The Fenway Frauds had a setback in 2009, as they won “just” 95 games to finish second in the AL East Division behind the hated New York Yankees—who went on to win the World Series for the first time since 2000. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox were swept out of the postseason in the first round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. That had to hurt, especially after the Boston organization reset in 2008.
The team got suspect performances from some guys we’ve discussed earlier: Mike Lowell, Jason Bay, and J.D. Drew. We don’t want to re-hash those guys, although we will take a look at one of the famous PED users and his off year in 2009.
Exhibit A: Victor Martinez
In 8 seasons with Cleveland from 2002-2009, totaling 821 games, this guy posted an .832 OPS—very healthy and solid. However, in 2008, at age 29, he posted just a .701 OPS in 73 games as he struggled with a myriad of issues. The Boston Red Sox came to the rescue, and in 183 combined games in 2009-2010, Martinez rebounded—at ages 30-31—to post an .865 OPS overall.
This netted him $238M in contracts with the Detroit Tigers from ages 32-39, where Martinez managed just a .789 OPS over 969 games. So, what do we see here? A solid player in possible early decline who “recovers” in Boston and then scores huge contracts elsewhere, while inevitably underperforming in comparison to his Red Sox numbers that earned him those contracts.
This could be a case of it all being incidental, due to age, injuries, ballpark effects, etc. But it’s hard to buy and swallow that line when we see this same pattern so often with players who have passed through Fenway Park in the PED era.
Exhibit B: David Ortiz
Big Papi posted just a .794 OPS this season, the lowest mark for a full season in his long career. He was 33 years old, and coinciding with established expectation based on decades of data, this was probably the start of his natural decline—if he wasn’t using already, of course. We know Ortiz was using in 2003, due to the positive test that exists from that season. Let’s pretend that was a one-time thing, though.
Then perhaps this was the season that Ortiz realized he had to use to stay afloat in MLB. Again, he was 33 years old, and he hit just .238 in 150 games. After this season, which we will cover next week and beyond, Ortiz recovered to post the following OPS marks in late age: .899 (34), .953 (35), 1.026 (36), .959 (37), .873 (38), .913 (39), and 1.021 (40). At worst, he simply went back to the well.
It’s a disgrace that Ortiz was voted into the Hall of Fame this year, for many reasons. It’s a disgrace the Red Sox seem to get away with this garbage, although we know why. This guy deserves no spot in Cooperstown, period.
Conclusion: The Usual Suspects Can’t Get It Done Again
With a team ERA of 4.35 during the regular season, it’s clear the Red Sox needed to outscore opponents to win in 2009. They did that mostly, until the playoffs came around: During the regular season, Boston posted just a 17-16 record against the other AL playoff participants. That’s a far cry from the .586 winning percentage overall, and it cost the Red Sox in the playoffs where they were swept by the Angels.
In fact, Boston was outscored 9 runs in the three-game sweep, so the pitching did not hold up. The Red Sox had no PED suspects on the pitching staff, compared to successful postseasons like 2004 and 2007. We look forward to seeing how the Boston organization fixed this going forward on their way to two more ill-gained titles in 2013 and 2018.