The Red Sox Are Back

Beckett, Gonzalez, and Punto looking a little too happy on their way out of town. (From @Shredderpunto on Twitter)

The Red Sox just shipped off Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto in exchange for $260 million in salary relief and a handful of minor leaguers, and I think I’m actually more excited than I was when they originally got all those guys. (Except Punto—I cannot tell you how hyped I was last off-season when I heard they’d signed Punto to a two-year deal. I really thought he was the missing link, not just for this season, but for next as well. My only question was why they didn’t give Punto, a utility infielder and career .247 hitter, a three-year contract.)

Let’s deal with the trade first from a baseball perspective: It’s an A+, but only because A++’s only exist in middle school, and even then, only for nerds and suck ups. Adrian Gonzalez may have been having an off year, but there’s little doubt he’ll bounce back. He was appropriately priced at the $21 million the Red Sox were going to have to pay him for the next six years. Fine. But Carl Crawford at $20.5 million for five more seasons and Josh Beckett at $15.75 million for the next two were travesties. So the question becomes, was sacrificing Gonzalez worth it just to unload Crawford and Beckett? Yes! Unequivocally yes. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just being a contrarian jerk. Tell them to stop it.

It’s hard to find elite hitters like Gonzalez, but this is all about value. In his time with the Sox, Gonzalez has had an on base percentage of .382 and slugged at .515. For Crawford, those numbers are .292 and .419. Average ’em together and you get an OBP of .337 and a slugging percentage of .467. You’re paying $41.5 million per year for that. By contrast, Cody Ross has an on base percentage of .342 and a slugging percentage of .520 this year. That’s significantly better than our combined Gonzalo-Crawford monster. Ross is making $3 million this season (granted, he’s in line for a raise, but still). I apologize if it looks like I’m trying to recreate a scene from Moneyball, but the bottom line is that the oft-injured Crawford was so bad and so expensive that it easily makes it worth it to sacrifice Gonzalez. There’s no way the Sox won’t get better value out of that $40+ million than they were getting from those two.

But the baseball aspect of this isn’t even the most important. I’m just happy that the Sox are back on the road to likability. This was a tough, tough team to cheer for. I was at the point of actually rooting against Beckett when he was pitching (though still for the Sox to win—this got a bit complicated at times). While Crawford didn’t do anything wrong except play poorly, he was the embodiment of the Yankees-like excess the Red Sox had come to indulge in. As for Gonzalez, I can’t put my finger on it, but there was always something off about the guy. He had negative charisma and seemed allergic to big situations. It didn’t even look like he was having fun out there. He was like the anti-Big Papi.

And that’s the main thing. This team does not look like it has fun playing together. I’ve always believed that baseball, as great as it is, is an inherently boring game that’s only fun to watch if the players on your team look like they’re out there having a great time. That was what was so amazing about the “Idiot” Sox teams of 2003-2005. They did the crazy handshakes and hugged all the time and pointed at each other (and I haven’t even gotten to Manny). It sounds silly, but that stuff makes a difference. Over the last several years, the Sox got so caught up in big signings and getting “professional” players that they forgot to get some guys to keep things loose.

Now that he’s unloaded all that money, Red Sox GM Ben Cherrington has, essentially, a blank canvas to work with. Let’s hope he builds something fun.