A long time ago, the Giants and Red Sox formed an alliance to try to pack the the All-Star rosters. It didn’t go so well for the Giants, but Boston managed to get a couple of starters onto the team and in one analysis of the partnership, we got this gem:
So is this Bay Area-Beantown pact a harmless alliance or a devious conspiracy?
The campaign is likely to annoy some purists who would wince at the thought of Marco Scutaro (who is injured and batting just .235) starting at shortstop for the AL.
The Giants thought they could leverage Boston’s blood feud with the Yankees to swing more votes their way for Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval, but the team overestimated just how much people care about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry outside of Boston and New York and how much people cared about the Red Sox at all.
Their World Series win in 2004 signaled all things were possible. It should’ve been a balm to the Giants fans still recovering from the 2002 World Series, but instead it just felt like the spoiled kid finally got what they’d been whining about their entire lives. That 2004 season was, coincidentally, the first time the Giants played the Red Sox in interleague play, all three games in San Francisco, with the Giants winning two out of three.
Since then, the Giants have played the Red Sox 13 more times and have won just three games, all in San Francisco. In five games at Fenway Park, they’re 0-5 and have been outscored 35-14. It has been a terrible matchup for the Giants, even though they share a lot of similarities with the Red Sox. Hear me out!
Long World Series drought? Check.
More resourceful and lavished rival? Check.
Success through unconventional means? Check.
Terminating front office execs after the franchise stalls out from largesse and bad planning? Check.
Dave Dombrowksi took a talented roster and made some big moves to put it over the top and then didn’t do much to address its holes largely because he couldn’t as a result of all the big deals he’d already made. It was an older, wiser Bobby Evans approach that sunk Dombrowski, and while age was not the reason he got canned less than a year after his team won it all, it seems pretty clear that Boston envisioned a future that could only be managed by younger, nimbler minds.
Bobby Evans tried to keep a good thing going well beyond the point it was good, and the other structural changes he made came too late in the process to pull the franchise out of its skid, but we can all agree that success for both franchises begat disgruntlement in the face of zero success which led to drastic changes welcoming an uncertain future.
But we know the Red Sox won’t stay down for long and the scrutiny on them will carry with it a desire to see them get off the mat as quickly as possible. The national broadcasters need the Red Sox to be good to justify their broadcasting rights. Nobody outside of San Francisco cares what happens to the Giants.
So, you’re probably going to see some stuff about Boston being disappointed in their season which will still very likely be a winning season thanks in large part due to the fifth-most valuable lineup in the American League. Don’t listen to them. Don’t fret about their future. The Red Sox have never lost the spotlight no matter how they’re doing. The adoration they receive during the boom cycles has been at least as inflated as the criticism they’re receiving right now in the bust time.
The Red Sox are not your friend. The Red Sox are no one’s friend. If they were an ice cream flavor, they’d be pralines and dick. And because they’re the Red Sox, bound to get out of their non-playoff rut sooner than the Giants’ (because free agents actually want to play for them), we and the Giants should feel completely entitled to have a chip on their shoulder and be the Red Sox to Boston’s Yankees.
Boston has a losing home record on the year (36-39), just as the Giants do. Boston isn’t getting into the postseason, but the Giants could put a winning home record out of reach for them. The Giants can’t do anything to upset the Dodgers’ postseason, but they can annoy the Red Sox heading into their offseason. As I’ve often repeated:
Boston’s 39 losses come largely against the eight winning teams (out of 17) they’ve played at Fenway this season. Against the Yankees, Rays, A’s, Astros, Twins, Dodgers, Phillies, and Cleveland, they’re 12-24. Against the Blue Jays, Orioles, Tigers, Mariners, Rangers, White Sox, Royals, Angels, and Rockies: 24-15.
For the Giants’ part, they’re 19-22 on the road against winning teams (39-36 overall) and a surprising 6-1 in American League parks. They’re going to face Nathan Eovaldi and Jhoulys Chacin in games one and two of the series, two dudes the organization and some of the hitters already have books on, so, from that perhaps cartoonishly naive starting point, the Giants would seem to stand a chance.
Hitter to watch
I often can’t separate the concepts of Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts in my mind. At first, I thought Devers was a middle infielder and I thought it was pronounced DEE-verrz. But he’s not and it’s not (DEHV-vers). He has 50 doubles this year in 641 plate appearances. Combined with his four triples and 29 home runs, extra base hits make up 45.4% of his hits.
Those 50 doubles are tied with Bogaerts, btw, but because they don’t clobber home runs as often as the rest of the league, they’re relegated to the second page of the ISO leaderboard. But! This is where advanced statistics don’t have to be so confusing.
Yes, WAR is that one number we look for to get a sense of a player’s overall value, and while they are both great defenders (at third base and shortstop, respectively), I would like to clarify that Devers and Bogaerts aren’t merely slick fielders who can hit a little bit. They’re wRC+, or runs created adjusted for league and park are 30th (Devers — 133) and 18th (Bogaerts — 139) in the entire sport. So... watch them both, and imagine the Giants having a development pipeline that provides them with incredible talent.
And yet, these two key parts of Boston’s offensive have struggled in September. Devers has a .591 OPS in 50 PA, while Bogaerts has a .684 OPS in 9 September PA.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, our beloved Gorkys Hernández is on the roster! He is a September call-up and has one hit in 13 at bats. Just as we remember him.
Pitcher to watch
Eduardo Rodriguez came over to the Red Sox in 2014 when they traded Andrew Miller to the Orioles. He’s won 17 games for Boston and, despite a 4.00 FIP, his ERA- of 75 is 19th-best in baseball, just behind Walker Buehler. ERA- weights against a pitcher’s home park. Rodriguez has dealt with Fenway Park perfectly. His home road split isn’t remarkably different (3.13 ERA at home, 4.15 on the road), and it looks like he’s managed to be so successful because he’s been able to limit walks (3.3 BB/9) while striking out a bunch (9.2 K/9). The walk rate isn’t elite, but his 24.2% strikeout rate is in MLB’s top 25, tied with Noah Syndergaard.
Mike Yastrzemski will get a warm ovation and hit a home run. Hometown kid Chris Shaw will play and... hit a home run. Alex Dickerson will DH at some point and either walk or get an extra base hit. Somehow, the crystal ball of my Giants-addled mind foresees the Giants winning one of these games. And then getting blown out in the other two games.
The Red Sox have the luxury of dumping the front office exec who made moves to bring them another World Series because they already have recent titles and because it’s always cheaper to go younger.
Dave Dombrowski’s experience might work in what’s now an endangered species — a frontrunning team trying to win — and maybe he’ll find a position on a team that’s trying to take that next step, but his macro view of the sport belongs to a different era now. Teams aren’t trying to go big to win it, they’re trying to stay relatively in the mix for possibly being competitive in the near future (if all goes well) for as long as possible.
I don’t know if that’s a good thing, and not because I’m married to the Dombrowski-Sabean-Evans concept of team Baseball Moguling. I think it’s the groupthink that’s body snatched the sport. Dombrowski never showed that he was so out of touch that he couldn’t see that giving David Price the biggest free agent pitcher deal ever and extending Chris Sale was going to make it tough to do other things with the roster. He didn’t try to solve the problem he created this offseason by doing his own version of the McCutchen and Longoria deals. He didn’t do much of anything to improve the team, of course, but he recognized that he couldn’t try to make big moves to rescue other big moves. Didn’t matter. The Red Sox sought “payroll flexibility”. If austerity is the new disruption, then I’m ready for the next disruption.
Anyway, the Red Sox will probably make the end of the season feel even more miserable, but the Giants have a chance to pour just a little more salt in the Red Sox’ self-inflicted wound, too.