I was advocating more innings for Jermaine Van Buren and Manny Delcarmen. Last night, Terry Francona gave them a shot -- and they let the game get out of reach.
After getting rid of Matt Clement's mess in the 5th, Van Buren flopped in the 6th: single, walk, sac bunt, intentional walk, bases loaded walk. Delcarmen then gave up a grand slam to his first batter. After that, he did alright -- a walk and a single in 1.2 innings. ... This provides a good segue into the transition issue I mentioned a couple of days ago.
It is imperative that the Red Sox integrate younger players into the team, especially the pitching staff. As the season began, we had Schilling (39), Wakefield (40 in August), Timlin (40), Seanez (37) and Wells (43). Clement will be 32 in August.
Steps in the right direction included getting Beckett (26), bringing Papelbon (25) north, declining to sign Damon for four years (32), trading for Crisp (26), and moving Youkilis (27) to first base.
Since April, we have seen an influx of many young arms -- Delcarmen (24), Hansen (22), Lester (22), Pauley (23 this Saturday), and Van Buren (26 next month). The learning curve involved in adjusting to the major leagues can be steep, and it is a fact that these young guys will struggle. They will walk batters and give up handfuls of line drives and home runs -- and they will do it in high-wire games against contenders. Having that happen when you are 25 games out in July is one thing; watching it in the Bronx in a mid-September battle for first place or the wild card is quite another.
The 2006 team is still a contender. Even with the struggles in the pen and from Clement, Beckett and the 5th spot, the absence and subsequent lack of punch from Crisp, Varitek's slow start -- the Sox have been at (or near) the top of the East. And there is no reason why they won't stay near the top.
We have to remember that some of what is making us tear out our hair this summer will pay off in 2007, 2008 and beyond. This is assuming that a lot of the top prospects (Hansen and Lester, especially) stay in red socks. And we will see similar struggles and slumps from pitchers Michael Bowden and Clay Buccholz, as well as position players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Murphy, and Jed Lowrie.
Working younger players into the mix is essential and I'm glad Theo et al. are doing it. They seem to have a keener eye on the future than they do in the Bronx. I bitch and yell and moan as much as anyone, but I have to remember to have patience.
I looked at the Red Sox contract information at Cot's:
Players whose contracts (major league only) end after this season: Nixon, Beckett, Youkilis, Loretta, Timlin, Gonzalez, Riske, Cora, Mirabelli, Pena, DiNardo, Papelbon, Stern, Alvarez, Delcarmen, Choi, Lester, Pauley, Van Buren, Mohr, Holtz, Machado, Edgar Martinez, Brandon Moss, David Murphy -- and possibly Foulke, Wakefield, and Seanez.
Players whose contracts end after 2007:
Schilling -- $13 (option year vested with 2004 World Series victory)Players whose contracts end after 2008:
Clement -- $9.5 (last year of three-year deal)
Lowell -- $9 (last year of four-year deal)
Tavarez -- $3.1 ($3.85 club option for 2008, guaranteed with 125 appearances in 2006-07 or 65 appearances in 2007)
Foulke -- $7.5 club option ($1.5M buyout or $3.75M player option; 2007 option vests at $7.5 with 45 games finished in each of 2004-05-06 or total of 95 games finished in 2005-06; 2007 option vests at $7.75 with 53 games finished in 2006)
Wakefield -- $4 club option (contines until Sox decline an option)
Seanez -- $2.1 club option (or $0.2M buyout; 2007 option vests with 30 games finished in 2006)
Ramirez -- $20M (club options for 2009 ($20) and 2010 ($20))Signed for 2009 and beyond:
Varitek -- $9 (last year of four-year deal)
Hansen -- $1 (last year of four-year deal)
Ortiz -- $12.5 in 2009, $12.5 in 2010 ($12.5 club option for 2011 (no buyout))(Of course, several of the players listed in the 2006 paragraph above will likely still be around.)
Crisp -- $15.5 in 2009 ($8 club option for 2010 or $0.5 buyout)