Happy Birthday to baseball legend and American icon Babe Ruth, born on February 6, 1895.
The discussion of two-way baseball players starts and ends with Babe Ruth. In the years before the infamous sale that sent Ruth from Boston to New York, the man known as the “Sultan of Swat” was baseball’s premier left-handed pitcher. Ruth would later become the most prolific hitter in baseball history.
Before his powerful uppercut swing made home runs relevant and transformed baseball into an offensive game, the full-time pitching ace and part-time slugger led the Red Sox to three
World Series Championships. Ruth put together a 94-46 career record with nearly all of his pitching appearances coming in a Red Sox uniform. His 2.28 ERA is 17th lowest in baseball history.
The Babe found his place on the pitcher’s mound at the St. Mary’s Industrial School, a boys’ reformatory school. He developed his craft with the Baltimore Orioles of the International League under owner and manager Jack Dunn, who signed the 19-year-old southpaw to his first professional contract in 1914. The first Ruth baseball card was included in the 1914 Baltimore News series. Issued with red or blue fronts and black variation backs, the card displays a gangly teenager yet to make his major league debut. A red PSA-1 version of the Ruth rookie sold at auction for $450,300 last year.
Struck with financial hardship due to the emergence of the Baltimore Terrapins of the short-lived Federal League, the Orioles unloaded Ruth, Ernie Shore and Ben Egan to the Red Sox for $16,000 later that year. Pitching behind established hurlers Smokey Joe Wood and Dutch Leonard among others, Ruth was used sparingly. But in 1915, he went 18-8 as the team’s third starter and helped the Red Sox to the AL Pennant.
In 1916, Ruth emerged as a dominant pitcher, winning 21 games while tossing nine shutouts and posting a league-best 1.75 ERA. Helping the Red Sox to back-to-back World Series championships, Ruth pitched 14 innings for a 2-1 Game 2 victory over the Brooklyn Robins.
Still considered a top-notch pitcher, Ruth returned in 1917 with a 24-13 record and 2.01 ERA. He finished 35 of the 38 games he started. At the same time, Ruth’s offensive prowess was taking shape. He finished the season batting .325, triggering an eight-year streak of hitting .300 or better.
Already an established pitching ace, Ruth’s transformation to iconic slugger hit full stride in 1918. Primarily an outfielder, Ruth led the league in homers with 11, earning his first of 12 home run titles. Appearing in 20 games as a pitcher, he went 13-7 with a 2.22 ERA. The Babe pitched a 1-0 shutout in Game 1 of the World Series and won Game 4, as he established a 29 ⅓ scoreless innings streak, eclipsed by Whitey Ford decades later.
The Babe made 17 appearances on the mound in 1919, going 9-5 with a 2.97 ERA, but by this time pitching was merely a diversion for the future Hall of Fame slugger-to-be. Ruth led the league in home runs (29), RBI (114) and runs (103). Following the 1919 season, the Yankees purchased Babe Ruth the slugger, not the ace pitcher from financially-strapped Red Sox owner Harry Frazee for $100,000.
Ruth’s Red Sox-Yankees overlap is highlighted in his 1914 Frederick Foto card. The unique card displaying a photo-quality image, pictures the Babe in a red Sox uniform, but reads “Babe Ruth N.Y.” in the upper left-hand corner.
In his first season with the Yankees Ruth set a new standard with 54 home runs, effectively introducing America to a new brand of baseball emphasizing power and brawn over speed and savvy. Putting Ruth’s 1920 season in perspective: No other player hit more than 19 home runs and only one team hit more homers than Ruth did individually.
Laying the groundwork for what would become the Yankee Dynasty, Ruth’s 1921 season may have been the greatest in MLB history. The 26-year-old Ruth batted .376 while bashing 59 homers, driving in 171 runs, scoring 177 runs, and slugging a then-unthinkable .846. Riding Ruth’s prowess as a slugger, the Yankees became baseball’s most recognizable — not to mention most dominant — team, establishing new attendance records almost annually.
He eventually raised the bar to 60 round-trippers in 1927, a record that would stand for 34 years. The Babe’s contribution to baseball was almost as significant as his contribution to the New York Yankees. The new stadium built to house a growing fan base was quickly dubbed “The House That Ruth Built.”
Prior to Ruth wearing pinstripes, the Yankees neverwon a title of any sort. In his 15 years in New York, the Yankees captured seven AL Pennants and four World Series titles. Most baseball historians consider the 1927 Yankees to be the best team in baseball history.
Ruth returned to Boston in 1935 to play his final season with the Braves, hitting six homers to bump his career total to 714. The Bambino held an amazing 56 major league records at the time of his retirement — including most career home runs. In 1936 the newly formed Baseball Hall of Fame elected Babe Ruth as one of its five original inductees. More than 75 years after his retirement, Ruth remains one of baseball’s first and America’s greatest icons.
The complete history of the Babe can be found in the 1962 “Babe Ruth Special” subset, which captures significant moments from his life and career, beginning with “Babe as a Boy” (#135) and ending with “Babe’s Farewell Speech”. The special 10-card subset was issued one year after Roger Maris eclipsed the Babe’s single-season home run record. Most of the cards can be found in good – very good condition for $8-$15.
Christmas comes early for Red Sox fans as the Old Towne Team acquires the best available pitcher for four prospects. Never one to shy away from a blockbuster deal, Red Sox baseball cazr Dave Dombrowski has put the Red Sox in prime position to be baseball’s best for the next several years.
WHAT DOES THE SALE TRADE MEAN TO THE RED SOX?
Chris Sale joins a rotation with Cy Young winners Rick Porcello (2016) and David Price (2012) not to mention 2016 All-Stars Steve Wright and Drew Pomeranz. Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez provide depth and possible trade chips for roster flexibility and future improvements.
If all goes according to plan, the triple-headed monster atop the rotation will account for 50 or so wins and more the 600 mostly-quality innings. Improving the pitching rotation was not a top priority for the 2017 Red Sox, but Sale is a big-time difference maker. With a vastly improved rotation combined with a rebuilt bullpen and a dynamic offense, the Red Sox are clearly the team to beat in the American League.
HOW GOOD IS CHRIS SALE?
Sale had yet to win a Cy Young Award, but his resume is quite impressive:
- Finished in the top six of the AL Cy Young voting each of the past five years with a high of third place in 2014 when he compiled a 2.17 ERA.
- Had a league-leading 274 strikeouts in 208.2 innings in 2015.
- In the past five years, just one major league pitcher has a lower ERA than Sale’s 3.04 and more strikeouts than his 1,133. His name is Clayton Kershaw.
- Has struck out 27.9% of the batters he’s faced in his major league career, which is best among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched.
- Has produced more value by Wins Above Replacement than any other players from the 2010 draft class, ahead of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Read that last bullet point again … slowly … Yes, it’s true, Chris Sale has been that productive.
- Has finished in the top 10 among AL pitchers in WAR four times, strikeouts five times, and ERA five times in just five seasons as a starter. That is a gigantic WOW!
- Ranks first among all active AL pitchers in career WHIP (1.01). Partner in crime and fellow southpaw David Price ranks second (1.14).
- Is 4-1 with an anemic 1.17 ERA in 10 career games against the Yankees.
Always a good sign when your newly-acquired, yet-to-reach-his-prime, 27-year-old-pitcher has a more accomplished career than his two Cy Young Award winning teammates.
AT WHAT COST DID THE RED SOX ACQUIRE CHRIS SALE?
A pitcher of Sale’s caliber does not come cheap. With an aim towards the World Series, the Red Sox paid a steep price to acquire one of the game’s best pitchers.
The deal would not have happened without 21-year-old Cuban import Yoan Moncada changing his red sox for white. The No. 1 prospect in Baseball America’s “Midseason Top 100”, Moncada has compiled a .875 OPS with 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games. The switch-hitting, fielding-challenged Moncada was also named Baseball America’s 2016 Minor League Player of the Year. He’s projected to be the White Sox second baseman of the future.
Comparisons to Harper, Machado, and Mike Trout are a bit premature as Moncada strikes out at an alarming rate and is suspect defensively, but his raw potential is staggering. He has big-time speed and major power potential built into a 6’2”, 205-pound frame. With second base his likely landing place, Moncada reminds many baseball people of Robinson Cano.
The White Sox also receive flamethrowing prospect Michael Kopech, a potential ace with with a checkered past. One of the game’s top pitching prospects, Kopech’s fastball consistently clocks at 101 mph and has reportedly topped out at 105 mph. He also throws a plus curveball and is developing a change up. Missed time due to a PED suspension and broken hand resulting from an altercation with a teammate have slowed his growth and caused reason for concern. But Kopech has a big-time arm and the White Sox believe he is worth the gamble.
Luis Alexander Basabe, a speedy centerfielder with many tools, and Victor Diaz, a strong-armed reliever with command issues complete the deal. Both have significant upside, but are several years away from cracking the majors.
Yes, the bounty was high, but opportunities to acquire the Chris Sales of the world are few and far between.
IS THERE ANY RISK INVOLVED FOR THE RED SOX?
There is always some risk involved with blockbuster deals. Sale’s low-slot, high-elbow pitching motion accounts for deceptive movement to his pitches, but also puts him at risk for declining velocity or potential injury. Some scouts believe Sale’s pitching motion will cause accelerated wear and tear to his elbow. The Red Sox are using the past to project the future. In his five year career, Sale has never made fewer than 26 starts and has qualified for an ERA title every year. With the Red Sox pitching depth, an occasional skipped start to rest the arm should not be an issue.
The Red Sox are taking minimal risk financially as they control Sale for three years for $38 million — an absolute steal for an ace in today’s pitching market. He will count just $6 million against the luxury tax next season. The likely shedding of Buchholz’s $13.5 million contract before the start of the season will keep the Red Sox under the $195 million luxury tax threshold.
DID THE RED SOX MAKE A WISE DECISION IN TRADING FOR SALE?
Absolutely, positively yes. Red Sox ownership brought Dombrowski to Boston to win a World Series, not to have the most players in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list. Sale in the starting rotation brings the Red Sox closer to the ultimate goal than Moncada, Kopech, et al developing in the minors. The future is now.
Merry Christmas, Red Sox fans!
Any comparisons to Babe Ruth are subject to hyperbole, but the recent exploits of 22-year-old Shohei Otani give us reason to believe the Japanese star could be the Major League’s next great two-way ball player.
The recently-named Most Valuable Player of the Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball became the first professional league Japanese player to hit 10 or more homers and win 10 or more games as a pitcher in the same season. The only player in major league history to score a double-double was Ruth, who stroked 11 home runs and won 13 games for the 1918 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.
Otani is coming off one of the greatest seasons in Japanese history, boasting a 10-4 record with a 1.86 ERA. The right-handed flamethrower posted a 0.95 WHIP while averaging 11.2 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings. Moonlighting as a left-handed-hitting DH, the 6-foot-4 Otani slugged 22 home runs while hitting .322 with a whopping 1.004 OPS in 104 games. After four professional season, Otani is 39-13-2.49 as a pitcher while batting .275 with 40 homers and an .838 OPS.
Pacific Rim scouts have referred to Otani as the “modern-day Babe Ruth”. A top-of-the rotation pitcher and a middle-of-the-order slugger all in one. Otani throws a high-90s fastball that has reportedly topped out at 103 mph. He uses a low-90s forkball to keep hitters off balance. His changeup, which he hasn’t needed to this point, still a work in progress.
With natural power and a keen eye at the plate, Otani projects to be a legitimate major league hitter. Otani played 62 games as a corner outfielder his first two years as a professional. A sprained ankle early in the 2014 season quickly put an end to Otani’s outfield duties. He has been used exclusively as a DH when not pitching over the last two years.
Otani yearns to pitch and hit in the majors, to compete against the best in the world as a pitcher and a hitter. The questions ahead are complicated: How does he walk away from Japan and gain entrance to the majors at such a young age? Is there a major league team that will break the bank to sign Otani and allow him to hit between pitching assignments?
Otani cannot test the free agent waters until accumulating nine seasons in the Nippon Professional
League. However, the Nippon Ham Fighters can — and reportedly will — allow Otani entrance into the majors via the posing system at the conclusion of the 2017 season. The Fighters will surely receive the maximum $20 million posting fee from the major league team that would sign Otani. With revenues on the rise for MLB and free agent contracts spiraling upward — not to mention the mystery surrounding the next potential international star — could mean a long-term contract breaking $200 million for Otani, according to published reports.
Several Major League teams — including the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers — expressed interest in Otani four years ago. As a high school two-way player, Otani led his team to the Koshien Championshipship. The Fighters were able to convince Otani that his only chance to excel as a two way player would be in Japan.
A year from now several teams will be will likely be willing to empty the vault for his services. His decision may hinge on which team allows him to pitch and hit on a regular basis. Will an American League team allow Otani to DH or play the outfield two or three times a week? Is he better suited to pitch — and hit for himself — in the National League? Will batting just every fifth day satisfy his appetite? Will pitching every fifth day opposed to every sixth day (as he does in Japan) affect his workload as a pitcher or hitter? Questions that possible suitors and Otani need to answer in what looks to be a fascinating 2017 off season.
Otani is expected to display his baseball skills globally in the World Baseball Classic next spring. Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo is planning to use him as a pitcher, DH, and pinch hitter.
Otani’s first baseball card was an insert in Japan’s Sports Card Magazine #97 released in January 2013. It was a promo card for the 2013 BBM Rookie Edition set. Expect this card and other Otani rookies to gain significant interest during the WBC.
There’s a reason why the Red Sox — fresh off their third World Series Championship in 10 years — allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to flee to New York following the the 2013 season with little resistance..
The reason was Jackie Bradley Jr. The same reason why Cuban import Rusney Castillo, who signed a $72.5 million contract in 2014, is trying to find his groove with the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox.
There is a reason why former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and newly appointed baseball chief Dave Dombrowski rebuked the many trade offers for the multi-talented Bradley over the past three years despite Bradley’s anemic .198 batting average and .531 OPS in his 2014 major league debut season. That reason is coming to fruition on a nightly basis.
The previously all-field, no-hit centerfielder has become one of baseball’s most dangerous offensive threats. Bradley is working on a 15-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this season. During that time, he is hitting a robust .382 with four doubles, three triples, four homers and 17 RBI with a sizzling 1.215 OPS. Bradley’s .903 OPS for the season is 13th in the AL, just behind proven offensive forces Mike Trout (.964) and Josh Donaldson (.931).
Although the sample size is small, Bradley has been one of baseball’s toughest outs this season. Facing defenses stacked to the right side, Bradley has found the gaps with a powerful opposite-field swing. He has also been able to pull the ball with authority when facing pitches on the inner half of the plate.
With just parts of three major league seasons under his belt, Bradley already has a wide-array of baseball cards ranging no-glitz minor league cards to chrome and high-premium rookies. His earliest cards date back to his college days.
As the driving force behind the University of South Carolina’s first national championship in 2010, Bradley established himself as a highly-skilled offensive and defensive player worthy of first-round consideration in the MLB amateur draft. Bradley hit .368, with a mind-blowing 1.060 OPS, 60 RBI, 56 runs, 13 homers and seven steals in 67 games during the regular season. Ten hits during the World Series earned the Richmond, VA native the College World Series Most Outstanding Player Award. Bradley’s 2010 Topps “Collegiate Team” Triple Jersey is a great buy for $5.
Later that summer, Bradley threw out the first pitch at a Kansas City Royals game as Major League Baseball honored the South Carolina Gamecocks championship team. The recognition continued as Bradley was named to the Team USA Collegiate National Team.
The 2010 Bowman Platinum Rookie, Bradley’s first baseball card of note, captures the five-tool outfielder in his left-handed stance against a silhouetted baseball field background. This card is a great buy for $3 with the “Gold” parallel version selling for $8. High-gloss Bowman Platinum rookie cards gain significant value as rising stars develop. Trout, Bryce Harper, Mike Stanton, Buster Posey and Jason Heyward Platinum rookies are some of the hobby’s most sought-after cards.
Bradley’s first memorabilia card can also be found in the Platinum Series. His USA Autograph/Jersey card with a production run of 740 sell for $45 and are on the rise. The more scarce version, limited to a production run of 50, is approaching $100 in value. Be sure to keep the Platinum cards in protective shields, as fingerprints will appear on the silver or gold foil and edges chip with the slightest contact.
A subpar junior season, which ended with a wrist injury, turned into good fortune for the Red Sox. Watching a player with off-the-chart tools and advanced skills slip through the first round, the Red Sox pounced on Bradley with the 40th overall pick. He was actually their fourth pick of the day, behind highly-touted pitcher Matt Barnes, catcher Blake Swihart and pitcher Henry Owens. Bradley quickly proved his worth by reaching AA-ball in his first full season and finishing second in the system in batting average and first in on-base percentage.
Bradley’s 2012 Bowman Rookie — his first card in a Red Sox uniform — is a great buy for $1, while the chrome version is selling for $2.00. Still reasonably priced, now is the time to buy these cards. Chrome Refractor Autograph versions are selling for as much as $90.
Around the horn with the Red Sox lineup …
Ortiz is the only major leaguer to slug 30 homers and 100 RBI in each of the last three seasons. The Red Sox need the same production from their 40-year-old DH during the Big Papi Farewell Tour. The spotlight usually brings the best out of Ortiz, which is good news for the Red Sox. Ortiz rookie and memorabilia cards will be hot commodities by season’s end.
By all accounts, Ramirez’s transition to first base has been far from flawless, but much better than expected. I still have reservations. Ramirez has frustrated coaching staffs with overall indifference throughout his career. Entering his 13th big league season, should we expect a change in attitude? Ramirez has displayed the ability to field ground balls and handle cut-offs. He struggles with scooping balls thrown in the dirt. I’m having trouble picturing the less-than-nibble Ramirez starting and finishing a 3-6-3 double play. Much of the Red Sox success — or lack of success — will depend on Ramirez’s ability to be an offensive force while learning a new position — a position where there is little room for error.
When Pedroia is healthy, he’s one of the game’s best all-around second baseman and a lynchpin at the top of the Red Sox batting order. He’s at the point of his career where he may have to sit once a week or so. Keeping Pedroia strong and playing at a high level is one of the main goals of the coaching staff this season.
He’s becoming one of the game’s top shortstops right before our very eyes. Hard work has brought out his natural offensive and defensive abilities. Look for a little less batting average and a little more power and production in 2016. Buy his baseball cards early and often while they are still affordable.
A former first baseman, Shaw has quickly become the best third baseman on the team — not by default, but from tremendous overall play at the end of last season and to this point in spring training. A left-handed hitter with the ability to drive the ball to all fields, the Red Sox are intrigued by Shaw’s Fenway power potential. At this point, Shaw is an absolute must everyday player. Taking a look at Shaw’s early baseball cards isn’t a bad idea.
A complete bust. The weight issues, anemic hitting and lack of range are well documented. Quite simply, Sandoval was MLB’s Least Valuable Player last season. With little defensive ability these days and no proven record as a pinch hitter, the former World Series MVP is not expected to make much of an impact this season. With $75 million still owed to him, Sandoval appears to be untradeable — unless the Red Sox eat a ton of money. Bad situation not matter how you look at it.
He’s young, dynamic, extremely talented, articulate, good natured, and committed to excellence — reminiscent of Andrew McCutchen. Enjoy the ride folks, you don’t see this type of player very often. I’m looking for deals on his baseball cards as well.
JACKIE BRADLEY, Jr.
A bit of an enigma early in his career, Bradley needs to prove he’s more than an all-field, no-hit player. Defensively, Bradley is in a class by himself, combining speed, athleticism and an uncanny ability read the ball off the bat. Offensively he’s displayed stretches of power and production along with on base potential. There have also been miserable stretches of non-stop swinging and missing. Will the real Jackie Bradley Jr. please stand up.
The jack-of-all-trades player will get most of his at bats in left field to start the season. The Brock Star won’t put up huge numbers, but he’s a smart, steady, grinding type of player with lots of energy. One of the more valuable players on the team, Holt will also serve as backup for all infield positions. Just call him Ben Zobrist-lite.
Mashes left handed pitching, should be a good fit at Fenway. Platooning with Holt leaves the Red Sox left field is in good hands.
Castillo has a huge contract and lots of potential, but is fifth on the Red Sox outfield depth chart — not a good place to be considering all of the talent above him. A plus fielder and fast runner, Castillo has yet to prove he can consistently hit major league fastballs. Most of the competition in Cuba threw an assortment of junk, which Castillo mashed. He’s finding the power pitching of the majors much more challenging. Wouldn’t call Castillo a bust just yet, but the Red Sox may have overestimated his talent.
BLAKE SWIHART / RYAN HANIGAN / CHRISTAIN VAZQUEZ
Swihart gets the nod to start the season. The Red Sox expect big things offensively from 24-year-old switch-hitter and continued improvement defensively. Vazquez is a defensive specialist adept at calling games and framing pitches. The Red Sox will bring him along slowly, hoping to restore his cannon arm a year removed from Tommy John surgery. At some point, the Red Sox will need to decide between the Swihart’s offensive production and Vazquez’s defense and leadership. Not a bad problem to have. In the meantime, Hanigan is a sound backup.
The second part of a semi-regular series on “Baseball’s Most Unbreakable Records”.
Sometimes baseball’s most unbreakable records need to be framed in the proper context. Sometimes luck or fate has more affect on the baseball record book than we realize.
Tris Speaker never actually came close to Joe DiMaggio’s “unbreakable” 56-game hitting streak established decades after Speaker’s Hall of Fame career. But the Red Sox Hall of Fame outfielder from the deadball era did something nearly as remarkable — some might say even more remarkable.
In 1912, Speaker had hitting streaks of 20 games or more three different times — “a feat not even the great DiMaggio could ever duplicate”, wrote Timothy Gray, author of the fascinating and meticulously researched book Tris Speaker: A Rough and Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend. Gay cited research done by dead-ball era historian Dan Holmes, who maintains Speaker came within an “eyelash or two” of a 70-game (or more) hitting streak. From May 27 – August 14, Speaker played in 78 games and collected a hit in all but four of them. A scratch hit here, a wind-blown double there and we may be looking at the baseball record book from a different perspective.
1912 was a great season for Speaker and the Red Sox. Celebrating the opening of Fenway Park, Speaker earned the American League MVP award and led the Red Sox to a World Series title over the Christy Mathewson and the New York Giants. Speaker, an exceptional contact hitter who could drive the ball to the gaps, flirted with .400 for much of the season before finishing with .383 batting average. He led the league in doubles with 53 and home runs with 10.
Running neck and neck with Ty Cobb as the greatest fielder of the time period, the man they called “Spoke” established a record for outfield assist that season with 35 — an amazing accomplishment that has never been equalled. Speaker, renowned for playing a shallow centerfield — and by shallow, historians say he positioned himself just behind second base — also led the league “by engineering nine catch-and-throw double plays” that season, according to Gay’s book.
John Henry’s declaration that the Red Sox have relied too much on analytics in recent years has made for interesting sports radio fodder, but does the Red Sox owner really mean what he says? After all, his team employs Bill James, the father of sabermetrics, and spends more money on statistical analysis than most major league teams. Henry made his fortune analyzing the commodities and stock markets, so crunching numbers is in his blood.
I don’t mean to put words in Henry’s billion-dollar mouth, but I believe he intended to say, “We will continue to use analytics — You remember our 2004, 2007 and 2013 teams, don’t you? — but analytics will no longer trump the obvious.”
The Red Sox projected big numbers from Pablo Sandoval when they inked him to a five-year, $95 million contract over a year ago. But they ignored the obvious, most basic statistics: Sandoval’s batting average and OPS had dropped in three consecutive seasons. Last year, Sandoval’s first in a Red Sox uniform, made four.
The Red Sox also seemed to ignore Sandoval’s ever-expanding waistline. Sandoval has battled weight issues his entire career. His extra pounds likely contributed to his troubles at the plate and clearly limited his range at third base. Statistically, you could argue that Sandoval was one of baseball’s least productive players — offensively and defensively — last season.
The Red Sox also had high expectations for Hanley Ramirez, but again overlooked the obvious. Ramirez’s career has been mired with injuries, peaks, valleys, and overall indifference. Last season was no different. He was one of baseball’s top sluggers for month or so before a shoulder injury limited his play for the remainder of the season. Never much of an infielder, Ramirez played Fenway’s left field like it was covered with landmines.
His work ethic and ability to bounce back from injuries were questioned by previous coaching staffs in Florida and Los Angeles, but the still Red Sox emptied the vault (four years, $88 million) for the unreliable Ramirez to be the focal point of their offense while learning a new position.
The Red Sox also swung and missed with Rick Porcello. Last off-season, the Sox traded a valuable commodity (Yoenis Cespedes) for Porcello and promptly signed the right-handed pitcher to a four-year, $82.5 million contract extension. Paid like an ace, Porcello performed like a pitcher struggling to stay in the majors. The Red Sox clearly saw something in Porcello that others did not. He may emerge as a solid mid-rotation pitcher, but nothing more.
New baseball chief Dave Dombrowski brings different methods and skills to the table. Regarded as a top baseball executive, Dombroski developed his craft in the scouting and developmental departments of the White Sox and Expos before running the shows in Florida and Detroit. Metrics mean something, but his eyes tell him more.
Upon arrival in Boston, he quickly identified the team’s biggest needs and quickly attacked, signing David Price and trading for Craig Kimbrel. Price is the ace every contending team needs and Kimbrel, a bonafide, card-carrying closer that solidifies the entire bullpen. As the Kansas City Royals have proven, the road to the World Series goes through the bullpen these days.
The Red Sox spend significant time and money on scouting and analytics. Dombrowski is charged with merging the two components. He’s old school, so count on the eye test to be the deciding factor. And don’t count on the new Red Sox missing the obvious anytime soon.