Re: Shaughnessy Sox have become a mid level market team
posted at 7/25/2014 10:23 AM EDT
Shaughnessy is just being Shaughnessy, who is someone who likes to rattle our cages.
There are 30 teams in MLB, and the Sox consistently rank in the top ten, often the top five, in home attendance, and, since the arrival of John Henry, have always ranked in the top five in salaries. So there is no realistic, fact-driven way of defining the Sox as a mid level market team.
However, if you consider the Yankees, who are in the same division, who are presumptive rivals of the Sox, who have won 27 WS--the most in MLB and the most professional championships of any sports franchise in America--and who regularly outspend every other team in MLB, if you consider the Yankees to be the prototypical top level market team, then maybe you have a case for the calling the Sox mid level. Johnny Damon was a good hitter with a good year in 2004, so he was gone--to the Yankees. Before that the Sox had a deal to get ARod from Texas, but the MLBPA wouldn't accept it because ARod was going to accept less money to play for a good team. Instead, ARod went to the Yankees, who not only continued his $25M/year salary, but later agreed to pay him $28M a year thru age 42. Ellsbury going to the Yankees for a ridiculous amount of money was part of the same pattern. Clearly, if the Yankees are the standard for doing things right, the Sox are falling short. Otherwise, not.
On the other hand, the Sox themselves have been known to ramp things up to get a good player--thus the acquisition of Manny Ramirez at $20M a year and later the acquisitions of AGon, CC, and even John Lackey. Plus Schilling and then Beckett. All well compensated. Manny was probably worth it despite Manny being Manny. CC definitely was not. Lackey was not until last year, when the tommy john surgery and rehab and big salary despite not doing much paid off handsomely. Schilling was worth it, and Beckett was definitely worth it in 2007, including the postseason, but otherwise not so much.
I thought the deal sending CC, AGon (the pot sweetener for the other two), and Beckett to the Dodgers in the summer of 2012 was absolutely the right deal to make. So did most other folks. But maybe Shaughnessy would have us believe it was a mistake because the Sox should be doing their utmost to spend close to what the Yankees spend. If so, I disagree.
A word or two more on Ellsbury, who is currently paid $22M/year, which is double, triple, and even quadruple what the Sox paid him, depending on the year, and that includes 2011, which was a career year for Ells and which is unlikely ever to be duplicated. Right now his WAR (wins above replacement, which measures overall value, hitting, fielding, baserunning, of a player) is 2.2, which ranks him 10th among MLB centerfielders. It goes without saying he is paid much more than the 9 ranked above him. More interesting is that just two notches below, ranked 12th with a WAR of 2.0, is someone named Jackie Bradley Jr., who replaced Ellsbury in CF for the Red Sox.
So I am herewith calling out Mr. Shaughnessy and saying the Sox decision not to pay a king's ransom for Ellsbury and to take a chance on JBJ was a smart baseball decision and that you do not pay $152M for a decent not great bat (his OPS is .770, below his career average of .787, which is a gigantic surprise because the Yankee Stadium short porch in RF was made to boost Ellsbury's numbers), a weak arm, and great wheels. Those guys are worth maybe $12M/year.
Let me say too that last year's success, especially in the postseason, was clearly the result of design, not happenstance. The Sox regular season hitting was very good and, I agree, a surprise, but I think we should also agree none of us expected Ellsbury (back after missing 2012), Ortiz, Victorino, Napoli, Saltalamacchia, and Pedroia to have lousy years at the plate. The surprises were Napoli's fielding, not hitting, Iglesias's hitting (but he was traded on August 1), Drew's fielding, and the good hitting of the LF platoon, Nava/Gomes. The Sox made no major changes in pitching before the 2013 season, but did acquire Peavy (for Iglesias) after Buchholz went down in June. Yet it was clearly the pitching, plus a very few clutch hits despite overall weak hitting, that carried the Sox in the postseason because the team ERA for those 16 games was 2.00.