Tuesday, August 03, 2004
I have a love hate relationship with Nomar. I loved the fact that he could get to the ball in the hole between third and short, but I hated that it was coin flip on if his throw would hit a fan in the fist row. I loved the fact that no pitcher could sneak a first pitch fastball past Nomie, but I hated that many times it resulted in foul ball putting him behind in the count. I love the high batting average, but hated that his OBP was only 40 points higher. I could go on and on about my mixed feeling about Nomah, but my opinion on this trade is unwavering - Theo and the Trio made a horrible deal.
Basically, the Sox traded Nomar and a promising $1 million signing bonus hitter drafted as compensation for Cliff Floyd, Matt Murton, for Orlando Cabrera. The Twins would have given Mientkiewicz away for a PTBNL or cash considerations. Minky was a throw in to make this deal palatable for the Nation allowing Theo to sell the notion that this deal was completed to improve the Sox defense. I actually like Minky but Terry Ryan and company's difficulty evaluating the readiness of their many past, present and future young OF/1B/DH types caused the Twins to overpay for Minky ($7 million over two seasons) significantly decreasing his value.
"We might have gotten to the World Series," said Epstein. "But in my mind, we weren't going to win the World Series with this defense.”
C'mon. A team that wins the pennant can't get lucky in the field to win four out of the next seven. Give me a break. A club does not have to be great in the field to win. Last year's champs had a defense efficiency rating of .6925, Anaheim in 2002 had a rating of .7193, Zona's was .7026 in their championship season and the MFY in 2000 were at .6927. It is a mixed bag. A good defensive club is not a prerequisite for winning a World Series.
Epstein labeled the team's defense "a flaw which potentially could have turned into a fatal flaw. We had completely unacceptable defense, for a number of reasons, including injuries," Epstein said.
Theo mentions injuries as a reason for the poor defensive efficiency rating of .6842 this season. Thus, it stands to reason that with the returns of Nomar, Mueller, Nixon and Pokey that the overall team performance in the field would improve. It may even get higher than last season's team rating of .6862. The same club that was one brain fart away from the pennant.
"Why, if we were leading the league in runs scored and ERA, did we play .500 ball for three months?"
Because in May, June and July the Sox went 5-10 in one-run games. Theo and the Trio know that luck is the biggest factor in determining the outcome in one-run games. The Sox did commit errors in seven out the ten losses, but they also made three booboos in three out of the five wins. Defensive miscues were not a definitive factor in the Sox poor record in one-run games over the last three months. The Sox were just unlucky and the front office knows it.
The Sox defense will improve with Cabrera, Reese and Minky are on the field, but it will not impact run prevention to the degree that it will significantly impact the standings. The pitching staff has been designed, with the exception of Lowe, to rely little on infield defense. This is a strikeout fly ball rotation. The need for D-fence is a smoke screen. Theo's notion that the Red Sox were "not going to win a World Series with the defense the way it was" is unfounded and thus substantiates the rumors that Nomar and associates may have orchestrated the deal to the Cubbies.
Assuming the rumors - Nomar was not healthy enough to play everyday for Boston - are true, then Theo and the Trio got on their knees and accommodated the moody future HOF shortstop by shipping him to Wrigleyville. They gave into Nomar's implied threat that he would not routinely play ball for the Sox and that would likely become an even bigger distraction for the club. The Sox brass should have called Nomar's bluff.
After a sub-par end to 2003, lingering questions about the after affects of his wrist injury, and declining defensive ability, Nomar had to play to answer any and all questions regarding his worth for this winter. Only a few clubs could theoretically meet Nomar’s demand of $15+ million per and with questions about his ability to consistently produce on the field, Nomar had to play. In any uniform, Nomar would have played at least 50 games. Not playing would have been contrary to his objective – score a big payday like the other top shortstops over the winter.
It is ironic that the only two decisions I thoroughly disagree with the Henry Administration on involved Nomar. The first momentary lack of guts occurred last winter when a few of million a year stood in the way of the Sox trading for the best all around player in the game. Since the combined net worth of Henry and Werner is likely at least a billion, an extra $3 million a year for A-Hole would have cost the pair roughly .3% of their net worth. Apparently going into their own pockets was not an option, which is okay, but how about just raising ticket prices by $1 across the board. The small move would have raised the additional $3 million needed for A-Hole. It is safe to say that an extra buck would not have depressed ticket sales. Theo and the Trio did not have the guts to make the A-Hole deal or stand up and call Nomar’s bluff.
The Sox can spin the trade as a critical defensive upgrade, but an analysis of Theo’s own words and the facts tell a difference story. The move was completed to primarily appease Nomar for the good of team chemistry. I am not smart enough to know if a more cohesive clubhouse rather than a 300/340/500 shortstop gives the Sox a better shot at the postseason, but I do know that Theo and the Trio have gone from nearly having the best SS since the Great Depression to a future HOF to Orlando Cabrera. It is a bit of a drop off over only eight months. No matter how often you put that through the spin cycle, it still isn’t clean and pretty.