Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Does this off-season represent a "change in philosophy?"

Chad Finn:
Bay's so-called replacement -- at the least Cameron will platoon with Jeremy Hermida in left while spelling Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew in center and right -- is the strongest suggestion yet that the Red Sox have made a philosophical change to emphasize pitching and defense, perhaps figuring they're not going to slug with the Yankees but that they can beat them with a well-constructed run-prevention model.

I like Chad, and agree with a lot of his stuff. I even (mostly) agree with this piece. But there's one comment there that I want to take issue with, and I bolded it. To repeat, Chad said that "the Red Sox have made a philosophical change to emphasize pitching and defense."

I don't believe that they've made any change of philosophy. Obviously, they've changed the makeup of the ball club, but that doesn't necessarily represent a change in philosophy. They've been focused on pitching and defense the entire time that Theo has been the GM. Pitching and defense. And offense. They have, in my opinion, tried to run a holistic ball club right from the beginning. They brought in Schilling 2004. They signed Alex Gonzalex in 2006 and brought him back again last year. They signed J.D. Drew, and his defense was a key part of that.

But they recognize that there are many different ways to build a successful team. If they'd signed Mark Teixeira last year, if Bay had taken their money, no one would be talking about a "philosophical change." Those were moves that they tried to make. Tried very hard, in the case of Teixeira. If they turn Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury in to Adrian Gonzalez in the next two months, no one will be talking about a "philosophical change."

Their philosophy hasn't been "all OBP, all the time" - if it were, they'd never have signed Alex Gonzalez. They'd have handled their issues with Manny differently, extending him before the '08 season started. Their philosophy hasn't been "gather the best offense possible, period." Their philosophy has been to find the best value that they can at each position, balancing pitching, offense and defense, so as to put a competitive team on the field every season. They've spent as much as any team not located in the Bronx has done, and they've spent on both the Major league roster and the Minor league system.

Rather than demonstrating a "philosophical change," yesterday's moves demonstrate a philosophical consistency. They see Lackey as the best value for that money, more valuable to them than Bay. They see Lackey and Cameron available at the cost of money and a draft pick, not the kind of established minor league talent that Philadelphia had to give up to Halladay. They've see an opportunity to upgrade weaknesses, and they've done so. They've upgraded at SS, both offensively and defensively, over what they got last year. They've downgraded offensively in left but upgraded defensively. They're certain to upgrade defensively at 3rd base - how much of an offense downgrade there is awaits the event, but it isn't like Lowell was an offensive star last year.

In short, they've continued to spend money, tried to do so effectively, where they see value, to put a good-to-very good-to-great team on the field. Just as they've done ever since Epstein's been the GM. The values available are pitching and defense related this year, unlike earlier years when they added an Ortiz or a Mueller or a Bellhorn, and but the guiding philosophy is exactly the same.

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