I could not believe how lucky I was that I would one day get to watch Michael Coleman and Dernell Stenson play together in the same outfield.
Two five-tool studs! Two perennial MVP candidates! Two future Hall-Of-Famers! That Red Sox outfield was going to be historically great. It was going to be Maris-next-to-Mantle great. McCovey-next-to-Mays great. It was going to be legendary.
That’s more or less how my brain as a young Red Sox fan operated. I grew up closer to Providence than to Boston, and so I went to McCoy Stadium far more than I ever did to Fenway. This was back in the days when we knew nothing — NOTHING — about prospects. The Globe didn’t report on them. Soxprospects.com didn’t exist. We’d heard whispers of Baseball America but had never seen it in the flesh.
If you wanted information about prospects in those days, there was really only one place to look: the game day programs they handed out at McCoy Stadium. And that’s how I became convinced that Michael Coleman and Dernell Stenson would one day be the heart of the greatest outfield in baseball history.
Suffice it to say, the prospect blurbs in those programs didn’t provide the most detailed scouting reports. They didn’t tell us that Donnie Sadler wasn’t showing enough plate discipline down in Trenton, or that Greg Blosser swung and missed too much, or that Brian Rose’s mediocre strikeout numbers didn’t portend well for the future. They told us, rather, that they were all going to be stars. Every one of them. And I ate it up.
And so, what I most wanted as a Red Sox fan, was not just a great team, but a great team of homegrown players. I wanted to watch young, hungry kids claw their way up through the system. I wanted to see them struggle and then overcome. I wanted to watch them turn into stars. I wanted to tell my future children about them when I pointed to their number on the right field facade.
I got this team, eventually:
The heart of 2018 Red Sox featured three homegrown potential Hall-Of-Famers, all of whom were under the age of 27: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers. Three, uber-talented, charismatic, well-adjusted young stars who were the envy of every other team in baseball. Three stars who made team-building remarkably easy: lock them up, find some pitching, and roll. All you hope for as a baseball fan is to root for a team led by three guys like that.
I know enough about prospects now to know that we will almost certainly never again see a Red Sox team with three homegrown players like them. How could we? Mookie Betts is very possibly the second-best Red Sox player of all-time. Xander Bogaerts is very possibly the greatest Red Sox short stop of all-time. Rafael Devers is, very possibly, going to out-produce both of them with the bat over the course of his career.
Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers should have played together for another ten years. They should have posed together in matching Red Sox uniforms every July at the All-Star Game. They should have spoken at each other’s retirement ceremonies. The 2018 Boston Red Sox should have just been the start of something special, not the end.
None of that will happen. And, as best as I can tell, the reason it won’t happen is because, three years ago, John Henry started feeling regretful over possibly giving a little too much money to Chris Sale.
Well, Chris Sale’s contract expires in three years. Rafael Devers’ in one. McCoy Stadium will be gone soon. But hey, Marcelo Mayer might be ready in a couple years.