Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Red Sox Nation: Civil War

As if Theo Epstein weren't have a bad enough year already, the prospect he traded away (with another, higher-rated prospect) for under-achieving posterchild Josh Beckett (and $9 Million dollar pretty good guy Mike Lowell) threw a no-hitter tonight for the Florida Marlins. Anibel Sanchez, who also shut down the Spanks during his first start in Yankee Stadium, has the Nation in an absolute uproar. And who's fanning the flames? Official Theo-hater Ken Rosenthal, entitled tonight's episode of his "Drunk Alone" column "Sanchez has no-hitter; Red Sox have no clue". Interestingly, he also panned the Front Office for not trading any prospects at the deadline. I guess he just sucks.

However, Ken's ability to take both positions is schizophrenically representative of the civil war going on throughout Red Sox fandom in this, the Red Sox team's personal equivalent of the Chinese calendar's "Year of the Spastic Colon". Everywhere, sides are taken:

A) The front office are idiots! They keep trading away these great prospects for guys that suck. Beckett sucks, Crisp sucks, Mirabelli sucks. And, their free agent signings also suck! Renteria sucked, Seanez sucked; Tavarez sucks, Clement sucks! Meanwhile, Meredith, Bard, Sanchez and (um) Renteria are great!

and

B) You are an idiot. Proven MLB talent is extremely difficult to acquire. Most prospects flame out. These are the risks of doing business. Success in the NL means absolutely nothing in the AL East, as the aforementioned pitchers have proven so succinctly. It's far too early to decide on the recent trades, and at the time, nobody complained on any of these acquisitions, so kindly shut the fuck up.

Both sides are right, and both sides are wrong, and that will never change. The name of the game is talent evaluation, the key root word being "value". The FO determined that Josh Beckett's MLB-proven talent and upside (bear in mind he's 25) was worth more than the "raw" abilities of Hanley Ramirez and Anibel Sanchez. Ramirez had struggled at AA (.720 OPS his second go round) and Sanchez had an injury history, so they rolled the dice. Were they blinded by Beckett's Yankee-beating in the World Series? Maybe. Did they underestimate the abilities of the two young kids? At this point it sure looks that way.

It's going to come down to this, and correlatively, to hindsight. On every deal. Win-win deals appear to be a rare commodity these days, because you're trading apples and oranges (veteran for prospect, cheap for expensive, etc.), and because these deals don't go down in a vacuum, generally. The Crisp deal is a favorite for the prospy-lovers because Marte was so highly-touted and Crisp has struggled (I myself had difficulty with this one), but because Crisp was supposed to play up the middle, and Marte is a corner, the values are skewed.

In this particular case Crisp has revealed himself also to be a corner, but at the time the thinking was that we need a CF and he fit the bill. And this highlights the concerns we should have with the FO. Not that they trade prospects, or that they wouldn't trade prospects for proven vets, but that some of the guys they bring in don't perform as advertised. Are they accurately evaluating MLB talent?

It appears that they have a good eye for natural talent - take a look at how the prospects are performing; sadly for other teams in some cases. So why when they acquire guys who have had success elsewhere in the bigs do they shit the bed in Boston? Certainly to some degree it's the change in leagues. You could also argue it's the insane nature of the fans and media here, but the fans and media in New York are by and large career criminals who defy evolutionary theory, yet every player who goes to NY invariably improves unless he is a freakishly hideous beanpole redneck with a penchant for theatrics. Is it the coaching? Perhaps; I'm certainly beginning to wonder about the Sox coaches ability to help players improve at the big-league level, Papa Jack excluded. Is it the chemistry? Does this team require an "idiot leader" to succeed?

Honestly - who the hell knows? Personally I think it's a little of each. If you don't have $200Mil to spend on payroll winning the World Series truly is catching lightning in a bottle. And even if you do, there are no guarantees, thank Christ. This year just went to shit, end of story, and now we're pissed off, and everything sucks.

Let's look at the bright side though. If HanRam and Anibel continue to have success in Florida, in a few years we'll be able to trade for them during the Marlins fire sale. We'll still be able to afford them then. God help us if the guys we trade have a better first season, though. There will be hell to pay.

AA Red Sox vs. Yanks

In case you haven't been paying attention, the Portland Sea Dogs are struggling against the Trenton Thunder in the AA playoffs, almost even as we speak. They lost today 3-1. The positive was that Sox prospect Devern Hansack had a good outing with 2 ER in 6.1 IP. The negative was that Yankee uber-prospect Philip Hughes K'ed 13 while BBing one in 6 innings and basically dominated. When he arrives, we are in for bad times. Game Two is 7:05 PM EST tomorrow.

Ending on a High Note

Wilmington (High-A) is also in the playoffs. Clay Buchholz started today and here is his line:

6 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 10 K

When he arrives, we are in for good times.

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