I’ll admit it: After three years* of skepticism, I am finally excited about the Boston Red Sox again. It is a weird feeling, and that necessarily follows the Rafael Devers extension, which finally made me believe better things are possible after a prolonged period of self-sabotage. This is hardly a call for celebration, but still, coming out of the darkness feels better than I ever expected, and while there’s a long way to go to be fully in the light, I’ll take whatever I can get right now.
* Yes, including 2021. I’m a hater. What can you do?
Of course, it’s all relative. Would I be overly excited, several months late, about Masataka Yoshida if the Sox were a World Series candidate? Probably not. Should they be one? Yes! And yet. And YET. The Yoshida signing, which plainly ushers in a new, patient era of Sox baseball, has me so excited I just can’t hide it.
Yes, I have become Yoshida-pilled, largely thanks to dynasty baseball, due to which I have had to become intimately familiar with first-year player projections. I am not the only one. Over the Monster, as an organization, has often questioned, loudly, the moves made by Chaim Bloom, but has had nothing but good to say on this one. If it wasn’t crystal clear, let me say on behalf of OTM, in Bill Simmons voice: Chaim Bloom, god job by you.
Could this all be wrong? Sure, but the proof is in the negative , at least to some degree. The Yoshida contract was instant fodder for a sour-grapes column in the national media taking shots at Bloom, which was the first sign to, me, that Bloom nailed it. First off, being unfair to the administration: That’s our job. Let OTM cook, sirs. Secondly: The degree to which people were willing to say the Sox screwed up was plainly an exercise in projection, borne of opportunism. There’s strength in numbers: If the crowd says someone is wrong, but they’re right, the crowd can’t shoulder too much blame because hey... it was a crowd?
In this case, there’s no “there” there. Any consensus that the Sox paid too much for Yoshida is ludicrous, given the known unknowns of Japanese players coming over and the contracts generally handed out in Major League Baseball, and this should be what they call a “tell.” We already know the owners are colluding. What my theory presupposes is: What if they selectively weren’t? And this is one of those times?
Maybe I’m out on a limb, but if the Sox have been zagging like a small-market when they should have been zigging along with their big-market brethren, now is the time I’m happy they stuck to zagging. Before the projections came out, there wasn’t a lot that Bloom had in his back pocket to explain away the Yoshida deal. Now we can see it with our own eyes. The machines don’t merely approve, they thunderously applaud (metaphorically, because computers don’t have hands). And I’m joining them.
Simply put: If Yoshida really puts up a 298/.388/.479 line, as STEAMER projects, that’ll be worth twice what they paid, not half, as the haters suggested. And given that he’s batting at the top of the lineup, his slash line doesn’t tell the whole story. Volume is the hidden value in baseball, and it’s what makes the season go ‘round. Yoshida isn’t a bit player with a few great lines. He’s a main character with a long list of them, and one with whom we’d best get familiar sooner rather than later.
Plainly, I believe the projections more than I don’t. Baseball is baseball; discrete skills are discrete skills, and the machines, while not knowing everything, know enough. Yoshida has the right skills to make it over here, and if (when) he does, the whole city will fall in love. There won’t be a playoff race attached, probably, but that’s barely the point. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Good thing I don’t think Yoshida will need one.