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Wednesday, July 19, 2000

  Mid-Season Evaluation

A lot has happened since I posted my last commentary in this space. On the down side, for example, our beloved BoSox, after a strong start, endured a rash of injuries and a devastating slump from which they have finally started to emerge. On the up side, Carl Everett's fine performance in a Boston uniform has been a shining example of what can go right; Pedro is proving that even at 75% of his capability and with an unexpected propensity to give up the long ball, he is still the best pitcher in the American League; and Nomar has people talking about a .400 hitter for the first time since Ted Williams.

Add to those assorted facts the strong competition in the AL East among the Sox, Yankees, and upstart Blue Jays, and you have a recipe for one heck of a roller-coaster ride for Red Sox Nation.

I must say that in spite of our current third place position in the division, I am optimistic about our chances during the second half. While there is undoubtedly some trouble in paradise, we have continued to remain competitive for the division lead. It sure does help that the Yankees slumped at the same time we did.

On the other hand, caution is warranted, most notably because of our performance relative to the rest of the league. Strong wild card contenders in the AL Central and West mean that second place may not be nearly good enough to bring us to the post-season.

With scant time left until the major league trade deadline, Dan Duquette needs to make a fast move to shore up our sometimes fragile team and render them playoff-worthy. In spite of some uncharacteristically quiet bats from usually strong contributors like Troy O'Leary, I don't think offense is the problem. And though defense isn't what it could be, the team still managed significant streaks of error-free fielding. What will determine our ultimate success or failure is pitching.

Ideally, we would secure a reliable middle-reliever to take some of the burden placed on the bullpen by recent shaky starts by Jeff Fassero and Pete Shoureck. A reliable workhorse starter could accomplish the same goal, combining with Pedro to give the bullpen 2 days of relative rest in the standard 5-day rotation. I also believe that more stability in the area of pitching will have a mental "ripple effect" on the position players. As pitching goes, they say, so goes the team.

Regular readers of this page know I am no Dan Duquette fan. But if we can go into August with some additional pitching help, I will consider him to have done his job. The rest will be up to Jimy and the boys.

Just my opinion.

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