Ah yes, the World Series. Remember that? At times like this, you should use the World Series as an opportunity to reflect, to examine the baseball landscape and acknowledge where the Red Sox are, as well as where they must go.
And while you’re at it, here’s another question to ask:
Is the best way to win World Series by taking a methodical, long-term approach? Or is it by maximizing every moment with a championship-caliber nucleus?Don’t make the mistake that many people will: the World Series is not won in October, or, in this case, early November. The World Series is won in November, December and January, not to mention late June and July. That is when major league teams do the bulk of their roster building and tinkering for any given season, and that was when the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers made the additions and changes that delivered them to where they are today.
On the cusp of a world title that Bengie Molina cannot lose, he stands as the poster boy for the goings (from San Francisco) and comings (to Texas) that have made management such a big player in all of sports.
But before we get to the particulars, let’s get something out there: if you subscribe to the postseason Moneyball theory that became rather trendy over the last decade, beware. By suggesting that postseason success is arbitrary, as many have done, then recognize that you are trivializing the accomplishments of both the 2004 Red Sox and the 2007 edition. Were those teams lucky? Perhaps. Or maybe they also possessed the talent and mental toughness to perform under the most pressure-packed of circumstances.
Sorry, folks, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that the Giants and Rangers are lucky, then celebrate the 2004 Red Sox for a don’t-give-a-darn attitude that was at the core of their success.
So, for now, let’s focus on the Rangers and Giants, each of whom operated during this season with a clear sense of urgency. Sensing the American League West was there for the taking, the Rangers went out last winter and acquired, among others, Vladimir Guerrero and Colby Lewis, each of whom has had a profound impact on their club. But the Rangers’ actions during the season are what delivered them where they are today, Texas acquired, among others, Cliff Lee, Molina and Jeff Francoeur. It was the kind of wheeling and dealing the Red Sox have done on an annual basis when club officials deemed the team worthy.
As for the Giants, their acquisitions last winter included Aubrey Huff, who has been an enormous addition to their lineup. But again, it was what happened during the season that set general manager Brian Sabean apart. Over a succession of months, Sabean acquired Pat Burrell, Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, Jose Guillen, and Cody Ross, many of them by trade. Some of those moves have worked and some have not, but Sabean’s chances of success increased every time he pulled the trigger.
Ross, of course, was named Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series. Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton won the award in the American League, but ask Texas fans who the most valuable member of the team has been during the playoffs and they would pick Cliff Lee, who is 3-0 and hung over the Yankees like a guillotine.
Ross and Lee were in-season acquisitions.
All of this brings us back to the Red Sox, who took a hands-off approach with the club during the regular season, most notably in the bullpen, where the club had needs all year. Instead of adding pieces, the Red Sox traded away Ramirez and Manny Delcarmen, making a bad situation worse. The approach was eerily similar to that of Red Sox officials during the 2006 season, which just so happens to be the only other time during Theo Epstein’s tenure as general manager that the Red Sox missed the playoffs.
The point is this: the Red Sox keep preaching the long term, and many of us eat it up as if it is an indisputable fact. But is it? The Atlanta Braves have taken a long approach and won one World Series, routinely faltering in the postseason. Ask Bruins fans how many consecutive years the Bruins made the playoffs over a span of roughly three decades, then ask them how many Stanley Cups they won. There is much evidence to suggest that a deliberate, long-term approach fails as much as it succeeds.
The Rangers and Giants were aggressive this season. And now they’re being rewarded for it.
Nobody is suggesting the Red Sox sacrifice the entire future, every year, for a chance at a title. But they can certainly sacrifice some of it. This is a big=market team we’re talking about here, and the Red Sox have the resources to compete for free agents as well as prospects in both the draft and the international marketplace. Injuries aside, the Red Sox didn’t win this year because other organizations simply wanted it more than they did, which is a big difference from how the Sox operated in 2003 and 2004.
The good news?
The 2011 season starts in a matter of days.
Right after this one officially comes to an end.
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