BOSTON – The Red Sox claimed their third World Series championship in a decade on Oct. 30, 2013, by beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1. Since that day, the Cardinals have rebounded from the disappointment and won more games than any team in baseball.
And the three-time champs?
Going into Saturday’s games, the Red Sox were last in the AL East and had the third-worst record in the American League.
Or as principal owner John Henry said in an extraordinary Fenway Park news conference last week, “We have played like bleep.”
He censored his own language so newspapers wouldn’t have to, but the team’s fans have no such modesty these days. There was plenty of booing at Fenway during the Twins’ four-game visit last week, and plenty of reasons for it.
This was supposed to be a dynasty, or so the Sox and their boosters said. They added depth last winter that few teams can match, yet in just the past two weeks, they have found themselves scrounging for castoffs such as Carlos Peguero and Alejandro de Aza.
They rebuilt their rotation by dealing for Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson — none of whom own an ERA better than 4.97. They supposedly had great balance, yet rank 13th in the AL in runs scored, and dead last in runs allowed.
Worst of all, in an eerie echo of the disastrous overhaul of 2011, when they showered $156 million on Adrian Gonzalez after acquiring him in a trade and another $142 million on Carl Crawford, the Red Sox splurged on free agents last winter who seem to hurt more than help.
Hanley Ramirez volunteered to move to left field when he signed an $88 million deal, but he has been unable to catch fly balls and unwilling to work hard enough to improve. He takes comical routes to fly balls and seems to choose which base to throw to at random. He’s got no real position but DH, but that’s being manned by .220-hitting, shift-challenged David Ortiz.
Rusney Castillo got $72 million when he defected from Cuba, yet bats ninth — and hits like a pitcher (. 190).
And Pedro Sandoval, awarded $90 million after winning another World Series with the Giants, has been atrocious in the field; his inability to catch a throw from catcher Blake Swihart in the ninth inning Thursday allowed Brian Dozier to score the winning run.
An unpopular team, with a bloated $184 million payroll, the highest ticket prices in the league, and unrealistic expectations? No wonder Henry felt the need to express his own outrage — and do a mea culpa — last week.
“I watch these games, so I know how painful they are,” Henry said to a media scrum in the back of the press box. “But it’s even worse to be responsible for this, and I feel responsible. I am responsible.”
Well, he’s not the one who broke for third base on a ball hit right at third baseman Trevor Plouffe, as Ramirez did Thursday. He’s not the one who got thrown out trying to score from first base on a single, as Mike Napoli, a slow-footed cleanup hitter batting .214 did one batter later.
“Did we spend too much on offense and not enough on pitching? With hindsight, you could perhaps say that,” Henry said. “But we don’t have enough offense. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t remember seeing our offense look this bad maybe since we’ve been involved here.”
Henry defended manager John Farrell and General Manager Ben Cherington, yet still kept expectations as high as ever.
“We’ve analyzed this team. This is a strong team,” Henry said. “They’ve just played not up to their capabilities.”
Then again, as the Boston Globe pointed out last week, this is a team that has won a playoff game in only one of the past six seasons. Maybe they are playing up to them.
The Twins faced Matt Garza on Saturday, their first-round pick exactly a decade ago, whose career mostly has played out elsewhere. Did any of their AL Central rivals do better in 2005? Here’s a look:
Indians: They took outfielder Trevor Crowe with the 14th overall pick, and received 205 career games and a .240 average.
They also chose two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum in the 42nd round, but didn’t sign him.
Royals: With the second overall pick, Kansas City chose Alex Gordon, who nine years later led them to their first World Series since 1985.
Four Gold Gloves, two All-Star berths, too. But outside of journeyman Jeff Bianchi, no other Royals draftee reached the majors.
Tigers: Outfielder Cameron Maybin was an exciting pick at No. 10, and he indeed helped the Tigers a lot — by being the main trading chip they used to acquire Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins.
Lots of other value in the Tigers’ picks, too, including a pair of 2011 All-Stars: outfielder Matt Joyce (12th round) and catcher Alex Avila (34th).
White Sox: Righthander Lance Broadway, No. 15 overall, was a bust, posting a 5.24 ERA in just 55 big-league innings.
The rest of draft was no better, with one exception: 15th-rounder Chris Carter, traded before reaching Chicago, is nearing 100 career homers in Houston.
Mauer can bunt …
Joe Mauer only has four sacrifice bunts in his career, but that doesn’t mean he can’t bunt. In fact, his 20 career bunt singles are one short of the franchise’s all-time top 10. The most career bunt singles by a Twin:
... and can deliver in the clutch
Ninth inning, two outs, trailing on the scoreboard. Make an out and the game is over, or pass that pressure on to someone else by getting on base. Who is best among the Twins in that last-ditch scenario? Here are their career numbers:
Mauer .377 29-77 4 HR
Dozier .353 6-17 1 HR
Hunter .307 31-101 2 HR
Plouffe .298 14-47 2 HR
Escobar .286 6-21 1 HR
Herrmann .250 2-8 0 HR
Hicks .250 1-4 0 HR
Suzuki .226 14-62 1 HR
Nunez .176 3-17 0 HR
Santana .000 0-8 0 HR
Robinson .000 0-10 0 HR