Thursday, December 11, 2014
RED SOX LEARNED FROM THOSE WHO DID NOT
Mike Hampton 7-years, $121 million
Barry Zito 8-years, $126 million
Johan Santana 6-years, $137 million
C.C. Sabathia 6-years, $142 million
What do these pitchers have in common? If you said they are left-handed, signed free-agent
contracts well over $100 million and struggled underneath the weight of them, you are
In sports, history does have a way of repeating itself. Fully aware of that, the Boston Red
Sox chose not to repeat the mistake many other teams have made over the years. They
said they really wanted Jon Lester back and offered him $135 million and a lot of love.
But deep down, they knew the "hometown discount" is nothing but hot air coming from
athletes who always keep score and know what everyone else in making. And seriously,
what athlete has ever left $20 million on the table? You're right. None. Ever.
So, the Red Sox watched the Chicago Cubs, a team desperate for a winner and credibility,
throw $155 million at Lester to play in the Windy City. They also tossed in a vested option year
that could bring the total to $170 million. For one player. For 35 starts a year. For a
left-handed pitcher. That's a tough contract to swallow.
Oh, I'm sure the sabremetric geeks discovered some kind of stats we've never heard of
to validate the absurd money involved in this deal, but any stat freak can twist and bend
any kind of numbers to justify something or a desired result.
Like Lester, Hampton, Zito, Santana, and Sabathia were all showered with $100 million
plus contracts and they all turned out to be the same: an unmitigated disaster. Hampton
got hurt and hammered, Zito morphed into a batting practice pitcher, Santana got hurt,
threw a no-hitter, got hurt again and finished his Met career with a 48-34 record. That's
not a lot of bang for 136 million bucks. Sabathia's been hurt and now throws about 85
miles an hour.
Those teams that signed those players were hamstrung for years and in most cases, ended
up eating millions of dollars for guys who didn't pitch a whole lot for them. The Yankees
are still on the hook for about $100 million dollars with Sabathia and they have no idea
what they're going to get from a 33-year-old pitcher with bad knees, fluctuating weight,
and a bad arm.
Have any of these on monster contracts given to pitchers ever worked out? The Detroit Tigers gave Justin Verlander 8-years and $202 million when he turned 30. In 2014, his velocity dipped and E.R.A rose to 4.59. Pitchers don't get more durable as they age and most of them break down. The Tigers will be paying Verlander $28 million a year from 2015 to 2019. That's a lot for someone who has been a .500 pitcher since signing his deal.
Lester turns 31-years old soon and he's thrown just over 1,500 innings in his career. He's
been a workhouse and a hard-throwing pitcher, but seriously, how many lefty power
pitchers do you know besides Randy Johnson, who was a just a freak, remain durable
and get better in their mid-30's? You're right. Not many and all those secret pharmacies
where players often found the fountain of youth and added life to their fastball, are
Did the Red Sox whiff on trying to bring back a player they drafted, nurtured, and
groomed into an all-star pitcher? I guess that remains to be seen, but some people feel
they just made a calculated decision not to sign him. The St. Louis Cardinals said
and did the right things when they were trying to re-sign Albert Pujols but when
Pujols took more than $200 million to sign with the Angels, I don't think anyone
in the front office in St. Louis shed a tear.
And how have the Cards done without the best player in franchise history outside
of Stan Musial? They've gotten to the World Series twice without him.
If the Cardinals can survive without Pujols, it's not a stretch to say the Red Sox will
do just fine without Lester. I'm sorry, but he was never as good as Pedro Martinez
and Curt Schilling were with the Red Sox. He's not a big strikeout pitcher and nobody
anywhere has ever considered Lester to the best pitcher in the game. He's far from
being the best lefty. It's Clayton Kershaw, Madison Baumgarner and then
Perhaps, the Red Sox learned from Bill Belichick who has often made tough decisions
on players whom fans see as "favorites", but realizes their skills are on the decline. His
philosophy has always been that it's better to cut ties with a player a year too early
than a year too late. Boston fans were livid with Belichick after he didn't re-sign
Wes Welker over a matter of a few million dollars. How's that turned out? The
Patriots have survived and thrived without Welker. And Belichick will never pay
a player for what he's done in the past. He sees their real value and what they can
do now and in the future.
The Cubs needed Lester a lot more than the Red Sox did. This is an organization that
hasn't won anything in more than 100 years. It needs instant credibility and Lester
brings that. Chances are he will be strong and post great numbers for the first couple
of years of the deal and Red Sox fans will be consumed with the one that got away.
As for Boston, it had already locked up Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez for
around $200 million. There was no way they were going to tie up $350 million in
three players. I think they learned their lesson when they brought in Carl Crawford,
Adrian Gonzalez, and re-signed Josh Beckett. They needed a miracle and a team like
the Dodgers to get out of that mess. It won't happen again.
The $135 million they "tried" to give Lester was freed up and gave the Red Sox
more flexibility. They brought in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, and Justin Masterson.
Sure, none of them have the reputation and record of Lester, but they do have more
than enough talent to succeed in Boston.
I don't think Ben Cherington and company are done wheeling and dealing,
yet. With their stable full of hot prospects, there is a chance the Red Sox could
land a front-line starter and come spring training without breaking the bank.
Perhaps, the Red Sox are smart enough to know that those who don't learn
from history are bound to repeat it.
As for Red Sox fans, thank and appreciate Lester for what he did for the
organization and move on. He certainly has. And just be happy he didn't sign
with the Yankees.