Fenway

Deep Thought: remember when Frank McCourt tried to buy the Red Sox?

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Frank McCourt’s turmoil has contributed to a state of affairs in which a team that should have a tremendous financial advantage over all of its competitors has basically punted that advantage. Given their attendance, market size and revenue — as cash cow regional sports network would make perfect sense for them — the Dodgers truly could be the Yankees or the Red Sox of the West if run properly. Now? Receivership.

And I’m reminded that McCourt could have been the actual owner of the Red Sox. He grew up a Red Sox fan. The basis of his recent fortune was South Boston waterfront property that once was thought to be the perfect home for a New Fenway Park. He was in the bidding to buy the Red Sox when they were sold to John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. We’ve seen how fragile baseball ownership groups and their bids can be. It wouldn’t have taken much to throw that out of whack and have given the Red Sox to McCourt.

What happens if Frank McCourt takes over the Red Sox in 2002? Here’s a few ideas that spring to mind:

  • Given how quickly he dispatched Paul DePodesta in L.A., I’d guess he doesn’t hire a young, stat-savvy GM like Theo Epstein in Boston (and certainly not Epstein himself given that the basis for his hiring was his experience with Larry Luchino in San Diego).
  • Given McCourt’s demonstrated penchant for choosing leverage in the interests of short term cash flow as opposed to investment for longterm stability, you figure that he doesn’t create a beast like Fenway Sports Group to expand and enrich the team’s power and holdings.
  • Given his ownership of that waterfront property, he doesn’t invest in the renovation of Fenway Park, instead choosing to build a new ballpark. A new ballpark that could very well have taken years to build if it ever did get built, and in the meantime would mean that Fenway would fall into disrepair or something close to it. Best case scenario, the Red Sox are playing in a new retropark now and Fenway is rubble.

Maybe McCourt’s vision, such as it was, would have worked better in Boston than it did in L.A. Maybe the Red Sox would have still won two World Series on his watch and served as profound competitive threat to the Yankees, thereby causing them to increase their payroll as they did.  Maybe, with McCourt driving the bus in Boston, Red Sox Nation explodes in the way it did over the past decade and still helps create the Yankees-Red Sox hegemony with which we are familiar.

I just kinda doubt it.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.