Friday, April 01, 2005

The Byun-Hyung Kim Era Is Over

Now that Theo Epstein has admitted his huge mistake, the Red Sox have cut their losses and sent Mr. Kim to the Colorado Rockies. This is simple addition by subtraction. Kim was doomed from the start in a Red Sox uniform. The poor guy was immediately made the closer, even though it was apparent from his disastrous 2001 World Series performance that he could never get the Yankee batters out. Kim always seemed to be battling inconsistency and injury. Those factors combined with a bad attitude made him a marked man. I'm just surprised it took so long for Theo to pull the trigger and do what had to be done.

To sum up, Theo foolishly gave Kim a contract extension that must have made all the other GMs snicker openly. I don't know what was going on with the man, but for the sake of the Sox bullpen I am glad to see him gone. I wish him luck with the Rockies.

I'm more concerned with the Sox starting staff. Gone is Pedro. Gone are his 16 wins and 227 strikeouts. Also gone is his tendency to be a flake. Back in the National League, if healthy, he will probably, thanks to being able to face his opposing pitchers and weak number seven and eight hitters, see his ERA drop by as much as one full run. Gone too is Derek Lowe, he of the more than occasional "deer in the headlights" expression. Yes he won quite a few games in a Sox uniform, but he also got a ton of run support. Still, he was a durable pitcher, and the Sox will try hard to replace his and Pedro's innings this season.

Which brings us to the new guys. David Wells. The man who once said that if Boston ever wanted to blow up Fenway Park he'd be glad to push the plunger. He will turn 42 in May, and has never been a poster boy for being in tip-top physical shape. He does have the uncanny ability to throw strikes when he is healthy, but will he be healthy enough to make 33 starts?

Then there is Matt Clement. This kid has a golden arm, but has somehow never been able to put it all together. Early in his career one could have put his mediocrity down to being on lousy Padre and Marlin clubs, but for the past few years he has been a Cub, and they have been in contention for post-season play the last two seasons, and he hasn't improved at all. With his stuff, a 96 MPH fastball, scary split-finger fastball and slider, he should be capable of 18 wins on talent alone. I hope pitching coach Dave Wallace can help him find the missing pieces to his puzzle.

Then there is Tim Wakefield, Mr. Knuckler. Wake will turn 39 in August, but since he's not a power pitcher that becomes a smaller concern. He'll do his best to pitch 6-7 innings and turn the game over to the bullpen.

Up next is Bronson Arroyo. If he'd had Derek Lowe's run support he'd have won 15-16 games in 2004 instead of the 10 with which he finished. I think he'll be a big factor since Curt Schilling is still on the mend.

And speaking of Curt...he's 38. He's a warrior. But is it reasonable to expect the same level of performance he gave in 2004? The pessimist in me says no. I think that is why Theo picked up guys like John Halama and Jeremi Gonzalez. They have experience as starters and will likely step in if there are long stints of inactivity for any of the first five.

The addition of Matt Mantei to the bullpen should help Mike Timlin and Alan Embree quite a bit, as should the re-acquisition of lefty submariner Mike Myers. Keith Foulke remains solid as the closer.

To sum up, when one considers the age 3/5 of the projected starters one then has to face the inevitability of lost time due to injury. A lot of things have to go right for these moves to be successful. Two nights from now is when we will begin to find out.

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