Taking another look at a deal that was immediately considered, by many, an easy Boston victory.
A narrative about last August’s Red Sox and Dodgers trade has grown up, certainly in Boston and to a lesser extent in the national press. Essentially, the Dodgers foolishly helped the Red Sox by taking a bunch of expensive garbage off their hands. The Red Sox gladly took advantage of the Dodgers, passing off said garbage while also acquiring two top pitching prospects in Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa. Weighed down by their expensive Boston detritus, the Dodgers now languish in last place while the Red Sox, freed from these obligations, have floated towards the top of their division. In short, win for Boston, loss for Los Angeles. But I’m not so sure that’s the case.
When the trade was made the players headed to Los Angeles were looked at as under-performing and expensive. That’s mostly because they were. Carl Crawford had played 161 games over two seasons for Boston, producing just over a win in the process, and had followed that up by undergoing Tommy John surgery. Adrian Gonzalez was in the midst of his worst season since his first in San Diego, and was supposedly one of the organizers of a meeting with the front office to complain about manager Bobby Valentine. In retrospect it’s hard to fault Gonzalez for that one, though the optics aren’t great. Josh Beckett had taken his reputation from World Series hero to clubhouse cancer and added the cherry on top of a five-plus ERA. Nick Punto was who cares I don’t know why he was included in the trade. Point is, the players Boston sent west were not at the peak of their trade value, yet L.A. took them, their full contracts, and handed over two pitching prospects to boot.
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There's crap to be bought that you don't even own yet!
It’s that happy time of year again when the air gets warmer, the sun heats up the skin, and thoughts naturally turn to baseball merchandise. “Excuse me attractive member of the opposite sex, kindly move out of the way of that AMAZING WHITE SOX-THEMED LAWN CHAIR WITH CUP HOLDER!!” Fortunately for you, Major League Baseball is here to help you, the baseball-obsessed consumer, out. Here are some ways to spend your summer dollars* other than just setting them on fire to cool you off. Note: I can’t vouch for the efficacy of one exercise versus the other.
Pitchers haven't adjusted to Will Middlebrooks, because Will Middlebrooks hasn't made them.
Remember Kevin Maas? Maas was a 25-year-old rookie first baseman for the Yankees who came up in late June 1990. He wasn’t a huge prospect until he hit eight home runs in his first month. Then he was. He went on to hit 13 more over the remainder of the season, with a .904 OPS, and a 150 OPS+. He was even intentionally walked 10 times. It was good enough for a second-place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting, despite just 79 games played.
So that was it, Maas was the next great Yankees slugger. Everyone bow down. Then 1991 happened. Maas hit 23 homers, but he needed twice as many plate appearances to do it. He put up a mediocre .220/.333/.390 slash line. There were certain pitches Maas just couldn’t hit when thrown in the right place. Opposing pitchers had learned them and Maas was unable to adjust. Two mediocre seasons later the Yankees cut him and, other than 64 plate appearances for the Twins in 1995, he was out of the majors for good.
The role of sports during times of tragedy has been debated in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. How can one cheer, yell, and feel joy in a time so filled with sadness? I suppose the answer is up for each of us to decide on our own, but it seems that, in times such as these, when heartbreak and fear have touched us so deeply and it’s all we can do to not break down and cry, sports has the power to help unite us in common purpose. It can alleviate, however slightly, our sadness, and through that, can help us feel a little less sad and a little less alone. Maybe that’s putting too much on it, but that’s the way I feel.
On Saturday the Red Sox returned home for the first time since the bombings at the Boston Marathon. On a sunny Saturday afternoon in an exhausted and shaken city a baseball game was played. And it was perfect.
It sure is nice to have actual baseball to talk about again. Tuesday, the Rays were facing the Orioles and, up 3-2 in the top of the seventh, Joe Maddon brought Jake McGee in to relieve David Price. There are some things worth noting about Jake McGee.
Thing One: Dude Throws Fast
With each McGee pitch, the velocity readings on SunSports’ graphic seemed to get bigger and bigger. There’s no way Jake McGee throws 97 all the time, right? I mean, Jake McGee? There must be some bias in the home broadcast network’s radar gun. That’s always something I’ve heard, that the speeds you see on television are unreliable, that television networks pump up the speeds for their own pitchers. I wondered if that was true, so I decided to do a little experiment. I watched the half inning over again on the Rays TV network (SunSports) and wrote down their posted speed for every pitch. Then I did the same thing again, but this time for the Orioles network (MASN). Then I checked the speeds against those posted on MLB GameDay and on our own Brooks Baseball.
Nowadays, when we talk about Robinson Cano we talk about his next contract. A $200 million deal has been widely speculated (like here and here) and that’s certainly within the realm of possibility. While it’s an interesting topic, Cano has employed Scott Boras, so I’m guessing we’ll have lots of time to cover it, as an in-season extension with the Yankees seems unlikely.
Instead, I’m more curious as to where Cano came from. If what you’re thinking starts with his mommy and daddy had some wine then no. I mean in a prospect sense. Cano emerged an All-Star from what was widely thought to be a depleted farm system. He began his minor-league career at the age of 18 in 2001. He didn’t make the majors until 2005 so he had ample time to make a few top prospects lists on the way to the Show, but he never did. Well, that’s not entirely true. He was not listed on any of the Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects lists during his time in the minors, and never ranked first overall on the annual Yankees Top 10 list, like you might expect from a future franchise player. He was ranked second once, but given the general state of the Yankees system, nobody took him too seriously.
Degree of greatness doesn't always correlate to the ability to say farewell.
This past week brought news that the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history has decided to retire following the season. Mariano Rivera broke into the major leagues with the Yankees in 1995. That season he appeared in 19 games for New York, starting 10, with an ERA of 5.51. That was the last season in his 18-year career that he started games and, other than 2007, the last in which he posted an ERA over the 3.00. He may not be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but if not it’ll be due to ridiculousness on the part of the voters.
While Rivera prepares for his graceful swan song, a coda to a certain Hall of Fame career, another all-time great is preparing for a very different postscript. This past weekend CBS’s Jon Heyman reported that Manny Ramirez signed a contract to play with the Rhinos. That would be the EDA Rhinos of Taiwan. The Rhinos play in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, which, I have been informed through a very special source COUGHwikipediaCOUGH, contains four teams. Including the Rhinos.
The last thing I want to do is rehash the American League MVP debate. There is a long list of sharp objects I’d fit into my cornea before doing that. So I’m not doing that, I promise. However, the Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout matchup highlights an interesting aspect of player value that's easy to measure but hard to see.
In contrast to hitting and fielding, baserunning can go unnoticed if you’re not specifically looking for it. It’s easy to focus on the pitcher and the hitter while ignoring what goes on just beyond the camera’s lens. Fortunately, there are stats that track who was good at running the bases and who wasn’t, and looking at the differences between the two AL MVP candidates is a convenient if untimely way to illustrate them.
Seven years later, the book still isn't closed on the mega-deal between Boston and Florida.
After the 2005 season, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein donned a gorilla costume and snuck undetected out of Fenway Park. Going back centuries, this is how Epsteins quit their jobs. A few months later owner John Henry coaxed Epstein back to work. (He wore, as is the family custom, an alligator outfit). While he was gone, the Red Sox’ reins were held jointly by three people: Jed Hoyer, now general manager of the Cubs under Epstein; Ben Cherington, Epstein’s eventual successor as general manager in Boston; and Bill Lajoie, a veteran front office man and former player who ran the Tigers in the mid-to-late ’80s. Despite persistent rumors that Epstein would come back, the Red Sox didn’t sit around waiting. While Mark Loretta and top prospect Andy Marte were intriguing acquisitions, the group’s crowing achievement was sending Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Harvey Garcia, and Jesus Delgado to Florida for Josh Beckett, Guillermo Mota, and Mike Lowell. It was a polarizing trade at the time and remains one to this day.
This past summer, seven seasons after the trade was consummated, an ending of sorts occurred. The Dodgers acquired both Ramirez and Beckett from Miami and Boston, respectively, while Miami dealt Sanchez to Detroit. Thus, as the 2013 season dawns, all of the players in the deal have moved on from their acquiring teams. This seems like the perfect time to look back at the deal.
This will shock you: a while back I made an entirely unoriginal joke. Edwin Jackson had signed a four-year contract with the Cubs and I said I was disappointed because that made him much less likely to change teams again. Not funny, I know, but fortunately it’s the topic of the joke I’m more concerned with now. At the age of 29, Jackson will play for his eighth team this season. That, as realtors say, is a lot. So, if you’re one of those people who would love to see Jackson play for every major-league team just for the novelty of it, then a four-year restriction on his changing teams isn’t what you want to see.
Now that Jackson appears to be staying put for a while, maybe he’ll pass the scepter to Sandy Rosario. And maybe Rosario will refuse it because he has done almost as much this offseason as Jackson has in his career. When I say “done as much” I’m not referring to actual pitching. Rosario has thrown 7 2/3 innings over parts of three seasons for the Marlins while putting up a 15.26 ERA, so we’re not talking on-field exploits here. No, it’s his whiplash-inducing offseason. You see, in the span of two months, the end of October through December, Rosario changed organizations five times. He was traded once and selected off waivers four separate times. In a two-week span he was:
After 2012, what should we unlearn about the Red Sox?
One of the difficult parts about fantasy baseball is dealing with perception. When a player hits a home run, it feels like that’s what they’ll always do. Put another way, do you take a guy who just homered out of your lineup? No, of course not. He just homered. Therefore he’ll continue to homer. That’s a good way to lose. I know because that’s what I do best in fantasy sports. The way to do it, so I’ve been told, is ignore that homer. Let your understanding of the player’s value over the course of the season dictate your decisions. A single event, in this case the homer, shouldn’t enter into it. Yet it always does and I always pay the price.