At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Monday, March 27, 2006

BoSox Talent Breeds Certain Regret

– No Room on the Roster for Some Quality Guys –

Young people take note: the Boston Red Sox were not always so talent-rich, and did not always contend for the postseason. In 1997, for instance, the club finished below .500 and featured such luminaries as Jeff Frye and Darren Bragg in the starting lineup. Yes, Nomar Garciaparra and Mo Vaughn hit 65 home runs between them, but that was about it for offense, and with a team ERA of 4.87, the Sox were lucky to finish two games ahead of the last-place Toronto Blue Jays.

Today, of course, things are quite different, as there are All Stars and Gold Glovers at nearly every turn, and it is a given that the Sox will make a run for a playoff spot. The shame of this, though, is that there is no longer room for the kind of players the Sox once would have paid a king’s ransom to get, and we ache for those players even as we celebrate the circumstances that make them expendable.

Tony Graffanino and Dustan Mohr are just two examples – Bronson Arroyo makes three. They are quality people and solid performers, and we dearly wish we could keep them. But there can be only 25 players on the big-league roster, and thanks to the trade for Mark Loretta, Graffanino was just placed on revocable waivers (meaning that the Sox can withdraw him from the list should another team make a claim, theoretically setting the stage for a trade). Meanwhile, Wily Mo Pena was acquired in a trade for Arroyo, and Mohr’s chances of making the team were instantly diminished as a result.

Forget the spring training numbers, which aren’t great for Graffanino and are stellar for Mohr: both of these guys are into the game, they hustle, they make plays, and they don’t complain. For them, it’s just too bad that the Sox are as loaded as they are, though for fans, this is just the sort of situation we once prayed for.

As this season begins, wish Graffanino well and hope he finds a situation to which he can bring the same positive energy and attitude that helped push the Sox into the playoffs last year. Root for Mohr to find a place in which he can continue to shine and be recognized accordingly. But most of all, keep your fingers crossed that injuries or personal distractions don’t leave us wishing these players were still here, and leave us seeking a latter-day Mike Benjamin as a replacement.

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