Thursday, July 31, 2008
Man oh Manny that's a Trade
[Last year at the trading deadline, I made it clear to anybody who would listen that the Red Sox had no use at all for Eric Gagne, but that the trade might not be a disaster because at least it kept Gagne away from the Yankees. That didn't exactly end up being the case. Really, putting Gagne on the Yankees would have been awesome for the Red Sox, but it wouldn't have made a difference because, heck, the Sox won the World Series. So today, at the trading deadline, the Red Sox traded Manny Ramirez and, well, I just wanna rant... As always, if you don't like the baseball postings, just skip by and there'll be something movie related in a day or two...]
What's the value for the best pure hitter of his generation and the best clutch hitter of the past 40 years?
Follow through after the bump for the answer...
Turns out the answer to that question is: Manny Ramirez = Jason Bay - (Craig Hansen + Brandon Moss + $7 million)
The math of Thursday's (July 31) Red Sox fire sale just baffles me a little. Manny Ramirez's value appears to be so much less than a guy with a lower batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage that the Red Sox had to throw in two major league caliber players to sweeten the deal. Now, to be fair, Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen aren't *good* major league players, but they're on the 40-man roster and Hansen was, at one time, supposed to be the closer of the future for the Red Sox. But meanwhile, because Manny's value was apparently so low, not only did they have to throw two major league players into the pot, but they then had to add $7 million, or the value of Manny's remaining salary for the season.
And it's not like the Sox gave the $7 million to a small market team trying to make ends meet. No, they gave the money to the Dodgers, a team in baseball's second largest market, a franchise that's already apparently flush enough that they're going to pay the fat, bloated corpse of Andruw Jones $18 million to sit on the bench for the next two years. But now they're picking up $7 million from the Sox, just for fun. Gravy, as it were.
So after Thursday's trades, what can we say?
Well, the Dodgers obviously got better. They gave up a minor league pitcher and a third base prospect (already behind Casey Blake and Blake DeWitt on the depth chart) in exchange for the aforementioned best hitter of his generation. They didn't have to give up Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier or Jon Broxton and Chad Billingsley, any of whom could have been considered an acceptable price to pay to get back in the postseason picture and to regain some of the local spotlight from the California Angels. Should Manny help put the Dodgers into the postseason, and given the weakness of the NL West it sure seems plausible, the Dodgers will be able to reap the benefits of a player with 353 lifetime postseason at-bats, 24 postseason home runs and one World Series MVP award. In addition, if Manny leaves as a free agent in the off-season, that's two additional first round draft picks for the Dodgers. Plus, he's FREE, because the Sox are paying.
And the Pirates? Well, they're already a last-place team, but only barely, so they can't get any worse. They gave up a player they wanted to jettison anyway, making room for minor league outfield prospects who come with a lower price tag. Hansen and Moss can probably play right away and maybe Hansen's just gonna need a change of environment. And in Andy LaRoche, not only do they get a solid young third base prospect, but they unite the guy with brother Adam. VIVA LAROCHES! So they aren't a better team, but they aren't worse.
That leaves the Red Sox.
The deal makes sense to me in only one circumstance. If Tito Francona walked into Theo Epstein's office last night after the Angels finished sweeping the Sox and said, "This isn't worth it. I can't do this anymore and the team frankly agrees with me. We can't play with Manny for another day." If the manager demanded the trade, then it had to get made. If Francona decided, "I managed to hold this guy together long enough to get two World Series rings,but that's all I've got," then it was the right move. But it's hard to imagine it making the Red Sox better.
Bay's gonna have to learn to play the Green Monster, something Manny did very well despite his other defensive liabilities. He's also going to have to discover how to handle the Boston crowds and the Boston media, because heaven help him if his Red Sox career launches with a couple 0-5 games. Then, if the Red Sox managed to bounce back from their currently malaise, Bay's gonna have to show that he's been repressing an inner clutch hitter for all of those years he was shrouded in Pittsburgh. Jason Bay is a good baseball player. Don't get me wrong. But in his entirely big league career, he's never played a single INNING that meant anything, that had any pressure or urgency other than basic personal statistics. If it turns out that Jason Bay has The Eye of the Tiger, then Theo Epstein's gonna look like a genius. If Jason Bay runs hard, gets his uniform dirty and makes use of Fenway's peculiar dimensions, the Sox fans will love him. Golly, they've even learned how to love J.D. Drew this season.
But he's going to have to make up for the intangible threat that Ramirez provided just by standing in the on-deck circle. He's going to have to make up for the swagger Ramirez brought to the team. He's going to have to prove that last year's .418 slugging percentage was a fluke. And he's going to have to make up for the fact that an already scattershot bullpen has just become thinner. I'm not sure how he'll pull off that last one.
Meanwhile here's the key thing I want to say: I'm not blaming Manny here. Not at all. Over the years, I mocked Manny over and over again for his defense, for failing to run out ground balls, for failing to even trot on home runs. But for a decade, the Red Sox enabled the guy and joked about Manny being Manny. His behavior was never censored or restricted and, probably as a direct result, he got two World Series titles for Boston, something unthinkable five years ago. If the Red Sox finally get sick of the behavior, well, they were the enablers in the first place. Whenever Manny returns to Boston, I hope he's treated with respect in perpetuity, rather than earning the "Cheer the first time up, then boos forever" treatment that Johnny Damon has received (and richly deserved). Unless Manny signs with the Yankees in the off-season, in which case...
But still... Thanks for the memories, Manny!
It will just be interesting to see if Manny is as toxic as the Red Sox seem to have believed him to be. Looking over the roster in the last week, Epstein was obviously able to skip over the flailing bullpen, to ignored that the franchise's beloved and iconic catcher/captain is swinging the bat like a pitcher. He looked at the lackluster play and said, "If we get rid of Manny, everything will improve." The hitting, the starting pitching, the defense? All related to Manny's open signs of apathy or even antipathy. If
Epstein's correct, that's some brilliant maneuvering. As it stands now? I'm on the record as being unconvinced.
But I'd be happy to owe Jason Bay a big ol' apology in three months.