An equal exchange
Beckett-Ramirez trade still reaping benefits
MIAMI - It’s been so long now that Hanley Ramirez has switched from shortstop to third base and righthander Anibal Sanchez is coming into his free agent year.
It’s been so long that Mike Lowell has been retired for two seasons and Josh Beckett throws his two-seamer at 92 miles per hour, not 97 or 98 like he did when he was jumping for joy after winning Game 6 of the 2003 World Series.
It’s been so long that Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest had to dig deep into his memory to remember the details of the November 2005 deal between the Marlins and Red Sox the year GM Theo Epstein left the Red Sox in a gorilla suit.
Yet it was one of Beinfest’s best deals and a deal that helped Boston win the 2007 World Series.
“It’s been a long time,’’ said Sanchez, who pitched a no-hitter for the Marlins in 2006. “At the time, Hanley and I were in Double A and we were young and we didn’t know what to expect. We loved being in the Red Sox organization and so when I heard the news, I just did what I was told and came over here and it worked out great for me. I got the opportunity to pitch and be in the starting rotation.’’
And for Ramirez, “it seems like a long time ago and it is. A lot has happened. It’s been good. It was good for everyone. Playing against the Red Sox is like playing against anyone else.’’
While Beckett remains one of the top pitchers in the game, he’s become more defiant as he’s gotten older.
He helped Boston to a championship with his gritty determination, but after Monday night’s 4-1 loss to the Marlins, he dressed quickly and departed the clubhouse without addressing his performance for the second straight outing.
On a team that needs accountability and leadership more than ever - Boston has lost seven of eight - Beckett seems to march to his own drum.
Beinfest remembers the Marlins rebuilding at the time of the deal. They were a couple of years removed from their championship and they simply couldn’t afford a commodity like Lowell. Beckett was also going to become too expensive for their needs.
“We dealt with Ben [Cherington] and Jed [Hoyer] and Craig Shipley at the GM meetings. We kind of were putting the word out that we were going to restructure. We didn’t put the word out en masse because we wanted to hold values of our players, but we were going to talk about Josh and Mike. They were going to go together, if you want Josh, Mike has to go with you purely because of the contract. That was just part of the package,’’ Beinfest said.
Three or four teams were involved in talks with the Marlins.
It was later learned that the Rangers were the Red Sox’ biggest competition, but in the end, Beinfest and his staff loved Ramirez. Nobody really knew what to expect from him except that he had a chance to be special.
Beinfest took that chance when his scouts felt very strongly about Ramirez being the centerpiece of any deal for Beckett.
There were a million versions of what happened.
There was the version that some Sox people didn’t want to give up the two hard-throwing relievers - Harvey Garcia and Jesus Delgado - in the deal. Neither ever made it. There was the version that the late Bill Lajoie and Jeremy Kapstein had to convince Larry Lucchino to pull the trigger because there was some opposition by the younger executives about dealing Ramirez and the two relievers. In the end, Lucchino and John Henry, who had owned the Marlins previously, agreed to make the deal.
It became the proverbial deal that helped both teams.
“The Red Sox win the World Series with Mike and Josh and we got an MVP candidate and hitting champion and a very good starter,’’ Beinfest said. “They were taking money; we were looking for young talent to build with until the day came when we could move into a new building.’’
Sanchez will hit free agency at age 28. He went 10-3 with a 2.83 ERA and pitched a no-hitter against Arizona for the Marlins in 2006. Beset with injuries, Sanchez only made 32 starts from 2007-2009, but he returned in 2010 to make 32 starts and posted a 13-12 record with a 3.55 ERA. He made 32 more starts last season with an 8-9 record and a respectable 1.231 WHIP.
In 12 starts this season, he’s 3-5 with a 3.40 ERA with a 1.134 WHIP.
“I’m just happy to be healthy,’’ Sanchez said. “Whatever happens, I know I can help a team win. I’ve loved it here and hope we can work something out.’’
Sanchez said he remembers playing with Ramirez and Jonathan Papelbon as well as current Rangers outfielder David Murphy in the Red Sox system.
“They gave me my chance in baseball,’’ Sanchez said. “I won’t forget that. It’s fun to be playing them in this series.’’
Beinfest has broken teams down and rebuilt them. He spent money this offseason bringing closer Heath Bell, shortstop Jose Reyes, and starter Mark Buehrle to South Florida. He has a team capable of contending and last night they broke a six-game losing streak as Josh Johnson bested Beckett.
“It wasn’t fun whenever you have to deal a Beckett and a Lowell two years after you win the World Series. It was a deal that achieved our goals. This was a winner in a lot of respects,’’ Beinfest said.
Some seven years after the deal Beckett returned to South Florida, where fans still hold him in high regard for the 2003 World Series title. Johnson was a young pitcher who looked up to Beckett at the time and made himself into one of the best in the game.
Beckett was also superb last night, pitching five shutout innings after he spotted the Marlins four runs in the first two. Ramirez, the face of the Marlins franchise, went 0 for 4 and his average dropped to .254. The other player in the deal that Florida sent to Boston was veteran reliever Guillermo Mota, who has been suspended twice for performance enhancing drugs violations.
Almost seven years later, the players have evolved. Some have come full circle. Some have declined. Some have changed. Some are fighting to regain their excellence. Some never achieved it.