This isn't going to be some delusional rant on how "They traded the wrong guy," knowing full well the overwhelming reason the Cincinnati Reds wanted Bronson Arroyo was the price tag that was attached to him.
But I am stepping off my Matt Clement soapbox. A year-plus into his tenure in Boston, I think we can safely say this was a questionable signing.
Clement, who goes tonight in the "series" finale against the Blue Jays, has had flashes of adequacy, but for the most part lately he has been terrible, resembling nothing of the pitcher who made the All-Star team last season after his 10-2 start. He'll be making his third start of the season tonight against Toronto, which is to Clement what Doc Marten is to anthills. He's 1-1 against the Jays this season, with an 8.68 ERA. Blue Jays batters are hitting .349 against him, and all opponents are swatting his pitches at a .306 clip. Only three starting pitchers in the American League are worse in that category.
At Fenway, he has an 8.18 ERA this season, mostly the product of his awful start against these same Jays a few weeks back. Clement rebounded satisfactorily a week later to beat them in Toronto, but last Friday night he stunk up Tropicana Field by issuing six walks, a performance now being blamed on asthma.
Not to be a supporter of revisionist history, but let's take a look, shall we, at what some old friends are doing over in the senior circuit.
Pedro Martinez: 5-0, 2.72 ERA
Bronson Arroyo: 5-0, 2.06 ERA
Derek Lowe: 1-1, 3.16 ERA
If you fail to pick one that you'd rather have on this team over Clement, you're kidding yourself.
We all know the reasons they're not here. Lowe's regular season numbers and off the field antics made the Sox stay away from him. Martinez wanted an extra fourth year that would look pretty good on Boston's books now rather than dreading paying Clement for whatever ineffectiveness he has planned for '07. The Arroyo trade was dumb, but this isn't the time to get into that whole disastrous situation.
After his terrible Opening Day start, Lowe has reeled off three straight games in which he’s pitched seven innings, one run, seven innings, one run, and six innings, no runs. He’s won none of those, and in fact despite not allowing more than two earned runs in five of his six starts, he has just the lone win to boast.
Meanwhile, Martinez and Arroyo are a combined 10-0 for the Mets and Reds respectively. Clement and David Wells are 2-3 for the Red Sox. Add Martinez’s 2.72 ERA and Arroyo’s stunning 2.06 mark together (4.80), and you still need nearly a run and half more to make up Clement’s differential (6.14).
I was a big time supporter of the Sox landing Clement last offseason, swayed by Theo Epstein’s club mantra of building for the future while staying economically competitive in the AL East. I still think the fourth year of Martinez’s contract would have been a risky proposition, much more enamored to likely sink that investment into a kid like Josh Beckett instead (who hasn’t exactly been stellar as of late himself, mind you). But how much worse could any final year of said Martinez deal be than what we see presently from Clement? Lowe wasn’t coming back, period, and I think people understand all the reasons why. The Arroyo trade was dumb, but this isn't the time to get into that whole disastrous situation.
But for all the armor surrounding his public image, take a good look at this starting staff and Epstein doesn’t exactly look all that great in its reflection. Other than Curt Schilling, a man who goes to his credit quite obviously, Clement, Wells, and Lenny DiNardo were brought in under his watch. Pedro, Lowe, and Arroyo were jettisoned. We can argue whether Beckett was or not, but there were reports at the time that whispered how Epstein advised the Sox, based on Beckett’s medical history, he would not make the deal. Time will tell.
As for Messrs. 10-0, yes they are pitching in the hitting-like National League, which certainly doesn’t hurt. But what of Arroyo’s numbers then at the Great American Ballpark, a place where weak pop flies can reach the warning track. He’s 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA there. The other night, he went and shut down NL powerhouse St. Louis. Martinez is looking eerily like the pitcher who nearly won the Cy Young Award in 2002, getting a no-decision last night after allowing one run over six innings, with nine strikeouts.
Since his 10-2 start, Clement is just 5-6 with a 6.10 ERA for the team that signed him to a three-year, $25.5 million deal two offseasons ago. After his ruinous start in the playoffs last October, many expected the Red Sox would try and peddle him off on someone else, admitting mistake in their investment. Trouble was, wouldn’t you know, the other 29 general managers had cable and saw the wheels come off in Chicago. You can argue that his brush with death in Tampa last July permanently affected the way he approaches the game, but if that’s the case, then the Sox really signed the wrong guy.
If that night, as scary as it was, is still playing games in the back of his mind, then it says something of Clement’s makeup, yet another exhibit in the never-ending excuse as to why franchises need to build ballclubs around guys with character, not just stat sheets. Statistically, Clement probably is worth $25 million in this market. Mentally, he’s enough to drive Sox fans nuts lately.
It’s not like there’s much Epstein can do about it, short of reeling in Roger Clemens and sending Clement to the bullpen. Unless they pay someone else to take him, a la Edgar Renteria, he’s here to stay for the time being.
Besides, don’t you remember, the Red Sox had seven starting pitchers in Fort Myers. Apparently, too much pitching was something they just couldn’t deal with. Someone had to go.
They traded the wrong guy? Yeah, no kidding. But this isn't the time to get into that whole disastrous situation.