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When the news broke on August 24 that the Red Sox would be shedding Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford AND Adrian Gonzalez’s contracts, the first thought on most observers’ mind was “What’s the catch?” Much to everyone’s surprise, there was none. The Red Sox found a saving grace in the Los Angeles Dodgers and their new ownership led by Magic Johnson, who were dying to make a big time impact to show their fans that they mean business and in the process, took more than $250 million in salaries. The Red Sox had been sinking deeper and deeper into obscurity and the Dodgers basically threw them a life preserver.
After two disappointing seasons in a row, the Red Sox needed a fresh start and more importantly, financial flexibility. Once the trade happened, the Red Sox predictably fell off the map without Gonzalez in the heart of their order, but more interestingly, the Dodgers struggled as well. Gonzalez struggled being back on the West Coast and the Dodgers failed to make the playoffs.
While unloading Gonzalez leaves a massive hole in the middle of the Red Sox’ lineup, it was clear from the start that Gonzalez was not destined to have much success in Boston. Gonzalez put up excellent numbers for most of last year until the games started mattering more and more. When the Red Sox officially completed their choke last September, he failed to take any responsibility for his performance, instead saying it was “God’s will” for the Red Sox to miss the playoffs and frequently blamed poor performance on a tough schedule.
In San Diego, those type of comments might have been acceptable, but that’s not the case in Boston. Players are expected to shoulder the blame when the team disappoints. It’s part of the deal and it’s why champions here get treated like rock stars. The passion of the fans is unique to Boston and some players just aren’t meant to handle it. It only took a year and a half, but it became increasingly clear that Gonzalez belonged in that category.
Carl Crawford was the opposite of Adrian Gonzalez. He took full responsibility for his disappointing play and he understood what baseball meant to the fans of Boston, but injuries prevented him from making a huge impact and he won’t be the same player that he was in Tampa Bay again. The Red Sox never should have given Crawford that huge contract to begin with. He’s a player who relies primarily on his legs and when his speed declines as he gets older, he will become a marginable player. If the Red Sox were going to get any bang for their buck on the Crawford deal, it had to come in the first two years while the speed was there. Now that Crawford is entering the back nine of his career and coming off major surgery, he will struggle to find consistency in his play. It is baffling that the Dodgers thought it would be smart to take a chance on him while paying his $20 million salary.
While getting rid of Crawford and Gonzalez was fortunate, the real pearl of the deal was unloading Josh Beckett. Beckett, more than anyone, had worn out his welcome. The poster boy of 2011’s chicken and beer debacle, Beckett came into 2012 with a sour attitude and it translated into his performance on the field. If the Red Sox were to begin this rebuilding process, Beckett had to be nowhere near it. It is time for them to regain their clubhouse back, and getting rid of the most entitled player on the team was just the start.
The Red Sox did not get anything significant back besides prospects, but the deal is already a win for the team. The players carried they traded already have carried their mediocre performances to Los Angeles, while the Red Sox will get a chance to start a rebuilding process and not be stuck with these players to years to come. It was huge of Red Sox ownership to admit their mistakes and act swiftly, or else they would have been stuck in the mire they’ve been in the last three years, for at least half a decade more.
Now with the burden of those contracts off their payroll, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington gets a chance to show that he can build a team. While Josh Hamilton and Zach Greinke are the big prizes in this year’s market, it’s important that the Red Sox restrain themselves. Big contracts to players with question marks behind them is what got the Red Sox into this mess and the Red Sox aren’t going to buy themselves out of it. If the Red Sox don’t give out any big contracts this winter, there is nothing wrong with that. Patience is the theme of this year’s offseason and Red Sox fans should be prepared for rebuilding to be a multi-year process.