Be honest: if, at the beginning of the year, someone held a gun to your head and asked you who the two pitchers would be to post complete games, you’d most likely have said Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. You would most definitely not have said Julian Tavarez and Tim Wakefield. (This was likely what came to mind when thinking about Tavarez on March 30.)
And yet, those are the guys who’ve thrown the only two complete games of the season: Wakefield, more than six months ago, on April 15, and Tavarez, who worked his sinker to devastating effect while throwing a complete game, 99-pitch, 1-run gem in Toronto last night. (Tavarez was so excited about the second complete game of his career he wouldn’t shut up in the post-game, on-field interview.) Tavarez is signed for next year (for around $3 million), and his end-of-season tenure as a starter (he’s now 2-0 since moving to the rotation) makes him more valuable in a world where Chris Benson commands ten of millions of dollars; it also makes him more attractive as a trading chip, yet one more reason this offseason should be interesting.
Lots of other news out of the Sox last night:
* This column by Gordon Edes is gonna cause lots of talk show chatter. The essence of it is that Manny’s a quitter and a punk and has let his teammates down by refusing the play hurt. (Things like this will get more attention than the remaining games; as of 5:30 AM, it’s leading the Red Sox page on the Globe‘s site. The game story is only alluded to in a caption.) I did another reading last night in Burlington (MA, not VT), and was asked — as I almost am — why the media hates Manny; Edes’ piece isn’t going to help my contention that they don’t. The nut graf: “Do you suppose that 20 years from now, Ramâˆšâ‰ rez will feel even the slightest bit of remorse for the way he quit on his Red Sox teammates in 2006, refusing to honor the code that is an article of faith for Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell, Curt Schilling and Coco Crisp, Trot Nixon and Alex Gonzalez, and Mark Loretta — even the now-departed fat man, David Wells — that you do all within your power to play hurt.” The answer to that rhetorical question is, of course, no. But if you look at the playing-in-pain performances of the above list, it’s unclear these warriors were doing the Sox any favors by suiting up while dinged up. Manny’s always had a low pain threshold; he’s also always been a bit flakey. But he also loves to play; you don’t rack up season after season of 155 games because you’re looking for time off. He is in some pain; other players would likely play through that pain; Manny won’t. The Sox’s baseball operations staff isn’t particularly upset by this: Manny played hard for most of the season. What’s of much more concern is the recent appearance of Manny’s agent in Boston. If you guessed that he was here to, once again, relay Manny’s late-season request for an off-season trade, you’d be right. (I think Edes is one of the best reporters, and one of the best writers, working the beat today. His column — which didn’t contain a single quote — gets to one of my pet peeves: the fact that sports writers are, uniquely given the latitude to regularly elide from the role of reporter to that of columnist. But enough of my media musings for now.)
* Speaking of dinged up, it turns out there was a good reason Coco looked like a shell of himself at the plate: on Monday, he’ll have surgery in which a pin or a screw will likely be inserted in his left index finger. This is for an injury Crisp suffered on April 8.
* Notice how devastating Keith Foulke’s split fingered fastball was on Thursday? That was as well as he’s ever thrown that pitch, and Foulke knew it, too. His change still isn’t as sharp as it was in ’04 — or any of the years before — but he has his confidence and his swagger back, and last night he was up and throwing in the eighth; if Francona hadn’t let Tavarez go for the complete game, Foulke would have appeared for the third night in a row. I think we’re seeing an audition for the role of the Red Sox’s 2007 closer… (One thing I guarantee is that Matt Clement — a guy with control issues and self-confidence issues who takes a long time to warm up — will absolutely not, under any circumstances, be closing games next year.)