2010 MLB Offseason: Boston Red Sox Need to Find Right Blend Of Skill and Swagger
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As the Major League Baseball playoffs turn the page from divisional to championship series, and the Yankees and Phillies celebrate convincing sweeps—utterly boring, yawn-inducing sweeps—those on the outside looking in like the Boston Red Sox are already formulating the plan for next year.
To that end, Boston.com today ran a slideshow of 15 potential free agent targets the Red Sox may chase this winter, some enticing – Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford – and some silly fantasy – Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera.
The same site also featured a Sunday story that details the possibility of moving Daisuke Matsuzaka. The overwhelming sensation taken away from the day's baseball reading is this: The Boston Red Sox could look remarkably different next year.
And that may not be a bad thing.
The possibility of a major overhaul is very real. And it may be entirely necessary, to rejuvenate the squad on the field and recapture the heart of a formerly rabid Red Sox Nation.
I don't put a lot of stock in the sellout streak, or any other management-massaged stats. Nor do I attribute the loss in ratings this year to anything but a struggling team that was, at times, downright boring.
But I do believe there is often a correlation between personality and performance. More often the teams that win are also compelling to watch. You can have the chicken-or-egg argument until your blue in the face about which gives birth to which, but the simple fact is most successful squads have a blend of both.
And the Red Sox have been sorely lacking in the personality department for years, the trade of Manny Ramirez having essentially completed a boring-oscopy that began in 2005. In fact, many look at the 2007 campaign as simply an extension of the success born in 2004, when in reality it was the beginning of the end of an interesting roster in Boston.
J.D. Drew is perhaps the most boring human being alive. Watching Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch is about as exciting as a dentist appointment. It sometimes seems the team operates like a board meeting at ING.
Theo Epstein deserves a lot of credit for assembling the champs in '04 and '07, though he also deserves some blame for methodically shaving all semblance of character from the locker room. Epstein often comes off as dull and boring during interviews, and in that case it's hard to argue with those who say he built the team in his image.
Even the Yankees have figured out that personality matters. Last year's World Champs featured their share of white-bread boringness indeed, from Jeter to Rivera to Andy Pettitte and so on. But they also added the likes of Nick Swisher and C.C. Sabathia, the former of whom received a lot of credit for loosening up the clubhouse.
And therein lies the perfect model. The roster doesn't need to be made up entirely of loose personalities, though sprinkling the occasional one into the mix is a formula for success.
ESPN ran a 30-for-30 documentary last week on the 2004 Red Sox, and there was Kevin Millar, telling everyone on the eve of Game 4 in the ALCS not to let the Red Sox win that night because it may spark a historic comeback. He was loose, calm and entertaining, even on the brink of an embarrassing sweep. And he proved prescient.
And his character was infectious. That sort of attitude permeated that locker room, which rallied together and ended 86 years of cursed living.
Nobody is suggesting Theo try to rebuild the current squad in the mold of that championship group. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime squad. And nobody is encouraging the Sox to sign flamboyant players with few tangible skills.
But would it hurt to add a Carl Crawford, an electrifying player who just happens to be entering his prime? Or Adam Dunn, a fun-loving slugger in the mold of David Ortiz, circa 2004? Or anyone else with an equal mix of skills and swagger.
Personally, the Red Sox offense begins with the signing of Victor Martinez as priority No. 1 (it should also be noted that Martinez is one of the few Sox with an infectious energy). But assuming that goal is accomplished, it wouldn't be a bad idea to spice things up a little bit if possible.
It would certainly help rekindle interested from the average fan, which we all know is something the Sox brass is concerned with, perhaps obsessed with.
But that's secondary to the diehards. What Red Sox fans truly want is a winner, and the last time we had one, it featured an impressive cocktail of competency and charisma.
It's time to go out and find both again.
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