The funding of a musical isn’t involved, but the Boston Red Sox once again found a way to trade a star player who could leave his lifetime mark on the game.
December of 1919 stretched into January 1920 and the Boston Red Sox, only a little over a year removed from a World Series title, decided to shake up their organization. World Series hero, star pitcher and up-and-coming-hitter Babe Ruth was to be sold to the New York Yankees, setting in motion “The Curse of the Bambino”.
Even in his limited time with Boston, Ruth is considered a Red Sox great. The 1918 World Series was to be Boston’s last for 86 years, a curse like no other.
This, of course, is looking at the past with whatever the opposite of rose-colored glasses might be. We see a world in which owner Harry Frazee did not want to pay Ruth, who had primarily been a pitcher before finally finding consistency in the field.
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In six seasons, Ruth won 89 games. And hit a total of 49 home runs with the Red Sox. Sure, 40 were hit by Ruth in his last two seasons in his Boston tenure, but many didn’t hold the Nostradamus-like foresight to predict Ruth would finish his career with 714 home runs.
A little over 100 years later, in February of 2020, the Boston Red Sox traded away another once-in-a-lifetime player in Mookie Betts. Here was an MVP, an All-Star, a Gold Glove winner and the player many perceived to be the guy who would carry Boston to the year 2030.
Betts was a homegrown star, an exemplary figure in public, and was the fabled “five-tool talent” teams and fans love. His future was to be in Boston, until it no longer wasn’t.
Fact is, the writing has been on the wall for a year now.
Sad, silly, and true
News that Betts was traded, after months of rumors and a week-long delay in an initial deal, has been hard to swallow. Optimism was that ownership and Betts could work out a deal, but truthfully, the whole idea of life after Betts has been in motion for a year now. Even with reported offers on the table, there was always a feeling he was going to test the free agent waters no matter what.
There was a year to prep for this inevitable moment, even after a recent record-breaking arbitration avoiding 27-million dollar deal. Even as the Red Sox began a post-Betts life, there is reason to believe this team will be fine without him.
Paying what is assumed to be 400 million dollars to Betts was never going to be an easy decision for the Red Sox. The Washington Nationals were presented with that very decision last year with Bryce Harper. While Harper ultimately got his desired money with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Nationals did nothing more than win the World Series.
The Phillies, with Harper, improved their win total from 2018 by one and actually fell from third place in the NL East to fourth.
The Nationals, of course, had a solid pitching staff in place, a luxury the Boston Red Sox don’t have. There are too many question marks in Boston’s rotation, plus replacing two starters, including the newly-traded David Price. Sure, if Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi return to form and Eduardo Rodriguez duplicates his 2019 success, the Red Sox could make noise in 2020. Why? Because their lineup shouldn’t drop off too much.
Replacing the production of Betts
Betts, who like Ruth played for six seasons with the Red Sox, will be difficult to replace. The strong-armed outfielder averaged 29 home runs the last four seasons and only hit under .290 once during his six-year stint with Boston.
Betts also led the league in runs the past two seasons.
Boston is better positioned to still make some noise in the run-scoring department. The lineup, led by JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers returns mostly intact. Throw in a Christian Vazquez, a still-improving Michael Chavis, and hopefully the return to form of Andrew Benintendi, this team is still going to hit well.
At 23-years old, newly acquired Alex Verdugo has a chance to shine. He’s been stuck in a logjam in the outfield for the Dodgers but has shown signs of what he’s capable of. It’s a nice time to see what he’s can do, likely on a full-time basis.
Would I have liked at least one more year of Betts roaming the outfield at Fenway? Of course. But trading him now at least brings back some assets instead of saying good-bye without getting players in return.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen four World Series titles by the Red Sox in the past 15 years after suffering so long without one. Or maybe it’s the pragmatic side, wanting to see the Red Sox not overpay now to only languish in last place in the future. But I believe the Boston Red Sox will be just fine and still be a contender along the way.
Or maybe there was some writer 100 years ago saying the same thing about letting Ruth go. And he, too, was later made to look a fool. At last we know Betts won’t turn into a MVP-caliber pitcher now that his Boston days are over.