This past week, I experimented with something to mix things up and get more people interested, and I’m hoping next week I’ll see the results. While it isn’t a requirement, and I’d never pretend it was, I’m hoping to get responses from staff members where possible, even if it’s short. My feelings are that by getting the staff involved in interacting, more people will want to share their opinions.
The prompt this past weekend was this:
Who is your favorite non-Red Sox player, playing in today’s game?
Black Wilson led off our FanPost Friday responses with a cleanup hitter that once belonged to the Sox. In “If liking you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right”, he writes about his love of Anthony Rizzo, the one who got away.
Rizzo, of course, was part of the first Adrian Gonzalez trade, in which we traded Rizzo, Casey Kelly, Reymond Fuentes, and a player to be named later (who would end up becoming Eric Patterson), and received Gonzo. Yeah, just Gonzo.
We all know how Gonzalez played for the Sox. In 282 games, he would hit .321/.382/.513. For comparison’s sake, David Ortiz would hit .290/.386/.570 in his Boston career. Adrian Gonzalez was never a pure home-run hitter for the Sox, though he excelled in the gap power game. His 82 doubles in Boston (47 doubles per 162 games) make for a better rate than Papi’s 524 (44 doubles per 162 games).
He would eventually be moved in the Nick Punto deal that signaled the Red Sox were looking to rebuild. That trade, of course, sent Punto, Gonzo, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers for Ivan DeJesus, James Loney, Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa, and Jerry Sands. That trade has been disected enough, so we won’t go off on that tangent.
The key thing to remember here, is that Gonzo was traded twice, and while he was here, he was excellent. Rizzo, however, has been just as consistently excellent. He’d play 49 mediocre games for the Padres, before they shipped him off for Andrew Cashner (hey, I’m not going to tell the Padres how to run a team). Since going to the Chicago Cubs, Rizzo has only put up a .273/.366/.494 line, averaging 33 doubles and 27 home-runs a season. And that is counting his first two years in Chicago, which while good, were not his best years. The last three years, those numbers get boosted to .285/.386/.527, with 36 doubles and 32 home-runs a year. He’s been getting better every year, and this upcoming season, he’ll be only 27 (28 in August). And that contract? Don’t even get me started. The Cubs have him for seven million each of the next two years, for twelve million in 2019 guaranteed. Then there are the two club options, each valued at 16.5 million, during his age 30 and 31 seasons. He’s one of the biggest steals in the game at that value, and the Red Sox let that slip through their fingers for Adrian Gonzalez.
Anthony Rizzo is going to go down as one of the greatest players that the Red Sox have traded away (that’s my belief, anyway), at least in the modern era. The value he has been worth has far exceeded the value we received (in both Gonzo deals combined), and in a strict baseball value look, we 100% lost that trade.
It’s worth remembering, however, that if we didn’t do the Gonzo trade, we probably still have Carl Crawford’s money on the books, are stuck with Josh Beckett, and can’t financially maneuver a way into the 2013 World Series the way we did. It’s entirely possible we’d just have done something different, but that future looks just a bit different than it does now. I still think we’d have Hanley Ramirez (since even when signed, the idea was he’d be in LF), and possibly even Sandoval (since we really wanted him for some reason), but the rest of the team’s look is very fuzzy once you get beyond obvious ones, like Xander and Mookie (I don’t want to imagine a future where these two aren’t Red Sox).
I miss Anthony Rizzo. You miss Anthony Rizzo. We all miss Anthony Rizzo. One can hope that Sam Travis will provide what we need out of the first base spot, and dull the pain ever so slightly. Or Rafael Devers. Or both.
Walt in Maryland changes up the pace, and hits us with what might be the single best pitcher of the era. In “Kershaw’s the best” (guess who it is about), he waxes poetic about Clayton Kershaw, and how they remind him of Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez. And while he has a point, Kershaw has one thing over both of them. The trifecta may be full of aces, and each of them dominated the game in their own way, but none of them have a curveball quite like the 6’4” lefty from Dallas, Texas.
I did a quick look at his baseball reference page, and found out he actually has three nicknames, so I want to take this time to point out how awesome each nickname in (in ascending awesomeness).
There’s first of all, Kid K, which made sense for a time, when he was a rising superstar who struck everybody out, but no longer really applies, he is now 29 (his birthday was on Sunday of this week!) and approaching those prime veteran years in stride. His strikeout ability is simply phenomenal. He’s at 9.8 K/9 since his debut in 2008, which is 9th among starters in that same time frame. But since 2014, when he truly became what I would say is a strong candidate for the best pitcher in baseball, he has been tops, with an 11.05 K/9. The second best in the past three years has been Max Scherzer (at 10.79). But to bring this back to the Sox, Chris Sale, the Red Sox new ace, is 4th in that time period (10.56).
That second nickname is “The Claw”. It’s pretty cool, but I’m really not that into claws, I finally beat the claw machine for my first time at a Dave and Buster’s last year, and it just brings back a lot of angry feelings for that machine. But it’s cool, I promise, I won a rainbow dolphin that we named “Nate Diaz”, in honor of him being way cooler than Conor McGregor.
The third, and ultimately best nickname, however, is “The Minotaur”. I don’t think any explanation is required. Minotaurs are terrifying, and so is Kershaw when he’s on, which is pretty much all the time.
Clayton Kershaw is the type of pitcher you relentlessly pursue in fantasy baseball, in the hopes that he can be had for less than he is actually worth. It’s often a vain effort, as everyone will (rightfully) ask for the moon, earth, and all the stars in the Milky Way, but it gives players hope. He’s the type of player you pick first in MLB the Show fantasy drafts, because you simply aren’t going to get a better pitcher at any point, and offensive players tend to last longer anyway. He’s the type of player you wish you could see more, but are glad you don’t have to face (here’s a fun fact, Kershaw has never pitched against the Red Sox, since his debut in 2008. There are 4 teams he has never pitched an inning against: the Sox, the Orioles, the Twins, and of course, his own team, the Dodgers).
It’s probably for the best, as Kershaw tends to be excellent at baseball in general, as only three teams have held him to an ERA above 4: the White Sox, Rangers, and Indians. Granted, only one of those teams have faced him more than once, so it’s a very small sample size.
Any dreams a Sox fan might have of Kershaw coming to Boston in a Red Sox uniform are probably completely dashed, but he does have the option of opting out of his huge contract after the 2018 season. I’m not sure that’s likely, as he’s going to be making around 70 million the final two years he’d be opting out of. If he does opt out, however, he’ll be the best free agent starting pitcher in a very long time.
The final “FanPost” by our viewership was by tomisphere, who went neither with a top 3 starting pitcher, or a former Red Sox player who is now an all-star. He goes with Javier Baez in “FF Favorite: Javier Baez, For Love of the game”. In his FanPost, he even admits that his pick doesn’t seem very traditional, as he moves beyond the best players, the strongest players, and even former Red Sox players and prospects, instead focusing on a player who has helped make baseball more fun, as an objective fan.
Javier Baez, for all his faults as a player (he never walks, always strikes out, etc.) has always been a player who has been exuberant and happy to just be on the field playing the sport he loves. I think this is something we can all appreciate, because passion is what makes the sport so exciting to watch. Who didn’t get chills when Papi came up to the plate at every point in 2013? You knew he was going to go off, and when he did, that he was going to celebrate as if he were the city of Boston itself. You knew that when he came to the plate, he was going to do what he did, he was going to love it, and that everything would be ok.
Javier Baez might not have that same level of intensity as David Ortiz, and that’s fine, David Ortiz was also in his late-30’s, having built up a huge amount of respect in Major League Baseball. He has seen it all before, it’s been his sport for multiple decades. Javier Baez, it’s easy to forget, is only 24, with what could be a long career ahead of him. He has time to build his craft. He’s an exciting player to watch, and players like him make baseball more interesting (even if I wished he’d strike out less).
As I mentioned above, I asked the staff to participate this time around, and they didn’t disappoint. The following snippets are in their words, so I’ll be taking a back seat, and letting them speak for themselves.
Felix Hernandez is the homie. I’ve been driving the King Felix to Boston bandwagon since I built it in my backyard in 2008. But even though he will (probably) never be a Red Sox, I still have a soft spot for Felix. I respect his general durability (at least 200 innings from 2008 to 2015), his strikeout stuff (career K/9 of 8.4) and his swagger on the mound. Even though he has been regressing the last two season, I still think he’s a pitcher worth watching every five days, even if he’s not facing the Red Sox. Heck, I’d watch him throw BP every fifth day.
The year was 2006. It was fantasy baseball season. I don't remember what the Baseball Prospectus Annual said exactly but Markakis was my guy going into his rookie season. Sure, he was on the Orioles - a division rival - but aside from the Brian Roberts Red Glasses Experience they weren't good.
2006 was OK but his 2007 23 home run, 18 steal performance made him a player I'd always follow and, when not playing the Red Sox, cheer. I don't know what exactly it was but I liked Nick Markakis. He roamed the outfield, ran, and hit for some power. And he wasn't really any else's guy.
Eventually, I lost a bet with another member of the fantasy league and had to buy a Markakis shirsey.
Now he's on the Braves and tallying up "most years without an All-Star Game experience." That'll be a nice story someday.
If you asked me last year who my favorite baseball player not on the Red Sox was, I would have had three potential answers. One of those players was obtained by the Red Sox, and the other died. The third player was and is my favorite anyway, and it is Ichiro.
He is past his prime -- except on the mound, where he's just getting warmed up! -- but I'm taking the question at face value, and he is my only answer. He is the coolest motherf***er ever to play the sport, and there is an argument that if you were putting together a lineup of the best players in history and picked a lineup that represented the way lineups have been made for more than a century, for better or worse -- that is, not just the power hitters, but the best fielders and runners, too -- Ichiro might make it*. On top of that, he is the best quote in baseball history outside of Yogi Berra. The only black mark was the Yankees stint, but Miami agrees with the twilight of his career beautifully, and I’ll never take him for granted.
* If Rickey was sick
When Jake decided on this prompt, it surprised me that I couldn’t think of a player whom I loved instantly. There are so many great and fun players in the game today that no one guy really stands out. The more I thought about it, though, the more I kept coming back to Nolan Arenado. He’s got everything. He hits dingers, and he hits them in Coors which just makes them more aesthetically pleasing.
It’s the glove that really draws me in, however. Growing up, I played third base and am always amazed by the best at the hot corner. The reaction time required for me in a mediocre Babe Ruth league seemed almost impossible, so seeing guys do it at the major-league level just blows my mind. And Arenado is arguably the best. What makes it even better is that he was never supposed to be. He was always a top prospect, but for most of his minor-league days he was considered a liability at third. Between his offensive prowess, magician-like qualities in the field and the semi-underdog story of his defensive progression, Arenado is a baseball treasure.
Finally, I suppose it is my turn. I had a lot of trouble with this prompt myself, and I technically had two weeks to think about it, between the submission for the prompt and today’s post. I kept battling back and forth, and I just can’t decide. I’m sure once this article is done, I’m going to wish I chose to write about Bryce Harper, and then I’m going to think I should have wrote about Yu Darvish, and it’s just never going to stop.
So rather than write about who is my favorite non-Sox player, I’m going to talk about a player who I think I’m growing to love with every passing day, and one who I desperately hope doesn’t blow his arm out so he can join the Red Sox himself. I’m going to write about the man the Blue Jays gave away for R.A. Dickey, Noah Syndergaard.
Noah Syndergaard represents two things to me. First, of course, is his natural talent. If you’ve ever seen him pitch, you will be instantly hooked. If you haven’t seen him pitch, close this tab, go watch a game or two of his, and come back. I’ll wait.
OK, have you watched him now? Good.
The second thing that Thor (coolest nickname ever, just saying) represents is the risk that comes with dealing high level prospects for high risk players. Dickey, of course, was coming off his improbable Cy Young winning season in 2012, and there was almost no way he was going to be as good in 2013. So of course, the Blue Jays go out of their way and trade away Noah Syndergaard, Travis D’arnaud, John Buck, and Wuilmer Becerra (who could still potentially end up as a major leaguer). The Jays also got Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas, but it’s clear which side got the best end of the trade.
Trading away top prospects is a way to get instant credibility. The Jays, after all, were probably not going to win in 2013 with a rotation of Mark Buehrle, J.A. Happ, Josh Johnson, Todd Redmond, and Esmil Rogers (or Brandon Morrow). If that rotation could even stay healthy, you are talking about a team that is likely to finish 4th or 5th in the AL East.
So they traded away Thor, and brought in their new ace. Then 2013 unraveled spectacularly. The Blue Jays would finish 74-88, dead last in the division, even with their shiny new ace. They were the only team in the division to finish below .500. Only four teams in the entire American League were worse than the Jays. Meanwhile, the Mets, who knew the state of their franchise, rebuilt in as an efficient manner as possible.
Syndergaard would make his debut in 2015. After six straight years of being below .500, Syndergaard’s emergence, along with the brilliance of Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, would lead the Mets to post-season berth where they lost to the Kansas City Royals. Last season, they made it back to the playoffs, but unfortunately got hit by the Even-Year Giants in a one game playoff.
Noah Syndergaard boasts one of the best fastballs in the game. His hair game is on point. He hits all the notes needed to be a true super star.
Now we just have to hope he doesn’t have his arm fly off into outer-space, so he can join the Red Sox, and make Toronto regret moving him even more.
So there you have it, we now have our team of non-Sox. I present to you, the Over The Monster Non-Sox All-Star Squad!
C - You don’t need a catcher, all the pitchers are going to pitch so hard, the ball comes back to the pitcher.
1B - Anthony Rizzo
2B - Javier Baez
SS - I guess we can have Javier Baez play both positions. Has the energy for it.
3B - Nolan Arenado
LF - Ichiro
CF - Vacant, covered by LF and RF
RF - Nick Markakis
SP - Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, and Felix Hernandez
Presumably, when the other two aren’t pitching, they will join in the field, somewhere. I think this team could win a game or two. But probably not.
And that is all for this week’s prompt. Have a wonderful week, everybody!