At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Win Now, or Nurture Arms for the Future? BoSox Can’t Have it Both Ways

The Boston Red Sox today are wrestling with a player development conundrum that every successful team faces at one time or another: should their most talented young hurlers be left in the minor leagues to gain experience and to make mistakes in relative anonymity? Or should they be brought up to help the big club contend for a playoff spot? It’s not an easy decision, for a few bad outings at the major league level can destroy a rookie pitcher’s confidence and ruin an otherwise promising career. Conversely, a few well-thrown innings can safeguard wins needed to spell the difference between playing baseball and playing golf come October. So what’s a team to do?

Make a choice, that’s what.

The Red Sox in recent weeks seemingly have tried to have it both ways by attempting to manage the pitcher/hitter matchups at the major league level while still bringing their protégés along slowly. Jermaine van Buren, Manny Delcarmen, and Craig Hansen, to name three, have become regular riders of the Lou Merloni Memorial Shuttle between Pawtucket and Boston, but the results just haven’t been there, and we are left to watch the likes of Julian Taverez and Matt Clement give games away for the lack of consistent control.

At this point, we know what we’re going to get from Taverez, Clement, Rudy Seanez, et al., and given their respective track records, it appears they are performing just about as well as we can expect them too. But we don’t yet really know what are going to get from likes of Delcarmen, Hansen, and Jon Lester (who, of course, is now with the team), and we won’t know until they are given the opportunity to pitch, and pitch regularly, in the major leagues. It seems to me that if the Sox must suffer pitchers who lack command, they may as well do so with pitchers who still have an up side, and can be expected to improve with experience. Otherwise, what reason does anyone have to believe things will get any better?

So, Sox, let’s make the hard choice now and either get serious about letting the kids show what they can do, or be honest about protecting them and let the cards fall where they may. Either way, if we’re going to have to waste pitching gems like the one Curt Schilling spun earlier this week, then let’s at least do so with a purpose. Otherwise, there will be no reason at all to be flirting with third place behind the Blue Jays, who at this writing trail the Sox by just one game, who continue to play well, and who can easily still slip past us in the standings.

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