Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is It August 1 Yet? Please?

The two weeks after the All-Star break always seem to be a difficult period for the Red Sox, dating at least back to when Darrell Johnson was fired in 1976. Things go wrong. Teammates fight or get weird (Manny Ramirez, 2008), the club goes into a nasty slump (2004, 2009), and a general unease/panic hangs over the franchise.

I have come to the conclusion this may be for marketing purposes. A team with late-July woes is a team looking to made deals by the trade deadline, and I can't think of anything Red Sox followers love more than trade deadline furor, unless it's straight-line projecting a Single A farmhand's hot streak into an Interstate to Cooperstown. Boston's recent batting difficulties insure that the next six days will include a pleasant frenzy of irrational speculation about possible swaps by the firm of Henry, Lucchino & Epstein.

Several years ago, I heard a lengthy discussion of possible trade deadline moves by the Sox on WEEI. The date was April 10, and much as I have mocked the radio station, this wasn't their fault. The callers brought the subject up. There is a subset of Sox fans whose anxieties are so severe, they self-medicate by envisioning scenarios wherein the team's roster is so strong it could never lose. As George Steinbrenner can tell them, that is a futile dream.

My opinion on the trade deadline is that anything Steve Phillips enjoys has to have something wrong it. And I will acknowledge that the Sox have made spectacular, risky, well-worth-arguing about deadline deals in the recent past, the Nomar Garciaparra swap in 2004, and the Manny trade last year. The former worked out far better than could have been hoped, the latter as well as could be. Dumping a big star is fraught with peril, and the Sox filled their hand on the river each time. Yay for Theo!!

This summer, however, the Sox aren't looking to get rid of a big name with issues. They are approaching the market from the other end, as a team seeking to address a current weakness at the cost of future strengths. This is far more stressful, not to mention difficult. The construction of the 2009 roster makes it unsuitable for trade purposes. Boiling it down, the only deals the Sox can make that might help them significantly in 2009 involve sending away players who are likely to make the trade look very bad come 2012.

So much to Peter Gammons' disappointment, it seems unlikely the Sox will generate much deadline heat next week. There will be noise, however. There always is.


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