Friday, September 28, 2007


Today the Red Sox announced that pitching phenom Clay Buchholz will not pitch anymore this season even though he is not injured. The decision was made in order to prevent injury. As disappointing as this is for me as a fan I'm sure it must be that much more so for the organization, which is why this is such an impressive decision to make.

While the Sox have Buchholz's interests at heart they must have their own in mind as well. But balancing the short term with the long term has always been difficult for people, and especially so for bottom line business like a baseball team.

Of course the Red Sox wanted their stud young pitcher to throw important innings in the playoffs, and I'm sure Buchholz himself wanted to do so as well. I bet many other organizations would have noted those two desires and elected to continue pitching Buchholz. But that wouldn't be a smart decision. In fact, it would be an abjectly dumb one.

Remember what happened to Jonathan Papelbon last September? He had a subluxation (I think thats what they called it) in his shoulder that forced him to be shut down, but that was after the damage was done. Paps was forced to embark on a rigorous shoulder strengthening regime which he still participates in.

You know why he still participates in it? Because the organization was either ignorant of the extent of the wear and tear on his shoulder, or because they were willfully ignorant of it, i.e. they knew about it and elected to allow him to keep pitching because they didn't have other palatable options at the major league level. This post isn't to attack the Red Sox organization for screwing up Paps. Clearly they haven't done that, but they did either knowingly or unknowingly (and probably the latter) place him in a dangerous situation at the end of last season.

The great part about this news is it shows that the Sox have learned from their mistake, or they have more perfect information now than they did then. In either case, this is a vast improvement. A young pitcher simply can't be expected to bow out of pitching in a pennant race or in the playoffs on his own. Its unrealistic to think that in an industry like baseball a pitcher like Buchholz or Paps would tell management that their shoulder felt weak.

Thus, it is incumbent on the Red Sox to ascertain for themselves when a player may be entering dangerous territory and then too act appropriately on that information. Everyone knows that the benefits of saving Buchholz till next season when he will be rested and in better shape to perform in the big leagues far out-weigh the potential gains in allowing him to pitch any more this season. But the fact that the organization made the right choice for itself as well as for Buchholz despite the pressures to win now, speaks well of it.

I loved watching Buchholz pitch, so, as much as I hate to hear that Buchholz won't be pitching anymore this season, I can now point to this decision as part of the reason that the Red Sox are one of the best if not the best organizations in baseball. The front office put themselves in position to get as much information as possible on this topic, and then synthesized all the information into an intelligent decision based not only on the needs of the present but on the future as well.

Decisions like this one make me proud to be a Red Sox fan.

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