Apologies to Stephen Drew,
I hardly knew ya
I wanted to bench or perhaps platoon ya
But you were hitting .202
You had a brother J.D. Drew
Toiled five years on the Boston crew
Except for April, May and June
When his back was out of tune
Occasionally he could be spry
But that was only in July
Or when the stars aligned just right.
I figured it was only deja vu
When you went down like brother Drew
Your active days in spring were few.
The coming of Iglesias I knew
Portended ill for the likes of you
So I dismissed another Drew.
The Red Sox had a vision true
Of a healthy Stephen Drew
And hitting seventh, who knew
Your timely swings would save this crew
When hitters five and six were overdue.
You could hit with power, too
In August saved the Beantown crew
With timely homers, not a few
And flashed a glove with ground ball glue
A shortstop with a swing, it’s true!
I regret remarks undue
Of the second coming of J. D. Drew
Of unfair comparisons with Iglesias, too
Of thinking a shortstop could never brew
What the so-called sluggers had failed to do.
For remarks that made you deja vu
I apologize, Stephen Drew
What do the Red Sox need to capture the American League East in 2013? Everyone is talking about pitching, because pitching is what is available, but what the Sox need is hitting. They need to fortify the soft spaces in their line-up. And maybe a relief pitcher.
First, we have to concede that there are two positions that don’t always command offense: shortstop and catcher. Those are acceptable soft spots in the line-up, and in those roles we have Jose Iglesias and Jerrod Saltalamachia. Stephen Drew? He was a mistake from the beginning. He has his streaks, but he does not make up for hitting slumps in the field. Iglesias does, and his presence at shortstop makes the whole infield better.
But if you concede two soft spots in the line-up, you can’t have three. Drew is the odd man out, and furthermore he is fragile, like his brother, J.D., who was equally fragile and erratic at the plate. So the Red Sox should trade for a consistent hitter, like Michael Young, and shore up the bottom of the line-up.
While we’re talking about defense, let’s consider platooning Mike Carp and Mike Napoli at first base, so the infield is tighter. Napoli may improve, but he is a defensive liability at first. Why not play him against left-handers, since he hits them so well, and play Carp against right-handers, since he has more experience at first base?
Finally, the bullpen. It has been hopeless in the last week, allowing opponents to stretch their leads beyond recovering. We need relievers who attack the strike zone. Craig Breslow and Matt Thornton are not attacking anything. Koji Uhehara and Junichi Tazawa show more aggressiveness and could be solid set-up men. Bring in another closer, and they could be even more effective.
As for the starting rotation, the Red Sox already have some exciting prospects in Brandon Workman and Drake Britton on the squad. One of these pitchers can certainly fill the fifth starting spot, supporting Lester, Lackey, Dempster and Dubront. They just need good support in the bullpen and more consistent hitting.
Clearly nothing will be resolved until the top of the Red Sox line-up resumes hitting, but once they get on base, they will need help from the bottom third to keep rallies alive. So bring in a live bat to toughen up the bottom of the line-up. The Red Sox need to be in every game, regardless of what devastating opponents take the mound.
It has come to pass that the Red Sox need to fret about hitting more than pitching. The sidelining of Cliff Bucholz is worrisome, but it is also clear that John Farrell understands his fragility and intends to keep him healthy with rest. The bullpen has been a little unpredictable, but it is still deep in both left and right-handers.
The big worry is the bottom of the batting order, which is a rally-killer. There should be no day that Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks and Dave Ross, the .200 club, are in the line-up together. They each have something to offer the team, but, as a unit, they are they are a yawning burial ground where rallies go to die. As a group they prefer the strikeout, rather than putting the ball in play.
I make the case for Jose Iglesias as an every-day player, because he puts the ball in play and more frequently makes hits out of mere contact. No one disputes his defensive prowess, and I have argued he makes the rest of the infield better. To consider him now as an offensive player requires an altered appreciation for his talent.
It is also inspiring to see Jonny Gomes making better contact on the recent road trip. Everyone wants him to succeed, and he clearly has talent and a good eye at the plate. However, any day when Daniel Nava sits, the Sox are a weaker team. Nava, along with Pedroia and Ortiz, is one player I like to see with men on base. He also brings a decent glove to the outfield. Having four decent outfielders is a problem I like to have, especially when you have two suicidal performers like Victorino and Ellsbury crashing into fences and throwing themselves around the bases. But, please, let Nava play with as little rest as he needs.
Admittedly it is a delight to talk about the Red Sox as though they were pennant contenders, urging line-up fixes, instead of trades and siphoning reinforcements from Pawtucket. When you are talking about securing the lower third of the line-up, you are talking about competing with the best teams in the league, like Baltimore and Texas.
To say there is a grave pit at the bottom of the line-up, is to say we have a problem we can fix. So, please, don’t let the .200 club populate the lower third. Iglesias forever and Ross on the weekends!