The Fenway Frauds hit rock bottom in 2012, after panicking in the winter prior. After firing the manager who led them to two World Series titles (Terry Francona), the Boston Red Sox hired retread Bobby Valentine and ended up with a 69-93 record, the team’s worst season since 1965. Why did they fire Francona? Maybe it was to shake things up after the September 2011 collapse. Who knows?
Either way, it did not work. Even with the guys below (probably) using, the team ended up the stink. We saw this happen with the San Francisco Giants, too, right after Barry Bonds “retired” from MLB. One might ask, how can a team cheat and still lose? Well, pretty easily, because you still need talent on the take, either way, and sometimes, you end up thinking the juice is all you need. Oops!
Exhibit A: Kelly Shoppach
Yeah, this is a perfect example of talent absence. With a lifetime OPS of just .725, Shoppach was an age-32 backup catcher, coming off some bad seasons (.650 OPS in 2010 and .607 OPS in 2011, both with Tampa Bay). Why would the Red Sox give a guy with that profile a $1.1M contract to be a backup? Well, you probably know why.
Shoppach put up a .798 OPS in 48 games with Boston before being dumped on the New York Mets in August with the season fading away, and he promptly went back to his old ways (.618 OPS in 28 games). However, whatever he did in Boston with the Green Monster was enough to get him a $1.5M deal with the Seattle Mariners for 2013—where he promptly fell on his face, of course (.638 OPS).
In fact, he was a member of four different organizations in 2013: Seattle, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. For that $1.5M, he posted a .627 OPS in 36 MLB games. Nice work if you can get it, right? So, what happened for the first four months of 2012 to Shoppach? Can’t credit the managerial staff, can you? Or the Green Monster alone. Nope, someone dove into the PED pool, clearly.
Exhibit B: Scott Atchison
This is what we mean by scraping the bottom of the talent barrel. In 31 games with the Mariners in 2004-2005, he posted a 4.10 ERA, and then was out of the majors in 2006. He made a comeback of sorts with the Giants in 2007, at age 31, posting a 4.11 ERA in 30-plus innings, but once again, Atchison found himself out of MLB until 2010, when Boston was desperate for a bullpen arm.
Even then, a 4.50 ERA at age 34 should not have been enough for the Red Sox to keep him around for any price. But Atchison improved in 2011 with a 3.26 ERA, so maybe he learned something from his combined time in S.F. and Boston. It all paid off in 2012 with a 1.58 ERA at age 36 in 51-plus innings for the Red Sox, as he made $510K in salary. How does this happen? You know how.
Either way, Boston chose not to re-sign him, which is odd. So, the Mets did, and guess what happened? Making a career-high $700K, he promptly flopped (4.37 ERA). But he was able to hang around in the major leagues until 2015. Thus, his 2012 season earned him an additional $2.5M in salary, when he was basically making the league minimum. Was it worth it for Atchison to test the PED waters? You betcha.
Exhibit C: Cody Ross
We’re not sure how he was left off the The House That Steroids Built 2010 entry, but here we go. Ross was 29 years old in 2010, posting a mediocre .721 OPS with the Florida Marlins when they dumped him on the Giants. He proceeded to post an .819 OPS over the final 33 games of the regular season as S.F. caught the San Diego Padres from behind in September.
Then in the 2010 playoffs, Ross put up a 1.076 OPS in 15 games as S.F. won its first World Series since 1954. That’s some overnight improvement from someone with a career .768 OPS! However, Ross soon reverted to his old ways in 2011, posting just a .730 OPS with the Giants as they missed the playoffs. But the Red Sox obviously liked what they saw in late 2010, because Boston signed Ross to a $3M deal.
In 2012 at age 31, Ross put up an .807 OPS with the Red Sox in 130 games, but Boston didn’t bite long term. Guess who did? The Arizona Diamondbacks—who signed this mediocre talent to a $28.5M contract at age 32. So, even though he was in decline from ages 28-29 with the Marlins, some time with the Giants and the Red Sox ended up netting this guy a small fortune in his waning MLB days. Unreal.
Exhibit D: David Ortiz
Here we go, once more unto the breach, with this cheater. Ortiz only managed 90 games in the regular season, probably because there was no point risking more injury playing for this bunch of sad sacks. Then again, the Red Sox were 43-43 at the All-Star break, so they weren’t out of it entirely. Either way, Ortiz—at age 36—put up a 1.026 OPS and a .318 batting average. Those are some of his highest marks.
Big Papi also drew more walks than strikeouts, something he had not done since 2007. We guess his eyesight got a lot better in his mid-30s? Ahem. The team’s record with Ortiz in the game was 46-44, so when he basically went out with injury in mid-July, the Red Sox really tanked. The organization surrounded him with guys like Ross, who might have been decent complementary players.
Without Ortiz, though, the team just couldn’t stay afloat with other aging talent. Was this the main reason the Boston squad ended up in last place? No, but it was the primary one. If Ortiz could have played a whole season with those number projected out, we would have seen a better finish, for sure. The 173 OPS+ mark was the best of Big Papi’s career, by the way—again, at age 36.
Conclusion: Crashed and burned, huh?
Investing in bad players like Atchison and Ross cost the Red Sox when Ortiz got hurt, but we see players tempted by the organizational “blind eye” to find gain for themselves. The team doesn’t complain if the wins follow. But in this case, the wins did not follow, but guys like Atchison and Ross still were able to land huge paydays elsewhere after this season.
Even in the absence of any “positive” tests for PEDs, it’s clear many players were using, even if just temporarily, to land a big contract. A perfect example of this reality is the fact that many people drive under the influence of drugs (including alcohol). How many of them actually get caught? Enough said. The numbers here do not lie—nor does the money that came falling into players’ laps after Boston.