“What the Red Sox just did? Yeah, do that.”

45 Comments

Kevin Kernan’s column at the New York Post today is a treat. It praises the Red Sox’ approach and basically says “the Yankees and Mets need to do what the Red Sox just did if they want to win the World Series.”

Which, yes, I will agree 100% that if the Yankees and Mets want to win the World Series they SHOULD do what the Sox just did: they should win four World Series games before their World Series opponents do. That’s really the only way to do it.

Kernan, of course, is not saying that. He’s saying that they should sign “the right players.” Players who care about championships. Players like Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes. Not players like the Yankees signed who are just in it for the personal records and accolades. One he mentions by name is Kevin Youkilis. Let’s just forget that Kevin Youkilis has two World Series rings of his own. I’m sure he stopped caring about winning some time ago.

Kernan also says that RBIs is “the most important statistic” and that “spreadsheet baseball does not win championships.” Let’s just forget that the Red Sox front office is one of the most forward-thinking, sabermetrically-oriented front offices around. A front office that employs the man who literally coined the term “sabermetrics” in Bill James. I have no idea how significant James’ role is these days, but I would imagine that if a Red Sox employee said either of those things Kernan said every eyebrow in the office would raise.

Mostly, though, I love how certain Kernan is that “the Red Sox” approach is so easily replicable. He himself said back in February, when assessing the Sox’ prospects, that “Those 2004 and 2007 World Series titles seem so far away.” He didn’t know that Victorino and Gomes were “the right players” then. As such, to suggest that the Yankees or the Mets should have known better at the time is hindsight in the extreme.

All of the “do what the Red Sox” did analysis is. No one, except maybe the Red Sox themselves, thought they had put together a World Series team after last winter was over. They made signings that turned out better than most people expected them to be. They had good fortune as do all teams who win championships. It wasn’t a miracle season or even highly improbable as this was probably the best team on paper as the playoffs began. But nor was their 2013 season one that lends itself to blueprints and prescriptions of which teams like the Yankees and Mets should take notice.

Every teams’ situation is different. To look at the team that just had its victory parade two days ago and say “do it like THAT” is useless at best, and probably closer to the preposterous.

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

Getty Images
5 Comments

The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.