2003 - That's a Wrap
I've spent a lot of time being sad about the 2003 playoff loss. Then it shifts to
anger. This team had the stuff to go on and win the World Series.
My anger will linger at Grady. After Jeter's hit it was clear Pedro didn't have anything
left. And Grady left him in for 3 long batters, to watch him give up 3 more hits. The
relievers had gotten us to game 7 in the ALCS why didn't he let the relievers finish the
Other Red Sox goats have made physical errors - failure to hit a 90 MPH fastball in the
clutch, failure to get a glove down on a slow roller, throwing a meatball to Bucky Dent.
Even pinch hitting for Willoughby in '75 was a highly debateable decision. Grady's error
was one where he had plenty of time to think about it. No heat of the moment mistake
here. After Jeter's hit, certainly after Williams' hit, with a bullpen ready to go, he
had plenty of time to do the right thing. Anyone with a half decent knowledge of baseball
would have gone to the bullpen. This did not take a major league manager to make the
right decision here. This is no 2nd guess either.
Angry, hurt, heartbroken, it's painful being a Red Sox fan.
2003 will go down with the worst of Red Sox disaster years - Bucky Dent in '78, Bill
Buckner in '86, and Grady Little in 2003. Still this was an amazing year. They went the
whole season with a shaky bullpen and for large portions without a closer. They hit for
records in home runs and slugging. They had a spirit that would never give up. They
came back and won or almost won games they had no business being in. It's too bad it had
to end like this.
Moving on ...
On Grady, the decision not to remove Martinez proved what was already fairly clear to
most people who follow the Sox - Little is NOT a first rate manager. His field managing
skills are not top notch - I feel he can be consistently out-managed by the likes of
someone like Torre. A first rate manager does not go out and ASK the pitcher if he's got
anything left. His decision on a pitching change is made before the first step is made to
the mound. And importantly, his ability to MANAGE the players is not great. His ability
to be friends with the players is terrific, but that's not what we need. Why do I feel
like with someone like Torre, or LaRussa, or Baker - none of the Manny flaps would have
happened and a lot of the nonsense with Pedro (Pan Am games for instance) would not have
happened. Boston's managerial job is a difficult one and it requires a truly first rate
manager. I don't think Grady truly is that. He may be a first rate bench coach or minor
league manager, but he's not the guy to bring the Red Sox to the next level. Furthermore,
the last reason Grady must go is Red Sox nation will truly villify him if he's here next
season. This includes fans at Fenway, talk radio, and the press. You can say it doesn't
matter, that the players play and the manager does his job despite what the fans and the
press say - but if Grady is managing next year it WILL be a distraction.
The problem is - I don't know what first rate managers are available. But that shouldn't
be a factor. We know Grady is not the guy we've to to get the best available manager for
the job, and well before next season, so the players have a chance to mourn over it
On Pedro - Pedro is in the last year of his contract and his act is wearing thin. He is
still a great pitcher who barring injury (no sure thing) will win 15-20 games as a 7
inning pitcher. He's no longer dominant and he no longer can mow down hitters in the late
innings. He's going to want $18-20 M on a long term deal. I'd like to see them get real
value for him ala the Seattle Mariners trades of Griffey and Johnson. I don't think
they'll be able to re-sign him at appropriate value, and we'll be just giving him away to
the Yankees. We need to safely land him on another team which has the ability to re-sign
him (preferably in the National League) so he doesn't end up on the Yankees in 2005
because we know they have the money to sign him. If he goes into free agency after 2004
he's as good as being a Yankee. And all those fans who boo'ed him the other night will
just love having him on their side as they face the Red Sox 19 times a year.
This team has a lot of decisions to make. I'm sure the manager decision will come
quickly, and if they fire Grady which they should, they'll have the whole off-season to
replace him. Walker and Timlin are free agents and a few others who are arbitration
eligible. I'm sure they'll try to keep this team together as much as possible. I
continue to be concerned about trying to keep Pedro. But with so many others to try to
deal with after 2004 it may not be possible. Nomar, Lowe, and Varitek are all free
agents after 2004.
It will be an interesting off-season for sure. In this town, the Red Sox never get off
the front pages. To all the fans like myself who loved this 2003 team to death and got
kicked in the face at the end, we'll be back. It's like a never ending terrible
relationship. The more pain we endure, the more we dream of that wonderful feeling of
winning that World Series.