The preseason super-team of destiny, the group that was supposed to bumrush their way to yet another World Series title, is fresh off of one of the worst late-season collapses in the history of their sport. Now, the roster that was supposed to compete in the AL East for years to come is looking more and more like an experiment gone horribly wrong.
Beginning on Opening Day, 2012, the Red Sox will need to make a statement. Their offseason moves need to show the baseball world that they will not hang their heads and wallow in the vast shame that is the 2011 season. This process has already begun, with Boston and long-time manager Terry Francona recently parting ways.
However, changes in management and in the front office can only go so far. Ultimately, 2011 is the fault of the Red Sox players. And the easiest way for the Red Sox to put last season in the rear-view mirror is to demonstrate to their fans that they are not messing around with player personnel.
Boston can begin this healing/moving forward process with one simple move: signing Prince Fielder.
I know what you’re thinking: The Sox already have one of the best everyday first basemen in the game in Adrian Gonzalez. And there is no way Fielder could DH with franchise cornerstone David Ortiz in town.
Well, here’s where the drastic changes come in.
Get rid of Ortiz. Move either Gonzalez or Fielder to DH, and show your fans that you done messing around. Yes, Ortiz is beloved in Boston. Yes, he has done things for the franchise that few other players can claim. He will always be remembered as a member of the Red Sox, as well he should.
But he’s also part of the old guard. In fact, he’s one of the last remaining pieces of the old guard. Johnny Damon is gone. Manny Ramirez is gone. Dave Roberts, Keith Foulke, Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar are all long gone. Somehow, Jason Veritek has remained in Beantown, but that's due more to a lack of options than anything else.
Every player, no matter how great, reaches a point in his career where it is time for his franchise to cut the cord and move forward. No franchise in baseball needs to move forward more than the Red Sox.
Letting Ortiz go would show the fans that the past is the past. A new era would arrive in Boston along with Fielder, and that is a very, very good thing.
Signing Prince Fielder to the lucrative long-term contract he covets would redefine the Red Sox' lineup. In Gonzalez and Fielder, the Sox would open 2012 with two of the game’s 10 or so best hitters squarely in the middle of their lineup. They would relieve the pressure faced by Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. They would instantly reinvent the identity of the Red Sox.
Who knows, maybe it would even be enough to make Crawford a somewhat effective player again.
Right now, the Yankees and other AL rivals of the Sox are laughing at Boston’s plight. They are thinking that this collapse is the kind that could wreck a group mentally for years to come. But Prince Fielder was unaffected by the Sox collapse. Signing him would send a message to the Yanks that this season was an anomaly, one that will not be repeated. At the very least, it would get the opposition thinking seriously about Boston again.
Boston is also one of the few teams that can afford Fielder. He is a proven postseason performer, a great teammate and possesses some of the most stankeriffic swagger in all of baseball. He would inject a sense of liveliness and fun into a Red Sox lineup that will surely be filled with doubt and second-guessing following this year’s collapse.
The Red Sox are already demonstrating that they are ready to move forward in a dramatically new direction. Terry Francona is gone. There are rumors swirling that Theo Epstein’s time in Boston may be done. With a new direction, new personnel are needed. And as far as potential new personnel goes, no one will make a greater impact than Prince Fielder, on and off the diamond.
As much as Boston fans may hate to see Big Papi go, it’s time for a change in Boston. Why not start with one of the game’s brightest young stars?
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