Red Sox History: Three stories of surviving a superstar loss

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 20: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox breaks his bat on a ground out against the Houston Astros in the second inning of Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 20, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 20: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox breaks his bat on a ground out against the Houston Astros in the second inning of Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 20, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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The Red Sox would survive the loss of Rafael Devers

There is significant hand-wringing in Red Sox Nation over the possible loss of lefty slugger Rafael Devers. The issue boils down to the usual – money. Will the Red Sox crumble? Is this going to result in a baseball ice age for the franchise? History – meaning Red Sox history – shows otherwise. A story of three superstars traded and how the team survived.

The first superstar loss is not part of the story, but how things can go wrong. The most recognizable loss in Red Sox history was Babe Ruth which became the catalyst for the long 86 year slumber. The loss of Ruth was not a singular event but one that harkens back to notorious baseball fire sales. Connie Mack twice dismantled great Athletic teams over monetary issues, and the Miami Marlins consider this a routine operation. The Washington Nations dumped just about everyone of note in 2021. A cautionary tale of the extreme.

Ruth had company in New York as Carl Mays, Wally Schang, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Sad Sam Jones, and Everett Scott are among those who helped build the foundation of the great Yankee teams of the early 1920s. The issue was money as it usually is, but sometimes ancillary issues can also influence a trade.

Tris Speaker was an MVP winning the Chalmers Award for 1912 when the Red Sox won it all. Speaker was one of the best to play the game, a fan favorite, but baggage facilitated the trade of Speaker to the Indians (Guardians).

Tensions existed in the locker room as cliques formed, and unfortunately, it was along religious lines. Speaker had several physical confrontations with Bill Carrigan, and Carrigan was Roman Catholic and Speaker part of the Protestant faction. Fellow outfielder Duffy Lewis as a Catholic had an issue with Speaker as the locker room was a nation divided.

Speaker knew his value and leveraged the Federal League’s formation to maximize his contract. Once the Federal League folded, Speaker still held out for more money, and team president Joe Lanin had enough and traded Speaker for Jones and infielder Fred Thomas.

Speaker won the 1916 American League batting title in his new surroundings while Thomas labored in the minors. Jones pitched to a 0-1 record, but the Red Sox won the pennant and the World Series. The loss of their best player – a five-tool star – did not sink the ship. What did was the wholesale dumping of players starting in 1919.

Fast forward to another Red Sox superstar and two-time batting champion Nomar Garciaparra. In 2004 a divorce was imminent between Boston and Nomar over money issues that percolated and flowed over to the locker room. A series of injuries had hampered Garciaparra, but the shortstop still packed a punch and was hitting .321.

A rare four-team trade carousel occurred the day the trading deadline was expiring. What Boston gave up on offense they secured on defense, and the rest is 2004 history.

Still etched in the collective memories of Red Sox fans is the trade of Mookie Betts. Betts is a once-in-a-generation star, but management had reached an intractable position regarding salary, and the inevitable took place, and Betts became a Dodger.

Boston has survived Betts’ departure and made the playoffs, just as they have the departure of Speaker and Garciaparra. The unknown is, would team history have changed significantly if all remained?

Devers is now next on the list, and as with Betts, do they wait for free agency and lose or pull the trade trigger? If Devers is gone, the team will press on and survive with reasonable management strategies. So if Devers leaves, the public relations issue could surface as it always does with a healthy dose of emotion attached.

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The three mentioned are not alone, especially in the age of free agency, and most are second-line players, not up in lights superstars such as the departed Roger Clemens. The team will survive since they have a large fan base, generally astute management, and a substantial war chest.