"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." —Philosopher George Santayana
Hopefully Red Sox General manager Theo Epstein has paid attention to this saying.
As Red Sox fans eagerly await the arrival of John Smoltz to the big league ball club, Epstein and manger Terry Francona face a serious dilemma—how to manage the six men that are capable of pitching effectively at the major league level.
Using a six man rotation seems unlikely, as it would throw off the routine and rhythm of Red Sox pitchers. This leaves the Red Sox with a surplus of starting pitching—and has many Red Sox fans clamoring for Theo to deal Brad Penny.
Many desperate contenders, like the Phillies, Dodgers and Cubs, as well as Indians, White Sox, and Mets, are known to have interest in Penny, and the Sox are rumored to have been shopping Penny for anything from a DH to a shortstop to a pitching prospect.
Let's first talk benefits of the trade. The Red Sox certainly need a solution at shortstop—Julio Lugo and Nick Green give lots of energy and effort, respectively, but put simply, neither brings the defense at the position that is required to win a championship.
The Sox could also use a bat off the bench, perhaps to spell a struggling David Ortiz at the DH position and provide some offense off the bench. Rocco Baldelli is not very durable and Mark Kotsay does not appear to be a solution.
Also, Penny's $5.5 million contract would make him easy to trade. Considering the rarity of starting pitching on the market, Theo would hold serious leverage over any GMs who are desperate for pitching.
The argument to keep him, however, is much more convincing.
The best problem you can ever have in baseball is an excessive amount of starting pitching. Just remember the brutal 2006 campaign. The Red Sox rotation seemed loaded in 2006 with Beckett, Curt Schilling, Wakefield, David Wells, Matt Clement, and Bronson Arroyo. In need of a right-handed power bat, Theo shipped Arroyo to the Reds for Wily Mo Pena.
Next thing you know, Beckett can't deal with the AL, Schilling and Wells hit the DL, Clement has a complete mental breakdown on the mound, and the Sox are counting on Wakefield, a shaky Beckett and Jason Johnson. They fold in August and settle for third place.
Meanwhile, the trade speaks for itself. Wily Mo brings a fun name and a few tape-measure homers to Fenway, but strikes out too much to start and plays shaky defense. Arroyo goes on on to win 38 games in the next three seasons and is named an All-Star in 2006.
This tale only teaches the valuable lesson that you can never have too much pitching depth. And even if Theo is looking to subtract a starter from his rotation, Brad Penny has been more then serviceable. He is 6-2 with a 4.94 ERA. He has consistently been more effective then then the 51.1 million dollar investment Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Penny is also a fierce competitor, and his bulldog mentality seems bred perfectly for the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry. After hitting Alex Rodriguez on Saturday, June 13th, Yankee manager Joe Girardi complained to the league about Penny's actions claiming they were intentional.
"I don't give two f---- what Joe Girardi says," Penny responded. "I'm coming inside. I don't care. Anybody can say that. We can say that about the time they hit our guys. I'm just trying to pitch inside. Maybe he should worry about managing and not trying to be the commissioner."
Penny is perfect for the brash rivalry, and gives the Red Sox some toughness in the clubhouse and on the field. For the record, three Yankees batters have been plunked by Sox pitchers this year, while nine Red Sox batters have been hit by Yankee pitchers this year.
All in all, it seems foolish to deal away a surplus of pitching. Jed Lowrie is returning from rehabbing from wrist surgery, and David Ortiz seems to have gotten some pop back into his swing.
Penny was brought in as low-risk, high-reward guy and has been rewarding to the pitching staff, providing toughness and quality starts. Don't forget, Penny was an ace for the Dodgers, winning 16 games in 2006 and 2007 while starting the 2006 All-Star game for the NL.
And it never hurts to have extra pitching. 2006 can remind us of that.