Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Kids

Seeing the Red Sox win is exciting, but I’ll tell you what gets me going about this team and why I think the current Red Sox administration is far better than any that has come before: it’s all being led by the best youth movement in the game. In previous generations, we relied primarily on older, well-proven vets. The younger players were superfluous, if they were on the roster at all. It was all about Yaz, Fisk, Dewey, Boggs, Mo Vaughn and Bruce Hurst. When you needed help, you brought in Jack Clark, Tom Brunansky, Otis Nixon and others who arrived in the clubhouse with dusty highlight reels of days gone by. The clock was always ticking. Who knew how many years these players had left?

Now, even though there’s still the old guard (Manny Ramirez, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, Mike Timlin and Tim Wakefield), the younger generation is infusing the lineup with energy that will continue to dazzle the next generation of Red Sox Nation. Consider today’s roster.

Pitchers: Josh (Mr. October 2003 and 2007) Beckett turns 28 next month. Jon Lester is 24, and Clay (No Hit) Buchholz won’t turn 24 until August. Manny Delcarmen is 26. Craig Hansen, who’s admittedly still finding his way, won’t turn 25 until November, and Justin Masterson, the phenom with the heavy sinker and today’s emergency starter, just celebrated his 23rd birthday last month. Mr. Papelbon, he of the “Here’s My Fastball, Good Luck” demeanor is 27. By the way, do you know old Daisuke Matsuzaka is? He’s four months younger than Beckett.

Position players: First baseman Kevin Youkilis (Wade Boggs with Brooks Robinson’s glove) is the senior statesman of the new generation at 29. The rest of them are all just about the same age. At second, 2007 Rookie of the Year Dustin Pedroia isn’t yet 25. Shortstop/3B heir apparent Jed Lowrie just turned 24 last week. This year’s Rookie of the Year candidate, Jacoby Ellsbury (a cross between Freddie Lynn and Johnny Damon, only with much more speed), will celebrate his 25th birthday this coming September 11.

Get the idea? We can count on a solid 10-12 years from this young core that already knows how to win and has proven that they have the talent. This mitigates the need to blow insane wads of cash on creaky free agents, and also means that at the trading deadline, Theo Epstein can deal from a position of strength instead of suffering a public panic attack (can you say Eric Gagne?). Coco Crisp can help someone else’s defense down the stretch while he might net us the middle relief guy or spare starter we may need. There are dozens more possibilities to consider because the Red Sox are getting younger, not older. In the sweepstakes for Johan Santana, Theo Epstein categorically refused to give away the farm. As great as Santana is, and will continue to be, Theo knew what this new crop of talent represented, and has a pretty good idea how great they will become. Masterson, Lowrie, Ellsbury and Buchholz for Santana? Nope. During the winter, I read more than a few columnists who insisted that Epstein was being stupid. Bird in the hand theorists said “Look, we know Santana has maybe the best arm in the business right now. Why not?” Just watch this gang of talent playing at Fenway today, and you’ll see why not. Because this is our present, and our future. Santana is incredible, and has filthy stuff. He’s a legitimate no-hitter waiting to happen every trip to the mound, but these kids, combined, will be far better today, tomorrow, and for the next decade. There’s nothing quite like homegrown talent. Just watch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yep! Here's to young teams! Go Sox! Go Caps! (birth of a hockey dynasty here!)