Back in April, I wrote about how it was way to soon to freak out about the Red Sox. They started 4-10 against a brutal schedule with a rash of injuries, but that was way to early to give up on an incredibly talented team. I still stand by what I said nearly five months ago.
But things didn’t get better. They got a lot worse. Bobby Valentine could not take control of a clubhouse full of crazy characters, which eventually led to the dumping of Kevin Youkilis for a couple of spare parts. Carl Crawford took much longer to come back from wrist and elbow injuries than expected, then only played 31 games before being shut down with Tommy John Surgery. David Ortiz injured himself running the bases. No starter had an ERA under 4.50.
There is a bright side to this season, though, as strange as it sounds. The Red Sox won’t finish with a great record this year, and they probably won’t be great next year, either. But they’ve freed up around $260 million from the Gonzalez/Crawford/Beckett trade, which opens up all sorts of possibilities.
In the NBA and NFL, teams can tank for a better draft pick. Suffering through a long season is worth it if you end up with Anthony Davis or Andrew Luck. The real reason this works is because being all playoff teams have one thing in common–none of them are in the playoffs (obviously). And if you aren’t in the playoffs, you might as well aim for a great draft pick.
However, in the NBA and NFL, draftees make an immediate impact. Cam Newton improved the Panthers by five games last year, and Cleveland’s winning percentage increased 86 points with Kyrie Irving. But in baseball, on the other hand, we don’t get to see the fruits of each team’s draft immediately.
It’s not that tanking in baseball doesn’t work–the worst teams definitely get the best pick–but the return for one bad season isn’t great. We’re talking about adding one potentially good player three to five years in the future in a sport in which one player does not make a huge difference.
Still, it looks like the Red Sox have gone full-blown-Bobcats on us. David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks have already been shut down for the year, and who knows, maybe Boston’s brass is being a little too cautious and over-protective of their players. Hell, they even acquired Scott Podsednik twice. And in full consciousness, they batted him third.
Now I’m not saying they’re purposely tanking, but I’m not saying they’re trying to win. Yeah, it’s a strange team, indeed. Buster Olney even reported on Monday that agents of Red Sox players were upset with how their clients were being utilized.
All of a sudden the Red Sox have the 9th worst record in the league. In other words, the 9th pick in next year’s draft. They’re just 2.5 games ahead of (behind?) the 6th-worst Marlins and just 6.5 games away from the 3rd-worst Twins. With 24 game to go, the Red Sox are in range of some really sweet picks.
Maybe the Red Sox have found a new market deficiency in bottoming out for a year or two, collecting great draft picks. That’s certainly a better plan than the the market deficiency they found this winter: trading off all your shortstops. Or maybe they’re just making the most of a bad situation. They’re not making the playoffs this year, so why not gun for a better draft pick?