You know, of course, that the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018. The players on those teams and the big moments they manufactured will never be forgotten.
Ryan Dempster, one of the pitchers on the ’13 team, told me a few weeks ago that fans still stop him on the street when he’s in Boston just to shake his hand.
“People always want to talk about that season,” Dempster said. “It’s special for me to have won a championship in Boston.”
What those same people don’t remember and never will without looking it up is which team had the best farm system that season. Or which front office did the best job of managing the payroll in 2018 so it stayed under Major League Baseball’s luxury-tax threshold.
Winning the World Series is all that matters.
The Dodgers have won seven consecutive division championships and assembled a player development machine that churns out high-end talent. But they still haven’t won a championship since 1988.
The Yankees have done everything right under Brian Cashman, investing in analytics and building up their farm system. But they have one championship in the last 18 seasons.
For all the cognoscenti who laud the Athletics for their enlightened frugality, their last World Series was in 1990.
The poor Twins have managed to lose 16 postseason games in a row since 2004. But that’s better than the Mariners, who were last in the postseason in 2001. Jamie Moyer, who won 20 games for that team, turns 57 next month.
The point is that championships are precious and the opportunity to win another one can’t be treated casually.
So how in the world are the Red Sox even considering the idea of trading Mookie Betts?
Outside of Mike Trout, Betts has been the best all-around player in baseball the last five seasons.
In Red Sox history, only Ted Williams accomplished more statistically in his first six seasons in the majors than Betts.
This season will be the fifth in a row Betts receives MVP votes and should be his fourth consecutive with a Gold Glove. It’s the foundation of a Hall of Fame career.
You don’t trade players like that. You win again with players like that.
The Red Sox were fourth in the majors in runs this season. Even if J.D. Martinez opts out of his contract, they will still have a powerful offense with better production likely to come from first base and second base.
The Sox also had the makings of a solid bullpen by the end of the season with Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Josh Taylor as the building blocks.
If the Sox are telling the truth and really do believe David Price and Chris Sale will be healthy next season, they have all the parts needed to win a third championship in the last eight seasons.
It’s a group you keep together, not break up.
As colleague Alex Speier explained in a recent story, the Sox are unlikely to get equal value on the trade market in return for Betts. He’s due to make $27.7 million next season, and while half the teams in baseball would happily pay that, they’re not going to empty their prospect pool knowing Betts will go into free agency after the season.
There’s more value to keep Betts, take a run at another championship, and get an additional 11 or so months to convince him to stay.
Angels general manager Billy Eppler worked hard to build a relationship with Trout, going to him for advice on clubhouse and roster matters and even inviting him into the draft room in June.
“He had this investment in the organization,” Eppler said.
That led to Trout agreeing to an extension in spring training. When the Sox name their new GM, that person’s main job needs to be forming the same relationship with Betts. Make him an investor.
Betts has never once said or even indicated he doesn’t like playing for the Sox. His standard response to questions about an extension is that he wants to get what he feels his value is and is willing to go to free agency to accomplish that goal.
In other words, Betts and his agents have a number. So find that number.
In the meantime, let him see what happens in free agency this offseason. Let him further consider that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado watched the playoffs from home and saw their managers get fired. Let him consider the downside of not being identified with one team.
If by July the Red Sox are out of contention and Betts has turned down the team’s best offer, trade him. A team desperate to win will probably give up as much talent for Betts then as you could get before the season starts. Probably more.
Trading Betts now would not be giving away Babe Ruth to finance a Broadway musical. But it would send a message that the Sox care more about something other than winning.
There are certainly advantages to wrangling the payroll below the tax threshold and resetting the penalties. But now is not the time for that.
Now is the time to take another shot. Betts is a player who comes around a handful of times in the history of a franchise. Take advantage of that for as long as you can.
In LA, Dodgers facing questions
Dodgers rookie Gavin Lux was born in 1997, long after the Dodgers won their last World Series.
He was asked during the National League Division Series if he knew who Kirk Gibson was. The conversation went like this:
Lux: “Yeah, of course. Who did he hit it that home run off of? Tell me.”
Reporter: “Dennis Eckersley.”
Lux: “Yeah, mustache. Yeah.”
It was a fun moment. Institutional knowledge aside, Lux was one of four rookies the Dodgers had on their playoff roster. First baseman/outfielder Matt Beaty, righthander Dustin May, and catcher Will Smith were the others.
There could have been a fifth had the Dodgers kept righthanded reliever Tony Gonsolin.
“We have a chance to move up together and it’s kind of gone that way,” Lux said. “I think that’s pretty special.”
The question now is whether manager Dave Roberts can deliver a championship with Lux and all the other talented players on that roster.
Roberts is 393-256 in four seasons with the Dodgers with two National League pennants. But the Game 5 meltdown against Washington in the Division Series will be hard to shake after the Dodgers won 106 games in the regular season.
Roberts had too much faith in Clayton Kershaw, especially given his issues in the postseason. But the real mistake was leaving Joe Kelly in for a second inning with the game tied.
Kelly had not pitched more than one inning since Aug. 24 and had considerably worse statistics all season when he got past 25 pitches.
Once Kelly sailed though the ninth inning in a 3-3 game, Roberts should have pulled him. Instead, Kelly loaded the bases in the 10th and allowed a grand slam by Howie Kendrick on his 23rd pitch.
By the time Kenley Jansen got in the game, it was too late.
“I liked Joe right there in that spot, I really did,” Roberts said. “After 10 pitches there was no stress. Ball was coming out well. So for him to go out there and take down that inning and to have Kenley take down the other part of the order, I felt really good about it.”
To what degree the bullpen strategy was dictated by the analytics staff isn’t known. But the blame landed on Roberts.
Roberts has three seasons remaining on his contract and will return in 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported. But at this point, the regular season is almost meaningless for him. The Dodgers are 25-22 in the postseason the last four seasons and long overdue for a championship.
Opportunity for Red Sox prospects
It was good news for the Red Sox that infielders C.J. Chatham and Bobby Dalbec were selected for the Premier 12 team along with righthanders Tanner Houck and Noah Song.
That team will represent the United States in the Olympic qualifying rounds. USA Baseball selected Joe Girardi (for now) to manage the team with a staff made up of former big league coaches.
It’ll be good experience for Chatham, Dalbec, and Houck before they get to spring training.
Chatham, who has been a shortstop, will need to find another position with Xander Bogaerts in his way. That could be as a utility player.
Dalbec is a candidate to take over at first base and Houck could yet emerge as a rotation prospect after going to the bullpen in Triple A this past season.
It’s also further evidence that the Sox could have something special in Song, a fourth-round pick out of the Naval Academy last June.
If the Navy allows Song to pursue his baseball career next season, he could move fast.
The internal data the Sox compiled on his seven outings for Lowell suggested the quality of his pitches was even better than they thought when he was drafted.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
■ As much as baseball gets romanticized, it’s not a civic trust. The Red Sox are a business with a product and can charge what they want for that product.
But they made a mistake raising ticket prices by an average of 1.7 percent only 11 days after ownership announced its goal of cutting the payroll approximately 15 percent.
Most non-premium single-game tickets will go up by only a small amount. But that’s not the point. It’s tone deaf to raise prices after the team finished in third place then decided to slash payroll.
The Sox also sharply raised the prices on their cheapest tickets. General standing room is going up $4.72 and pavilion level standing room got a $4.62 hike.
The cheapest standing room seat at Fenway will be $25.86.
Whatever additional revenue the Red Sox will generate from this price hike, it’s offset by aggravating those people who support them the most.
■ J.D. Martinez hit .293 with an .884 OPS, 21 home runs, and 64 RBIs in 485 plate appearances as the designated hitter this season. The other nine players the Red Sox used as DHs hit .172 with a .523 OPS, two home runs, and 13 RBIs in 207 plate appearances.
Whether it’s Edwin Encarnacion or somebody else, the Sox will need to find a veteran hitter if Martinez leaves.
■ The home clubhouse at Fenway Park will get a major renovation this winter. It will include new lockers and changing the layout of the space so the entrance to the field is more direct from the dugout and the showers are somewhere more private than behind a curtain.
The Sox also are trying to find space for a second batting cage.
There are no plans to move the manager’s office back into the clubhouse, where it was for decades before this season. It remains quizzical that the Sox hired Alex Cora for his communication skills then moved his office farther away from the players.
■ Blake Swihart decided to become a free agent after the Diamondbacks outrighted him to the minor leagues. Deven Marrero did the same with the Marlins. Swihart was a first-round pick of the Sox in 2011, and Marrero in ’12. They have combined for minus-1.3 WAR in the majors.
■ John Farrell emerged from his lobster boat and interviewed with the Angels for their managerial vacancy. That position seems almost sure to go to Joe Maddon, but Farrell has made it clear he wants back in the dugout after two years away.
The Phillies could be a better option. They were impressed with Farrell’s interview in 2017 before selecting Gabe Kapler. Now that Kapler has been fired, Farrell could get another look.
If Farrell doesn’t manage next season, he’d fit well as a pitching coach.
Aroldis Chapman pitched 4⅓ innings over five games in September, Yankees manager Aaron Boone smartly talking advantage of his team’s big lead in the American League East. “Just a bit,” Chapman said when asked if he were frustrated by the lack of action. “You want to get in games and have some action, but preparation was the same. You’ve got to pitch to stay sharp. But every day I went out, and I did my work.” The rest could allow Boone to use Chapman for more than an inning in the American League Championship Series . . . Manager A.J. Hinch on what has made the Astros so special: “People like it here. The winning helps, but the culture really is about just bringing the best version of yourself here. We let guys be themselves. If you’re quiet, be quiet. If you’re loud, be loud. If you’re in between, be in between. I don’t think there’s one cookie-cutter way to run a team. You have to adapt to the personalities on the team. I tell these guys from the very beginning, you can be yourself, but we’re going to be very elite on the field. We’re going to talk a lot about the baseball.” . . . Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty allowed four runs over 13 innings in the Division Series and struck out 16 with two walks. “This kid’s a legit No. 1 guy. It’s almost like he gets stronger as he goes,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He doesn’t tire. He just keeps getting stronger. His delivery works, stuff’s live.” . . . Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell on going down to the bullpen between starts in the postseason: “It was weird; it’s just super boring. That’s the truth. It’s boring. There’s not a lot to do. You just kind of look around. It’s like you’re in la-la land. It’s not for me. I had some gum, some seeds. Normal snacks. I brought beef jerky. So it was an exciting time for me food-wise, but watching the game, a little boring.” . . . Happy 69th birthday to Dick Pole, who pitched for the Red Sox from 1973-76. He was 14-14 with a 4.56 ERA for the Sox and appeared in Game 5 of the 1975 World Series at Riverfront Stadium. He started the eighth inning and walked Johnny Bench and Tony Perez on nine pitches. That was it for Pole. Diego Segui came in and allowed three fly outs. That was enough to get Bench to third and then score him. The Mariners took Pole in the expansion draft before the 1977 season. Scott Cooper is 52. He was the only All-Star for the Red Sox in the dark days of 1993 and ’94.