by Mike DePilla
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The announced attendance was a little more than 22,000 at the Cell tonight, but, as one of those 22,000, I think it sounded and felt like a lot less were on hand to see the clearly superior Dodgers hand it to the hometown Sox in a tidy 2.5 hour beatdown.
A few things to mention. First, I have no idea how to explain this: After tonight's game, the Sox are batting .217 at home, and .280 on the road. I know the Cell deflates batting averages a bit due to the smaller outfield for hits to fall in, (by contrast, of course, this inflates homeruns) but that is ridiculous. Sixty-three points difference at home? Does anyone have a logical explanation for this, other than the standard all-Sox-hitters-are-swinging-for-the-fences-at-all-times?
I am not in the Greg Walker fan club, and despite the fact that I believe firing a hitting coach generally does very little, I do endorse his dismissal. Maybe a new set of eyes and ears could at least open a few new doors to combating this slump. Walker's trademark (though somewhat exaggerated by fans) "lift and pull" for homerun power philosophy just isn't cutting it.
Second, how about letting Matt Thornton finish an inning he starts? His box score line is not going to look pretty from tonight- 2/3 IP, 2 ER. But he really didn't pitch that poorly. He was almost able to pitch over a leadoff double to Mitch Jones before the Sox braintrust, in a classic case of over-managing, pulled him in favor of Octavio Dotel to pitch to right-handed-hitting Casey Blake with two on and two out. Naturally Blake hit a single to right which scored two--both charged to Thornton.
Thornton is the best pitcher the Sox have in their bullpen (except maybe their closer, who doesn't face these issues). Let the guy work out of trouble once in a while. So what if he's left-handed?
As my peer Jim Margalus of Sox Machine points out, it is Scott Linebrink that can't handle the dirty work of pitching with runners on base. Unless he clearly does not have it, Thornton should be allowed to pitch an entire inning even if there is a little trouble. That would at least make him responsible for his own ERA, which went up 62 points tonight thanks to a stolen base and hit he didn't give up.
Check out Jim's article for more ideas on how to improve the bullpen.
Lastly, I wash shocked at how small the crowd was tonight with the Dodgers, owners of the best record in the majors, in town for the first game of a summer homestand. Sure, it was a Tuesday, but it was the end of June. I expected 30,000+, even with the Sox struggling somewhat. Instead, the upper deck was a ghost town and even the outskirts of the lower bowl weren't filled.
The reason? Premium pricing. Look, I understand upping the Cubs games and weekend games. But jacking up prices on a midweek game in a bad economy is just not good business. Sox fans aren't going to pony up to see a sub-.500 team play when they can go next week for much cheaper. Or just watch at home.
I know there's some cache to Sox/Dodgers, 50 years since they met in the Series. But is that worth an extra 10+ bucks per seat?
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