Requiem for a Kind, Gentle Imbecile

Date:  Friday, August 17, 2001
From:  Kevin Hench
Subject:  Requiem for a Kind, Gentle Imbecile

Please if you get a chanse
put some flowrs on Algernons
grave in the bak yard....
            - Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

I've said it before but perhaps it bears repeating: I admire Jimy Williams. 
I dig his folksiness, his tough chin, his odd wit.  And like many other Red
Sox fans I am greatly relieved by his termination as the Townies' skipper.
  Jimy, you see, is not unlike Charlie Gordon, the sweet protagonist in
Flowers for Algernon who went from retarded to brilliant to retarded again
over the course of a medical experiment.  Jimy followed almost precisely the
same path, except for the middle step, of course.
  Jimy was a lot of things, but quick wasn't one of them. 

 Exhibit A - Pete Schourek.
  Pete Schourek should be remembered as the anti-Steve Carlton. In 1972,
Lefty posted a 27-10 for a team that won 59 games. In parts of three seasons,
Pete Schourek posted a 5-18 record (.217) for a Boston team with a .558
winning percentage during his tenure (.578 in games in which ol' Pete didn't
get a decision).  But sadly for Red Sox Nation, Pete Schourek gave his
guttiest performance when Jimy needed him most, hurling 5+ innings of shutout
ball in his controversial start in Game 4 of the 1998 ALDS.  I applauded that
decision, by the way, since we needed to win both Games 4 and 5 to advance
and Pedro obviously had a better chance of winning with another day's rest,
it seemed like a no-brainer. It was Schourek's next 54 appearances that were
so puzzling.  He couldn't get righties out.  He couldn't get lefties out. 
He'd give up base hits.  He'd give up home runs.  Jimy noticed Schourek's
uselessness about 50 appearances after the rest of Red Sox Nation.  That's
what made him Jimy.
  Exhibit B - Jose Offerman
  Sixty-one games!  Yes, Jimy penciled Jose Offerman in as his leadoff hitter
in 61 games.  This on the heels of Jose's disasterous 2000 season.  In those
61 games, Jose - Oh-fer-man, Awfulman, take your pick - compiled a woeful
.288 on-base percentage and a comical .263 slugging percentage.  While the rest
of us knew the peg-legged Joggin' Jose was years past his days as a fleet,
sharp-eyed leadoff man, I'm not sure Jimy ever fully figured it out. 
Sixty-one games!  61*!
  Exhibit C - Rod Beck
  Forget baseball smarts for a moment.  Common human decency should have
dictated that Rod Beck be kept 500 feet away from a pitcher's mound for the
last two months.  Eric Chavez, Shannon Stewart, Jorge Posada, Carlos Delgado,
Aubrey Huff, Raul Mondesi,  Chipper Jones,  Orlando Cabrera, Carlos Lee,
Carlos Delgado again, Carlos Delgado again again, Tony Batista, Tony Batista
again and Edgar Martinez.  Rod Beck has given up 14 home runs over his last
52 innings, and an astonishing 11 over his last 28 innings covering 24
appearances. To put Beck's homer ratio over his last 28 innings in
perspective, a starting pitcher who threw 222 innings with that HR-allowed
rate would yield 87 home runs.  At least Beck did not discriminate.  He gave
up big flies to lefties (five), righties (seven) and switch-hitters (two); to
potential Hall-of-Famers (Chipper, Delgado, Edgar), to recent releasees
(Batista); to massive outfielders (Lee) and little shortstops (Cabrera).
Apparently none of this largesse registered with ol' slack jaw, Jimy
Williams. 
 Exhibit D - Jose Offerman
 Just in case you were skimming... 61 games in the leadoff spot!
 Exhibit E - Derek Lowe
  Jerry Remy summed up this situation in one pithy sentence.  "He's a contact
pitcher, and when you have a contact pitcher coming in in the ninth inning, a
lot can happen."  And a lot has happened.  Opponents have hit .291 off Derek
this season, and leadoff batters have hit .354. Wow. Against Derek Lowe,
the average guy leading off an inning is Rogers Hornsby. To Jimy's credit,
he tried other non-closers in that role early in the season with limited
success. To Jimy's great discredit, when the team acquired a proven closer,
he immediately made Urbina a set-up man and inexplicably kept Lowe in the
closer spot.  Urbina is a long way from the dominant All-Star he was in 1998
(he gave up 37 hits in 69 innings, compare that to Lowe's 77 hits in 65
innings this season), but Lowe has clearly lost the job.  Casey Fossum should
be given a chance to close before Lowe is given another ninth-inning lead to
protect.  And by the way, for everyone who is wistfully wondering what
happened to the Derek Lowe who tied for the league lead in saves last year,
he wasn't all that good. Opponents hit .257 off Lowe last year, which was
actually eight points higher than his career OPAVG coming into last season. 
Almost every other closer (double-figure saves) in baseball - Mariano Rivera
(.208), John Rocker (.188), Trevor Hoffman (.201), Matt Mantei (.193), Kaz
Sasaki (.184), Troy Percival (.228),  Keith Foulke (.207), Robb Nen (.162),
Bob Wickman (.236), Armando Benitez (.148), Dave Veres (.239), Mike Williams
(.218), Danny Graves (.243), Curt Leskanic (.212), Kerry Ligtenberg (.226),
Ricky Bottalico (.239), Byung-Hyun Kim (.200) - was significantly more
difficult to hit last year than Derek Lowe. Ironically, AL co-leader Todd
Jones (.276) and NL leader Antonio Alfonseca (.291) were both actually easier
to hit than Derek Lowe, which gives you some indication of how bogus the save
stat is.  The point is simple:  Derek Lowe is not a closer.  But the simpler
the point, the more difficult it was for our dear, departed skipper to fully
grasp.
 
  Now, naturally, the national media is jumping all over Dan Duquette.  The
national media sees the Red Sox play once or twice a month.  Trust me, your
enthusiasm for the Duke's falling axe is directly proportionate to the number
of Red Sox games you've watched this year and last.  One week after saying
how well Jose Offerman has played this season, ESPN's Tim Kurkjian decried
the firing.  Uh, Timmy, you have forever squandered your credibility on all
things Sox-related.  Jason Stark, like most columnists, believes Jimy
Williams did as well as anyone could have done given the injuries.  I take a
different view.  I do not believe we could possibly have won fewer games with
any other manager.  No other manager would have summoned Pete Schourek and
his straightball for five losses.  No other manager would have watched his
leadoff hitter get on base less than 29% of the time for 61 games without
making a switch.  No other manager would have stuck with a closer after he
was reduced to a one-pitch pitcher with eight losses.  No other manager would
have needed 29 games to figure out that Dante Bichette might add some pop to
the lineup. No other manager would have summoned Rod Beck to allow his third
home run to Carlos Delgado in a month.  Hey, Jimy, it's a bad matchup.  No
other manager could have won so few games with this team.  I guarantee it.

Please, if you get a chance, put some flowers on Jimy's grave in the back
yard.  He dug it himself.

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