It’s My Moral Duty To Be A Sourpuss About This. I’m Sorry.

I would like to preface this post by congratulating the Boston Red Sox. No, seriously. They won the World Series, and that is awesome. Between seeing Keesup’s Cardinals win last year, and my buddy Phil’s Rockies making it there this year, I have a developing appreciation for just how amazing it feels for a fan of such a team. So, honestly, congratulations to the Red Sox and their fans (the real fans though, not that bandwagon junk).

Now I have to dissect this. Again, I would just like to state explicitly my two Red Sox-related beefs. (1) Bandwagon and/or idiot fans. (2) Lazy, shoddy, or outright factually incorrect analysis or interpretation by the media. These are long ways of saying that – Red Sox fans – it isn’t personal. Unless you’re an idiot bandwagoner. To the column:

For the second time in four seasons, the Boston Red Sox are World Series champions and the indisputable rulers of the baseball universe as we know it. They are the Roman Empire of the postseason, having won eight World Series games in a row. Hail, Tito.

Get a grip.

Then again, that sort of self-infatuation helps explain why the Yankees haven’t played in a World Series since 2003 and haven’t hoisted the sterling silver Commissioner’s Trophy above their heads since 2000.

I will briefly outline why “self-infatuation” is not the reason the Yankees haven’t made the World Series since 2003. The 2004 team could not pitch. The team’s best starter was Jon Lieber (!). The bullpen was terrible too. The 2005 team also could not pitch, and it took miracle seasons from Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small to even make the playoffs. The 2006 team also had problems (surprise!) pitching. Not as bad as ’04 and ’05, but not good either. The 2007 team went into the playoffs with Andy Pettitte (and maybe Chien-Ming Wang) as their only even close to reliable starters. Add to each of these postseasons the randomness afforded by small sample sizes, and that is why the Yankees haven’t won the World Series since 2003.

And with each championship, the Red Sox are reversing the conventional financial wisdom of the sport. Fat payrolls — and the Red Sox have the second-fattest in the majors at $143 million — can work if the people operating the wallet know what they’re doing.

No shit? You mean the prior conventional wisdom was to make a lot of money and then spend it wildly and irresponsibly? It’s the best possible scenario to have lots of money and spend it well? You’re kidding. Also, note the omnipresent and implied “if the Red Sox spend loads of money it’s good business, but if the Yankees do it they’re ruining baseball” theme.

“I think if you look at who the stars were of this Series, it’s not all about payroll,” said Red Sox owner John Henry. “It’s never all about payroll.”

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino: “Walk a mile in our shoes and see how different we think we are from the Yankees. They have the benefit of the largest market in the Western world. We have to compete with them, but they are tens of millions of dollars higher than us. It is inappropriate to lump us with them. It is the Yankees out there and 29 other teams in the next category. We want to be the little engine that could.”

Yes, I understand Henry said it’s not “all” about payroll. But man, it sure sounds like payroll is a concern to Lucchino. And also, Lucchino, that entire statement is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. “The little engine that could”??? Honestly, you have a disease.

Also, let’s not forget GM Theo Epstein’s comments about not being able to acquire Bobby Abreu because of – you guessed it – payroll constraints and having to do things differently than the Yankees, given relative resources. Which is crap, by the way. Anyway, what I’m seeing is that when it suits the Red Sox executives (i.e. Henry’s comments), payroll doesn’t matter. It’s a crapshoot! Anyone can win. But there are times (i.e. Lucchino and Epstein’s comments) when, well, gosh darnit, we just can’t keep up with the Yankees because we don’t have the money. You need money to win! How can you win if you can’t spend money?

But what happened to the Red Sox this season, as well as in 2004, isn’t an accident. They spent money, lots of it, but they mostly spent it wisely. They did a lot of things wisely.

This is when I started to lose it.

The Red Sox are the Warren Buffetts of baseball. They invest and trade well.

Here we go!

While the Yankees were committing $120 million to Jason Giambi in 2002, the Red Sox waited a year and took a $1.25 million flier on a DH discarded by the Minnesota Twins. Maybe you’ve heard of him … Ortiz.

When the Yankees signed starting pitcher Carl Pavano, the Red Sox would later trade for Pavano’s Florida Marlins teammate, Josh Beckett. To be fair, Boston also pursued Pavano. Pavano’s Yankees career is deader than a Barry Bonds-Bud Selig photo op. Meanwhile, Beckett is building a résumé that one day could include Cooperstown.

Way to cherry-pick, Gene Wojciechowski. Jason Giambi? JD Drew. Carl Pavano? The Red Sox signed Matt Clement. Remember him? He actually hasn’t pitched in longer than Pavano. Also, if we’re talking about spending money wisely, then why is Josh Beckett admissible to this argument? The Red Sox didn’t sign him. They traded for him, and gave up quite a bit too. You cannot compare Pavano and Beckett if the whole premise of your argument is “the Red Sox spend their money wisely,” because one was a free agent and one was acquired in a trade.

And also, Julio Lugo. That was wise spending too. If we can throw in trades, as you did with Beckett, that Gagne trade worked out well. David Murphy, Kason Gabbard and a high-ceiling minor league bat for 18 IP of 6.75 ERA ball is a good deal, I think.

They outbid and outsmarted the Yankees on Daisuke Matsuzaka. So the Yankees settled for Dice-K Really Lite, Kei Igawa. Igawa was a disaster, finishing 2-3 with a 6.25 ERA.

Outbid, yes. Duh. Outsmarted? If by “outsmarted” you mean “offer significantly more money”, then yes, the Red Sox outsmarted the Yankees.

I know this is really technical, but it’s worth mentioning. The Yankees paid $46 million for a 6.25 ERA. The Red Sox paid $103 million for a 4.40 ERA. Intuitively, we would expect a product half as good from the Yankees’ bid, because they spent half of what Boston did. If Matsuzaka was what everyone expected and posted an ERA around 3.50 or so, then our intuition would be satisfied, because 3.50 is roughly twice as good as 6.25. But he didn’t. He had a 4.40 ERA, which is not all that great.Of course, I am by no means arguing that the Yankees’ signing was better than Boston’s. That would be really, really stupid. I just think this is interesting, that’s all.

Greed, as Gordon Gekko said, is good. Or it can be. The Red Sox want more. More playoff appearances (that’s the starting point for Epstein) and, if possible, more moments like Sunday night, when commissioner Selig handed them another World Series trophy.

Again, the Red Sox spending money and doing whatever it takes to win is admirable and awesome. The Yankees spending money and doing whatever it takes to win makes them bullies, attention whores, and soulless jerks. I get it.

The starting rotation is a half-light-year ahead of the Yankees’. Beckett, Jon Lester, Buchholz, Dice-K, Tim Wakefield, possibly Curt Schilling (doubt it) or a free agent (don’t doubt it).

The 2007 Red Sox rotation was definitely much better than the 2007 Yankees rotation. But if we’re looking into the future, as Wojocassochaokwski is doing with his inclusion of Lester and Buchholz, then I think “half-light-year” – whatever that means – is a little strong. Beckett is better than Wang. Pettitte is better than Matsuzaka. Wakefield is as bad as Mussina. Lester/Buchholz might be inferior to the best two of Hughes/Chamberlain/Kennedy. If the Yankees instead do the smart thing and give the kids all three spots, thereby ditching Mussina, I think the rotations are pretty close. Maybe slight edge to Boston, but close.

This column is trash. Again, Red Sox fans, this is nothing personal. Rather, this is all about the continually disingenuous, lazy, and hypocritical sports media. I understand that the Red Sox won, and are therefore deserving of a certain amount of attention. This should absolutely be the case. But the writing is lazy. There are so many more interesting (and accurate) reasons why the Red Sox won this year. Their bullpen’s effectiveness (Okajima!), considering its Opening Day makeup, was remarkable. Ortiz enjoyed the best season of his career, even while playing injured. Lowell and Pedroia combined to more than compensate for Manny’s down year, as well as Lugo’s horrendous season. Beckett lopped 1.80 runs off his 2006 ERA, and became probably the best pitcher in baseball. Schilling managed a good season, which was pretty improbable.

What I’m saying is that there were lots of good and interesting stories about the Red Sox this year. As I’ve just outlined, many of these stories are actually better explanations for the team’s success than the tired – and often inaccurate – stuff sportswriters pump out. It’s lazy sportswriting, and it’s not all that hard to avoid.


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