Originally Posted by Bob Roarman
Tell me when and how Cliff Pollite and Neal Cotts got back to what they were the previous season and then I'd say that team is a playoff team again with or without Rowand and Thomas. Don't know why people seem to forget about them, they had career seasons of career seasons for middle relief which, luckily for the Sox, happened to fall in the same season and then they both promptly fell off a cliff and out of baseball just a few years later.
This definitely, but even more so the entire pitching staff regressed from 2005, whether it be that '05 was a career year never to be repeated or just the overall stress from an extra month of play-off baseball. No starter on the '06 team posted an ERA lower than 4 and change; Buehrle's ERA was almost 5. In 2005, the Sox had a middle of the road offense (4.57 RS/G, 9th in the AL) and the best pitching staff (3.61 ERA, 1st in AL and 3.98 RA/G, 3rd in the AL) in the league. In 2006, they had an elite offense (5.36 RS/G, 3rd in AL) but a below average pitching staff (4.90 RA/G, 11th in the AL).
The Thome/Rowand deal clearly improved the Sox's weakness from the previous season. If you want to look at a deal that off-season that is more to blame for the Sox's failings post-'05, I think the Vazquez for Young, Vizcaino, and Hernandez deal would be more up your alley. Vazquez never seemed to be able to tap into his talent and solve the pitching problems in '06. Obviously asking 1 pitcher to make or break a rotation is silly, but Vazquez was acquired and expected to be the ace and he never did. Add the breakdowns of Garcia and Contreras in '07 and it was a recipe for disaster, not to mention the Sox gave up a player who could have potentially replaced BA after he proved himself incapable of being an everyday MLB player.
But, almost as important, the Sox were just unlucky to be in the wrong division. A 90-win team that finishes in 3rd place is very rare. If the now current play-off system had been in place, we'd at least have gotten 1 last crack at Detroit. Who knows?