Why the Boston Red Sox Won't Be Substantially Better in 2013

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Why the Boston Red Sox Won't Be Substantially Better in 2013

On two separate occasions this week, I suffered through articles on Boston.com in which the author declared that the 2013 edition of the Red Sox will be 'better than the current consensus projection' being bandied about by baseball pundits. In the first article, he declared the club "may be better than we think". In the second article, he back-tracked, amending his contention to say only that the ballclub will be 'much better' than last year's squad.

To the second argument, I respond, "No kidding Dick Tracy!" As if Red Sox fans need one of the writers at an agenda-driven website to tell us the 2013 club will be much better than one of the historically worst clubs in franchise history. The prediction contains as much hutzpah as stating that it will be much colder in the northern hemisphere in January than it will be in May. To the original contention I reply, "Only if everything goes right, and then still not by very much." This was the bolder of the two declarations and it is a coin flip whether he will be right.

Author Chad Finn did not boldly go where no man has gone before in these articles. To the contrary, he added little to the discussion about the 2013 season, essentially repackaging and regurgitating much of what has been discussed on talk radio ad nauseum over the last several weeks.

It was pablum for the masses, likely assigned by his editor and geared to appease the folks over on Yawkey Way: "Look folks, everything is going to be okay. The sky is NOT falling in! Get your credit cards out and buy your tickets!"

The consensus around the country is that the 2013 Red Sox may be a .500 team, possibly a game or two better. Finn contended the team 'may' be able to improve by 12 - 14 wins, and then he laid out his arguments why that 'may' happen. That is not a bold prediction!

Fortunately, there are places where fans can go to get an objective opinion (ie, here) that is not driven by the Boston Globe editorial board or BoSox management. My only agenda is to be brutally honest with my assessment of the facts I know and the things I perceive. And right now that analysis doesn't render an especially favorable opinion regarding what the Red Sox front office has accomplished this off-season.

GM Ben Cherington & Company has spent every dollar they saved in the Great Salary Purge of 2012.  With the exception of one or two signings, they have signed middling talent on the wrong side of 30 years of age, and inked them to deals that pay too much money. The Sox front office has wasted the second chance that Los Angeles Dodgers management unwittingly handed them.

They have blown it. In trying to present the facade of fielding a competitive team, management has blown it, for 2013 and 2014 and, likely, even longer (because the extra wins they may have purchased will hurt their draft position in 2014, which will impact the on-field product later in the decade).

The responses to the Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli contracts were universally one of disbelief. Too much money annually for too many years for increasingly marginalized talent. 

Evan Brunell and the writers over at Firebrand of the AL enumerated management's primary objectives for the 2012-13 off-season, but in analyzing management's performance within the parameters of those goals and the team's prospects for 2013 (90+ wins?), I believe they completely missed the boat.

They supposed the priorities for Cherington & Co this off-season included

  1. fielding a competitive team over the short term
  2. protecting the draft picks and retaining the top prospects
  3. maintaining payroll flexibility
  4. being able to make any necessary adjustments in case the prospects don’t pan out

I would have re-ordered the first three and added a new fourth—making payroll flexibility the top priority, followed by protecting prospects and picks, fielding a decent team in 2013, and adding new assets (prospects) via trade.

In a poll conducted early this winter, Red Sox Nation overwhelmingly indicated it would rather see the club take a step back this winter in order to be able to take two or three steps forward next year. In other words, fans felt the front office needed to be more focused on 2014 and beyond, and not the on-field product for 2013.

The primary goal should have been eschewing contracts such as those given to Victorino and Napoli ($39M each over the next three years). That is money that should have been banked and spent on younger, better free agents next winter or the winter thereafter) while pursuing contracts like those given to Jonny Gomes and Koji Uehara. I would add Ryan Dempster's contract to the list of dumb contracts.

In total, more than $65M will be wasted over the next three years. Adding insult to injury, those deals will buy the club a half-dozen extra wins, in turn (likely) costing the team three or four slots in the 2014 First Year Player Draft.

It seems the fans know better than Henry, Werner, et al (who are undoubtedly presenting Cherington with his marching orders). Pinocchio, meet Gipetto

It says here that Red Sox ownership and management do not know what they are doing. They have not established the salient game plan, rather they are flying by the seat of their pants. They can't do what needs to be done pursuing their current course of action. As a result I don't believe the team will be substantially better than the consensus expectation in 2013 (that being a .500 record), and I believe it will be an uphill battle to turn this team into playoff contender for 2014.

And as for 90 wins in 2013—no chance!

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