Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Would Last-First-Last-First be OK with You?

When the Florida Marlins won their second championship, I remember wondering. Would I rather be a Marlins fan where I’d have to cheer for terrible teams for the most part but have two championships in six years, or a Braves fan and win the division every year but only end up with one title? There was some merit to both. On the one hand, the Braves were always cheering for a winner, and had expectations that their team would do well. But, did the Marlins fans appreciate their titles even more since they were so unexpected?

Sort of like 2013.

Earlier in the Spring, John Henry said something to the effect of, Last to first to last to first is not an acceptable pattern. I wondered… is it? Is the Marlins plan a good one?

Now, I would never suggest going the exact same route as the Marlins did. The complete dismantling of the team isn’t something I’d want to see. But, what if the Sox just didn’t try quite as hard every other year? Little things. Like Stephen Drew.

After the 2012 forgettable season, the Sox had a few holes. They signed a few people to longer term deals. Victorino and Napoli were offered three year deals. Stephen Drew was given a one year deal, to fill the gap until Iglesias (or Bogaerts) was ready. Filling all those holes helped the team reach the pinnacle in 2013.

The next year, the longer term contracts were still there (if you count Napoili as the three year deal it ended up being). But they needed a shortstop again. They decided that they’d let it ride with Xander at short, and see how it went. They finished last.

What if they kept doing that? Like I said, don’t stop signing good players. Don’t salary dump the ones you have. Just don’t fill in the holes as well as you might. So, every other year, see how a youngster works out. Or sign a very low paying stop gap.

For instance, this year the Sox seem to be going for it. In addition to the big deals for Hanley and Panda, there are smaller deals too. Masterson is a filler, for instance. So, they go for it. Then, after winning the title, they just let Napoli, Masterson, and Victorino walk, and let all the kids have another crack at it. Maybe they do well. Maybe it’s 2014 all over again.

But, every other year you can save a little money. If you’re not paying a fifth starter $8 million, you can put that elsewhere. Maybe the next year you can go a little higher on a bigger name free agent. And, every other year you get a better draft pick.

Now, it would be tough if that were an announced plan. Would as many people buy tickets if they knew it was the down year? Probably not. Would free agents sign a three year deal if they were on the cycle of losing for two of those years? Not as likely.

I also assume it would have to result in a championship. The Bruins tried something similar by going for it last year, knowing full well it would hurt them this year. It seemed like a good idea. The team was a monster. Then they lost. Suddenly having a down year this year isn’t so appealing. It was easier for the 2014 Sox since they were in a championship afterglow. So, it’s a risky plan.

But, is it a good plan?

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