Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sports radio mentality

I really think it's kind of funny. The Red Sox are doing something a little bit unconventional and imaginative, and many people seem to think that it's clever to propose that they're actually doing something trivial and cliche, and that it's clever to point out the trivial and cliche thing that they're doing while ignoring the unconventional and imaginative thing that they're actually doing.

The unconventional and imaginative thing that the Red Sox are doing is giving the Friday night start to Clay Buchholz in order to set up their rotation for the second "half" of the season. The trivial and cliche thing that each WEEI caller seemed to think he was really clever to have sniffed out was that the Sox are actually setting up an "audition" for Buchholz in front of the Jays, to enable a trade for Roy Halladay.

As to the "audition" aspect, I think that it's absolutely not part of the decision for three reasons:
  1. I believe that they'd be doing exactly this no matter where the game Friday night was being played, and no matter who the competition was. It's a smart move, in that enables your major league starters to prepare mentally and physically without uncertainty, it gives them all a little bit of extra rest, it allows you to set up the rotation the way you want it, and it offers a little taste and reward to someone you expect to be in the rotation next year for being a good soldier during this season and working hard in AAA. Win-win-win-win. There's really no need to search for hidden motives if the surface motives are clear and make sense.

  2. If Toronto wants Buchholz in a trade, they want him. Everyone already knows that he can throw a great game in the Major Leagues. Not just the no-hitter - even last year when he struggled, he had a number of very good performances. (Six innings, one run against the Yankees. Six inning, no runs against the Rangers. Eight innings, nine strikeouts, two runs against the Rays.) Everyone already knows what he's done at AAA this year. He's been a top prospect for three years know - he's not a mystery.

  3. To the extent that his value can change with one outing, it's far more likely to go down than up. Unless he throws another no-hitter Friday night, his value won't go up any as a result. But if he gets shelled, we could start to hear talk about "AAAA pitchers." In my opinion, there's far more to lose than gain if they were, in fact, "showcasing" him.

I think that the move is being made for exactly the reasons that they've talked about. I think that the fact that they're opening in Toronto is a coincidence, utterly irrelevant in making the decision. I don't think that they're going to trade Buccholz for Halladay if Buccholz is awful Friday night and I don't think that they're going to trade Buccholz for Hallady if Buccholz is oustanding Friday night. In short, I think that talk of an "audition" is an attempt to fit an unconventional management move into a conventional sports-writer and sports-radio template.

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