Red Sox 2012 preview, part III: Why Aceves is not the answer in Boston’s rotation
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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and what better way to kick off the long weekend than by talking about a group of guys who know a good bird to eat when they see one: the Boston Red Sox starting rotation.
With the Red Sox seemingly on the brink of announcing a new manager, the hot stove is poised to be lighted, and, without question, the most important area for the Red Sox to improve upon is the starting rotation. I would argue that the Red Sox have not had a solid rotation since 2004, but, with their offense, those shortcomings have been overlooked.
Boston’s rotation is akin to the playing card analogy in “My Cousin Vinny”: “The D.A.’s got to build a case. Building a case is like building a house … He’s going to show you the bricks. He’ll show you they got straight sides. He’ll show you how they got the right shape. He’ll show them to you in a very special way, so that they appear to have everything a brick should have. But there’s one thing he’s not gonna show you. When you look at the bricks from the right angle, they’re as thin as this playing card. His whole case is an illusion, a magic trick. It has to be an illusion, ’cause you’re innocent.” As much as Bill and Stan are innocent in the movie, the Red Sox rotation was inconsistent coming into 2011. To compete with the elite American League teams, this will have to be rectified in 2012, so let’s carve up the current Sox battery and dig into what they have to do this offseason.
Jon Lester: Boston has had some impressive “Big Three’s” in their athletic history, but the trio of Lester, John Lackey, and Josh Beckett is not one of them, at least not in the way Boston fans would like them to be. Obviously, one issue that came out post-collapse was the clubhouse antics of this group, among others. Lester is in a unique position where, not only was he the first to come forward and speak about these allegations, but he was also the hero of game four of the 2007 World Series and has never had his character or his work ethic, particularly as a survivor of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, called into question. Growing up, my dad used to tell me (and I’m paraphrasing), “if you always do the right thing, it makes it easier for you to get away with something you do wrong.” With this, Lester seems to have received the benefit of the doubt from Boston fans who seem ready to “forgive and forget” for a guy who, ultimately, wins games. Lester is a competitor, and the humiliation of 2011 is something that is hopefully fueling his offseason work so that he may return to the hill for the opener in Detroit.
John Lackey: Lackey is an example of a player who fans might not be so forgiving of. In a season where Lackey was predicted to find his stride with the Red Sox, he set career lows with a 6.41 ERA and 119 runs allowed, while averaging 5.2 innings a start. Of those 119 runs, only five were unearned. Among other off-the-field issues, Lackey will be undergoing Tommy John surgery and is projected to miss the 2012 season.
Clay Buchholz: After a poorly diagnosed stress fracture in his lower back kept him out of the rotation from Memorial Day on, Buchholz will look to reclaim the dominant success he had in 2010 when he posted 17 wins and was a serious consideration for the Cy Young.
Josh Beckett: I would argue that Beckett has had two quality seasons with Boston: 2007 and 2009. His first season, 2006, and his injury-hindered 2010 season were invariably his worst, which leaves 2008 and 2011. The former was solid, but in September 2008, the Sox trailed Tampa in the AL East by two games with a six-game, home-and-home series over the course of the month. Beckett had a start in each series and lost both. Granted, one was a one-run game, and I will not fault him for that, but he also lost his starts between these series with opportunities to gain ground. The same can be said for 2011. Once it seemed that he would not win the Cy Young, Beckett gave up when the team was relying on him to be a stopper in the rotation and a leader in the dugout. Instead, he, among others, was in the clubhouse. The Boston Globe also reported that the same behavior existed when he was with Florida in 2003 during the first five games of the NLCS, when it seemed Chicago would win the pennant. The strength of the Boston rotation in 2012 depends on which Beckett we see: Beckett in the first five months of 2011, or Beckett in September 2011. The only difference is mentality.
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