What Went Wrong?
Sure, I could list the sixty thousand injury concerns, but what fun would that be? Everyone with a brain, even Yankee fans, is well aware that injuries took their toll on the 2006 Boston Red Sox; so let's move beyond that. Three things that have gone wrong that aren't in the Globe on a daily basis:
1) The Coco Crisp switcheroo: The gamble on Crisp transitioning well to Centerfield bombed tremendously. Why the front office believed Crisp could convert to CF when the Indians had already tried, and failed, to make Crisp a centerfielder was beyond me at the time - speed alone does not make a centerfielder. Furthermore, Crisp had shown considerable promise as a hitter, however he had done so mostly from lower slots in the line-up, not the projected leadoff role he was penciled into here. Crisp was not, and is not, a disciplined hitter fitting the prototype the Sox front office looks for in leadoff hitters. While that is not an indictment on Crisp, it is an indictment on the Sox Front Office for attempting to vainly put a square block into a circular hole. With Crisp trying to adjust to a new city, a new position, and a new and ever-changing spot in the lineup, I was far from surprised at his struggles. The Sox can survive in 2007 with Crisp as a centerfielder because in 2008 they may very well have a slot for Crisp open in LF, and a young CF ready to take over at the MLB level, Jacoby Ellsbury. Crisp is a fine defensive leftfielder, and he should be returned to that slot as soon as possible where he will nearly undoubtedly be an asset to his team.
2) Beckett has a track record of success at a very young age: What you say? How could that be a major factor in what went wrong this season? Please allow me to explain. Beckett, like most Marlins pitchers, moved quickly through the system - partially due to need. While Beckett statistically may have warranted promotion at each interval, his development, we now are seeing, was severely stunted by the accelerated promotions. In lower levels, Beckett was able to succeed relying solely on blowing fastballs by hitters. In achieving successful numbers by doing so, I can imagine young Beckett felt little need to work on peripheral pitches or learning how to pitch. After all, his numbers looked good and the promotions never stopped. In the MLB he succeeded on the grandest stage, the World Series, and an "ace" was made. But this "ace" still didn't know how to pitch. Fast forward to Beckett's arrival in Boston. He experienced major growing pains and continues to throw harder when in trouble, rather than relying on scouting reports and secondary pitches to get outs. So what does young and having success have to do with it? In the back of Beckett's mind, he knows this approach has worked, and his age makes him a particular risk for the dread affliction that affects so many young players . . . thick headedness. Because Beckett has succeeded, in my opinion, it makes it that much harder for him to accept that he needs to change his approach to succeed now. Hopefully within the coming months, he will have a Schilling-esque awakening as realize how good he could be if he started to use his mind more, like most of the all time greats have done.
3) Losing patience with Bard: Learning to catch a knuckleball takes time and practice. It took time for Mirabelli, and Varitek has had a rough time when he hasn't had the reps needed to stay fresh on the practice. But the front office gave up too soon on the Bard experiment, seemingly caving in to popular demand to reclaim Mirabelli. While this move probably hurt the 2006 Red Sox squad a bit (in that Meredith may have gotten a shot this season, minus the bases-loaded introductory experience), it has certainly hurt the 2007 and beyond squads. Bard has caught fire in the weaker NL, but he isn't the only individual to make Sox fans regret mocking those who "overvalue" prospects and advocate patience with new players. Meredith has been a shining beacon of bullpen stability since his arrival in San Diego. Bard has put up numbers that only the most optimistic scout could conjure up upon seeing his performance in a Sox uniform. And many Sox fans have now swapped sides and now regret being so adamantly against Bard in the first place. The Sox veered from their plan of long-term competitiveness when they hit the panic button and reacquired Mirabelli, who has been an offensive hole since rejoining the club. Bard's bat and glove would have been greatly appreciated when Varitek went down with an injury, sparing Sox fans the horror of watching Javy Lopez catch a Josh Beckett curve with runners in scoring position, and follow that by grounding out weakly to the second baseman.