Watching David Murphy’s sweet swing launching balls in the gap and over the wall against the Yankees got me to thinking. What if the Red Sox didn’t have to work with such urgency? I say “have to,” because the demand to win championships is so great the Sox end up with itchy trigger fingers.
Murphy was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick, and before he could develop into an outfielder who’s averaged 15 homers and 65 RBIs the past three seasons, he was traded away with two other prospects for Eric Gagne. A failed trade.
So, what if the Sox never traded Murphy? What if they had him in right field instead of J.D. Drew for a fraction of the cost? Maybe they could have gotten Mark Teixeira. What if they never signed Daisuke Matsuzaka? Or Matt Clement? What if they never traded Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell? The argument against that, of course, is that both Beckett and Lowell were key parts of the 2007 championship team. But how many championships could the Red Sox win with an infield consisting of Mark Teixeira, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Ramirez? Each one of them would be a perennial MVP candidate for 10 years. Plus, they wouldn’t be saddled with Beckett’s current contract, and they wouldn’t have paid Lowell $18 million during his final two seasons.
What if the Red Sox’ actual success rate with their draft picks matched the public’s perception? Yes, the current regime inherited Youkilis and Jon Lester and drafted Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. But we’ve also seen the likes of Devern Hansack, Kason Kabbard, David Pauley, Kyle Snyder and Lenny DiNardo on the mound at Fenway. What if they were as successful as the Tampa Bay Rays, who saw their own draft picks win 59 games this year for a combined salary of $6.5 million?
That would be money saved to go after Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford this season. Hindsight is 20-20, and I’m not ripping the Red Sox for their frenetic deal making. They have to do it. But each deal leads to the next one, and I’m just wondering where a lot more patience and luck could have led them.
The Red Sox could have done a lot less and ended with so much more. Understood — these what ifs are basically asking: “If the Red Sox had a crystal ball and had done everything right …” And that’s not fair. But if those what ifs had worked out for the Red Sox, they could have that all-star infield next year with an outfield of Murphy, Jacoby Ellsbury and Crawford. Plus they’d have a rotation headed by Lee, Lester, and Buchholz. And it would be affordable!
Instead, Theo the rototiller will turn over his roster once again, and we can play the what if game again in a few years.
—Bob Halloran is a sports anchor and author. Follow him on Twitter @BobHalloran63
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