On Saturday, Adrian Beltre hit his 408th career home run, his 130th in a Texas uniform. Beltre joined the Rangers prior to the 2011 season, signing a 6-year, $96 million contract following a brilliant comeback year in Boston. Not wanting to commit that level of money to a 31-year-old third baseman, the Red Sox let Beltre walk, confident that their plan to bring Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford on board would provide better results. Gonzalez and Crawford have been Dodgers since 2012, and Boston's third basemen have combined for 80 HR in the last five years. But otherwise, it's worked out perfectly.
Signing Crawford and trading for Gonzalez wasn't even a particularly dumb move. Yeah, I know, Anthony Rizzo has 58 HR in the last two years. Gonzalez has 51 hitting in a freaking canyon, and Kelly/Fuentes haven't exactly set the world ablaze. Crawford I won't try to defend. Bad fit in every possible way, and that brings us directly to the point. The Boston Red Sox had, in Adrian Beltre, a Hall of Fame third baseman who by dint of swing and personality was the perfect fit for Fenway Park. And they gently shoved him to the curb for the promise of something they thought was shinier. Does this sound oddly familiar, given the main news surrounding the Sox lately?
NESN finally broke their silence this weekend, with team chairman Tom Werner explaining that the release of Don Orsillo wasn't about Don at all, but instead their burning desire to give Dave O'Brien the play-by-play gig. And it's not a particularly dumb move. O'Brien is an entirely cromulent announcer, a well-above average product of the Swell Voice Academy and a solid student of the game. NESN's broadcasts with O'Brien at the helm will be the envy of at least two dozen regional sports networks. And yet.
Don Orsillo is the perfect announcer for the Boston Red Sox. His passion for the game and the local nine is obvious, even in the slowest and saddest of innings. Arguably more important for NESN's broadcasts, he brings the best out of his color analysts. When Jerry Remy starts to drift into distracted-grandpa mode, Don brings him back. When Eck gets too Californian, Don gets him back on point. Don hasn't done much with Steve Lyons, but a hybrid clone of Vin Scully and Mel Allen couldn't draw blood from that lightly-racist stone. Most importantly, he has fun with every game, which is a rare thing in this town.
How rare? The main criticism of Orsillo has been that he "distracts from the game." That he's too prone to being goofy. Baseball is SERIOUS BUSINESS, and should be called with the reverence normally reserved for state funerals or golf majors. Because at some point the highest-paid columnists and radio analysts inside the 128 loop decided that baseball isn't the fun thing we use to distract ourselves from TPS reports and rent checks for six months a year, but is instead a long series of warm-weather self-flagellations. If your Merloni shirsey isn't stained with tears and rent by distraught fingernails, you're not a real fan.
Despite that criticism from the worst corners of Sox fandom, the response to Orsillo's firing has been universally negative.
Let's Posnanski for a moment. I say firing because that's what it was. Don turned down a better offer from a national network four years ago to keep calling games for his hometown team. He clearly wanted to go nowhere. When your boss lets you go when you've shown no desire to leave, you're getting fired.
The reason, I think, that the fanbase has been so angry about Orsillo's impending departure is that we understand how deeply he belongs here. And this is where Beltre comes in. That Beltre hit well here was entirely predictable, he's got a vicious right-handed swing and the left-field wall is basically over the shortstop's shoulder. That he fielded well was inevitable, because he's the best-fielding third baseman ever. That he did it all after five "disappointing" years in Seattle, with a smile on his face and the obvious love of his teammates, in the harshest market in baseball? A glorious surprise.
There's absolutely no reason to let that man walk. Abandoning a perfect situation because something else on the horizon might perhaps be better is the act of a teenager, or a network TV executive. How fortunate we are to have Tom Werner filling that role.