The Fenway Frauds had an even-bigger setback in 2010, as they won only 89 games while missing the postseason for just the second time since 2002. In fact, this season would signal the onset of an organizational struggle for the team that would see two managers fired before the Boston Red Sox managed to win the World Series again in 2013.
Like other franchises discovered, the goodies can only last so long before they take a toll on everyone and everything in the nearby orbit. That’s what we saw here: call it karma, but the crookedness just caught up with the Boston organization, finally, despite the ongoing commitment to fraudulent action.
Exhibit A: Bill Hall
In 2009 at age 29, this veteran utility player was washed up as he split time with Milwaukee (.606 OPS) and Seattle (.578). The prior year, his OPS was just .689 with the Brewers, as Hall continued to decline from his career year at age 26 back in 2006. So, why did the Red Sox trade for him in January 2010? Hall was owed $8.5M, too, so the Boston organization was taking a huge gamble on a player in major decline.
That’s the challenge for an organization like this: identifying the type(s) of players who will “fit their system” and “do what it takes to win” as we always hear the mediots proclaim. Well, the Red Sox found their “kind of guy” in Hall, who rebounded to post a .772 OPS and have his best season since 2006. It still was not worth the money, so the team naturally declined to re-sign Hall after the year was over.
He only played in 69 more MLB games in 2011-2012, but the 2010 campaign earned him another $3M salary in 2011, split between the Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants (who couldn’t even revive his dead bat). It was a failed experiment for the Red Sox, of course, as you could see how desperate the organization was getting, just 3 years removed from its most recent World Series title.
Exhibit B: Darnell McDonald
Yes, we know he is a nobody, but again, it’s these kind of players that some teams have built a division winner out of with the “right” nudges in certain directions. This guy played a total of 68 games in the majors from 2004-2009, but the Boston organization signed him in November 2009, anyway. He would be 31 with a career batting average of .231—but the Red Sox would pay him over $1M for 3 years.
McDonald, of course, ended up hitting .270 in 117 games with Boston during this regular season, posting career highs in HRs, RBI, SBs, BA, OPS, etc. He obviously wasn’t a superstar, but something in the clubhouse agreed with him during this season. McDonald suddenly had a life in MLB that was consistent until he washed out of the majors at age 34 in 2013 with the Chicago Cubs.
We wonder what kind of conversation happened between Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein and McDonald’s agent (Jeff Moorad) in November 2009 that enabled this partnership. Then again, this was a low-risk, low-reward situation for Boston which ended in 2012 when the team waived McDonald after he ended up posting just a .735 OPS in 234 games with the team from 2010-2012. Oops!
Exhibit C: David Ortiz
The Big Cheater posted that career-worst .794 OPS in 2009 at age 33, which should have signaled the beginning of the end for him. But no … he bounced back with an .899 OPS, a number that was his second-lowest mark from here to the end of his career at age 40 in 2016. His batting average jumped 32 points, too, which is odd for a guy with no wheels whatsoever.
This year was a season where Ortiz made $13M, and after 2011, he would be a free agent again—at age 35. Someone needed to cycle up in order to make one last huge score in a career that was already tainted by a positive PED test from 2003. So, in 2010, he bounces back, and in 2011, he puts up a .953 OPS—at age 35—to secure his final deal from Boston: 5 years for $75.5M!
Forget the rings. Ortiz was in this for the money, obviously. And the Red Sox, his partners in crime, were willing to play along, because Big Papi put big butts in the Fenway seats. We have asked this before, but what kind of pathetic fan base cheers for players who have been caught cheating? Good question. The only answer is “fans desperate to win at any cost because they’re tremendously insecure“!
Conclusion: Can’t rely on scrubs, but you can rely on superstars
Losing Manny Ramírez hurt the Red Sox, even if he was a freak sideshow. The team went into decline, and the fans stopped showing up as the Boston club lost its sellout streak in early 2013 after three consecutive seasons of no playoffs (can you say “bandwagon”?). They still had Ortiz, but it wasn’t enough. Stars need to be on board with the organizational plan, as you can’t win with fringe players.
The next few seasons in Fenway are interesting ones: the 2011 meltdown in September and the 2012 losing season. It will be interesting to see where this analysis goes over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
Side note: Utility infielder Marco Scutaro (age 34 with a .721 OPS) played on this squad. He’d learn his lessons, though, by the time he got to San Francisco in 2012.