Last night, a game the Sox had going their way fell apart because Smoltz was left in one inning too long. It turned a 2-1 lead into a 6-2 deficit and led to a 6-3 loss to the Rangers. Combined with the Yankees' win, the Sox are now tied with the Yankees for the AL East lead.
After five innings, Smoltz had given up just one run on four hits. It was a solid outing. But then the sixth inning came along and Smoltz looked horrific, giving away doubles and home runs like it was Christmas and he was Saint Nick. His final line was 5.2 innings and six runs allowed on nine hits. Oh, and three homers. Ugh.
Compare that to Smoltz's win in KC last week. He went just five innings and surrendered only one run on four hits. I think it's clear that Smoltz has a ceiling now and it's five innings. That's not a bad thing, it's just something to consider and work with.
But his performance last night will again stir the pot as far as changes go, with everyone clamoring for one of two things; the promotion of Buchholz or trading for Halladay.
I don't have a problem with promoting Buchholz, but who are you replacing? Will it be Penny or Smoltz? Considering that Buchholz couldn't go six in his outing, how much of an improvement is that over Smoltz? Especially when their lines over five innings were pretty similar. So I would say the guy you are moving out is Penny. But who do you think you are bringing back in return? And that is the key question here, because the issue is not Boston's pitching.
As I said the other day, Boston's problem is in their batting. They only got two runs and six hits off Kevin Freaking Millwood last night in six innings. Are you kidding me? Milwood has sucked since 2007 and the Sox could only grab a pair off of him? In the words of Ron Burgundy, Great Odin's raven! Isn't this the real problem here?
Ellsbury went 1-4 in the leadoff spot and struck out twice. Pedroia went 0-4. Bay went 1-4. And so forth and so on. Too many guys are not getting on base right now. And the Sox have to try and correct this. Three runs off the Rangers is ridiculous. Their bullpen has looked good recently, but they aren't this good. Texas is a big stick team with weak pitching. Boston should be dominating them and last night they didn't.
So what to do? I think the first thing is to insert Buchholz into the rotation and trade Penny. Smoltz isn't a major problem provided you recognize his limitations. And that means keeping Masterson ready for the days Smoltz pitches so you can get two or three from him and save the pen for your other pitchers. As for trading Penny, I am sure some teams in contention in the NL would want him. I just don't know what you'd get in return. Maybe if he was packaged with Saito you could get a bigger haul.
Then you have to get aggressive on trading for a hitter. I put forward the idea yesterday that Adrian Gonzales in San Diego would be a good target. But there are others. You could target Prince Fielder in Milwaukee, Joey Votto in Cincy or Nick Johnson in Washington. If you wanted to go outside the box, there's a young first baseman with the Cubs named Jake Fox who swings a pretty nice bat. But you'll notice all these guys play first base. And there is a reason for that.
Yes, it would be nice to go after an Adam Dunn or a Ryan Braun or some other outfielder who is mashing the ball. But where does he go? You can't say "You bench Drew" because, as attractive and nice as that thought is, it's not realistic. Not when he makes $14M a year. But you could move Mike Lowell to a team if you ate just a little bit of his contract and added a minor sweetener. Then you shift Youk to third and put your new acquisition in at first. You'll also notice all those names I mentioned are under the age of 30.*
In an ideal world the Sox would be able to jettison Drew and bring in a Braun, rather than trade away a guy who plays hard and hurt like Lowell. But business is business. If the Sox want to improve their lineup, that is where they can make it happen.
But for now Boston will fight on with what they have, which is still pretty good all things considered. Tonight Beckett takes the mound and when you are coming off a loss, Beckett is the guy you want on the mound. Hopefully he'll notch the "W" and straighten things out.
Attention Mets Fans:I am adding this a day a later so you drooling misanthropes stop commenting. And I'll use all caps so you understand.
THIS IS NOT A SERIOUS SUGGESTION!! I AM NOT SERIOUS ABOUT THIS DEAL! THAT'S WHY IT'S A FOOTNOTE!
Okay? So chill the hell out and go back to watching your team get shut out. Again.
* If you want to go completely outside the box and down Crazy Street...is a possible trade for David Wright out of the question? Hear me out on this. The Mets have had Wright for a few years now, have won nothing and are falling out of contention in 2009. Wright also has a growing rep for not playing unless he's 100%. He's also the leadoff hitter the Sox are missing (.407 OBP). The one negative would be that he is under the Mets' control until 2013 and that would raise his price even more.
Still...the Mets' problem is a lack of depth. Would a package of Lowell (with salary help), Bowden, Lars Anderson and Ryan Kalish be enough to entice them, weighing their need for young cheap players (and some veteran leadership) against trading the face of the Mets? Hell, toss in Penny and make them think they could get back in the hunt. In return Wright would come to a well-run franchise with veteran leadership, exactly the situation Wright needs to bring his game to the next level. And you get to keep Youk at first.
I know the odds here are next to zero, but it's a fun thought exercise.