Monday, November 05, 2012

Red Sox Pay Big Bucks to Keep Big Papi

The Red Sox and David Ortiz agreed to a 2 year deal worth $26 million. With incentives, it could be worth $30 million.

Did the Red Sox have to pay so much? What is David Ortiz's actual value? He turns 37 in a few weeks, he missed over 70 games last year, he can't play the field, can't be signed by an NL team. Was he going to get that much on the open market?

There were rumors that the Texas Rangers had interest, and that would make sense. I just don't like assigning $26 million to a player who could very likely only play 200 games these next 2 seasons. Perhaps even fewer than that.

It's not a gross overpayment. However, I am extremely paranoid about the Red Sox possibly signing someone for PR reasons more than on-field reasons.

Think about it. "Sources" leaked to the media that the team and Ortiz were close to a deal. The fans then voiced their opinions and the general attitude was that they wanted Ortiz back. Hours later, the Sox sign Ortiz. Leak, then fan reaction, then personnel decision.

These events might not have caused each other. But this is the Red Sox, and they have cash to spend. Theo Epstein's "Monster" did the same thing a few years ago: spend because they could, not because they should.

People seem happy, though. Red Sox mouthpiece Peter Abraham was especially optimistic. My favorite argument in support of Ortiz is this:

"Ortiz also adds an intangible element that the Red Sox valued. He is a clubhouse leader, active in the community, and brings consistency to what has been a team in chaos for a year."

Do you really want to be called a leader of one of the most dysfunctional and despicable clubhouses in modern sports history? Isn't that like being CEO of Enron or Captain of the Titanic? Is that something to be praised?

Jen Slothawer from wrote an even more absurd piece praising Ortiz:

"On Friday, the Red Sox weren't re-signing a designated hitter, a 36-year-old slugger or a cleanup man. They were taking care of the heart of their franchise -- the one player who links past success to future hope, who carried the team through its worst season in recent memory, and whose leadership and spirit are far beyond anything this team could hope to buy with its millions in new spending money."

Ortiz is not a leader. We learned that fact in 2011 as he kept his distance from the turmoil and worried about his hits being scored as errors. I really don't know what to say about Ortiz's "spirit" and "consistency" but those things didn't seem to affect the Sox in September of 2011 or all of 2012. These are not assets worth millions of dollars. They're childish concepts bandied about by sportswriters who can't use logic to justify their support of a personnel decision, and therefore resort to sentimentalism.

Both Abraham and Slowather point out that the Sox have money to spend. But as Ian Malcolm argues in Jurassic Park, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

In plain, factual, adult terms: the Sox spent $26 million on a 37 year old DH who can't play defense and missed almost half the 2011 season with an injury that took forever to heal. If this wasn't someone Red Sox fans knew and already loved, they'd be pissed and perplexed. But it's Big Papi, so smiles all around.

And Ortiz is smiling too. He finally got that respect he's so vocally yearned for. Unfortunately, he plays his best when he feels disrespected.

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