The Red Sox add a heavy burden


Ray Sadecki

Ray Sadecki, who died last week at age 73, was on the wrong side of one of the worst/best trades of the 1960s. A 20-game winner in 1964 when the Cardinals won the World Series, Sadecki was dealt to the Giants in May of 1966 for Orlando Cepeda, who was miscast as an outfielder and generally miserable as a Giant. Cepeda went on to be the 1967 MVP and a Hall of Famer; Sadecki to being a .pitcher who won just four more games than he lost (Braves fans can only hope Jason Heyward for Shelby Miller doesn’t turn out similarly). Sadecki won the opening game of the ’64 World Series, but didn’t get out of the first inning of Game 4, recording only one out on an attempted steal (Ken Boyer’s grand slam saved him from a loss). It was Sadecki who was passed over for Bob Gibson on two days rest in Game 7 by manager Johnny Keane. That’s not surprising given that Keane called a 1962 start by Sadecki, in which he was knocked out without retiring a batter and committed two errors “the poorest exhibition of effort I’ve ever seen on a major-league diamond,” according to Sadecki’s bio at sabr.org. Sadecki won 12 games twice with the Giants, though he led the NL in losses with 18 in 1968 despite a 2.91 ERA. He returned to the World Series with the 1973 Mets, for whom he was a spot starter/reliever and had a 2.92 ERA in 1971. Sadecki was 5-4 with a 3.39 ERA and one save in the pennant-winning season. Sadecki played for five teams in his last three seasons after the Mets traded him back to the Cardinals for Joe Torre. Sadecki’s career stats: 135-131, 3.78 ERA, 2,500.1 innings, 1,614 strikeouts, 85 complete games, 20 shutouts, seven saves, 98 ERA+, 16.2 WAR.

Pablo Sandoval became a member of the Boston Red Sox, as soon as he passed a physical. Of course, it’s hard to imagine Sandoval ever passing a physical, let alone with $90 million riding on it.

Sandoval is listed as 5-foot-11 and 245 pounds, but the latter number, like the Red Sox’s 71 wins in 2014, seems low. Sandoval has a body that can best be described as hefty; in a police lineup of Sandoval and four NFL offensive linemen, it wouldn’t be easy to pick out the third baseman.

And yet Sandoval is the more durable of the two players the Red Sox spent some $200 million on Monday. The other, Hanley Ramirez, has missed 185 games over the last four years, and has played more than 150 games just once in that span.

The Red Sox are a better team Tuesday than they were Monday, but that’s mostly because because they weren’t very good before they signed Sandoval and Ramirez.

ESPN’s Keith Law called it “awfully strange.” Maybe. Although some of us think the decision to play Mike Aviles every day at shortstop in 2012 was stranger.

It is odd in that the Red Sox don’t even know where Ramirez will play, and still signed him, which is like buying a pair of pants before trying them on. It would be nice to know where Ramirez will fit; it’s enough to know the Sox were bad enough in 2014 that he can somewhere.

There’s a whole lot of talk about what the Red Sox will do next, and the truth is nobody really knows but GM Ben Cherington, if even he does. The Sox have too many outfielders and not enough pitchers, which isn’t as much of a problem on December 1 as it would be on April 1.

The Sox took a lot of criticism, especially from Yankees fans for their apparent hypocrisy and overspending. Considering the source, it’s hard to tell which hurts more.

Of course, two things that are similar are not always the same. Both Sandoval and Ramirez are signed for five years, but that’s still shorter and cheaper than five Yankees — CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Rodriguez and Masahiro Tanaka. And that’s not including Brian McCann, whose deterioation was apparent when the Yankees signed him to a contract as long as Ramirez’s and Sandoval’s and almost as costly. (Not to mention the possibility that Tanaka may yet need major season-ending surgery.)

If you want to criticize Boston’s signings, do it on merit. Ramirez is often injured, Sandoval, given his girth, may yet be. Sandoval was just 12th among third basemen in MLB in WAR last year, behind even Chase Headley, whom the Yankees are trying to re-sign and the Giants are now trying to sign. And Sandoval hasn’t had an OPS above .800 since 2011; all his postseason success won’t help the Sox if they don’t get there.

Ramirez has aged out of shortstop, though his defensive WAR last year (-0.6) was his second-best since 2009 and better than Boston regular Xander Bogaerts (-0.9), and his range factor was almost as good (4.03-3.86). And he’s missed those 45 games per season, a stat the Yankees can appreciate.

Perhaps Cherington got his holidays confused, and thought this week was Christmas rather than Thanksgiving. And perhaps he saw a team that was tied for 11th in the AL in runs scored last year, 13th in OPS, 12th in home runs and signed two of the best hitters on the market.

Given the choice of signing off on $200 million for Sandoval and Ramirez, or 1,000 more at-bats for Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr., the latter seems like the heavier price to pay.

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