It really was a roll of the dice–a gamble–when the Red Sox sent Dice-K out to the mound for the first time in three months. When someone rolls the dice, there are many possible outcomes, and it is almost impossible to guess which one they are going to end up with. But sometimes, when the game is on the line, you just have to take a chance and hope for the best.
That’s what the Red Sox did. There are a bunch of Dice-Ks that the fans, as well as the organization are familiar with. There’s the 2007 Dice-K, who was synonymous with the Dice-K that the Red Sox saw and signed in Japan. There’s the 2008 Dice-K, who had a nice record on paper, and even a nice ERA, but the outings were messy. Then there’s the 2009 Dice-K, the one whose luck had finally run out.
At the beginning of the season, Dice-K was considered by most, including myself, an integral part of the rotation. It was hard to imagine a starting staff without Dice-K heart attacks, as long as we got out of those situations alive. Life without Dice-K not only became imaginable, it became a reality… pretty early on during the 2009 season.
The Red Sox took an agonizing step this season: essentially sacrificing Dice-K’s expensive contract. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be when a player that is worth a lot of money isn’t performing up to the standards that are expected of them (hence the reason I prefer incentive contracts). However, it’s not like the Red Sox signed him for only one season–they really invested in him. I’ve never invested in anything really big before, so I’m probably not too qualified to speak on this, but I would think that if you invest in something, you don’t just want it for short term, you want it to last a long time.
So even if the Red Sox sacrificed Dice-K’s season, perhaps it will benefit him, and in turn the Red Sox, in the long run. We could use a good Dice-K, the one we scouted in Japan, for the next couple of years.
When I think of DIce-K’s situation, I am subtly reminded of Clay Buchholz’s season last year. Clay Buchholz’s situation is a bit different because he had a lot of promise from his golden no-hitter in 2007, and a nice spring in 2008. He simply wasn’t ready yet, so he was sent back to the minors for some extra work, and as you all can see, it has really paid off during this season. Dice-K didn’t even start out on the right foot in 2009, but like Clay, he was sent down for some extra work, and thus far, it has paid off: we took a chance and rolled the dice, and the outcome was worth it.
Taking a chance is pretty risky in September when the Red Sox are in the middle of what was a pretty tight Wild Card race. Luckily, not only did Dice-K pull through, but the rest of the offense has as well. Almost every single game, a more than sufficient amount of run support has come from a rejuvenated offense (considering everyone decided to go into a collective slump in August).
Hopefully, this past series against the Angels is indicative of how the American League Division Series might be. Big come-from-behind rallies, and exhilarating ninth inning rallies. Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it? Especially against the Angels. You all do remember how we won that series in 2008 don’t you? On a walk-off single, similar to Alex Gonzalez’s of this past week.
‘Exhilarating’ doesn’t even begin to describe walk-off wins, it’s an entire atmosphere. You’re on the edge of your seat, biting your nails. Your head is pounding, and you’re instructing the batter as if he can hear you. And you’re hoping with all of your heart that he’ll get that little hit that will bring the runner home. And when it happens, it’s like Christmas morning. You gasp when the ball hits the bat, and then you jump up from your seat and start jumping around the room screaming like an idiot, but you don’t even care because you are so ecstatic.
There are some teams out there who will clinch their playoff spot early on in September. No competition, no need to really play anymore because they already made it. But what kind of mentality is that to have going into the playoffs? It may be nerve racking, but it’s exciting when it goes down to the end. And I think that momentum is important when going into the playoffs.
Before I end, I want to go back to Dice-K. When he left the mound in June, he left to a chorus of boos. Red Sox fans, and baseball fans, are ruthless, but normally, they aren’t wrong when they boo a player. Dice-K deserved the boos, he didn’t come into the season ready to play baseball.
But I think that both Red Sox and baseball fans should appreciate his change in attitude, and obviously the change in the way he is pitching. Both are for the better. Dice-K wants to make up for letting his teammates and the fans down. He knows that he has a responsibility for this team, and he wants to make up for what he couldn’t provide early on. So when he left to the chorus of cheers, the complete opposite, it must have been one of the best feelings he had ever had as a baseball player.