Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Greatest Outfielder of Our Time, as Rated by "Forbes" Magazine

The most notable aspect of the Red Sox acquiring Carl Crawford as a free agent is that they didn't have to do it. Looking at the deal from either a pure baseball or financial viewpoint, it is gilding the lily -- in the latter case with about 100 million extra coats of gild.

It's not that the Sox aren't a better team with Crawford. He's an excellent player, and they are. But the improvement one of degree, not kind. Boston would still be a pennant contender, and one with more disposable income remaining, had the franchise stayed on 17 after trading for Adrian Gonzalez by simply re-signing Victor Martinez. Martinez cost the Tigers a $52 million deal over four years. Crawford is $142 million for seven. Crawford's dollar-production ratio in 2011 is going to have to be exponentially better than Martinez's to make that math come out. And it won't be. Replacing a pretty good hitter with another pretty good hitter who is also a terrific baserunner is, as noted, an upgrade, not a transformation.

As a matter of fact, there's an excellent baseball case to be made that the Sox could have stood pat with their 2010 roster, re-signing Martinez and Adrian Beltre, and still be in very strong shape as pennant contenders in 2011. They missed the playoffs last season because of injuries. Period. Full stop. The Sox can't possibly have as many injuries to vital players as they did last year, and should catastrophe strike twice, Crawford and Gonzalez won't help them survive it any better than did Beltre and Martinez.

Oh, well. Nothing makes Boston's baseball community happier than expensive new faces under the same old blue caps. I look forward to a traditional Red Sox offseason, where a World Series title is a given and a 162-0 season a live possibility. That's what the talk shows call "buzz."

Three hundred million bucks, give or take, seems like a lot to pay for the creation of a mass public delusion.


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