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BOB RYAN

Here's a pitch for more strong-arm tactics

A month and change of the baseball season is in the books.

1. PITCHING, PITCHING, PITCHING

'Tis said you can never be too rich or too thin. I can't verify either, but here's something you can take to the financial institution of your choice: You can never have too much pitching!

I must respectfully disagree with Julian Tavarez, who is on record as saying the Red Sox don't need Roger Clemens. Were I the fifth starter on this team, I, too, might lobby for a career 348-game winner with seven Cys to stay home and play catch with the neighborhood youngins. But were I Theo Epstein, I'd be waving John Henry's golden checkbook in Roger's face, if for no other reason than if I've got him, my friend Brian Cashman doesn't. Beyond that, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH PITCHING.

This is neither 2003 nor 2004, when the Red Sox scored 961 and 949 runs, respectively. The 2007 Sox are an OK offensive team, nothing more. They've had some tepid nights at the plate already, and you should prepare yourself for at least a half-dozen more shutouts or 3/4-hit nights, and not always against a primo starter, either.

Pitching has placed the 2007 Sox at the top of the AL East, and pitching is what will keep them there. But pitchers are fragile creatures (see Bombers, Bronx) and two of Terry Francona's starters were alive and kicking when the 1967 Sox revived baseball hereabouts. Stuff happens (See Bombers, Bronx). You're always a tweak or angry oblique muscle away from a Kyle Snyder start or two (not that this would be the worst thing in the world).

If Roger Clemens is available, get him. If someone holds a fire sale for a quality pitcher after the All-Star break, get him. Give Tito so many quality pitchers he'll have to hold a lottery to see who gets a playoff start, or even gets a spot on the postseason roster.

More teams that couldn't hit have won with great pitching than vice versa.

End of story.

2. T-E-A-M, YEA, TEAM!

There isn't a soul among us who had a clue that as the Red Sox jumped to a 17-9 record that an indispensable player would be Hideki Okajima. Nor is there a soul among us who would have predicted Alex Cora would have made so many direct contributions to victories during those 26 games.

So?

So it's always nice to be reminded that what will always separate sport from entertainment is this wonderful element of the unknown. We do not know how the games will turn out and we do not know who will determine the outcome.

The laws of probability and common sense guide us to certain long-haul conclusions, such as the belief that Manny Ramírez will always be a 30/100 man, at least until he isn't. He's been hitting since 1994, some years with better starts than others, and the universal assumption is that he will post another "Manny Ramírez" year in the books. But if he's in danger of hitting under the Mendoza Line for a month, somebody has to do something to offset it.

Those somebodies are named Okajima and Cora.

And it is those somebodies who give sport its special flavor.

Successful teams need stars, of course, but successful teams also need contributions from those who will never get any closer to their sport's Hall of Fame than the ticket window. Just remember the most famous sporting collaboration of our time was Millar-to-Roberts-to-Mueller. The single most famous run in Red Sox history was produced by three players who accumulated zero appearances in an All-Star Game. But they'll dine out in this town forever, and deservedly so, for the events of Oct. 17/18, 2004.

April may turn out to be the peak month for both Okajima and Cora. We don't know. What we do know is that the four Red Sox players who performed at the highest in relation to their perceived level of talent during the month were Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, and Alex Cora. Please explain to your kids that this is what a true team is all about.

3. 38 GAMES TO GO

I am sometimes accused of preaching about this or that to people, and so I will not tell you how you should feel about Barry Bonds. He's much too complicated a subject, anyway.

Barring rainouts or other acts of nature, Mr. Bonds will arrive here 38 San Francisco games from now, and if he continues on his current pace, he could tie or break Hank Aaron's career home record of 755 right here in John Updike's lyric little bandbox of a ballpark, which ain't so little in the right-center-field power alley. (Wouldn't it be nice if Mr. Updike left his North Shore manse to join us for that series?)

I, for one, hope that doesn't happen.

But that's me. I've made up my mind there is sufficient evidence to believe that Barry Bonds employed performance-enhancing pharmaceutical aids in the '90s and early parts of the new century that transformed him into the threat to Hank Aaron's record. Many disagree, and that's fine and understandable.

My beliefs are based on a Mount Everest of circumstantial evidence, and if that's not enough for some people, hey, it's America.

Do I think he's still on something? I don't know. But let the record show he is back terrorizing National League pitchers, who are once again walking him at a phenomenal rate, and I guess that makes sense since he has nine home runs in 69 official at-bats and a .783 slugging percentage.

All I'm saying is that, to me, he's an unappealing package. You may feel otherwise. But we both can agree there is something electrifying about him coming to Fenway at that particular time, whether or not we actually like it.

Yes, we all appreciate Our Patriots, but don't try telling me anything beats good baseball talk.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is ryan@globe.com.

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