"Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the
interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be
necessary for promoting that of the consumer."
- Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
5.13.03: As you've no doubt noticed there's a fundamental
tension between producer and consumer in all things Red Sox.
We, the consumer, have been roundly criticized for, well, being critical.
It has been suggested that we are pathological in our love of misery and
that we wouldn't know how to handle success. Some say we are fickle. Some
say we don't know how good we have it. We are told to be patient (my
personal favorite), even as our grandparents die never having enjoyed a
championship. We are mean, unforgiving, spiteful, hateful, negative.
All of that may be true, but, above all, the Red Sox consumer is a smart
The producer has made a product that they believe should be perfectly
satisfactory to the consumer, a team that wins more than it loses, plays
exciting games and even wears brand new red jerseys in some home games.
So why is their complaint box brimming over? It's simple. Their consumers
are simply too shrewd, too steeped in the laws of caveat emptor to be
duped by this product. We are the discerning parent who sees the poor
workmanship in the shiny toy our child so desperately wants. We know it
will fall apart the second time he plays with it. We are looking for a
product that can last until the end of October. This ain't it.
The team defense is lousy, the bullpen is a nightmare, the superstar has
prematurely entered the decline phase of his career and the manager often
seems in over his head.
While Jeremy Giambi's phenomenal gack with the bases loaded was truly
stunning, there were two other plays in Sunday's one-run loss that are
much more troubling to me because they involved a player who is a regular
at the position in question. The Twins' first hitter of the game, Jacques
Jones, bounced a harmless ground ball about a stride and a half to Todd
Walker's right. This is a play that a Major League second baseman should
make 95 percent of the time, meaning it is slightly more difficult than
average, but only slightly. Walker made his slow, ungainly crossover step
to his right, got to the ball much more off-balance than he should have
been and made a weak, terrible throw to first that pulled the first
baseman off the bag. Infield hit. You've got to be able to get to this
ball in time to plant that back foot and make a decent throw to first --
or you simply cannot play second base in the Majors. Jones came around to
score the Twins first run, an earned run mind you. Later, with the game
seemingly out of reach, Bruce Chen induced the most routine of double play
balls, hit right at Walker. Ol' Stone Hands botched it, recovered, and got
the runner at first. No error. The run that scored on the play was once
again earned, but Chen should have been out of the inning. You don't need
John Thorn and Pete Palmer's complicated fielding stats to tell you Todd
Walker is a terrible second baseman (his stats are spectacularly poor),
all you need is an understanding of the game... and vision.
Back to Giambi's much more memorable play for a moment. How was he not
charged with two errors on this play? As he settled under the flair it's
safe to assume the runners started retreating to their bags, right? He
drops it, allowing the runner on third to score. Then he fumbles the
one-hop bounce off the turf. Then he bobbles the ball a third time as he
bends to pick it up. Even if you say the runner on second would have
scored on the initial drop, there is no way the runner on first goes to
third and the batter ends up on second without the additional spasticity.
Ah, the joy of a roster with five DHs.
So much has been written and bemoaned about our horrible bullpen that it
feels like tilting at windmills to go over it again. But I will say that
it is highly unlikely that Robert Person is the answer. He was never a
good closer in Toronto (his ERA was 7.04 and 9.82 in the two seasons he
recorded saves as a Blue Jay). He has never had an impressive WHIP. And he
is coming off an injury. Not a formula for late-career success.
As for our struggling superstar, I am now resigned to the sad belief that
we will never see the old Nomar again. He may hit .300 with 50 doubles and
20 homers (Cooperstown numbers, to be sure), but you know what I mean.
Larry Bird averaged 20 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7 assists in his final
season, but he wasn't Larry. For the first four seasons of Nomar's career
we were gripped by the giddy knowledge that he kept getting better...
.306, .323, .357, .372. Yeesh, at this rate, the guy will be hitting .440
in three years. Now the inexorable, injury-fueled slide has begun. Nomar's
petulant pig-headedness and medical condition (see OCD and OBP in the
archive) aren't helping matters, but the fade always comes eventually. We
just didn't want it to be so soon.
The manager. While I think Grady Little has been something of a revelation
this year, much more in tune with what is actually happening on the field,
I still think he has serious limitations. Like many of my fellow
consumers, I happen to know that the Minnesota Twins really struggle
against lefthanders, which is why I was not surprised that the Royals
promising lefty Jeremy Affeldt beat them last night. Grady Little is
either unaware of this statistical trend or does not have access to a Red
Sox schedule. Given the added flexibility of an off day (and a quick
ejection), how Grady managed to have Casey Fossum miss the Twins twice is
incredible. Instead, he had Derek Lowe pitch the final game of the road
trip on the rug and responded with incredulity that so many ground balls
got through. Yeah, Grady, that's what happens on turf (especially when you
have a lousy second baseman). Wouldn't it make more sense to have Fossum,
a strikeout-flyball pitcher, take the turn in Minny and have the
sinkerballing Lowe open the homestand - where his ERA is 12 runs better -
against the homer-happy Rangers? Of course it would.
The consumers know this. And they wish the producers did too.