We can assume the Boston Red Sox still were sign stealing in 2019, since the Fenway Frauds weren’t exposed until after this season. Even though the team regressed to just 84 victories and missed the postseason, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t cheating still. It just means the Red Sox weren’t as successful at it as they had been the prior season when they won the World Series. That’s all; this isn’t automatic.
This will be our last yearly entry in this miniseries, and next week we will follow up with a wrap-up analysis of it all, just like we did with the other miniseries of this nature. In truth, we want to be free of the negative energy, although it’s tough, as you all know … yet we will try, wholeheartedly. Anyway, remember, even if sign stealing was the method du jour, this was still a PED organization, too.
Exhibit A: Mitch Moreland
At age 33, he posted the highest OPS of his career to that point (.835). His newfound success still came with a pay cut, though, and eventually the Sox traded him to San Diego, and his career went downhill there in 2020 and in 2021 with the Oakland Athletics. He’s now out of baseball in 2022, which is odd considering he posted a 1.179 OPS in the first half of the 2020 season.
In seven seasons with the Texas Rangers (2010-2016), Moreland posted just a .754 OPS. But the Boston organization gave him $21M over the next four seasons to get with the program, and he did to the tune of an .803 OPS from ages 31-34. Considering the Red Sox won the World Series with him in 2018, it was a win-win situation for player and ball club.
Exhibit B: Brandon Workman
Remember, this wasn’t just about sign stealing. The Red Sox had been promoting PEDs to their pitchers for years by now, according to reports. In 2013-2014, Workman was a mediocre pitcher in the organization, posting a 5.11 ERA combined over almost 130 IP. He then was out of the majors entirely in 2015 and 2016. He came back to Boston in 2017 as a totally different pitcher.
Now, admittedly, maybe he finally learned how to pitch at age 28 in 2017. But for the next three seasons, 2017-2019, Workman produced a 2.59 ERA over 152-plus IP. That’s a remarkable turnaround, and again, maybe it was maturity and growth in his formal peak period. But it’s Boston, so we’re going to be quite suspicious, especially since his 2016 minor-league ERA was well over 7 runs per 9 IP.
Salary wise, he was still on a major-league deal while he was out in 2015 with injury and recovering in 2016 in the minors. After his solid return, the Red Sox gave him two years (2019-2020) for almost $5M combined when he was always on the low end of the salary tables prior. Of course, the Boston organization dumped him when he suddenly couldn’t pitch well anymore in 2020, and that was it for him.
Exhibit C: Marcus Walden
This guy had a short MLB career, just 2018-2020, which were his age 29-31 seasons. We’re always suspicious of a player with such a late rookie debut who is actually any good. It just means after floundering in the minors, he has now tried something “different” to succeed. Anyway, with a 4.02 ERA in 14 minor-league seasons, you can see what we mean.
He posted a 3.81 ERA in 2019 with the Red Sox, over 70 appearances and 78 IP. His other appearances in 2018 and 2020 totaled just 28 IP for a 6.43 ERA. So, what made this one season different? You tell us. But if you’ve been following this space for the last 10 months or so, you know exactly what this means, and it’s a good reminder that shitty players do PEDs, too.
Conclusion: Every season is different
If cheating were an exact science, either the Boston Red Sox, the Houston Astros, or the San Francisco Giants would have been able to win consecutive World Series titles. That hasn’t happened, and the closest thing to consistency has been the Houston MO of sign stealing (five straight American League Championship Series appearances, three AL pennants, and one World Series championship).
The point is, of course, that finding the “edges” made the difference between a lack of success and a run of success. Consider the Red Sox went from 1918 to 2004 without a World Series title; the Astros went from 1962 to 2017 without a World Series title; and the Giants went from 1954 to 2010 without a World Series title. That is almost 200 combined seasons of failure there, doing it honestly.
All three found magic combinations of high spending and cheating in order to break those winning droughts and start raking in obscene amounts of cash from pathetic fan bases willing to look the other way in order to claim a championship and bragging rights over rival-team fans. Boston led the way with its need to compete with the New York Yankees, and it’s worked for the Red Sox, sadly.