The Red Sox have signed Carl Crawford, and you’d have to be a lobotomy patient or a Yankee fan not to like this deal.
Just days after trading for Adrian Gonzalez, the Sox signed the best position player on the market. And, just like that, inserted themselves as favorites heading into this season. In case you forgot, this is the team that won 89 games last year . . . without Gonzalez and Crawford, and without Youkilus, Pedroia and Ellsbury. AND, with Beckett and Lackey having sub-par years.
Forget losting Beltre and Martinez. Beltre’s entire miserable career has been a classic case of monumental underachievement. His best two seasons: Free agent years. Some poor sucker is going to sign him and condemn his team to mediocrity. Victor Martinez? A very good hitter, but a sub-par catcher whose best days are already behind him.
Forget the money. The Sox aren’t suddenly jacking up their payroll. In fact, with the money they had coming off the books, the price they’re paying for Gonzalez and Crawford is essentially a wash. And they have more money – including JD Drew’s ridiculous contract – coming off next season. This isn’t a case of the Sox suddenly spending a lot. This is a case of good fiscal management.
Forget that this team is lefty-heavy. Yeah, they have a lot of lefties. But, both Gonzalez and Crawford have good numbers against lefties. And, as mentioned earlier, the Sox have two right-handed MVP candidates coming back into their lineup in Youkilus and Pedroia.
Forget about the Yankees signing Cliff Lee. The Crawford deal appears to have made the Yankees overreact, and go up to a seven-year offer for Lee, which they stated they didn’t want to do. Seven-year deals for position players are one thing, as they are historically much more durable and consistent. Pitchers, on the other hand, are much less predictable, even when they are healthy. And they are always one-pitch away from a blown-rotator cuff. AND, while Lee has enjoyed an excellent couple of years, he’s also been plagued by injuries during his career. Seven years is too much for any pitcher. Don’t be surprised if Lee is good for the first two or three years of this contract, then is an anchor for the rest of it. And, even with a good Lee, you still have to like how the Red Sox starting rotation matches up with the Yankees, especially if Lackey and Beckett return to form.
Forget about the bullpen. Like it or not, it’s always a crapshoot. How often in recent years have we seen the Sox and other teams stock up on great relievers in the offseason, only to have them struggle in the season. Middle-relief is almost impossible to predict. You do your best, then make adjustments along the way. Throughout his tenure as Sox GM, Theo has had his issues with the bullpen, but he’s also shown a knack for being able to improve it during the season (last year not withstanding). The starting core is great, the back end with Paps and Bard is very good, and the middle WILL come together.
Considering how much better this 89-win Red Sox team looks, is it crazy to dream of a 100-win season already?
Last year it finally happened. After decades of passionately waiting for The Year, we’ve now had two of them in the last six, and been almost there most of the other years. With so much winning, many of us Sox fans have finally become complacent, downright bored with winning.
It was hard to get up for the 2010 season. Going in, it seemed like the same routine. We’d be good, and still in it come September. So many of us found ourselves in wait-and-see mode, just waiting for the eventual meaningful games to come, and having a hard time getting excited the rest of the year. That was certainly the case with me — I barely blogged at all. And I know I’m not the only one. NESN’s ratings were down enough to make John Henry break a sweat. And it took some creative counting to keep that so-called consecutive sellout streak alive.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll take complacent success over years of meaningless mediocrity any day of the weak. Still, I couldn’t help but envy fans of such teams as the Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, and San Diego Padres last year who got to cheer with meaning throughout the season . . . a season that really meant something to them.
Last year should have been an exciting year for Sox fans. To say the team was plagued by injuries would be a GIGANTIC understatement. Youk, Pedroia, Ellsbury and many more missed huge portions of the season. They should have struggled to be a .500 team. Still, they won 89 games . . . in the AL East! It was an amazing season. And Terry Francona was robbed in the AL Manager of the Year voting.
Now we move on to 2011. That team that won 89 games now gets Youk, Pedrioa and Ellsbury back. If that isn’t enough to put them in the playoff hunt, you have to believe that Lackey and Beckett will almost certainly perform better this season. On top of that, the Sox FINALLY land Adrian Gonzalez. If that’s not enough to get you excited for the 2011 season, consider they’ll be playing 18 games against a Tampa Bay team that is still strong, but won’t be the powerhouse it has been in recent years. AND, there is still plenty more offseason remaining for the Sox to land another bat.
In fact, things look so good for the Sox, us fans can probably take the season off and wait for those meaningful games late in the season and October that are certainly headed our way.
By the way, Jason Werth’s contract is more proof that some major league general manager’s aren’t any smarter than your middle-of-the-road fantasy baseballer.
Maybe it will be okay. Maybe . . .
From the start of this offseason, I’ve been preaching that the Sox needed offense. That they needed to bring back Jason Bay AND trade for Adrian Gonzalez.
Instead, they’ve swapped a proven defensive stud in Alex Gonzalez for Marco Scutaro – a career mediocre player who had a “breakout” year last year as he approached his mid-30s (fluke anyone?); they’ve lost Jason Bay; Adrian Gonzalez has been taken off the market; and they’ve added the Mike “The Human Strikeout Machine” Cameron.
Sure, they’ve added an ace pitcher in John Lackey. But can anyone who endured the frustration of last year’s offensive woes really feel good about this team as it stands right now?
As much as I’ve felt sick about the direction this team’s offense has been headed this offseason, I’ve been trying to convince myself otherwise. As it stands now, next year’s Opening Day lineup could look something like this:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. Victor Martinez
4. David Ortiz
5. Kevin Youkilus
6. J.D. Drew
7. Mike Lowell
8. Marco Scutaro
9. Mike Cameron
Forgetting for a moment about last year, that lineup doesn’t look so bad, even without Jason Bay. Sure, there are major question marks. David Ortiz almost certainly looks to be on the decline. Same can be said for Mike Lowell as he looks like he is physically breaking down. Of course, you can’t talk about physical breakdowns without mentioning J.D. Drew. Still, even with those question marks, it is a solid lineup. And one that I’d put up against almost team not named “the Yankees.”
Given that, it almost makes you wonder: What really happened to that offense last year even when they had Jason Bay in the middle of it? It should have been so much better. Maybe it was just an anomoly. Maybe 9 times out of 10 it would have performed much better.
Absent of the Sox landing Adrian Gonzalez, it seems the Sox brass are thinking the same thing. That, most likely, that offense will be more potent in 2010. It had to be a fluke, right?
I hope so. But I’d prefer to add an Adrian Gonzalez just to be safe.
In case you missed it this weekend, the Globe’s Nick Cafardo continued his assault on intelligent sports journalism, with a piece proclaiming Boston’s current starting rotation as a dream rotation, and how foolish it would be to break it up and trade Clay Buchholz for Adrian Gonzalez.
The article comes on the heels of Cafardo’s recent piece in which he makes Jacoby Ellsbury sound like the second-coming of Willie Mays and Adrian Gonzalez the second-coming of Steve Balboni.
The Ellsbury article was bad enough, as I’ve already blogged about. But the Buchholz piece takes it to another level. Buchholz pitched well last year, and he has a ton of potential. And having him as your Number Five starter certainly gives you a deep rotation — not a dream rotation, but a deep rotation.
You see, Buchholz is a good, young pitcher. But although he has pitched well early in his career, he is still relatively unproven. Casey Fossum also pitched some good games early in his career. Paxton Crawford, anyone? I certainly think Buchholz is better than those two, but the logic behind not trading Buchholz for Gonzalez doesn’t make sense. It remind me of when some Celtics fans didn’t want to deal Al Jefferson for Kevin Garnett. Thankfully, the C’s made the deal, and how did that turn out?
Hindsight is 20-20, but baseball deals are made given what he know in the here and now. And, right now, we know Buchholz is very good, but still unproven. And we know that the sum total of what Adrian Gonzalez brings to a team is worth a lot more than what Buchholz brings to a team.
Sure, pitching is important, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. But, even without Buchholz, the Sox still have a deep and formidable rotation when compared with the rest of baseball. Their offense? Not nearly as intimidating.
I know the saying of how pitching wins championships. Pitching certainly does help. But remember those pitching-rich Atlanta Braves teams that won 14-straight division titles? How many World Series rings did they win?
Sometimes you have to wonder what kind of intelligence test you have to flunk to be a professional sports writer. For example, check out today’s piece at http://www.Boston.com. by Nick Cafardo.
In the article, Cafardo makes a ridiculous and terrible arguement for keeping Jacoby Ellsbury instead of trading him for Adrian Gonzalez. He describes Gonzalez as the last piece to the team’s offensive puzzle, but then goes on to describe Ellsbury like he is the second-coming of Willie Mays. Cafardo makes it sound like we’re talking about trading a guy like Gonzalez to get a guy like Ellsbury.
Ellsbury is an immensely likeable player — both as a person and on the field. He’s exciting to watch. But, let’s not fool ourselves, the benefits he brings to a team are nowhere near the benefits an Adrian Gonzalez brings to a team.
Speedy leadoff hitters are great to have. But not absolutely necessary. Witness the Red Sox championship teams of 2004 and 2007. Last year’s champion Yankees featured Derek Jeter as their leadoff hitter. The Red Sox featured some great teams when Wade Boggs was their leadoff hitter. So let’s not overvalue how crucial Ellsbury is to this team.
Cafardo goes on to make the amateur talk-radio yahoo arguement that instead of sending off Ellsbury, the Sox should merely include one or two more prospects. That’s all fine . . . if that’s what the Padres want. I’m sure Theo is in no hurry to deal both Buchholz and Ellsbury to anyone. And is probably trying to negotiate a lesser deal. But, if the Padres won’t budge on prospects instead of Ellsbury, the Sox have a decision to make.
And, if they must deal Ellsbury, then they should do it.
Reports are the Padres are seeking both Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz from the Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez. The inclusion of both Ellsbury and Buchholz in a deal is sure to make many Sox fans cringe, but it’s a deal worth doing.
Often in baseball it does seem a team can get something for nothing, especially when one rich team can acquire a star player from a poor team for little more than cash. It is only money, after all. However, in the real world, to get something of real value, you have to give up something of real value. And that’s the situation the Sox are in chasing Adrian Gonzalez.
The past three season, Sox fans have enjoyed watching Ellsbury — from his amazing speed on the basepaths to his fearless, wall-crashing defense. He’s an excellent ballplayer, and may someday be a great leadoff hitter. But Ellsbury will never give a team as much as Adrian Gonzalez does. And, although it hurts to give him and Buchholz up, it’s worth it.
If the deal does happen, the question is what will Boston’s outfield look like? In all likelihood, newly-acquired Mike Cameron would move into centerfield. That would open up leftfield for a free-agent addition like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, although at this time both look unlikely. Perhaps more likely would be the Sox sticking with Jeremy Hermidia in leftfield, possibly platooning him with another addition.
Hermidia is a very interesting player. He came up to the majors in Florida about four seasons ago with a ton of hype. Unfortunately, he has never lived up to that hype. The thing is, he’s still only 25. He’s still two years away from the magic age of 27 — the well-documented age at which many major league ballplayers breakout. Hermidia is much too young and talented to be written off — even though many people already have. Maybe he’ll never be that superstar. But it’s still just as likely that we may someday look back and say Theo got the steal of this offseason.
Reports are that the top free-agent pitcher on the market — and longtime Sox nemesis — John Lackey took a physical with the Red Sox this morning, which could be a precursor to a deal.
If true, it’s an interesting move, and honestly one that I didn’t see coming. Given the depth of the Sox rotation, I didn’t believe they’d spend money on a big free agent pitcher this offseason, preferring instead to tweak their offense and save money for next offseason, when the team has some big decisions to make.
Signing Lackey will give the Sox an amazing starting rotation, with the front four being Beckett, Lackey, Lester and Matsuzaka — who, if he is anything like how he finished this past season, could next year be that amazing pitcher we’ve all been waiting for.
But this move could also set off an interesting chain of events. One of the most interesting ideas I’ve heard is that bringing in Lackey could give the Sox the flexibility to move Clay Bucholz, thereby possibly making a deal possible with San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez.
Another thing is what will now happen with Roy Halliday. Toronto NEEDS to move him this offseason. With the Sox out of the running, does that mean Halliday is headed to the Bronx, or – if they lose Lackey – will the Angels make an aggressive push to land him? Should be interesting . . .