stadium. Take that candy out of your ass and write this down: Always bet on Curt.
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Jon Papelbon: The young gun. Best closer in baseball last year. Had a shot at Rookie of the Year until he shut it down with an injury. The same injury that prompted the move out of the ‘pen and into the rotation. Remember, it was May 3 before he gave up an earned run and June 26 when he gave up his second. The kid can pitch.
Pros: Youth. Like Beckett, he’s just 26 years old. Only one season in the bigs but he’s proven his stones already. He’s got great stuff and a guy named Curt Schilling around to teach him even greater stuff. And he looks at home on the mound regardless of the venue, opposition, or situation.
Cons: Youth. Yeah, it can be both good and bad. Sometimes the brass balls get bigger than the brain and guys like Papelbon think they can do it all. Without a little help from your friends, that can be the attitude that lands you on the DL with a seriously f–ked up shoulder. You think you can throw the cheese just a leetle faster, and next thing you know you’re getting taped up six ways to Sunday and Kyle Snyder’s trying on your pants.
Verdict: The Papel-Bot seems to have the skill and brains to succeed as a closer or as a starter. Which is good, because if Tavarez, Donnelly or PinieroBread can’t handle getting the ball in the ninth, how can they not put the guy who absolutely tore shit up as their closer last year back into the role? I mean, it’s kinda like having a nuclear bomb at your disposal, but prefering to hurl pointed sticks at an oncoming army. Whatever the f–k that means.
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Tim Wakefield: The elder statesman of the Red Sox. Wakefield is the epitome of team player and all-around good guy. Remember when he got left off the 1999 ALCS roster against the Yanks? Anyone else would have shown up at the front office with a carload of urine-filled balloons. But Wake just grinned and took it. In the bigger picture, he’s also the most frequent visitor to the Jimmy Fund. When he spends time there, it’s for the kids, not the cameras.
Pros: Versatility is Wake’s biggest asset. The guy can throw the knuckler ’till the cows come home. Then go back out the next day and do it again. Or he can come in for mop-up in a blow-out. Or he can be the set-up guy. Or he can close. Sure we want him as a starter, but is there room? We’ll see.
Cons: Inconsistency. When he’s got the knuckleball dancing, he’s damn near unhittable. But when it isn’t knuckling, it’s getting hit. Far. Before you can piss out your first beer, the Sox are down 5 and Francona hasn’t even been to the mound yet. Also, Doug Mirabelli. Nuff said.
Verdict: Wake’s a guy you want to have around. If the Sox do end up with “too many” starters, there’s always a need for a spot start and Wake can work out of the pen. If he ends up in the rotation, even better. Just keep an eye on him, and be a bit more judicious with that hook. He can bring you 13 wins, which ain’t bad for a number five.
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Roger Clemens: The Rocket back at Fenway? That’s the rumor floating around. Of course, only Roger and his accountants know for sure, but this much is true: Unless he’s got a mistress in every city or a gambling addiction we don’t know about, Roc certainly isn’t hurting for cash. So his heart and family matters will likely play heavier in any decision he makes.
Pros: You simply can’t go wrong with Roger, who has truly become better with age. A workhorse who would instantly inspire Schilling and the rest of the crew to raise their games even higher. Hot wife Debbie will be trolling Newbury Street again, much to the delight of pervs like myself. He’s one game away from supplanting Cy Young as most winningest Red Sox pitcher, and it may just be worth it for him to slip into the uniform one more time to lock that up.
Cons: Roger has fostered a bizarre love/hate relationship with the Boston fans since his departure, so it wouldn’t surprise us to see him re-sign with the Yankees as a final “screw you.” His caddy and personal lapdog Andy Pettitte has already signed with New York for 2007, so it won’t be long until Cash and Torre are offering free steaks and lapdances to get Roger back as well. His contract will surely include mucho days off, a private jetpack, etc., which could cause consternation among his teammates.
Verdict: Honestly, I don’t give a f–k if Julio Lugo whines ’cause Rog gets to fly back to Texas on the weekends. I’d take Clemens back in a heartbeat.
*Robots lie about everything, except cake, other robots, and the films of Tom Hanks.
Also: Hall of Fame elections will be announced today at 2:00pm. Free beer and weiners at Rice’s place.