The New York Yankees of the late 1990s and through the 2003 season had a remarkable run that included six World Series appearances with four victories. During that stretch they captured the division title with – for Red Sox fans – irritating regularity.
New York had a strong foundation of farm system talent, judicious free agent signings and astute trades. The team had character and some characters. Certainly some players were brought on with severely questionable personalities. I doubt Darryl Strawberry has any merit badges.
What was the driving force was the very productive farm system that produced a smattering of future Hall of Fame inductees. New York was not above siphoning off former Boston talent like Wade Boggs and eventually the former “Texas Con Man” one Roger Clemens.
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New York also had a contingent of solid citizens who certainly kept order in the clubhouse and were examples of what the term “professional” is all about. Even the most xenophobic Boston fan could grudgingly accept the contributions of a Paul O’Neill or Scott Brosius – especially in demonstrating to the young and impressionable future stars how things are done in The Show.
Will the latest addition of the Red Sox be a simulacrum of this?
The young talent is certainly there and so is the growing pains. Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley have been a disaster to varying degrees, but Christian Vasquez has virtually been handed the catching slot. Mookie Betts is just twenty-two and a potential star. Xander Bogaerts had a horrid performance bookmarked by an excellent April/May and September. Some businesses are too big to fail and XB just may be too good to fail.
The farm system has talent and is recognized as one of the best in baseball. Three left-handers are on the verge of making some serious contributions. Blake Swihart is rising fast. Younger talent is creating positive attention-getting performances.
Boston, like New York back then, is also dabbling in the international meat market with the acquisition of Rusney Castillo. The farm system has been sluggish on producing sluggers so the purse strings have flown open and in comes Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Boston, like they’re New York counterparts, have been willing to spend when a need arises.
The Red Sox have a veteran corps, young talent, expensive free agents, an engaged fan base and an ownership willing to spend. The next five or so seasons will show if the Red Sox can duplicate that New York Success.