Monday, August 13, 2007

Gag-Nee With a Spoon

I'm on record as not understanding the Gagne (officially pronounced GagNee, now) trade from the beginning. Or, to be more accurate, somewhat understanding it. The Sox basically traded away one of their young, promising pitchers (lefty, at that!), one of the more promising outfielders in their system, and a hot shot named Elvis for a past-his-prime, injury prone reliever to bolster an already stellar bullpen.

They were already leading the league with fewest blown saves and bullpen ERA, but they wanted more. I can see the reasoning and I can almost hear the conversation. 'Look, Okajima has thrown more than ever this year, Timlin is basically useless to us, we need some insurance and he's the best insurance there is. Plus we'll be making sure the Yankees don't get him. We can't lose with this deal!'

Two choke jobs later and the Red Sox and their fans can only hope this is just a blip on the radar. That he was due for a few bad outings and will right the ship and we can all sail happily onto the World Series. Hope. That's, sadly, all we have right now, because Gagne looks horrible. What I don't understand is pulling Okajima - by far the most effective reliever in the majors this season - to allow Gagne in to throw a meatball my mother could have hit out. There's a saying in baseball that usually applies to the postseason: 'You go with what got you here'.

Grady Little learned that the hard way when he refused to pull Pedro in Game 7 after Embree and Timlin had pitched lights out all postseason for him. There was a rhythm to the bullpen in that series. Embree to the lefties (you know, like Matsui who would up doubling off Pedro after killing him all season - AIIIEEEEEE!!), Timlin for the eighth, maybe part of the seventh, Foulke in the ninth to finish things off. Somehow Grady's brain locked on how things had been working all series and farted his way into baseball history. I still remember screaming at the television (and I wasn't the only one) 'Take him out!! What the fuck are you doing???!!!' Sorry, it still stings even after 2004.

Now Francona is pulling the same stunt. The reason the Sox have the best record in the majors (surprisingly, this is still the case) is because there is a rhythm and routine to the bullpen. Everyone knows (or knew) their roles. Hopefully, the starters get you to the seventh or eighth inning at which point either Delcarmen (struggling, too, I might add) or Okajima comes in for an inning. Then Papelbon for the finish. If the starter shits the bed, then get Mr. Everything (Tavarez) in to attempt to keep us in the game. Seems to me it was working, no?

Add Gagne to the mix and suddenly everyone in the bullpen is questioning their roles. Sure, it's a learning process, but why mess with a good thing? Is Gagne now supposed to be the eighth inning lead in to Paps? Where does that leave Oki? Is he now the lefty specialist? I say screw that idea. Leave him as the eighth inning guy and let Gagne take over the sixth - seventh stretch. This will leave Delcarmen as mop up man for bad starts.

Which brings up the idea that Okajima is tiring out. The main reason (or one of them) the Sox picked up Gagne was to ease the workload on him. Fine, but why bring him in to face two batters yesterday and yank him? He's walked guys before and been fine. Plus, it doesn't seem to me (and I am a novice, keep in mind) that batters have figured him out or he has lost anything on his pitches. I'm still amazed he's as accurate as he is considering he doesn't even look at the plate when he throws. You can't tell me Tejada - known for crushing fastballs - would have had success against Okajima's offspeed delivery. I refuse to believe it.

What's done is done. It just puzzles me how the people that get paid for thinking and planning these things out don't see beyond the name. How they don't or can't see how it can affect the team in general. Did the Sox over pay because he's Eric Gagne? Did they just want to make a move? I thought they over paid in this trade before, but it's now looking like they got fleeced by the Rangers.

Calm down! I know it's early and this might just a transition phase while the bullpen figures things out, but there is another saying that keeps popping up in my head everytime I see Gagne cursing to himself after Tejada's laser:

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

Today's distraction: Take your aggressions out on the popups. A fun, stress reducing little game. Let's hope it helps soothe and calm the nerves of Red Sox Nation. It won't, but I can dream.


BeachBum said...

Apologies all around for mentioning Foulke (misspelled at that) as the closer for the 2003 Red Sox. He wasn't even on the team that year!

Which leads me to think Timlin was the closer? But I know that's not right either. On the roster is one Byung-Hyun Kim, but I KNOW he wasn't involved in the Yankee series. So, who the hell was the closer for this team in the playoffs? Anyone remember? Was it Williamson? I have totally blanked on this one.

Jim Hammen said...

Williamson kind of became the de facto "closer", but they did that stupid closer by committee stuff too.

BeachBum said...

Right! The dreaded closer by committee! I forgot about that. In fact, it worked so well they traded for Williamson midseason, no?