Initially I thought that the Red Sox did a decent job of getting some talent in return for Nomar Garciaparra. But after reading some of the fine analysis around the Net--including a roundtable of All-Baseball's best and brightest--it seems as if Boston acted out of desperation more than anything else. I love reading transaction analysis, especially because it doesn't hold much interest for me as a writer. However, I am an avid fan of the guys who are "doing it, doing it, and doing it well."
I do believe the Red Sox will be better defensively, but that's a side point. I don't think the Sox are a better team today than they were Friday, and it's not close. I think they made this trade not because it makes them better, but because they didn't have it in them to stand up to Garciaparra, who by most accounts had been a jackass since the Alex Rodriguez trade fell through. I rarely—perhaps never—factor non-performance issues in to my analysis, because they tend to be filtered through the press and tailored to create the best story. In this case, I'm convinced that this trade happened because Garciaparra wasn't going to come out of his full pout until he was dealt or filed for free agency.
I still wouldn't have done it. I might have encouraged a blanket party for the shortstop, but I never would have made such a bad baseball move just for the sake of harmony. In the same way that I like that Joe Garagiola Jr. tried to make the best baseball move he could, Randy Johnson's preferences be damned, I dislike the way Epstein made a bad baseball move with an eye on emotional issues.
Like Sheehan, Steven Goldman thinks the Yankees made a sound decision to rid themselves of Jose Contreras. When I spoke with Will Carroll last night and asked him what he made of the deal he asked me, "Do you like Carlos Beltran?" Meaning, with the money the Yankees will save not having to pay Contreras, they can go get themselves another star this winter. Goldman also likes the Olerud pick-up:
Olerud, a good fielder though dreadfully slow on the bases — catcher slow, Giambi slow — is good at getting on base. Despite doing very little hitting this year, he has still taken enough walks to maintain an above-average on-base percentage. The problem is, he hasn’t done the thing that Clark excels at, which is sending the ball to the outfield and beyond, nor has he hit with any kind of regularity. When a career .300 hitter/.478 slugger (through 2002) in his mid-30s spends two years struggling, the tendency is to assume that the reflexes have gone. The vote of no-confidence from the Mariners isn’t encouraging. If a team on its way to 100 losses says that you’re not good enough to play for them, that’s a really big hint that you’re not doing well. Olerud has hit very little since the 2002 All-Star break, and clearly the Mariners felt he was finished at age 35. Now, the Mariners are clearly not run by Franklin Roosevelt’s Brain Trust or they wouldn’t have gotten into this mess in the first place. Still, over a thousand plate appearances of ineffectiveness is a strong, objective indictment.
Olerud is worth a try; in baseball’s long season, nearly anything is worth a try for a week or 10 days, but don’t be surprised if Clark is back out on the diamond in the short term. If, on the other hand, Olerud is able to shake off his malaise and the effects of age and hit as of old, then Don Mattingly’s plaque should be immediately removed from Monument Park and replaced with a 20-foot statue. It will be that kind of accomplishment.
The Yanks are nine games ahead of the Red Sox, who beat the Devil Rays last night in Tampa Bay.