The Boston Red Sox suffered for a very long time. Maybe not as long as the Chicago Cubs but still for over eight decades. The Curse of the Bambino finally broke in 2004, when Boston made its long-awaited return to the series . The Sox won in spectacular fashion, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in what was expected to be a seven-game series.
Three years later, the Sox were back in the World Series, this time facing the Colorado Rockies. Boston once again looked dailed in and downed the Rockies in just four games. Manager Terry Francona became the first manager to ever win his first eight world series games and the Red Sox had their second title in four years.
When 2013 rolled around, the Red Sox once again found themselves back in the World Series with a chance to win its third title in nine years. Boston met a familiar foe in St. Louis once again and actually failed to sweep their opponent. However, the Sox still went on to win the series in six games and became something of a dynasty with three titles in nine years.
Following their 2013 World Series victory, Boston seemed to hit the reset button. Jacoby Ellsbury left in free agency. Jake Peavy, Felix Dubront, Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, John Lackey, and Andrew Miller away in the waning days of July for various prospects and draft picks. This was two seasons after the Red Sox sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett away to Los Angeles in return for a bunch of prospects and some salary relief. The Red Sox went from having a top three payroll entering 2012 to have some room to spend. The Sox were very lucky to have been able to escape some of those torturous deals by dumping them on the Dodgers.
It seemed like the Red Sox had turned a corner. With Ben Cherington, a disciple of saber metrics guru Theo Epstein, as the general manager, many thought the Red Sox would begin to search for more affordable deals that avoided any massive inflation to the salary cap. 2014 rolled around and Boston struggled as expected with all of its young talent trying to work itself out.
The next offseason though, Boston seemed to ditch the prolonged rebuilding effort and wanted to make a splash. They spent a combined $180 million to bring in Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Cherington also brought in Rick Porcello from the Tigers and by early April had given an $82 million dollar contract over the next four years. By opening day, the Red Sox had managed to commit $262 million over the next five years for only three players.
Boston was spending money on these players as if they were sure things that couldn’t possibly fail. Meanwhile, Porcello has a 5.81 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP at this point in the season. Porcello has also given up more runs than any other Red Sox’s pitcher this season, third most among all pitchers in MLB. On the offensive side, Sandoval and Ramirez have only hit 23 extra base hits combined. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts have more on their own. Ramirez and Sandoval also have the 90th and 94th best averages in the bigs. Ramirez has been redeeming at least with his 19 home runs but Sandoval has only managed to hit 8. That would be his lowest total since his rookie year where he only played 41 games.
All three players have been mediocre this season. Each of them is putting up career worsts in multiple categories. And it only cost Boston $48.5 million for this season. It just goes to show that trying to buy your way back into contention barely ever works. The crazy thing though is that Boston seemed like they had figured that out already as they begun moving the massive contracts on their books. Baseball is a spenders game but the spending has to come wisely.
The Red Sox also had perfect examples of value contracts on their roster already. Betts and Bogaerts, Boston’s two best hitters, are costing the Sox just over a million dollars for both of their contracts. If that isn’t maximizing players on rookie contracts, I don’t know what is. And we’ve seen that spending big doesn’t always work. Obviously the Yankees have had unparalleled success but that’s the exception. Boston has success buying championships with a top-five payroll before but since the year 2000, only 5 of the 15 World Series Champions were teams with a top-five payroll. It is far from a guarantee.
Boston is headed for a second straight season at the bottom of the AL East with several of expensive disappointments on the roster for years to come. It would be more acceptable if Boston’s pay roll was down and the team was testing young players. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and this team is now just even more disappointing.
John Farrell will likely have a little bit longer that he can ride the success of 2013 before it starts to wear off. If Boston continues to strikeout on a big contract players though, him and Cherington could be out of a job soon.