Warning: the following is a long, somewhat convoluted post about Baseball.
Those that have been paying attention know I am a Boston Red Sox Fan (roughly 76% of my social media posts are about the team). Others that are looking closely enough can tell that beyond being a Red Sox fan, every year I fall more and more in love with the game of baseball in general.
Which is why yesterday was such a conflicting, faux-motional day (because emotions relating to baseball are admittedly vapid, processed and fleeting).
In no particular order, some disjointed baseball thoughts:
Yoenis Cespedes v. Jon Lester: Admittedly the trade that will become the biggest deal for Red Sox fans both for who we lost and who we gained.
Losing Jon Lester will sting. A lot. Probably for a long time. His impact on this city and this franchise for the better part of the last decade cannot be denied and won’t soon be forgotten.
But adding Cespedes makes our batting order dangerous again. Period.
The guy is a genuine all-star (the only back to back winner of the Home Run Derby since Ken Griffey Jr. did it in the 90s…and they named video games after that guy) who will only get better over time. He will be a major player in 2015 and most likely a fan favorite starting as early as when he suits up at Fenway this weekend. Sure we probably won’t be seeing him patrolling the outfield in 2016, but it’ll be fun while it lasts. Plus if there is any truth to the idea that he’ll be used as trade-bait to get one Giancarlo Stanton to beantown, all the better.
Lester, as a credit to his immense talent, will be joining one of the better starting rotations in the American League, if not the entire MLB. The Sox will not be facing the A’s again this season, which is good for two reasons. 1) We won’t need to see Lester in another uniform for a little while and 2) we won’t have to face a starting rotation that includes of Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija AND Jon Lester. Scary stuff, folks.
Plus, while this may be blind optimism talking, I still like our chances of bringing Lester back during the off season. Sure a personal goodbye hug from John Henry isn’t a surefire indication of anything, especially after the front office kinda sorta dragged Lester through the mud since Spring Training with that low-ball extension offer and subsequent (public) commentary on Lester and his agent’s negotiating tactics (if he wasn’t insulted, he should have been). Thoughout all of that though, Lester’s feelings did not change: he wants to retire a Red Sock. I think he meant it when he said he’d want to come back even if he was traded, and even if our lovely friends from the Bronx offer him half of their overall salary for the year, I have a feeling he has more Cliff Lee inside of him than Jacoby Ellsbury. Then again, even if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t blame him.
Jonny Gomes, as much as his antics and heart will be missed in this city, his poor performance against righties and occasionally laughable defense will not. At the very least, he’ll get a chance to continue his “brings victory wherever he goes” mantra out in Oakland, where he’ll have absolutely nothing to do with any of their inevitable victories.
Welcome to Boston, Allen Craig: I first heard the name Allen Craig when he tripped over Will Middlebrooks during last year’s Fall Classic and won the game for the Cardinals on an obstruction call. Admittedly, this did not endear him to me.
Now that he’ll be patrolling left field at Fenway, I did a little more research. Currently in the middle of a down year, the first of his young career, he’ll join several members of the Red Sox currently in the same boat (ahem Xander Bogaerts). Will a change of scenery change his fortunes? Maybe. Probably not this year, but maybe. A .313 hitter probably doesn’t forget how to be one that quickly, and we’ll have him under control for a while. There is potential here.
Similarly, Joe Kelly is also riding a massive wave of potential that, at least this year, was not playing out for him. Would I have preferred to see Shelby Miller make his way over to replace John Lackey in the rotation? Yes. Do I have more faith in Joe Kelly rebounding and making a bigger impact in our rotation than some of the other young guns he currently shares starting duties with? Yes again.
John Lackey, as much as his work on the mound this year and last year made me forget how much of a douchey douche he was the two years prior, made more sense as a trade chip than even Jon Lester did. Frankly speaking, I don’t think he would ever be able to top his reputation in the city as it was when he was traded, and the chances of him doing or saying something to tarnish it were high. We’ll miss his arm in the rotation, sure, but the rest of the body attached to it are probably best hitting the road on a high note. And hey, he’ll be reunited with AJ Pierzynski after probably being the only Sox pitcher that liked being caught by him during the horrible afterthought that will be AJ’s time with Boston. Silver lining?
Goodbye Stephen Drew (again), Hello Kelly Johnson: I can’t think of any reason why this trade happened other than to get Xander Bogaerts back playing shortstop. Which, admittedly, is a good thing. Kelly Johnson (coming to Boston on the DL) will presumably have no major impact whatsoever in the Red Sox organization. Drew had his moment in the spotlight here and I will remember his 2013 with us fondly. But bringing him back in desperation was a mistake and I feel like the Bronx will be a much better fit for him moving forward after that other Shortstop they have retires at the end of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Drew in pinstripes for a while.
What this move means for Brock Holt (especially given the acquisitions of Craig and Cespedes) and, more pressingly, Will Middlebrooks, remains to be seen.
Ou Revoir, Sasquatch: Better Andrew Miller than Koji Uehara (because you better believe Miller would’ve slotted in as closer if Koji was dealt) is all I need to say on this one. (Other than I could see him coming back in the off season as well.)
Detroit Tiger David Price: The deals coming out of Yawkey Way weren’t the only ones that caught my eye yesterday. For most of the day following the Lester/Cespedes swap, I would’ve said we should just ship the World Series trophy over to Billy Beane’s Office now and call it a day. Then the Tigers, in league with the crafty Mariners, finally pried David Price loose from Tampa Purgatory for a three month rental. That will make for a genuinely silly ALCS from a pitching standpoint.
Hitting for Pitching: The Red Sox have done an absolutely dreadful job of defending their World Championship this season. Admittedly, back to back championships are almost impossible to pull off in this day and age for whatever reason (just ask San Francisco), but part of me thinks they could have done a little bit better than 13 games out of first place at the trade deadline.
That having been said, the one bright spot of this season has been our pitching. Our starting rotation, for the most part, has been solid enough and our bullpen has been widely regarded as one of the best in the league. For whatever reason, we couldn’t hit to save our lives, but defensively we had a lot of promising trade chips for teams still in contention, some of whom would have been free agents come October anyway.
Looking forward to the 2014-2015 off season, the big names of free agency will consist largely of top of the rotation pitchers. David Price, Max Scherzer, James Shields and, yes, Jon Lester, will all be in the market for new teams, and those are just the major highlights. The opportunities for teams to upgrade their offense via free agency will be limited. All of Ben Cherington’s moves yesterday had this very fact in mind, which is what makes having Cespedes and Craig all the more valuable for the Red Sox, who have already stated they plan to pursue top of the order pitchers come November, including our now former ace.
Dealing away Jon Lester and John Lackey is, without a doubt, a signal that we have given up on this season. That said, the way it was done indicates a decisive, thoughtful understanding of the game that took stock of the resources becoming available in three months and the ones that were not. Yes, watching a starting rotation headlined by Clay Buchholz for the next two months will be painful. Probably REALLY painful. But Red Sox Nation should have hope for next year and even a little excitement about our new Cuban Cannon Arm.
Root Root Root for the…???: Just because the Red Sox are out, does not mean baseball should be dead to me. Will I keep watching until the end of the season, despite how painful it will be? Of course! (I’ll be at Fenway on Sunday, in fact.) However, given that my team is completely and utterly out of contention for the rest of the season, on whom should I peg my post-season hopes and dreams?
As mentioned above, the A’s and the Tigers both make very convincing cases. However, I am prepared to say that I will be adding the Oakland home page to my reading list and invest in some Gold and Green to accompany my traditional red and navy.
In fact, I will go so far as to say that all of Red Sox Nation should adopt the A’s as their slightly less beloved step-children down the stretch for one “less than obvious unless you’re looking for it” reason:
The Red Sox owe 2013 to Billy Beane.
I won’t bother summarizing Moneyball for you, you can read/watch it yourself. The short version is that Beane (and friends) revitalized the way modern analysts look at baseball and the players that entertain us by playing it. Without a doubt, Ben Cherington built the 2013 roster using many of the tactics developed by Beane, finding hidden statistics in footnoted players that, when combined (with a little luck thrown in) created a World Champion roster.
And yet, since he turned down the opportunity to manage the Red Sox in 2002 in favor of staying in Oakland to bring victory to the city, that coveted trophy has eluded him. Even before the pair of blockbuster trades that he pulled off, this year’s roster gave him his best shot at it (what with their 6 all-stars), and with his shiny new starting rotation, some would say it is now his to lose.
And it’s about time the man got to put a ring on his finger.
And besides, the current A’s roster includes not one, not two, but SEVEN former Red Sox, now including one of the men we would not have won that third trophy in ten years without and others who were fairly beloved in their time here (Coco Crisp, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, Jed Lowrie, Nick Punto, Jonny Gomes & Jon Lester).
Let’s Go Red Sox.
Let’s Go Lester.
Let’s Go Oakland.