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How to Build a Winner?


by Sox Fan Matt Michel

If there has ever been a truer bit of baseball logic, it is this: You can never have enough pitching. Well, Sox fans, guess what? We’ve got a ton of pitching at our disposal, the question that should now be asked is where do guys need to go and what can be realistically expected of everyone…

But before I begin, I must point out two assumptions I am making by writing this column. The first, which we’ll call $elig’s Pals’ Profits Law states that the owners and players will realize how bad another labor-related work stoppage will be, and thus, will come to a compromise that ensures baseball will be played in 2002 as planned. The second, Uncle Jerry’s Profit Law, states that the Sox will not look beyond their own system for help and will not make any significant moves in the off-season to help the team. Thus, continuing in the spirit of “building” a champion, every player on the Sox roster in 2002 will more than likely be in the organization right now.

Thirdly, though I am an optimist, I am also grounded in reality, and thus, my predictions are based on what the best options the Sox will give themselves. If I don’t think a player will be signed for next year, I’ll probably leave him off the team.

With that said, what will it take for the Sox to win? Are we as far from becoming a dynasty as some will have us think? Here are the facts, judge for yourself.

The only real given for the Sox starting rotation next year right now is Mark Buehrle. The kid has been nothing short of phenomenal, given he only had 76 days of MLB experience coming into the season. He maybe on the verge of becoming the best pitcher in the American League, and is definitely the ace of the staff.

After that, it gets a bit murky. I expect Jerry Manuel to insert both Jon Garland and Kip Wells into the Opening Day rotation because of the organization’s desire to see these two guys develop into stud starters and, with Buehrle, for a formidable 1-2-3 punch. Do they deserve it? Yes.

Garland has come on as of late and is beginning to show why he had so much hype. His modified delivery has been nothing short of devastating to hitters thus far, and has very quietly kept his ERA around 3.00 for the season.

Kip Wells, on the other hand, has been nothing short of an enigma. For a stretch, he looked like he had developed into that player he was hyped to be, and than BAM! A ball gets hit back at him, and he loses his confidence on the mound. Now, I’m not blaming Kip for his fears, because, quite frankly, I’d be scared of that tiny cannonball being shot at me at 100 or so miles per hour, too. Unfortunately for Kip, results are what matter at this stage of the game. He has to figure out a way to deal with it, and get back to the guy he was before.

So now that these three have been established as starters, who takes the remaining two spots? With Cal Eldred likely to retire, the Sox desperately need some veteran pitching to shore up the staff, and they may not have to look farther than David Wells. Wells has publicly stated that he feels indebted to the organization for his sub par 2001. Whether or not to sign him, hinges of course on a couple of factors. First, Wells will have to accept a contract with a low base salary that will be full of incentives (I think they will top out around $6-$7 million). Secondly, it hinges on his health. The Sox have (or at least SHOULD have) learned their lesson on risks with injury-prone players. If Wells’s back doesn’t start getting better, more than likely he will be forced to retire. If somehow David is not brought back, the Sox will be in a bit of a bind, and since I have the Uncle Jerry’s Profit Law in affect, they will be without a veteran pitcher.

After that, it’s a real tossup between guys like Sean Lowe, Gary Glover, and Jim Parque. In a perfect world, the Sox will stick with a Buehrle-Wells-Garland-Wells four man staff, and then rotate in Parque, Lowe, or Glover depending on how they’ve been pitching.

In conclusion, this staff should be better next year. Now that Mark, Jon, and Kip have all have a year’s worth of MLB experience, all three should start to get in a sort of consistent groove. Throw in a veteran arm, like David Wells, and all of a sudden, you’ve set the cornerstone of a winner now, and for years to come….

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