The Fenway Frauds rebounded from a dead-last finish in 2012 to another World Series title in 2013. How did they pull that off? Well, they got a full season from their “best” hitter, and with a change of managerial leadership, the Boston Red Sox went last to first. How did this miracle happen? Good question, and we don’t have a predetermined answer.
However, consider this miniseries and what we’re looking at? The patterns have emerged, so let’s take a gander at the suspect players on this season’s Boston roster to see examine if the Red Sox did things the right way … or the wrong way. You decide.
Exhibit A: Stephen Drew
If the last name is familiar, you’re not wrong. This member of the family posted a .713 OPS in Arizona at age 28 in 2011, and then followed it up with a combined .657 OPS in Arizona and Oakland in 2012. So, at age 30, Boston signs a guy in clear decline to a $9.5M, one-year deal, giving Drew a near-$2M raise from his 2012 salary. Why?!
You know why. While Drew didn’t knock the cover off the ball, he must have come highly recommended by his big brother, as the veteran shortstop recovered enough to post a .777 OPS for the Red Sox. His WAR (2.7) was a far cry better than the negative number he posted in 2012 as well. He re-signed with Boston for 2014 at a $10.1M rate, but when Drew managed just a .583 OPS, he was traded away.
That was pretty much the end of his career, as other than brief resurgence in Washington with the Nationals in 2016, Drew was out of the majors by 2018. But once he decided to come to Boston, probably with the assurance from J.D., little Stephen earned a whopping $31.1M more in wages, all while posting a mere 2.7 WAR total from 2013-2017.
Exhibit B: Shane Victorino
This guy put up just a .704 OPS in 2012 with both the Philadelphia Phillies (.724 in 101 games) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (.667 in 53 games) combined. At age 31, his best days were clearly behind him. Yet Boston gave him a 3-year, $39M deal … did the organization get reassurances on Victorino’s disposition from someone, too? He made just $9.5M in 2012, and he was terrible. Why would the Red Sox pay that?!
You know why: Victorino rebounded with an .801 OPS at age 32, while hitting a career-high .294 at the plate. He still had enough juice in his legs to steal 21 bases, so maybe this is an example of the last year of his prime coming a wee bit late, but that is too coincidental for us under the auspices of Fenway Park patterns we’ve been examining for months now.
Subsequently, too, he managed just a .685 OPS in 2014 and an even-worse .622 OPS in 2015 before Boston finally dumped him on the Los Angeles Angels for the final two months of the year. Victorino never played in the majors again, but he had that nice $39M deal to go out with, didn’t he? Oh, and the World Series ring, too. Well played, Shane … well played.
Exhibit C: Daniel Nava
This was such a feel-good story at the time, but we all know sometimes things are too good to be true. At age 30, this outfielder had the only good season of his career, after being out of the majors entirely in 2011 despite making his debut in 2010 with Boston to the tune of a .711 OPS. Even in the prior 2012 season, Nava put up just a .742 OPS in 88 games.
However, 2013 was a special chapter in his otherwise unremarkable career: a .303 average and an .831 OPS, both career bests by huge margins. He made only $500K during this season, but the aftereffects of this effort netted him over $5M more in contracts before his MLB career ended after the 2017 season. Never again did Nava hit higher than .270 in a full season, or post an OPS better than the .700-plus level.
When his OPS dropped to .706 with Boston in 2014 and then down even further to .442 in 2015, the Red Sox organization waived him. He caught on briefly with some other teams, but Nava was never really the same player again. He showed flashes of brilliance in 2017 with the Phillies at age 34, but no MLB team took another chance on him, even so. Interesting for many reasons, of course.
Exhibit D: John Lackey
The hero of the 2002 World Series for the Angels, Lackey came to Boston in 2010 after signing a 5-year, $80M contract. That’s a lot of money. When Lackey posted just a 26-23 record with a 5.26 ERA in the first two years of that deal, it looked like a sucker punch for the Red Sox organization to swallow. Lackey ended up missing the entire 2012 season as well at the MLB level.
Lo and behold, he came back in 2013 at age 34 and posted the best ERA of his career since the 2007 season (3.52) and the best WHIP (1.157) of his entire life hitherto. However, his 10-13 record wasn’t stellar, and it dropped him down to a .500 pitcher for the Red Sox over the duration of the huge contract. Despite winning the Series, the Boston organization traded Lackey to St. Louis during the 2014 season.
Whatever Lackey learned in his year off in 2012 with Boston paid off with the Cardinals in 2015, too, as he put up a lifetime-best 2.77 ERA at age 36. The 2013-2015 stretch earned Lackey a $32M deal from the Chicago Cubs for 2016 and 2017, where he won another World Series. Not bad for a guy with a lifetime 3.92 ERA and 1 All-Star nod to earn so much money after being washed up by 2012.
Exhibit E: Craig Breslow
A journeyman LOOGY, this dude had a career 3.45 ERA, which is quite solid. However, in 2011 at age 30 with Oakland, Breslow posted a then career-worst 3.79 ERA in a pitcher’s ballpark. By the end of 2012, he was in Boston, and despite pitching in a hitter’s park there, he posted a 2.70 ERA in 23 appearances with the Red Sox. This earned him an $8.15M deal through the 2015 season, somehow.
In 2013, at age 32, he posted a career-low 1.81 ERA over 61 appearances for the Boston organization. Whatever magic was in his arm over these first 84 games for the Red Sox disappeared over the last 157 appearances of his career through 2017 as he posted, in succession, ERAs of 5.96, 4.15, 4.50, and 5.09 on the way out.
He was in decline in his early 30s, but Breslow went to Boston, defied the odds, and secured himself a lot of money—including almost $3M more after he left the Red Sox organization. The temptation is real, as we keep seeing, left and right, through these pages.
Exhibit F: David Ortiz
Last, but not least … Big Papi. At age 37, he hit .309 with a .959 OPS. He also put up 30 HRs and 100 RBI, something he had not done since 2010. Ortiz also snagged a career-best 4 stolen bases, so something was making him move faster than ever before now. What is most interesting is how he also topped the AL with 27 IBBs, the most of his career.
We’ve made it clear here that Ortiz tested positive in 2003 and made up all sorts of excuses and lies over the years, and sadly it worked on too many Hall of Fame voters. The fact remains he is a confirmed cheater, and he was never punished for it. Why would he ever have stopped cheating? Plus, the numbers show the ridiculousness of his ongoing dishonesty. Ho hum.
Conclusion: The song remains the same, even if the chart positions change
What a difference a year makes? You get some new blood in town and with the program, and some of that blood had established talent once. Look how far you can go! We see some more repeated patterns of veterans on the way out, looking to extend their careers for one or two final paydays in the millions, and this franchise has an open door for like-minded individuals.
The Drew Brothers connection is too obvious, and the ongoing “leadership” presence of Ortiz in the clubhouse just keeps welcoming the opportunists. But you have to win and play at a high level, or you’re going—even if you get to keep the money and the ring(s). It’s the same old story for the Fenway Frauds.