The 2013 Red Sox: Why It Worked
Brian Kenny of the MLB Network has taken to the role of the “sane stat guy” in the studio to counteract Harold Reynolds and play up sabermetrics as the foundation for the way the Red Sox were built. Following the Red Sox game six win to clinch the title, Kenny’s Twitter feed made it sound as if he wanted to crawl all up inside Bill James carting portions of the Red Sox players’ beards in his mouth so he could build himself a warm, nuzzly nest.
Crediting Bill James for the three Red Sox titles in ten years is ludicrous. Crediting him for what the Red Sox did in 2013 is idiotic. Had they signed a lot of players who were heretofore unknown as useful contributors, it would be perfectly viable to say the stat guys in their front office – including James – had come up with new metrics to find players who other teams had either undervalued or ignored. They didn’t. The Red Sox used sabermetrics…and an opening day payroll of $154 million. Plus they made midseason acquisitions that added Jake Peavy’s contract paying him the remainder of his 2013 salary and $14.5 million for 2014, as well as Matt Thornton’s contract.
Last winter, the Red Sox purchased or traded for Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, David Ross and Joel Hanrahan for a grand total of $118.74 million.
To say that they “hit” on every one of them is absurd. Dempster was not good; Hanrahan was hurt. The other players they signed were known to be useful to good and, importantly, good guys. Did James calculate their good-guyedness on a statistical scale? How many of these players were found and in poor demand? Uehara especially was a lucky acquisition because he was signed to be a set-up man and the club was reluctant to use him as the closer even after they lost both Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey because: A) they didn’t think he was durable enough to pitch every day if needed; and B) he had a penchant for the home run ball. He was the conciliatory choice and turned into an unstoppable force.
Where’s the credit for James in any world other than those specifically looking for a reason to dole it out based on a blatant agenda?