Posted on: December 30, 2009 12:42 pm
Jason Bay agreed in principle to a four year, $66 million contract with the New York Mets on Tuesday, officially ending his season-and-a-half stint with the Boston Red Sox. While GM Theo Epstein never explicitly stated that the Sox were out of the bidding war with Bay, the writing was on the wall. Epstein signed veteran outfielder Mike Cameron to a two-year deal, and used the money that would have gone to a long-term deal with Bay to sign right-hander John Lackey.
The Bay signing has wide-ranging implications for several clubs, but the actual move should raise some perplexing questions. Of the free agent hitters available at the beginning of this off-season, Bay was second best behind Matt Holliday. Bay wanted to stay in Boston and the Red Sox hoped to keep him. But Bay insisted on the prospect of a fifth year of any type of contract, and the Sox remained resolute against it. When the Mets came calling with a similar four-year deal to what the Sox were offering plus a vested option for a fifth, Bay accepted the deal that he had been looking for.
But once the Sox had signed Cameron and Lackey, they were effectively out of the discussions for Bay. The Sox are less than $10 million away from the luxury tax limit for the 2010 season, and re-signing Bay would have put them over that limit. The St. Louis Cardinals have focused solely on re-signing Holliday, thus removing one potential buyer for Bay. The Angels, Mariners and Yankees also went after other players and dropped out from the Bay sweepstakes as well.
In the end, it appears as though the Mets were bidding against themselves. Due to a rash of injuries last season that sidelined seemingly the better half of their lineup for extended amounts of time, the Mets were in desperate need of a power-hitting outfielder, and it showed in the negotiations with Bay.
One of the biggest snag-ups about Bay was his defense, which often went unnoticed in the strange dimensions of Fenway Park. With no designated hitter in the N.L., Bay will have to play the outfield until he is 35 or 36, a prospect that deterred the Sox, especially for $16 million a year. Bay also displayed an unfortunate inability to connect on off-speed pitches and was prone to very cold slumps.
The Mets’ new CitiField is quickly becoming known as a right-handed hitters nightmare. Just ask David Wright: his home run total dropped from 33 in 2008 (the last year in Shea Stadium) to 10 at the new CitiField. Bay has spent most of his career in the N.L., so there should not be a terrible layover while he tries to become acclimated with new ballparks and pitchers, but the Mets would be foolish to expect a home run total in the high 30s from Bay.
But at least the Mets got their man. For the Red Sox, the search is on for some spark in the middle of the lineup. They remain the number one buyers for third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is an excellent fielder with some offensive upside. But if Beltre is the answer, that means that Cameron and Florida Marlins cast-off Jeremy Hermida will patrol left field for the ’10 campaign. Combined with speedy Jacoby Ellsbury and the mediocre J.D. Drew, the Sox may field an outfield that has a legitimate shot to account for less than 30 home runs.
Other names are possibilities, such as ex-Yankee Xavier Nady, who would be a decent option in the outfield, but injuries limited him to only seven games in 2009. If the Sox were unwilling to go after Bay, they will definitely stay clear of Holliday, which means that any other move would have to come via a trade. And if the Sox were unwilling to unload the farm system to acquire Roy Halladay, then the same can likely be said for the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez.
Tags: Adrian Beltre, Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, CitiField, David Wright, Fenway Park, Florida Marlins, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Bay, Jeremy Hermida, John Lackey, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Matt Holliday, Mike Cameron, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Roy Halladay, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Theo Epstein, Xavier Nady
Posted on: June 26, 2009 2:13 pm
The Boston Red Sox recently completed a three game series against the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital. The Sox took two out of three against the lowly Nationals in a relatively unremarkable series – with one exception.
Thanks to the droves of the fans of Red Sox Nation that follow the Sox all across the country, the Nationals recorded three consecutive days of their biggest crowds ever at Nationals Park.
Nationals Park opened for the 2008 season and drew an average of 29,005 fans per game. Due in part to the struggling, but mostly the fact that the Nationals (in case you haven’t noticed) are really bad, attendance has dropped to 22,343 per game.
Opening after 34 years without baseball in D.C., Nationals Park was a $611 million investment made to bring America’s Pastime back to the capital. While the Nationals organization is currently in very dire straights and could glean a great deal from observing how the Red Sox operate, they have one thing that the Sox should pay close attention to.
A shiny, new ballpark.
There are a great deal of baseball purists who relish the antiquity of Fenway Park, the last remaining mainstay from old-time baseball. Every Red Sox fan knows the tale of the historic landmark.
It opened in 1912, just days before the Titanic sank, and has housed baseball legends for nearly a century. The list of Hall-of-Famers is as remarkable as the park they played in.
And in the large picture, Fenway Park remained very much unchanged. Only recently, since the John Henry/Tom Warner/Larry Luccino partnership bought the Red Sox, has the dynamics of the park changed. Yet with all of the changes and face-lifts, Fenway remains one of the smaller parks in the league, but with more demand for tickets than any other city.
I have only been to one other park besides Fenway (where I have visited about a dozen times), and it was the Nationals Park in Washington. The stadium is absolutely stunning, and not just because of the flat-screen televisions that are scattered at every turn.
Nationals Park features everything that fans and players would put into a “suggestions for improvements” box at Fenway. In addition to a much more clean and spacious interior, the concessions and restrooms are more modern and much more available. The walkways, entrances and exits are designed to get massive amounts of people in and out of the ballpark as quickly as possible.
Almost the entire Sox roster had never been to Nationals Park before, and all were taken by the modernity of the place. Some were saying that the visitors’ clubhouse was bigger and better equipped than the home clubhouse at Fenway.
I appreciate the nostalgia of Fenway Park as much as anyone, and nothing can replace the memories of the old stadium. But it is time that the Red Sox put the Friendly Confines to rest and build a stadium that reflects two recent World Series titles and a bevy of young talent.
The Sox recently sold out their 500th straight game at Fenway. The popularity of the Red Sox has stretched so far that there will always be a demand for the tickets, and as soon as John Henry & Co. add more seats, they immediately get bought up and sold out.
The Sox plan for a new ballpark should be centered on opening in 2013, which means that the original Fenway will be in operation for exactly 100 years. The new stadium can have more seats and concessions, but with roughly the same dimensions of the old park, including the Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole.
If the new park had only 5,000 more seats, that would mean that over 400,000 more people would be able to see the Sox play. We all love Fenway, but it is not going to last forever, and they should take advantage of the 100 anniversary as a was to market a new park and show the fans that they truly appreciate Red Sox Nation.
Posted on: May 4, 2008 6:07 pm
Jon Lester delivered another impressive starting performance, and kept the Rays at bay while the offense steadily put up enough runs to come away with the win. With Lester’s performance, he lowers his ERA to 3.94. Josh Beckett now has the highest ERA among the Sox starters at 4.19. The Sox five starters’ combined ERA is a very impressive 3.69 (77 runs in 187.2 innings). Lester has played a much bigger role in the starting rotation than was anticipated in spring training. He has the most innings pitched among all of the starters and has recently been pitching very well late into the games. Over his last three games, he has only allowed two runs over 20 innings pitched for a sparkling 0.90 ERA. He did allow three walks today, and his season strikeout-to-walks ratio is a little over 1 to 1. (By contrast, Beckett’s strikeout to walk ratio is 4.25 strikeouts per walk.) But if he only continues to give up four hits and one run and work deep into games, the Sox can live with the walks.
If the starting pitching is going full steam in the right direction, then the bullpen has run out of gas. With today included, the Sox relievers have given up 57 runs in 103.1 innings, which results in a 4.96 ERA. Manny Delcarmen struggled again, giving up one run while he was in the game, and was charged again when Hideki Okajima allowed an inherited runner to score. With Delcarmens’ 7.29 ERA, he is coming dangerously close to challenging Mike Timlin for the highest ERA among the relievers. Recently, Terry Francona pulled Delcarmen from the game after only facing a few batters, much as he did today, and Delcarmen threw a water jug back onto the field once he got back to the dugout. The bullpen has, and will continue to get, good performances from Jonathan Papelbon and Okajima, no surprises there, and David Aardsma has done a good job as the seventh inning man. Javier Lopez’s work has been sporadic, but on the whole, a good effort. The rest of the bullpen has been completely unreliable, and those three or four guys that are performing well cannot pitch every time the Sox have the lead, and leave the other four arms in the bullpen to mop-up duty. Delcarmen was supposed to be the reliever who filled in for Papelbon when he had pitched in back-to-back games, but Francona would have no confidence putting Delcarmen in with the lead in the ninth inning.