The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








Dave Long

Sports Glossary

Tony Armas: Outfielder who averaged 28 homers in Oakland before jumping to 36 and an AL best 42 in his first two years in Fenway after coming to Boston in a 1982 trade. 
Adrian Beltre: Soon to be Hall of Fame third baseman allowed to walk because Theo Epstein lusted for Adrian Gonzalez. So he went to Texas for $75 million while Theo spent $100 million more and three prospects to get a central figure in the collapse of 2011 and the 2012 debacle. 
The Charlie Finley Salary Dump of ’76: Determined to get something for players fleeing Oakland at the dawn of free agency, penurious A’s owner Charlie Finley began selling off pieces of his three-time World Championship club. The maneuvers that sent locals into a frenzy were Tom Yawkey paying a million each for Rollie Fingers and dependable left fielder Joe Rudi to fortify the Sox and George Steinbrenner paying $1.5 million for Vida Blue to stoke the NYC-Boston rivalry. Unfortunately Commissioner Bowie Kuhn blocked the sales in the “best interests of baseball.” Finley cried foul and threatened to sue as both the Hub and the Apple were bummed. Even so it was couple of exciting days. 
Nomar in 2004: With agent Arn Tellem blackmailing the brass with threats he’d go on the DL if contract talks didn’t turn around, it was adios, Nomar. That sent his sour personality out and brought Orlando Cabrera’s stellar glove work in to transform the defense, and Boston had its first Series win in 86 years.

Sox stun baseball with wild trades

By Dave Long

 Well, the Red Sox certainly set everything on fire last Thursday by dumping their top two pitchers and others in deals that were stunning because of what they got back. Usually trade deadline fire sales send soon to be free agents like Jon Lester and Andrew Miller to contenders in return for prospects to fortify the farm system or to flip in future deals.

But instead, they used the trading deadline like most use the winter meetings to address their serious right-handed power hitting shortage for 2015 by getting Yoenis Cespedes from Oakland for Lester and Jonny Gomes and Allen Craig for John Lackey. That strategy caught everyone off guard and helped mitigate what could have been a PR nightmare if they did it for just kids.
The result was a public opinion mix for how they came out on the trades that gave everyone something to talk about after a day of trades that rivals just about any baseball trade day in Boston sports history besides perhaps the Charley Finely salary dump at the dawn of free agency in 1976 and the Nomar trade in 2004.
Here’s what I take away from one of the more exciting off-field days in the annals of Boston sports:
Jon Lester: I understand that some are ticked they let one of baseball’s best lefties go and that the money thing is frustrating to fans. But if you accepted Lester was gone, as I said here two weeks ago, then Thursday was only about what they got back for a two-month rental. And while he’s not perfect, getting a middle-of-the-order power-hitting right-handed bat in Cespedes for a team on pace to have the fewest home runs EVER hit by a starting outfield seems pretty good to me.
John Lackey: With Lackey signed for minimum money next year, this was a bit more puzzling because he’s been very effective and since there’s no financial gun to their head like with Lester they didn’t have to move him. But I guess they felt the hitting problems were so acute, with more pitchers than hitters on the market this winter and a bevy of young pitchers on the way this was a better way to fix the problem.
Never Spend On Anyone Over 30: This sounds like a variation of the ’60s “Never trust anyone over 30.” But it’s been twisted by those who don’t like the new business model. I do believe 30-somethings Ryan Dempster, now injury-riddled  Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli (until his physical unearthed a hip condition, which led to an incentive-laden deal) each got $14 million per for two, three and four years respectively prior to  2013. Dustin Pedroia makes $15 million plus, as does 38-year-old Big Papi, and the payroll is third or fourth highest in baseball. So calling their approach “small market” is nonsense. Thus they still have the $180 million-a-year payroll. Just electing to spend it in a different way, that’s all, as the actual policy is no long-term deals that take players deep into their 30s.And while I think they’ve taken it a little too far, time will tell if they’re right or not. But winning three world championships in 10 years of ownership, after previous owners went 0 for 86, earns the benefit of the doubt with me.
Craig and Cespedes: I could be wrong, but I expect one will get flipped this winter. Most likely that’s Craig, who has an agreeable contract and, despite a down year, has been a productive hitter in St. Louis. Plus I suspect Cespedes will follow in the long line of righty power bats from Tony Armas to Adrian Beltre whose numbers jump after coming to Fenway.
The Shortstop Saga: Ben undid what he never should have done in the first place by dumping Steven Drew to put Xander Bogaerts back at shortstop. That will let us find out once and for all if he can play there. We’ll also see if his hitting went into a tailspin because scouting caught up to him as some e-mailers suggest or because the switch messed with his head. If he can’t, we’ll see the Troy Tulowitzki rumors amp up, which could culminate with either Bogaerts or Deven Marrero playing in Colorado next year.
Immediate Future: It’s open auditions for who figures in the 2015 plans and who’s available in future deals. That makes it the now-or-never portion of Will Middlebrooks’ Red Sox career. Is he the power bat in his first 500 major-league at-bats or more likely the career AAA hitter he’s looked like since? It’s the same for their much discussed arsenal of pitching prospects. There’ll probably be two spots in the rotation open next year, so who shows the most now probably earns them, while the others become trade fodder.
Long-Term Future: My thought is they’re assembling pieces and sorting out which prospects go in winter deals for top-of-the-rotation pitchers and a star everyday player they may have their sights on like Tulowitzki or the lusted-after Giancarlo Stanton. My guess is Anthony Ranaudo and Rubby De La Rosa join the rotation, Brandon Workman goes to the bullpen and Allen Webster gets traded. The one I would not trade, even for Stanton, is Henry Owens. Another is Clay Buchholz, who has unquestionably damaged his trade value this year, but given his fragility and JD Drew-like softness there’s no way he can be the leader of the staff, so he could go too.
Finally, as they move on, the only thing that could make the day more stunning is if the plan all along was to use Lester to get what they needed to fix the hitting before paying him the going rate in free agency this winter. I doubt that’ll happen, but if they do that, it would make Thursday a master stroke.
Email Dave Long at 
As seen in the August 7, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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