The Red Sox get a reprieve, the Yankees have issues, and MLB’s horrible decision to expand the playoffs backfires are the topics of the week.
The Red Sox
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of the picture above, I’d say it is worth much more than that.
In one of the most stunning trades in history, the Red Sox sent over 270 million dollars in payroll obligations named Beckett, Crawford, Gonzalez and Punto to the Dodgers in return for James Loney, Ivan Dejesus Jr, and prospects.
In reading recent columns and opinion polls it has stunned me that a large number of people think that the Dodgers won this trade. While the immediate effect of this trade may be to strengthen the Dodgers playoff chances this season, the Red Sox were just given a reprieve like none in history. Red Sox haters who are reveling in the misery of the franchise would be wise to hold their gloating to a minimum.
In 2013 MLB teams who exceed 178MM will pay a fifty percent luxury tax. That represents an increase from the forty-two percent luxury tax that was in effect for the 2012 season. That is a pretty serious penalty for all teams wishing to exceed the 178MM threshold, to say the least. The luxury tax changes in recent years have made long-term big money contracts the biggest enemy of major league teams. Flexibility, young performing players inside of five years of MLB service, a good farm system, and the ability to make moves are now the most valuable assets that a team can have in this day and age.
Before departing for the Cubs, former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made a series of bad trades and signings. In the process of these bad signings and trades, Epstein crippled the Red Sox with a bloated payroll, a barren farm system, and a bad clubhouse full of disgruntled players. The Red Sox haven’t won a playoff game since 2008 and if you had asked me a week ago when I could foresee them winning another playoff game I would have answered to check with me after the Presidential Election…..in 2016.
In one fell swoop the Red Sox were able to gain prospects, flexibility, payroll space, and cleanse their clubhouse of three of the unhappiest players on the team in Crawford, Beckett, and Gonzalez. While Gonzalez is obviously a player that the Red Sox or any team would be lucky to have, the bottom line is that he was a small price to pay to be rid of Beckett and Crawford’s contracts.
I was asked after this trade by a friend if in the theoretical world that the Yankees were out of contention this season and had the chance to trade A-Rod and Texeira as long as they threw in Cano would I have been in favor of that. My response was a quick and emphatic “ABSOLUTELY!”. My reasoning in that is that if Yankee fans think A-Rod and Texeira’s contracts look bad now, just wait three or four years and they’ll look apocalyptic.
In the new age of baseball, shedding overpaid, underperforming long-term contracts is the biggest home run a team can hit in this new era of baseball. The Red Sox just hit a grand slam and while their haters are basking in the glow of a current disaster, the Red Sox and their fans can now look forward to what should be a much brighter future. While it isn’t always easy to be as excited about the future as it is about the present, it’s much better to have a brighter future than to be stuck in a hopeless situation.
One Hot Run
It is August 27th and the Yankees lead the AL East by four games over the Rays and four and a half games over the Orioles. In a season that’s seen the loss of: Brett Gardner only nine games into the season, Michael Pineda before he ever threw a regular season pitch in pinstripes, the great Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte for what will be at least two and a half months, and Alex Rodriguez for what will be at least six weeks, and now Ivan Nova for an indefinite period, one would think that a division lead with only thirty-five games left to play would be a stellar achievement. While the leading the AL East in late August is most assuredly an accomplishment, the fashion in which the Yankees have achieved that late is cause for concern.
The Yankees began this season with a 21-21 record from April 6th through May 21st. The Yankees have gone 17-19 in their last 36 games between July 19th and August 26th. The Yankees have looked and played like a below .500 team for the majority of the season and owe their division lead to a blazing run in 49 games played between May 22nd and July 18th in which they went 36-13.
While it doesn’t matter how you amass a record during the regular season to make the playoffs, the mark of a good team is consistency and the Yankees have displayed little of that through the majority of this season.
The Yankees have been plagued by RISP issues and inconsistent pitching from virtually everyone except Rafael Soriano. Derek Jeter has turned back the clock with an incredible season and Robinson Cano continues to shine but Mark Texeira, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones Curtis Granderson, and Russell Martin are a combined 404-1743(.232).
Texeira continues to underachieve woefully as a Yankee. A plus .300 lifetime hitter before being signed to an 8 year, 180MM deal with the Yankees, Texeira hasn’t come close to living up to the expectations that he brought to the Bronx since the end of the 2009 regular season. Including his tragic 18-106 postseason stats, since the start of the 2009 postseason Texeira has gone 429-1730(.250). His OPS since 2009 to this season has declined from .948 to .846 to .835 to .814. Texeira’s OBP since 2009 to this season has declined from .383 to .365 to .341 to .335. While his defenders point to his incredible defense and home runs, the fact is that he possessed the same incredible defense and power when he was signed to a monster deal that pays him 23.5 million dollars this season. Texeira’s is 6-53(.113) with two outs and RISP this season and those aren’t the kind of numbers you want to see from a player batting cleanup while A-Rod heals from his broken hand.
While the possible return of Pettitte would help the Yankees, the key to the Yankees’ playoff chances and success in the postseason may hinge on A-Rod’s return and subsequent performance. Still on track for an early September return, A-Rod’s return would alter the look of the Yankee lineup and strengthen it considerably. Eric Chavez‘s outstanding bat could replace the Ibanez/Jones DH platoon in the postseason and give the Yankees this look in the postseason:
Jeter SS, Swisher RF, A-Rod 3B, Cano 2B, Texeira 1B, Granderson CF, Chavez DH, Martin C, Ichiro LF
For all of the bashing A-Rod has taken for his postseason failures and sub par regular seasons 2010-2012, he’s never hit below .270 in his career which is 14 points higher than Texeira’s best year from 2010-2012 with the same type of power Texeira has had. Yankee fans would be wise to note this and refrain from the “who needs A-Rod?” talk that Chavez has inspired.
If The Playoffs Began Today
Before we get into how the playoffs would look if they began today, I’d like to thank Bud Selig for yet another destructive, ill-conceived, moronic decision in his tenure. The decision to expand the number of playoff teams not only further negates the credibility of a long 162 game season, but also puts the higher seeds in a negative position to advance this season due to the incredulous decision to play the first two games of the best-of-five round on the road. But wait, there could be more disaster!
Not only will this playoff expansion debacle lessen the drama of what looks like could have been a thrilling race if only wildcard team was advancing to the postseason, but could possibly lead to chaos. With 5 teams separated by only 4 1/2 games in the AL and 4 teams separated by the same 4 1/2 games in the NL for the two wildcard slots, it is very possible that 3 teams could end up tied for the wildcard positions. The mess that this would create would be both comical and tragic at the same time. Selig has zigged when he should have zagged from day one of his tenure.
In the AL:
The Orioles and A’s would have a one game playoff in Oakland on Thursday October 4th to determine who would play Tampa in a one game playoff on Friday October 5th to determine who would host the first two games of the best-of-five series against Texas starting on Sunday October 7th. Got that? So basically if the A’s were to win both one game playoffs, the Rangers would travel to Oakland to play the first two games of the best-of-five on the road against a team they beat by 5 1/2 games in their own division. Pure genius there folks.
The White Sox would host the Yankees in the first two games of the best-of-five series starting on Saturday October 6th. The Yankees’ “reward” for having a 2 1/2 game better record than the White Sox would be a trip to Chicago to start a series. Sheer brilliance there.
In the NL:
The Braves would host a one game playoff against the Cardinals on Friday October 5th to determine who would host the first two games of a best-of-five series against the Nationals on Sunday October 7th. So basically if the Braves won the playoff game against the Cardinals, the Nationals would be on the road for the first two games of a best-of-five series against a team they beat by 4 1/2 games in the same division. Sure makes sense to me.
The Giants would host the first two games of a best-of-five against the Reds, who would have a 5 1/2 game better record than the Giants. You couldn’t make this stuff up.