I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door: There’s two reasons the Red Sox didn’t bid more competitively on Masahiro Tanaka: they’re rich in pitching prospects, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K made $50-some million in salary for the Sox (the posting fee was another $50 million or so) and won 50 games for them in six seasons, complete with a 4.50 ERA. You can do the math. The Sox may have preferred Tanaka to land somewhere farther west and in another league, but they have homegrown options the Yankees don’t. Henry Owens, a 21-year-old lefty, was a No. 1 pick in 2011 and has fanned 299 in 236.2 innings since, including 46 in 30.1 AA innings. He’s one good season away. Matt Barnes, a 23-year-old from the University of Connecticut, was another first-round pick in 2011 (thank the Tigers and Victor Martinez). He’s fanned 275 in 233 innings, including a AAA start. He’s a John Lackey injury away. Anthony Ranaudo, a 24-year-old righty from LSU, was a first-round compensation pick in 2010 (courtesy of the Mets and Jason Bay). Ranaudo had a 2.96 ERA in AA and AAA last year and starts the season ahead of Allen Webster. He’s on standby. The 2011 first round is revealing vis-a-vis Red Sox and Yankees. The Red Sox lost their first-round pick for signing Carl Crawford, yet still had four picks before the Yankees made their first: Owens, Barnes, outfielder Jackie Bradley and catcher Blake Swihart (298/366/428 at Class A, with 42% of base stealers thrown out). All look like major-leaguers, and a couple might be very good ones. The Yankees lost their first-rounder for signing reliever Rafael Soriano (remember when Brian Cashman didn’t want to? That’s why.). They didn’t select until No. 51, 11 spots after the Red Sox’s fourth first-rounder. The Yankees took Dante Bichette Jr., who hit .214 in his second hack at low-level Class A last season. He’s a long way away, if he gets there at all.
Trivia: John Farrell is the fourth Red Sox manager to win a World Series in his first season. Who were the others?
What he said: Red Sox chairman Tom Werner: “Last year, I think people thought we had taken a stupid pill.” What he meant: “Told you so.”
Outlook: The Red Sox have won more World Series this century than any other team. If you’re old enough to remember when the Red Sox weren’t on NESN, you know how odd that sounds.
Of course, there was a time in the last century when they could say that, too. The Red Sox won six of the first 15 Series by 1918, then none for the next 86 years. Enjoy it while you can. At this point 100 years ago, Europe was squaring off for World War I and the Sox were about to play Babe Ruth play out of position. The Yankees weren’t yet the Evil Empire.
No team has won consecutive World Series since the Yankees — there’s that team again — did so in 2000, the last of three. No defending champion has returned to the Series since the Phillies in 2009, and no team has gone to back-to-back Series since the Rangers in 2010-11 (they lost them both).
Last year, the Red Sox won with judicious free-agent signings (Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, Stephen Drew, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes; nay on Ryan Dempster), a last-swing slugger’s season from David Ortiz at age 37 and an unlikely rebound season from 2011’s notorious John Lackey.
This year the Red Sox will rely on the farm system, if only to tweak the Yankees that their’s is better. Jackie Bradley Jr. (.189 in 95 at-bats), 24, gets another chance in center field, replacing Jacoby Ellsbury, now a Yankee at $20-some million per. And Xander Bogaerts picks up shortstop from Drew, who will yield a first-round pick if someone else signs him, and perhaps return to the Sox if they don’t.
This year’s incoming free agents are muted compared to last year’s, but still intriguing. Reliever Edward Mujica’s career has similitaries to Ueharra’s; he throws lots of strikes but has been undone by home runs. Chris Capuano vies for Dempster’s spot, but at $12 million cheaper, and Grady Sizemore hasn’t had a big-league at-bat since 2011 or played a full season since 2009, but once upon a time had five-tool talent in center field.
That may not compare to the Yankees’ half-a-billion splurge on Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Tanaka, but the latter comes at a price. The Red Sox will have a pick at 27 in next June’s draft, another at 32 (Ellsbury) and another at 33 if someone else signs Drew. The Yankees won’t have one until 56. Signings have consequences, beyond the money.
Team song Lester Young: Lester Leaps In
Trivia answer: The other Red Sox managers to win World Series in their first season were Terry Francona (2004), Ed Barrow (1918) and Jake Stahl (1912).