The Mariners could learn from the Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are coming to town tonight, always an event. They'll be easy to pick out at Safeco Field: They're the good team. In fact, the contrasts...
Seattle Times baseball reporter
The Red Sox are coming to town tonight, always an event. They'll be easy to pick out at Safeco Field: They're the good team.
In fact, the contrasts between the Mariners and Sox at this juncture couldn't be more striking.
The Red Sox might be the model franchise in baseball. They built a championship team, turned over a large portion of the roster, and won another title three years later.
They've done a masterful job of infusing a steady stream of homegrown young talent onto the roster, the likes of Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury, with more heralded prospects lurking in the minors.
Their front-office philosophy seems to strike the perfect mix between old-school scouting and new-wave statistical analysis. They spend lavishly (Boston's $133 million payroll ranks fourth), but by and large, they spend wisely.
Their trades have worked. Their free-agent signings have clicked. They gave up one of the supreme talents in the National League, Hanley Ramirez, and even that isn't haunting them. That was the deal that brought back Josh Beckett (41-22 in two-plus seasons with the Red Sox) and Mike Lowell (most valuable player of the 2007 World Series), so they get a pass on Ramirez.
Their fan base is the most rabid in sports. The Sox used to be known as the team that couldn't win the World Series. It was said they were cursed. The Yankees would always find a way to humiliate them, whether it be Bucky Dent bopping one over the monster in '78, or Aaron Boone's walkoff job in '03, with numerous other indignities betwixt and between.
Ancient history. These Red Sox, the Sox of Manny Ramirez, Big Papi and Jason Varitek, the Sons of Terry Francona, have managed to rewrite an entire body of folklore. These Red Sox have won two of the last four World Series, a success rate that sends their old adversaries, the Yankees, into a jealous rage.
You don't hear much about the Curse of the Bambino these days. Not after the miracle of '04, when the Sox came back from three games to none against the Yankees to win the American League Championship Series, before sweeping the Cardinals in the World Series.
You don't hear much about the collapses and the near-misses. Even poor old Bill Buckner is welcome back any time, forgiven and embraced.
Just look at the American League standings, where the Yankees, flailing until the Mariners arrived in New York this past weekend to rejuvenate them, are near the bottom of the AL East.
The Red Sox have been near the top all season, though the surprising Tampa Bay Rays are making them sweat. The Red Sox almost can't lose at Fenway Park, where they are 21-5, but after Sunday's loss in Oakland, they are just 10-17 on the road.
Beckett struggled early with injuries, as did David Ortiz, who is now an offensive force again after being mired with a .172 average and suffering a sore right knee on April 29.
"It's not too surprising," assistant general manager Jed Hoyer said. "We didn't think he'd hit like that all season. It was odd to see him struggle, but we knew he'd break out. He always does."
Manny Ramirez, sitting on 498 home runs since May 12 and stuck in a 17-for-90 slump (.189) in the 24 games leading up to Sunday's matchup with Oakland, went 3 for 4 against the A's in the series finale. The Sox were swept by Oakland, but Ramirez might have eased worries with his performance.
Assessing Boston's season, Hoyer said last week, "We're obviously not thrilled where we are, but you never are in baseball. We're pleased how we've performed. We really like our depth. It's something that's important to us. Through our nicks and bruises, people have come up and performed well."
One example is Justin Masterson, a 23-year-old right-hander who has been called up twice to make emergency fill-in starts and is 1-0 with a 1.46 earned-run average. He's back in Pawtucket, biding his time.
And there's the old war horse Bartolo Colon, signed to a pure no-risk deal in February coming off major arm problems in recent years with the Angels. Colon has regained his health and much of his velocity, and has joined the Boston rotation, replacing injured Clay Buchholz (torn fingernail).
Colon, who starts against the Mariners tonight, won his 2008 debut last week against the Royals with a solid effort (five innings, two runs). The Red Sox will ride him as far as he goes.
It's another coup for an organization that can teach the Mariners about team-building.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this article, originally published May 26, 2008, was corrected May 27, 2008. A previous version of this story contained an error. The New York Yankees' player payroll this year is $209 million, the most in major-league baseball, and the Boston Red Sox's is $133 million, ranking fourth. The original version of this column incorrectly gave 2007 payroll figures and said that Boston's payroll this season ranked second.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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