Friday, June 12, 2009

2009's Tom Seaver

Well that was interesting, wasn't it? We're still having trouble with Tampa Bay, but 8 games into the season series, Boston appears to own New York, and the Red Sox have rented and furnished a room inside the Yankees' heads. Having David Ortiz back in the realm of hitters you don't watch with your fingers latticed over your eyes changes the complexion of the lineup. Jason Bay remains the happiest offensive surprise for 2009. The team is clicking well, and we all know they still have a long way to go.

One of the biggest thrills I've ever had in my baseball watching life took place on an otherwise innocuous, pleasant Tuesday in July of 1986. The Red Sox were in first place by 8 games, and riding a 5 game winning streak, they debuted their newest starter. 41-year old future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver had just been traded by the White Sox to Boston in exchange for Steve (Psycho) Lyons. Seaver made his first appearance in a Red Sox uniform that night, and beat the Blue Jays and Doyle Alexander 9-7. Seaver wasn't terrific in his first Red Sox start. He gave up four runs on nine hits over seven innings, striking out two and walking two. However, Seaver joined a rotation that already included a couple promising young studs: Roger Clemens and Bruce Hurst, along with Oil Can Boyd and Al Nipper. For me, seeing the big red #41 in a Red Sox home uniform was a huge thrill. I had always admired him, and now he was ours. Although he finished with a 5-7 record and promptly retired after the World Series to start the clock for Cooperstown, Seaver's presence made a giant difference that year.

This year's Tom Seaver is named John Smoltz. Like Seaver, Smoltz is a slam dunk first ballot Hall of Famer. Also like Seaver, Smoltz may or may not have a lot left in the tank, but he'll act as a stabilizing influence on a rotation that only needs one more quality guy to take the AL East by the throat. I'm even more excited because Smoltzie wears my number: number 29. Along with Rod Carew, I'd say Smoltz is the best major leaguer in history to wear the number. And starting next week against the Marlins, he's ours. We're going to have a rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester (both of whom have shown no-hit stuff already this season), John Smoltz and Tim Wakefield. Something still needs to be done in terms of what to do with Daisuke's predictable unpredictability. Brad Penny's going to be the odd man out, perhaps traded for a shortstop or another solid bat.

No matter how you slice it, that's a helluva rotation. No other team in baseball will get to augment their staff with someone of Smoltz's character, talent and will to win. He's our Seaver, and that really may be good enough, adding to a team that's already applied a chokehold on the Yankees and has demonstrated to the rest of the league that this year, the American League Championship march will have to go through Boston.

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