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Fenway
02-29-2004, 01:29 PM
Retired Boston sportscaster and now Red Sox and Bruins historian Clark Booth looks at baseball going into Spring Training.

There is no link, he sent me this by email as he is published now in The Boston Pilot which is the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston

Ten Questions That Must Be Asked Before We Play Ball
February 26, 2004
By Clark Booth


Reprising favored games of yore, the Answer Man has been dragged kicking and screaming from his blissful retirement. The challenge, old font of wisdom, is to lend some perspective to this spectacular Hot Stove Season lately concluded with the arrival of spring training. We have 10 questions.

Q. Now that the dust has cleared, which teams improved the most in our American League?

A. First prize goes to the Angels. They added the most talent - Vladimir Guerrero, Kelvim Escobar, Bartolo Colon, and Jose Guillen - while losing nothing. Can't beat that. And keep in mind this team is only a year removed from the very peak. Second most improved are the Orioles. You can't add Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sidney Ponson and not be better. But then they had a long way to go.

After that I like the Blue Jays. I love Ted Lilly, the lefty they swiped from the A's, while Miguel Batista balances out the loss of Escobar. The Jays won't be patsies. And then there are the Tigers. Remember, you asked who was most improved, not who is best. Imports like Pudge Rodriguez, Fernando Vina, Rondell White, and Jason Johnson should enable Detroit to jump 15 games in the win column. Of course, that means they'll still lose about 104. Seattle, Kansas City and Tampa Bay made intriguing, relatively low-budget, moves that should result in incremental improvement.

Q. And so who are the losers?

A. Big loser is Oakland and their vastly over-rated, full-of-himself, general manager, Billy Beane. Biggest break the Red Sox got was when Lucky Lucchino's lame, nation-wide search failed to land the GM of his dreams, the fabled (just ask him) Beane. Maybe someone will write another book on him illustrating how he unravels a contender.

Other major losers were the White Sox, who suddenly nobody wants to play for, and the Twins who are drifting back into financial woes and the danger of being rubbed out. Now there is a team that has the perfect right to moan about the inequities of the system. Are the Indians still in the American League? As for the Rangers, they have dumped Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and the illustrious A-Rod and may actually be better. Make some sense out of that when you have nothing better to do.

Q. Okay, wise guy, it is clear that you are doing a dance around the Red Sox and Yankees, who have brought the rest of the sporting world to its knees with their antics stirring ecstasy in the deep neurosis of their giddy fandom. What's that about?

A. It's about precisely what you have just said. It's about too much ado about the Red Sox and the Yankees. It's about the global pre-occupation with these two over-wrought teams to the exclusion of all the rest. It's about every front-running, tide-riding, alleged or would-be, baseball expert jumping on the one and same bandwagon. It's about trends and fashions and everybody who is anybody striving to be a charter member of the conventional wisdom. It's about an excess of silliness, pure and simple.

I don't want to see one more story about how it is all about the Red Sox and Yankees until next October. Then, if they are both still standing, we'll pick up that much abused and over-used theme again. The best thing that could happen to the game is if both of them do not even make the playoffs. And I do mean both of them.

Q. Fat chance! Are they not the two best teams in the league, if not in all of baseball?


A. There are 30 teams in the major leagues and it is only February. They are all equal in my book, at least until the second week in April.

Q. But you do agree the Red Sox have surpassed the Yankees; or at least had finally eclipsed them before the Yanks pulled Alex Rodriguez out of their hat?

A. Only in Boston might so many bogus rationalizations gain so much credence and favor. In landing Rodriguez the Yankees obviously checkmated the Red Sox, so what does it matter whether the Sox had 'pulled ahead' in January. Being the choice of Vegas bookies in the middle of the winter is a distinction that could only be meaningful to talk-how hosts, talk-show callers, and Red Sox fans.

Boston has finished second to New York six straight seasons, a record. When and if they finish ahead of them, they will have at last surpassed them but not a moment earlier. When and if they finally win something, they will be a legitimate pick to win something more. In the meantime, the Yankees remain the favorites. That shouldn't be so hard to fathom, even for the addled citizens of Red Sox Nation.

Q. But Boston has the edge in pitching and pitching always prevails in the end. Therefore, Boston remains stronger, right?

A. Your syllogism has a terribly flawed basic premise. Boston's pitching is superior only in theory.

Should he remain healthy, Kevin Brown is an upgrade on Roger Clemens while Javier Vasquez unquestionably upgrades Andy Pettitte and is superior to Derek Lowe. Clemens ERA was double the size of Brown's last season and they pitched the same number of innings. If Brown's health is always chancy, it's no more so than Pedro's health. They both won 14 games with wicked ERA's last season with Brown hurling 25 more innings. If there were not substantial doubt about the state of Pedro's rotator cuff, he'd be re-signed by now.

Frankly, I'll take Monk Mussina over Curt Schilling but I'll concede a draw, for the sake of argument. The match-ups of the fourth and fifth starters (Wakefield vs Contreras & Kim vs Lieber) are also draws although personally I'd take my chances with Tommy John surgery before pinning my hopes on Byung-Hyun Kim. I give New York the advantage in both long and short relief and it becomes a huge advantage if Steve Karsay rebounds. Have you got all of that?

Q. What about the offense?

A. New York has replaced Aaron Boone, Karim Garcia, Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson with Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Ken Lofton and Miguel Cairo. Boston has replaced Todd Walker with Pokey Reese while stirring Brian Daubach and Ellis Burks back into the mix. Slight edge, I would say, to New York.

Q. But what about all those other vital elements, issues like chemistry and intangibles.

A. The Red Sox have an unproven rookie manager who bombed in Philadelphia, a sports town painfully similar to Boston. It is not the Yankees but the Red Sox who have all the brutally complex contract issues (seven of them at last count) and all the badly bruised egos ( Nomar and Manny and - potentially -any number of the contract issues). As for the issue of clubhouse chemistry, that is Joe Torre's forte. Moreover, I attach little importance to newspaper gossip about the personality of players and firmly believe Sheffield and Lofton are no less charming than Nomar and Manny. And by the way, the Yankees have NO players who refuse to speak to the media.

Historically, it has not been the Yankees who have problems with clubhouse chemistry and issues of temperament. You should look it up. And if you are waiting for A-Rod and Derek to come to blows and thereby pave your team's way to glory I'm afraid you'll have to wait another 85 years.

Q. Sounds like you've made up your mind.

A. Hardly, my dear fellow and I return to my original point that all of this pre-season chitchat is banal and mere ragtime. And I have one more piece of advice.

Q. What's that?
A. Don't believe everything you read in the Boston Globe.

ode to veeck
02-29-2004, 01:41 PM
great article, esp on trying to read too much on the season at this point

SSN721
03-01-2004, 06:45 AM
I agree, shocking to hear this commentary from a Red Sox supporter since it seems so many of them seem to be thinking the current Red Sox are about the best team ever. Although I am not so sure about the pitching argument, I still tend to think the Red Sox are slightly better there, I think the rest of his arguments are very good. And I do like how he has a "play it out" attitude as opposed to a lot of people (on this site too) who have already made their decisions on the outcome of the season before it has even started and have seen how all the teams will start playing together. Anyway, thanks for posting that Fenway, very interesting interview.