Red Sox history shows why Jhoulys Chacin could be worth risk
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox will take a risk on signing Jhoulys Chacin and risks usual fail, but historically there is Luis Tiant and Bret Saberhagen to take the risk.
The odor you smell in the vicinity of Fenway Park is the smell of desperation. As usual, the focus for the Boston Red Sox will be pitching and the construction project has commenced. In my Captain Obvious mode, the staff needs some arms that may provide depth and that means close to quality depth. The problem is financial and Card Holders Services is not the answer.
The Red Sox could expand payroll and that seems to be treated the same way by management as contracting Ebola. Money is coming off the books and in the financial circus money will be added to the books so you turn over a few baseball rocks hoping the nugget you occasional find is not fools gold.
The latest is the potential signing of veteran righty Jhoulys Chacin who was unceremoniously dumped by the Brewers. One needs to go no further than the traditional stat line and see a 3-10 record and a Rick Porcello like earned run average. The previous season, Chacin was a dependable starter tossing 192.2 innings and a 15-8 record. Chacin’s ERA was a far more acceptable 3.50.
The hasty reaction is to dismiss this toss against the wall and hopes it sticks maneuver since – most regrettably – they fail. There are positives with Chacin with the most prominent being cheap, at least by today’s baseball standards. A second is Chacin is not Tom Seaver playing out the string but will be 32-years-old next season.
Being dismissive of Red Sox moves is a certain innate quality that is in abundance among the faithful, but that harkens back to Red Sox history and two pitchers come to mind that broke the mold of failure. One is a Red Sox legend and the other gave two excellent seasons. The first is Luis Tiant.
Tiant did a rarity for pitchers by winning 21 games and then losing 20 the following season. A negative pitching accomplishment. Cy Young in his Boston days once did the reverse in losing 20 and then winning 20. With Tiant, his career was almost at an end when he signed with the Red Sox after being released by what should have been the crosstown Braves. Then the legend began.
Tiant rewarded the Red Sox in 1971 by winning just one game while picking up the loss in seven more. It would be an understatement to say that Tiant struggled and a Tiant start was viewed as virtually an automatic loss. The Red Sox exhibited patience and were justly rewarded (122-88) over El Tiante’s eight seasons with Boston.
Bret Saberhagen should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame if not for injury after injury that kept his career victory total at 167 wins. A former Cy Young Award winner and twice a 20+ game-winner this was one exceptional pitcher. I hate walks and what stands out is a 1.7 BB/9 for his career along with a 3.34 ERA.
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The Red Sox rolled the dice and signed the righty for the 1997 season and the dice came up snake eyes. Saberhagen did nothing but stay on the disabled list. When Saberhagen was given the ball the results were a disaster and six late-season see what you’ve got starts produced nothing of merit. So the Red Sox did the smart thing and kept Saberhagen.
Sabes brought it all back and for one and a half seasons, it was the old Saberhagen with a 25-14 record before the inevitable career plague once again hit Saberhagen and the 2000 season was spent watching. Another comeback was attempted in 2001 with the Red Sox and it failed, but the Red Sox did get some real return on the risk of signing Saberhagan.
Chacin will now attempt to replicate Saberhagen and Tiant and the chances of that happening are certainly not worth a wager even at 100-1 odds, but strange things happen and in baseball, the Red Sox deserve a break or two on signings.
Chacin will just represent one of many who will be looked at and signed or discarded by the Red Sox this offseason. The idea is that sometimes you just get either lucky or good scouting and secure a talent that is a plus and not a negative.