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August 27, 2012
Out of Left Field
As you’re certainly aware, the Red Sox and Dodgers pulled off the super-crazy extreme mega-trade of this or any other century last Friday night. BP’s own R.J. Anderson and Kevin Goldstein already delved into the specifics of the deal, but if I may be permitted, I’d like to share some further thoughts.
Fixing Boston’s Problems: Off the field
The problems carried through into the next season like a bad cold and infected this year’s team. There were reports of everything up to and including clubhouse rebellions, which I assume required players to paint their faces with eye black and dry erase markers, grab the freely available pitchforks from the Pitchfork Room (adjacent to the clubhouse), light a few torches (undershirts wrapped around the knobs of baseball bats, then set ablaze) and march on the manager’s office 25 feet away.
Clubhouse chemistry is impossible to quantify, and my own personal belief is that chemistry’s effects on a team’s won-loss record are vastly overstated. Yet, if there is enough data in any normal distribution, there will eventually come an outlier of extreme proportions. Could this 2011-12 Red Sox team have been it? The first club whose innocuous personalities combined to form some awful team-destroying serum. Some people seemed to think so. Maybe. I’m certainly not in a position to dispute such an accusation. But if so, I have a two questions.
1) If the players leaving Boston were the problem, then doesn’t it stand to reason that the Dodgers are now in for some serious clubhouse turmoil?
2) If the players leaving Boston aren’t the problem, then doesn’t Boston’s problem remain in Boston?
Fixing Boston’s Problems: On the field
1) Gadawful starting pitching
2) Underperformance by previously star-level players
This trade addresses the second, sort of, and it gives the front office a chance to address the first. But to believe in the trade wholeheartedly from the Red Sox standpoint you have to believe in the Red Sox front office’s ability to take the clean-ish slate presented and turn it into a championship-level team. There are reasons to question their capability to do so.
Though his tenure has been much shorter, Ben Cherington is in a similar boat. The media has enjoyed poking at him over the Bobby Valentine hire, noting repeatedly that Valentine was never his choice and was hoisted upon him by, depending on who is writing the story, team President Larry Lucchino or owners John Henry and Tom Werner. The offseason trades of potential starting-caliber players Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie for relief pitchers didn’t help Cherington’s perception, and the injury and implosion of the two relievers acquired in those deals only made them look worse.
Ben Cherington is getting credit for the Mega-Trade trade in the media. Neither the Red Sox owners nor their team president were at the press conference announcing the deal. Assuming the reports are right and this is Cherington’s baby, we now know Cherington can tear a team down in the blink of an eye. That’s something. Maybe the reports of an impotent Cherington at the beginning of his time as GM were false. Or maybe running a major-league baseball team in a city like Boston is far more complicated than that. Naaaah, that can’t be it.
The Value of Financial Flexibility
Of course signing a free agent isn’t the only way to spend the money, but note that Votto’s wasn’t even a free agent. Matt Kemp wasn’t a free agent either and he signed for eight years, $160 million. A quarter of a billion might not buy more than two star-level players in their late 20s or early 30s, and depending on how you rate Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, that’s basically what the Red Sox just gave up.
A quarter of a billion dollars doesn’t buy what it used to. And with the new restrictions on the draft and international free agents added on, the Red Sox might have more trouble improving the team with that money should they even choose to reinvest it all in the first place.
Boston’s Future Could Still Be Now
Here’s how a 2013 Red Sox lineup might look:
I don’t have a clue who mans left field or first base in Boston next year, but if they find two players who don’t actively hurt the team, the lineup isn’t half bad. If the team can find some starting pitching they could surprise some people.
Funny, I just wrote that the Red Sox could surprise some people. We’ve come a long way in a single weekend, huh?