It’s only May 8th, but the Boston Red Sox are 7.5 games back on the
division leading Tampa Bay Rays, and 6.0 games back on the wild card
leading New York Yankees. With a record of 15-15 (and potentially 15-16 if
the rain slows down today and the Yanks hold on to win), and having only been
above .500 for two days in the first month and a bit, it’s pretty obvious to everyone in
the AL East that if the Sox want to compete, something drastic has to happen – and it
has to happen soon, or I might just start watching Major League Soccer instead.
You can argue that the Red Sox are starting to put it together. Having swept the
Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers with strong bats and strong
pitching. J.D. Drew, Victor Martinez, and Adrian Beltre seem
to be coming together at the plate. Even David Ortiz has been smacking a
couple out of the park in the last week. Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester,
and John Lackey have seemingly started to come together. Daisuke
Matsuzaka is back from the DL and has shown signs of strength and weakness,
and even Josh Beckett had a great start to his game against the Yankees
last night, at least until he fell apart. There are signs of light at the end of the tunnel.
Then again, they were swept by the Rays at home over a four game series. They
were even swept by the Baltimore Orioles in Fenway South, and are 2-4
against a team that has been amongst the worst in baseball not just this year, but for
a long …. long time – a team the Sox have beaten 15-17 times per season almost
every year in recent history.
Offense isn’t necessarily a problem. During the off-season, talk was about a
dominant pitching staff and defense, with a relatively weak offense. So far, it’s been
the other way around. The offense has given it’s fans an average of about 5 runs a
game. In the mean time, the pitching staff has an ERA of 4.68, with 13 un-earned
runs crossing the plate. Furthermore, The Red Sox are 1-5 in 6 games they sent to
But why is everyone in Red Sox Nation worried about the future outcome of this
season? Yes, the Rays are 22-7. The Yankees are 20-8. The Blue Jays are 18-13,
2.5 ahead of Boston for third place in the division. But look on the bright side – it’s
only May 8th. Jacoby Ellsbury is injured, as is Mike Cameron. The
lineup is being shuffled continually. The pitching staff needs to find their groove. It
will happen. Eventually everything will come together and they’ll start to win again.
Beckett, Lester, and Lackey are all proven aces. Buchholz and Dice-K are strong,
strong pitchers. Beltre will find his niche at the hot corner. Ellsbury will come back
and start causing hell at the top of the lineup. The 2010 Boston Red Sox are better
than the 85-win team they appear to be at the moment.
Let’s put this season in perspective. This time last year, the Yankees were 14-15,
4.5 games back of the leading Red Sox. But starting on the 13th of May, they won 9
in a row, ultimately ending with a 103-59 season and a World Series ring. Similarly,
the Red Sox started the 2009 season with a record of 2-6, and then went on a
13-game winning streak for a final record of 95-67 and a Wild Card championship. It
can still come together. There’s still time, but this is what needs to happen:
- Stop losing against the Yankees and Rays – In 8 games against these
two teams, they’re 1-7 … all at Fenway, where they seemingly can’t lose against
any other team as long as they show up for the game.
- Start Pitching Like You Mean It – The aces on the mound will come
together and start throwing 7+ innings per game. They’re too good for it to not
happen. Buchholz and Dice-K will add a good compliment to the three J’s, and
the bullpen will come back together, especially when Bonser comes back to put a
cap on his great spring.
- Improve Defense – Beltre has 7 errors so far this season (only 14 for
him through all of last season), so he needs to improve if we have a chance of
winning. But he’s not the only problem. Martinez needs to improve his throw to
second to intimidate potential thieves (although the pitchers need to help). The
offense needs to get healthy once again and do their thing.
- Get Back Ellsbury – Jacoby is well-known as one of the best lead-off
hitters in the game. Guaranteed to steal bases, walk, and hit at a .300+ clip, he’s
essential to a good Sox team (not that Scutaro isn’t doing a great job in his
absence). Darnell McDonald, Jonathan Van Every, Bill
Hall, and Jeremy Hermida are doing a good job in the absence of
Ellsbury and Cameron, but you just can’t replace those two players in any
Do that, and we’ll be fine. Besides, the Yanks will fall, right? 🙂 Burnett can’t go two
seasons without an injury, and Vasquez will be a beautiful Yanks disappointment this
At least one can hope, right?
Epstein’s To Do List for this off-season:
- Deepen Rotation – DONE
- Increase Outfield Defense – DONE
- Improve Bullpen – Incomplete
- Increase Infield Defense – Incomplete? Maybe Not
Okay, so he solved the first issue on the list with John Lackey. The second
issue on the list was rectified with Mike Cameron, effectively replacing Jason
Bay’s defensive prowess, and then some. The third point may not have a
solution. After losing Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, it’s hard to
imagine a bullpen as strong as it was late in 2009. But, Epstein went after low risk
players like Boof Bonser, and by extending the rotation, perhaps one of the
6 starters could find time in the bullpen. As for the final issue on Epstein’s mind, he
solved half the problem with the signing of Marco Scutaro. Now, just as we
were thinking that maybe we had to hope for Mike Lowell‘s health, it appears
that perhaps our infield picture is coming into focus, as reports are stating that the
Sox are close to bringing Adrian Beltre to town on a one year contract worth
about $9-10MM with a possible option for 2011.
I like this deal. It means we don’t have to rely on Lowell, but we keep a strong
defense and strong bat that Lowell used to provide. We keep a strong defense at
third without losing any power. Furthermore, Beltre comes relatively cheap, and with
just a one year contract, could open the door for Adrian Gonzalez when the
Padres become a little more desperate to trade him (say, next off-season, perhaps?)
Now we just need to figure out the bullpen.
The Yankees are reportedly close to trading Melky Cabrera among others for
Javier Vazquez, from the Braves. Who’s the winner in this deal? Quite possibly the
Red Sox. While Vazquez is a healthy pitcher, and makes a decent #4 in the Yankee
rotation, I can’t help but think that Melky was a better asset for them, not only for
right now, but also the long run.
Vazquez is seasonally a 10-15 game winner who gives up a decent amount of runs,
but is someone who tends to always stay healthy, and eats up innings like a
homeless guy invited to Christmas dinner. But who will the Yankees throw into the
outfield this season? They have Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. Granderson
is arguably one of the best center fielders in the game, but Swisher is ranked as average and for some crazy reason is the only Yankee that can’t hit it out of the right field vortex, although defensively he can play anywhere in the outfield, or at first base. Who mans
left field? Does this now mean that they’ll go after Damon if he’s willing to take a pay
decrease? Maybe they give Brett Gardner a chance, or they resign Xavier Nady?
Regardless, I can’t help but think Melky was the best option they had in the outfield
for this coming year, and as a spearhead of the team for the future. Not to mention,
he is/was a fan favorite at Yankee Stadium.
So what does this mean for the Red Sox? With the Yankees bolstering their rotation
further, it gives them a chance to turn Chamberlain or Hughes into a set-up man /
future closer. Getting someone like Vazquez gives them some more flexibility with
their rotation. When the Red Sox signed Cameron and Lackey, they increased their
defensive ability and improved their pitching staff to the point that it was potentially
better than the Yankees. Now, they could be considered equal, meaning the
Yankees have the upper hand with a strong offense. With Jason Bay now with
seemingly no market value, does Epstein put an offer of $60MM / 4 Years back on
the table? It’s obvious Bay is waiting for something from the Sox or another team,
because he clearly doesn’t want to play in Citi Field. And if Epstein was to resign
Bay, it gives him the flexibility to deal Ellsbury to the Padres. As much as I’d hate to
see Ellsbury go, if it means the added power of Bay and Gonzalez, I think I’d
get over it rather quickly. Maybe Vazquez going to the Yanks will push Theo to go
get both Bay and Adrian Gonzalez.
The suspense is killing me …
“Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.”
– Benjamin Franklin
I’m sick and tired of all this arguing, so I’m going to set everyone straight, right here,
right now. Ever since last off-season when the Yankees committed $423.5MM to
three players, Red Sox Nation has continuously complained about the Yankees
“buying a World Series”, followed by Yankee Nation complaining about those
accusations. Before you know it, the steroid issue comes up, you start hearing about
the ‘good ol’ days’ before any of us were born, the owners and GM’s get shot at while
we all know they’re doing a great job, blood gets spilled, tears fall, Babe Ruth turns in
his grave, a baby heard crying in the distance. It’s messy, to say the least – and it
makes us all look like idiots. If we’re complaining about each other spending or not
spending, what does the rest of the fan base for the 28 other teams think of our poor
behavior? It can’t be good.
To all you Yankee fans, stop complaining about the unfortunate Red Sox souls. We
don’t know how it feels to be part of a dynasty … we’re bitter. Please, try to ignore
us. But don’t think you guys are getting off scott free. Stop complaining about
Lackey and Halladay “selling out”, among others. Sabathia didn’t sell out? How
about Texeira? Does A-Rod need $275MM to survive? You’re only complaining
about Lackey and Halladay because you didn’t get the chance to sign them. Your
team is the only team in the majors over the last year that were over the $170MM
luxury cap barrier. The closest team to that mark were the Mets at $139MM. Also,
look at the highest-garnished contracts in the history of the game. The top 5 are all
Yankees (even though A-Rod’s 2001-10 contract wasn’t signed with Cashman, he
fronted the majority of the bill). If the Yankee players aren’t selling out, then no one
is. Not that I’m complaining. If you’ve got the money to spend, you might as well
spend it. As for the players, if you can squeeze a large contract out of ownership,
then kudos to you.
Now, to Red Sox Nation: We’ve never had the right to complain about Yankee
spending habits. Looking back at the highest garnished contracts in MLB history, #6
happens to belong to Manny Ramirez, which the Sox paid a substantial portion of.
As for our payroll, it has been consistently over $100MM/year since 2004. The
World Series championship team in 2007 was paid a total of $143MM. That’s hardly
a bargain price. You may complain about John Henry and Theo Epstein being frugal
with the money they spend and the agents they sign, but since John Henry and Theo
Epstein came to town in 2002, they’ve been on a shopping spree that’s never really
You don’t believe me? Take a look at the Yankee signings from 2008 until now:
- Alex Rodriguez – $275MM / 10 Years
- Jorge Posada – $52.4MM / 4 Years
- Mariano Rivera – $45MM / 3 Years
- Robinson Cano – $30MM / 4 Years
Total money dedicated in 2008: $402.4MM.
- Mark Teixeira – $180MM / 8 Years
- C.C. Sabathia – $161MM / 7 Years
- A.J. Burnett – $82.5MM / 5 Years
- Damaso Marte – $12MM / 3 Years
Total money dedicated in 2009: $435.5MM. Why did we only start
seriously complaining about the money this year? Maybe it’s because they won the
‘Series. Maybe it’s because they outbid us for Teixeira. Maybe it’s just sour grapes.
- Curtis Granderson – $30.25MM – 3 Years (remainder of contract)
- Nick Johnson – $12MM – 1 Year
- Andy Pettitte – $11.75MM – 1 Year
Total money dedicated so far in 2010: $54MM.
Total dedicated over the last three years – $891.9MM.
Now, for the Red Sox spending over the last couple years:
- J.D. Drew – $70MM / 5 Years
- Daisuke Matsuzaka – $52MM / 6 Years
- David Ortiz – $52MM / 4 Years
- Matsuzaka Blind Bid – $51.1MM
- Josh Beckett – $30MM / 3 Years
Total money dedicated in 2007: $255.1MM.
- Kevin Youkilis – $41.125MM / 4 Years
- Dustin Pedroia – $40.5MM / 6 Years
- Mike Lowell – $37.5MM / 3 Years
- Jon Lester – $30MM / 5 Years
- Jason Varitek – $8MM / 2 Years
- Jonathan Papelbon – $6.25MM / 1 Year
Total money dedicated in 2008 & 2009: $181.025MM.
- John Lackey – $82.5MM – 5 Years
- Mike Cameron – $15.5MM – 2 Years
- Marco Scutaro – $12.5MM – 2 Years
- Victor Martinez – $7.7MM – 1 Year
Total money dedicated so far in 2010: $118.2MM.
Total dedicated over the last four years – $554.325MM.
Okay, sure. The Red Sox have spent significantly less over the last 4 years than the
Yankees have spent over the last 3, but those numbers are all relative. Upon
examination of those numbers, you see that most of the Yankee contracts are
long-term whereas a majority of the Red Sox contracts are of a shorter length. As a
good example of that, the Red Sox have about $20MM locked up in 2013, while the
Yankees have around $95MM locked up in 2013. In the near future, the Yankees
have players locked up for the long-haul, while Epstein will have to deal with players
leaving in the next couple years. The most obvious at the moment is the potential
losses of Varitek, Ortiz, Beckett, Martinez and Lowell. The Yankees on the other
hand only need worry about big names Jeter and Rivera. The Red Sox are going to
be the second team this year, along with the Yankees, that will either exceed or
seriously flirt with the luxury tax barrier of $170MM. What are we complaining about?
Everything in baseball is relative, folks. Now, don’t get me wrong … Last year’s
Yankees were a team that my 2 year-old niece could have managed to a World
Series trophy (not that I’m demeaning Girardi as a manager. He did a great job).
You can’t just buy a World Series, or else more managers would be doing it.
You still have to survive the 162-day injury-plagued season to be able to contend.
The money doesn’t hurt, though.
Red Sox Nation, just be lucky you’re fans of a team that has money, and isn’t afraid
to spent it when the chips are on the table.
Today’s physical in Arlington came up with a radial collateral ligament
tear in Mike Lowell‘s right thumb. Some Red Sox fans feel this is a
bad situation, whereas others are jumping for joy now that Lowell is sticking around
in Boston. He is scheduled for surgery just after Christmas, and should be out for
6-8 weeks. In other words, he should be healthy for Spring Training, and while his
throwing programs may be halted, the rest of his training program should be able to
go on as per usual, preventing him from a long recovery. Personally, I see this as a
blessing in disguise, and this is my reasoning:
Lowell comes back in Spring Training and gets traded some time into the
year: If this happens, either we can make the trade for Max
Ramirez again, as double jeopardy doesn’t apply in baseball, or Epstein
could look to another team that needs a decent DH. His value should be higher if
Boston will still front the bill and he has proven himself to be healthy. If Max
Ramirez was indeed a potential trading piece for Adrian Gonzalez,
Epstein will find another way to get the prospect, or he will rearrange his
bargaining chips and find another way to Gonzalez.
Lowell comes back in Spring Training and stays with Boston for the entirety
of the year, playing 3B: If this happens, Boston keeps the offensive
power of Lowell, while sacrificing the speed he lost last year, and taking a risk with
his rumored decrease in defensive ability (which could become increasingly more
true if his hip gets any worse). With the increased defense on the left side thanks
to Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron/Jacoby Ellsbury, it
shouldn’t be TOO much of a problem for the team. Who knows, maybe he’ll pull
the hidden ball trick out of his hat a couple times this season to make up for his
lack of physical ability (he’s
done it twice before, afterall).
Lowell proves to be a liability in the field and sits on the bench: If
this happens, either Casey Kotchman becomes an everyday starter at
first and Lowell sits on the bench, or Epstein has to work out a trade for a decent
corner infielder during the season. The best way to account for this is to find said
corner infielder before the beginning of the season and make Lowell work for a
starting spot. However, I’m happy with Kotchman as a defensive replacement if
Lowell doesn’t work out, as his strong defense will solidify the infield.
Lowell turns into a part-time player in the field: If this occurs,
Lowell would play fewer games, meaning Kevin Youkilis would play 3B
on occasion while either Kotchman or Victor Martinez would find more
time at 1B, potentially meaning Jason Varitek could find more time behind
the plate. While I don’t feel Varitek should be behind the plate any more than
necessary, it’s not a terrible alternative if Lowell can’t play everyday anymore.
Lowell could also be used off the bench as a pinch hitter in crucial situations,
which we all know he tends to thrive in.
Lowell platoons with David Ortiz as the DH: It was proven
last year that Ortiz sometimes has trouble with quality pitching nowadays, so why
not sit Lowell on the bench and use him against certain starters, or LH pitchers?
Platooning these two players gives you the most optimal DH situation every game,
and leaves a power hitter on the bench in case you need that bat later on in a
game. Also, with Lowell being a DH, you get the capability of platooning him at 3B
whenever someone else needs a day off, while keeping him fresh as well.
In my mind, the only bad thing that can come from this is that you’re stick with a $12
Million man sitting on your bench and/or eating up a spot on your 25-Man Roster that
could be used for another arm in the bullpen or a more capable utility fielder.
Although, the 25-Man Roster can be altered throughout the season, and others will
almost definitely get injured, so it’s not really an issue.
As you can see, it’s win-win for everyone in Red Sox Nation.
Makes you wonder if Jason Bay will ever sign with a team. He’s starting to look like the ugly duckling.
First, Los Angeles sees no need for him. Then, Boston offers a deal to Holliday, and
signs Mike Cameron, seemingly being content with having a 38 year-old
player with two major injuries from the past, instead of a young power slugger.
Now, Seattle decides that they’d rather have a man who can’t even count to three out
in left field every day instead of a perennial slugger.
Maybe Bay should consider lowering his price …