Friday, July 08, 2005


I was just kidding when I said that Schilling should move to the bullpen when he finally makes his way back to Boston. Theo and Tito were serious when they said basically the same thing. On the surface this seems like a pretty good idea. Foulke has struggled and is currently on the DL. Embree hasn't been much better (despite a nice save Wednesday night in Texas) and he's supposed to be the left-handed stopper out of the pen. That leaves Mike Timlin to pitch every inning of relief from here on out. At least it seemed that way before the whole Schilling experiment came about.

Lost in all the hoopla usually associating Schilling as Boston's savior is the fact that not everybody's ecstatic about the move. Take Johnny Damon for example:
"You've got a lot of upset people in here," said Damon about the feelings of teammates on the decision to insert Schilling and bypass what other team members feel are more deserving candidates.

"I don't think he's ready to be our closer," Damon said of Schilling. "I think Bronson [Arroyo] or Timlin are the choice as the closer. Mike Timlin deserves to be it. All his years in the big leagues -- the fact that he came into [Tuesday] night's game, threw six pitches, and we were done. That's pretty good. He's going to throw strikes, he's going to make the plays. I think Mike Timlin definitely deserves that spot. It would be perfect for Timlin. He's going into a free agent year, too. Teams know he can be a setup man, closer. I hope that's the case for us."
It sounds like Damon is angling for the role of Timlin's agent when his contract is up at the end of the year. Yeah, I'm OK with Timlin as the closer too. But I'm not convinced that he'd be any better than Schilling (in fact, over the long haul I'm guessing he'd be worse). And while Arroyo might sound good to Damon, to me it sounds like a bad idea. Don't get me wrong, I like Arroyo, but the fact that he's inconsistent is less of a problem as a starter because he has five innings to work through rough patches. As a closer he would be afforded no such leeway, and the fact that he sometimes struggles with his control would only be exacerbated late in the game. Plus, given that Schilling's still not 100% -- or at least able to go six, seven, eight innings at a time -- and couple that with a bullpen sporting an ERA around 10.00, this seems like a logical progression (well, once it was actually brought up as a real possibility by management; before that, it was the farthest thing from a logical progression, I guess).

Damon then reminds us why he's a baseball player instead of say, a slick politician who makes a living using words to craft a message that even his detractors have a hard time refuting (yes, living in Washington, DC has indeed hardened me):
Damon also was not a big fan of a closer by committee.

"We tried that in Kansas City. We tried that here. It didn't work," he said. "In Kansas City we blew 30 games, saved 28. It doesn't work.

"They're panicking. We're [four] games up and it feels like we're 10 down. They're panicking," said Damon. "They've been trying to get rid of [Kevin] Millar since the beginning of the season. Well, guess what? His numbers are the same as last year. Then he caught fire. Now he's definitely looking over his shoulder a little more because we've got a very good backup first baseman in [John] Olerud. [Mark] Bellhorn's helped us out winning. He has bad games here and there, but guess what? We're together, we're a team. What hid Bellhorn's mistakes earlier was I was coming up, picking him up. If I'm not doing it, it makes what he's doing look bad."
Yeah, the reason the bullpen by committee didn't work in Kansas City is because Kansas City sucked. You could've had Lee Smith, Jeff Reardon, Dennis Eckersley, and Rollie Fingers -- all in their prime -- in that pen and the Royals still would have been awful.

OK Johnny, uh, you lost me when you start pimping Kevin Millar as some sort of martyr for all the mediocre professional athletes to turn to for inspiration when the chips are down. I'm not sure Millar has 'caught fire' -- he's hitting around .270, and I'm guessing if they really wanted to get rid of Millar they would have done it (just ask Ramon and Jay; by the way, I turned on the game about two pitches in and spent the next 15 minutes trying to figure out what the hell happened between 11pm Wednesday when they beat the Rangers and 7pm Thursday when their lineup included guys named Stern and Cora).

Whatever. I don't begrudge Damon for his views. In fact, I think it's pretty amazing how tight this team is (even if that includes sticking up for Millar). And not only that, they're still three games up in the East with Foulke out for at least six weeks and Schilling having yet to make a real contribution this season. Things could definitely be worse.

OK, enough on the Sox already. I'm ready for training camp to start so we can find out really important stuff, like how Roethlisberger and Gulbis met.