Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Maybe The Red Sox DON'T Realize They Need A Bat

  • Red Sox sign Adrian Beltre:

It's strangely convenient that on the day Jason Bay passes his Mets physical, the Red Sox let leak the exhilarating signing of...Adrian Beltre to play third base.

Amid the anger coming out of Boston for the club refusing to budge on their initial offer to Bay of $60 million over four years and losing him to the Mets when he desperately wanted to return, the club spin-doctoring suggested that Bay's condition made his Mets physical far from fait accompli.

The jokes regarding the Mets medical staff can be inserted HERE or on Twitter, but for all intents and purposes, the Mets will know what to expect from Bay over the next four and probably five years----a solid citizen; a player who hustles, plays every day and leads by example; hits the ball out of the park (even Citi Field); and has handled the heavy spotlight of Boston without fear.

The Bay press conference is scheduled for Tuesday at 11:00 AM----story. One would assume David Wright (who should be named captain of the team sooner rather than later) and a couple other players will be there to welcome Bay to the Mets.

That left the Red Sox to make their "counter-move" to the bad press that awaited them for Bay passing his physical seemingly without difficulty. That "counter-move" turned out to be Adrian Beltre.

Beltre is a great fielder and the Red Sox pitchers are predominately of the ground ball variety, so his defense will be a great help after Mike Lowell's injuries and lost range contributed to the club's desperate desire to be rid of him; but does Beltre provide the bat that the Red Sox desperately need?

Adrian Beltre got his giant contract from the Mariners in one magical (some would say *suspicious*) season of 2004 in which he hit 48 homers and drove in 121 for the Dodgers while batting .334 and finishing second in the MVP voting to Barry Bonds. Beltre has never hit more than 26 in any season before or since; he hit 8 in 111 games in 2009.

He's never hit well at Fenway (.179 career with no homers in 16 games); nor has he hit well against the rest of the AL East, not even in Camden Yards----Beltre Splits. For those that think Beltre's going to take advantage of the Green Monster in Fenway, well, he's a back-up-the-middle hitter. He'll get his hits off and over the wall, but not enough to expect more than maybe 20 or so homers on the season in total; and he doesn't get on base.

The Red Sox are up-to-date on all the metrics, so I'm sure they'll come out with a series of numbers as to why Beltre's and Mike Cameron's presence and the number of runs they save over the course of a season will equate to what they'd get if they acquired a pure basher along the lines of Miguel Cabrera and kept Bay. We'll see the calculations on FanGraphs, explained by Rob Neyer and the other stat zombies looking for ways to justify the deal based on it being inexpensive among the other things Beltre brings to the table. We'll hear it over and over again...

And it's not going to change the simple fact that there's something awry about the Red Sox going back to the three-game ALDS sweep at the hands of the Angels.

And the decisions they've made to "improve" the club after they were bounced and watched the Yankees regain their glory have done nothing to alter that palpable perception.

For all the appellations of Theo Epstein as a "genius", it's been conveniently glossed over that he's made some ghastly mistakes in talent recognition and team-building. They're a stat zombie team backed up by money to cover for mistakes. There's nothing wrong with that, but they've been remarkably adamant in repeatedly trying various stat zombie tenets such as the bullpen-by-committee and watched as it failed only to try it again.

Had they gone forward with their intention of moving Jonathan Papelbon into the starting rotation in 2007, not only would they not have won the World Series that year, the clubhouse would've exploded in insubordination and in-fighting as Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling went ballistic by the end of April over the number of blown games because of the absence of a viable closer.

There's always some floating explanation for a front office decision that's criticized. In 2003, the bullpen by committee blew 23 games they should've won.


While Grady Little was a convenient scapegoat for that team's fall in that year's ALCS, how is the front office absolved of responsibility? That they turned around and addressed the issue by signing Keith Foulke that winter should've been a clear indication that they realized they couldn't move forward with the idea of not having one guy who could handle the duties not just physically (plenty of guys can handle the job physically), but mentally. If the 2003 Red Sox had someone, anyone who could close a game with any consistency in 2003, there's every possibility that they could've avoided the Yankees entirely that post-season.

Could it be that Epstein and his crew in the Red Sox front office aren't as savvy about everything as they're portrayed?

There's something missing on this Red Sox roster and they don't see it.

Those that are so immersed in numbers that they forget what a human being is will scoff at this "feeling" I often refer to, and that's fine. Whether it's some mental calculation in my brain that I'm unaware of that sends me the signal of something being askew like it's one of those antiquated Univac Computers from the 1950s that took up entire building floors is irrelevant; what's relevant is that I'm rarely wrong about these things.

Epstein may be willing to move forward into the season with what he currently has and see what comes available at mid-season, but the American League is no longer the cakewalk into the playoffs for both the Red Sox and Yankees as it once was. The Yankees aren't just better than the Red Sox now, they're a lot better; in the AL East, the Rays are dangerous; the Orioles are going to be okay; the Blue Jays have a load of young pitching; as for the rest of the league, the White Sox are going to be very, very good; and the Angels, Mariners and Rangers all have arguments to be pre-season playoff picks.

The "feeling" of something being wrong with the Red Sox is real.

I can recognize it.

And I should.

I'm a Mets fan.

This current Red Sox roster is not making the playoffs.

Whether or not Epstein realizes this is the question. Maybe he doesn't. If that's the case, the Red Sox are in more trouble than they and their fans realize.

  • Viewer Mail 1.5.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Doug Mientkiewicz:

Never diss Doug Mientkiewicz! He can catch any ball hit to him at first and doesn't mind getting his uniform dirty - and he doesn't come with a big price tag.

Mientkiewicz has certainly proven the value of schmoozing and being accommodating with people; sometimes that enough to keep a job when there are probably better options available.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the growing enthusiasm of a Moneyball zombie movie sequel:

Bring on the crazy lunatic with no fear! And by "crazy lunatic with no fear" I refer to the Capo's role -- not Michael Lewis.

Ah, Michael Lewis. I can almost picture some insignificant reader of Moneyball/would-be baseball expert tied to a chair similarly to the scene in the Dark Knight with the Joker. Here's a rough draft of a script idea:

Insignificant Stat Zombie: Moneyball's a...a...symbol... that we don't have to be afraid of scum like you.

Your Anti-Hero, the anarchic Prince of New York (Boss of the Zombie Hunters): Uh, yeah; you do my clueless friend. You really, really do....

John Seal writes RE Athletics manager Bob Geren:

I dunno, Prince...I have a feeling if Bob Geren leads the A's to the basement of the 'tough NL West', he'll have pulled off the kind of baseball miracle that warrants a multi-year contract extension!

Aw, come on John. Don't be sarcastic. So what if Beane fired Ken Macha and dumped Art Howe after each led the A's to the playoffs multiple times? Keeping Geren is easily explained despite the Steinbrenner-esque way in which Beane used to dispatch successful managers----the man needs friends now!


Joe said...

See this argument is entirely to your advantage. If the Red Sox don't win it all, then you will say you were right, but the odds are that they don't win it all. I would take "the field" over any team in baseball to win it all this year. Who wouldn't? The Red Sox improved drastically their very poor defense from a year ago, where they finished close to last in total D. Sure, it would be nice to have a Miguel Cabrera, but do you know what one of those bats would have cost? Not just a few decent prospects, multiple *good* prospects. They signed two stopgaps, Beltre and Cameron, until they can make a play in a better free agent market and/or until players such as Josh Reddick, Lars Anderson, and a few others are ready.


Jeff said...

Adrian Beltre remains as the greatest thief of all time, snagging that mega-deal from the Mariners after his one and only epic season (2004, as noted here). Like you, Prince, I'm wondering what was going on behind the scenes for Beltre that year. At the time, I lived in L.A. and saw a lot of that season... he was an animal. An absolute animal. Then *POOF*... back to his quietly modest self. If I were the Mariners I'd be outraged.

She-Fan said...

The Yankees are better than the Red Sox? That's all I need to hear.

Anonymous said...

The Red Sox were scrambling to make excuses after a guy they already replaced signed elsewhere? I must be missing something.

Anonymous said...

Easy there internet tough guy. My name is Matt, I like your blog, but happen to disagree. I didn't feel a need to sign up to comment with a name.