Sunday, November 14, 2010

Where is the love?

What has happened to the Red Sox' fan base? Back in the day, any free agent, no matter how checkered of a past they had, made Red Sox fans excited. People, even as recently as the last five years, got excited about the idea of signing freaking Kevin Millwood. Only the ultra-cynics and the negative-to-be-negative people were against signing free agents of the caliber of Jayson Werth. But for some reason, here we are in 2010 and Red Sox fans are taking a strong stand against Jayson Werth.

Last week, the Gunn (who, we'll admit, is one of the more cynical) called Jayson Werth a "right-handed JD Drew") and Tim C said that he'd clear some room on the Liverpool soccer bandwagon as everyone will be so disgusted with this signing.

You guys know this. I don't like Scott Boras guys, at all. I think that if you play in Philadelphia (the place Drew and Boras spurned in the infamous 1997 draft incident) and hire Boras a couple of months before you hit free agency, you're looking for a fight, you're okay with running yourself out of town, and you're probably sort of a douchebag. At least he isn't talking about how much he loves Philadelphia. Well, probably because he doesn't.

Continuing to address his demeanor, it seems that the guy is more or less a misanthropist. There was a Sports Illustrated article about his reclusive nature, putting it in a positive light. there were a few Philadelphia blog posts and articles about how he is prickly - at best - to the media, especially when he is slumping. I think there is definitely concern due about how this player will get along with the Boston media, because they will absolutely not get along at all. However, he doesn't seem to get into altercations with players. Only the spurned media members have questioned his caring about playing. But we're not talking about JD Drew, who had a decade of incidents calling into play whether he even enjoyed playing baseball - behavior that just continued after he arrived in Boston.

I would not consider Jayson Werth an aloof player like anyone with two eyes would consider Drew. He slumps, for sure, but it seems like during his extended slumps, he's on the other side of the spectrum from Drew - a guy who presses and chases balls out of the strike zone when times get tough. Seems like this guy just wants to play baseball and slam doubles all over the field. It's the other garbage, like talking to the media and that kind of stuff, that bothers him. I wrote in the same comments section that the biggest fear the Red Sox should have regarding Jayson Werth would be that he's going to go Dave Chappelle on us, moving to Africa just to avoid people. If we want to compare him to an enigmatic Red Sox player, it would be Derek "Mental Gidget" Lowe and not Drew.

Moving over to the baseball part, which is really what it's all about, this guy is a guy with a fresh body, NH. The injury in question that sidelined him for 2007 and made him suck in 2006 was similar to the Nomar Garciaparra/Al Reyes injury, as Pat's boy AJ Burnett broke his wrist with a pitch. Also similar to Nomar, it took Werth a long time to recover. While this sounds a lot like JD Drew having patellar tendinitis hurt him for three years, the Nomar experience gives Werth's injury a bit of credibility.

Unlike Drew, also, Werth shows up to a great deal of baseball games when he does play. Werth missed fewer games in the last two years than JD missed in September 2009 without going on the DL. Another dissimilarity is the fact that you don't need a Mensa member (a Nomaas.org reference) to deduce value from what he does. Yes, he does walk a lot, but he doesn't go up to the plate looking for walks. He also does things like get hits, get doubles, and hit home runs. Pat cited those stats: Last year Werth recorded 150% of the number of extra-base hits that Nancy had. Factor in the fact that there's now going to be a wall in left field and the bullpens being move in ten feet in right field, and the fact that this guy sprays the area will remain steady going from the Little League park in Philadelphia to the Little League park in Boston.

Are the Red Sox going to have a guy who is capable of hitting 30 home runs next year? Beltre's gone. Ortiz only plays four months out of the year. Youkilis has never hit 30. With Jayson Werth, they might be able to have that.

Not that five years and $70 million for a player like this is a steal, but it would fill a need. This team would not be dependent on a 38-year-old mediocre player, a 23-year-old mediocre (for now) player, and two guys who don't care enough to play at 99%. It would also result in a middle-of-the-lineup threat this team needs.

I say go get him. Go get Jayson Werth. Later this week you'll see why he's more desirable to this team than Carl Crawford.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

Sometimes you just have a bad feeling about things. There aren't really statistics to back up that feeling, but it persists anyway. That's how I feel about Jayson Werth. I just don't think it would work out. He doesn't seem like a guy who can make it in Boston and really doesn't seem like he was ever a great player to begin with. Now, with all of that Grady Little-esque analysis out of the way, here are a few other thoughts: First, go look at his baseball reference page. Is it that exciting? No. I'm not saying he'll be as miserable to have around as JD Drew, but there's no reason to think he's a stud, either. He'll also be 32 before the summer starts and has had major wrist issues in the past (which is why he missed all of 2006).

Now, when you compare him to Carl Crawford his OPS+ is more impressive and he has a much better arm than Crawford does in the outfield (you can also say both of those things about JD Drew, by the way). But he's older (two years) and he's a different player. He's a guy who is supposed to bat fifth for you (but not third or fourth, more on that in a moment), while Crawford can lead off or bat second.

Now, here's where philosophy comes into play--my feeling is that if you're going to go get a middle of the order guy, don't pay a lot of money for a pretty good player. You pay a ton of money for a great one. It seems like baseball has two kinds of stars--the ultra-expensive ones and the inexpensive ones. Look at who the Sox are paying 14-17 million a year: JD Drew, Josh Beckett, and John Lackey. None of those guys are difference makers at this point in their careers (and some never were). The only difference they make is that they are likely keeping the Sox from bringing back Victor Martinez and/or Adrian Beltre (two guys who ARE difference makers).

I guess what it comes down to for me is that Carl Crawford is relatively better at what he does than Jayson Werth is. Jayson Werth is a good middle of the order guy. But any of us can name 15 better guys who bat 3-5 in major league line-ups without blinking an eye. You can't say the same about Crawford vis-a-vis guys who lead off or bat second.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

Gunn,

Thanks for using vis-a-vis in your response. That's enough to make me laugh on a monday morning. I too would go with Crawford. He's just a headache for opposing teams. I like Werth (don't have the same misgivings as the Gunn does), but I don't think he causes the same types of problems. As Gunn was basically saying, Crawford's skill set is more unique so I think you get that player and realize you can add a decent middle of the order bat at a later time if that becomes necessary.

the gm at work said...

I don't want to waste all my fresh material for my other post this week, but I think I'd still prefer Werth to Crawford.

Gunn mentions the ultra-expensive versus the inexpensive. I feel like there is an intermediary category in there - the one where Beckett, Lackey, and Werth should probably be in (and the one where Drew is but shouldn't be in). There's the top tier where Arod, Pujols, Teixeira, Santana, CC, and soon Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez belong. Beckett and Lackey aren't in that tier, and neither are Matt Holliday or Werth.

I would be skeptical that by the end of a Crawford contract, he would be able to provide his best tool (speed). I'm less skeptical of Werth's ability to provide his best tool (power) by the end of his shorter contract. While Crawford will get eight years, I don't see Werth getting more than five. If anything, the injury history benefits whoever signs him, because most of this history stems from the one big wrist injury. And unlike Nomar, it seems this guy (looking at his statistics in the last two years) successfully rebounded from the injury.

NOT that I'm in love with the guy. I think there can and will be problems with him in Boston, especially if he doesn't get along with the media. But the Red Sox have had guys like that before, including their two best hitters in the middle part of the decade.

Patrick said...

a lot of interesting things going on here, the most legitimate debate with good reasoning on both sides we've had in a while, well done guys.

gunn, totally get what you are saying about a gut feeling about a player. i have those on both the good and bad side all the time, and sometimes those gut feelings go against what you actually think of the player (not saying that is the case here). still, you can't shake it. i'm totally on board with this. at the same time i'm glad we've kind of gotten it out of the way that werth is better than drew, despite the bad feeling. they are on different planets, especially at the same money. i think there is something to be said, even when two players have the same general "total production", for a distinction between impact production and complimentary production. impact production consistently changes games. complimentary production you notice much less and the numbers end up being good at the end of the year (which has it's place, no doubt...just not at $14 mil perhaps!). now, i think werth offers more total production than drew. but even if they were on more even footing, at the same money i'd always want the impact production. that's werth.

moving over to werth vs. crawford, you are dealing with two impact producers so the analysis changes. i think gunn's point about a pretty good player vs. a really good player in the middle of the order is a good one. i think if all was equal, crawford edges werth in terms of value to the red sox right now. of course, all is not equal. werth is two years older, but crawford is likely to have an extra year or two on his contract and at more money per year. as dv points out, werth's skillset is more likely to hold up (although there are no guarantees in that regard) over the course of the contract. if the sox agree with that, they have to decide if they are win now (more crawford) or win in 2-3 years (more werth). at the end of the day, if there was a greater talent gap, i think you pay the money and add the years to get the better player. crawford is better, but i don't think the gap is great enough to no doubt add the dollars and years over werth. the sox have to decide if the more dynamic production he offers is worth the risk of the extra dollars and years over werth.

dv,

josh beckett does not belong in that intermediary group with those other guys. he belongs more where j.d. drew is. talented but doesn't stay on the field enough, and when he is doesn't perform at his highest capacity enough. ultimately way overpaid.

the gm at work said...

Pat,

First of all, shut up about Crawford. I really need to retain at least some material to write about later on this week. Otherwise you might be stuck with four posts this week. I am kidding. Kinda.

Drew is terrible. I will relay a story I told you through the email: I am running a race in Philadelphia this weekend and I got a questionnaire from the race management team. One of the questions was "why did you choose Philadelphia?" My answer included my assertion that Philly sports fans are the best in the world because they're the only fan base who has the same disdain for JD Drew as I have. I'm not kidding.

The difference between Beckett and Drew is that Beckett, at one point in his career (albeit short), was a good baseball player.

Red Sox are absolutely not a win-now team. It's about 2012-2014. This fact, which has basically been corroborated by the front office, is why I really don't have much fear about JD returning after September 28, 2011.

Ross Kaplan said...

To answer your general question of why baseball fans don't get too excited about free agents anymore is that we know better now then we did then that big name free agent signings rarely work out for the best long term.

In the past decade there have seemed to be more crappy free agent pickups then there have been good ones. I don't think I can't name too many free agent pick ups that have even worked out really well for teams over the long term besides Mussina. The jury is still out on Teixera/Sabbathia and I can't count Ortiz in that category because he was picked up off the scrap heap. There are just too many cautionary tales from Hampton to Bay for fans to get too excited about going after a free agent unless he's an absolute sure thing. But guys like that rarely are rarely available.

Patrick said...

dan -

you can't write a post that not only naturally leads to a debate, but also hint that this is the exact type of debate that should be happening, and then expect us not to have that debate. what are we supposed to do, discuss possible theories as to why red sox fans don't get excited about free agents anymore? or have a legitimate baseball debate about two interesting players that could be one of the more stimulating actual baseball discussions we've had in this space in a while?

while i appreciate your desire to break things up into multiple posts because that means i don't have to post, once you introduce a topic with a natural debate you have to expect that debate to take place on it's own schedule, not yours.

i think you should still withhold your thoughts on crawford and turn that into a post, perhaps responding to some of the things being brought up there instead of your opinions in a vacuum.

the gm at work said...

Pat,

Chill out, I was kidding.

Tank,

You are the Wily Mo Pena of this message board. You might strike out frequently, but when you make contact, it does about two miles.

Patrick said...

dan -

i know you were kidding. i just decided to bust your chops.