By now it’s no secret that the Red Sox will reconnect with baseball, statistical guru, Bill James. While the first question ought to be, why did he ever leave, we’ve already heard from principal owner, John Henry, that James fell out of favor with the club over the last few years. Getting any further clarification on why that exactly happened is not likely to be revealed as Henry admitted even he was unsure as to why the club’s senior advisor drifted away as a voice of reason. But the important fact is that James, the sabermetrics genius is back in the fold and it’s a good first step for the Red Sox as they attempt to reload and retool after the dismal 2012 season.
You don’t have to look very far to recognize the work of James and admit that his formula paves the path for success. Heck, they even made a movie about it. The Oakland A’s are the perfect example of why James’ theory works. It worked in the early 2000′s when Billy Beane stuck his neck out and tried the impossible and it worked for the Red Sox in 2004. You could argue that it worked for the Red Sox for the next several years as they fielded not only a competitive team, but a contending team on a consistent basis. While Sox fans don’t expect a World Series title every year, fumbling their way through the basement of the American League is unacceptable.
So where do the Sox go from here now that James is back in the saddle and ready to return this horse to the greener pastures of baseball success? It’s hard to fathom Ben Cherington pursuing big ticket names such as Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke when both hit the free-agent market. Cherington has been handed a second financial chance and it would be foolish to jump in to another long-term deal worth $20 million plus per season.
Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reports that James, like Henry was opposed to the Carl Crawford signing that gave the former Tampa Bay Rays center-fielder 7-years, $142MM. This is exactly the type of move that keeps James up at night and causes a case of the cold sweats, making Hamilton or Greinke an unlikely signing.
But Theo Epstein had the power to make the moves which included the backing of some of the owners, Henry not being one of them. Who was Bill James to argue with Theo, the boy wonder who had brought two championships to the city after eight and a half decades of misery. Like a good subordinate, James sat quietly and I have no doubt he cringed at the thought of what was about to transpire.
Alas that day has come when the masterful plan of playing with house money turned up an empty vault with nothing to show but the bruises and scars of two ugly seasons. This ball club has become the laughing stock of the baseball world and it is need of some major repairs. Not just an oil change and replacing a couple of wiper blades, but a complete radiator flush and engine overhaul. James is now getting his shot at redemption and he knows that Ben Cherington is on his side to help the mechanic rebuild the Red Sox car.
Cherington is a believer in what James stands for and is excited to work closely with the whiz. The rookie GM stated that he wanted to get James more involved since the day he took over, it’s just unfortunate that it took five months of a dead end season to allow that to happen.
Scouting, development and statistics is how this Red Sox organization can better themselves. Bill James will have a hand in all three given his sabermetrics system will evaluate basically every player who ever suits up in a baseball uniform at the pro or minor league level. The Sox will have to add top level talent in the scouting ranks along with some key individuals to help the kids develop and progress. But James will give the Sox that much needed voice of reason when exploring free-agents and potential winter trades, steering them clear of spending foolishly just to sign that big name that will sell a few extra t-shirts.
Gone will be the flashy signings, like the one that Hamilton will receive. Here to stay will be contracts that are team friendly, knowing that the player they sign will produce to the expectation of the deal, unlike Crawford. In the end it should result in more wins from a competitive club that will have a concrete foundation to support the future years of successful baseball.
We have seen it too many times in baseball to ignore; the sabermetrics theory works and it’s about time the Red Sox returned to their core values that took this franchise to the promised land. It’s just too bad that two years had to be wasted.
Welcome back Bill, welcome back.