The Boston Red Sox have been suffering from an identity crisis.
Yes, this is in part referring to the fact that they finished in the basement of the American League East this season, a feat they had not accomplished since 1993.
In 1993, Boston still managed to post a record of 80-82, something Sox fans would have been more accepting of instead of the 69-93 record they “earned” this season. That equates to a cool .426 winning percentage.
The last time the Red Sox had a worse winning percentage was in 1965, when the team went 62-100 for a .383 winning percentage.
Lyndon B. Johnson was in office. America landed in Vietnam on March third and the Beatles released both Help! and Rubber Soul.
In other words, it’s been awhile since the team has been this bad.
These are the Boston Red Sox after all, aren’t they?
The problem that exists with the identity of this team has been the front office’s inability to actually identity the right kind of player for Boston.
Allow me to clarify.
In some situations, the front office has opted to sign players they’ve lusted after (see J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo).
Such was the case with Adrian Gonzalez.
No, the team didn’t sign him via free agency. Lucky for Boston they were fortunate, if you can call it that, to have traded for him. Of course, it did cost them talent in the form of Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly.
That said, the team was able to get their power hitting corner infielder and promptly signed him to a large contract extension that would pay him $154 million over seven years for an average annual salary of $22 million per season.
Now, if the production was there to warrant such money, it would be another story. The Red Sox coveted a power hitting corner infielder and what they got was a very nice hitting corner infielder.
The problem: Boston already had their man, and they let him go.
Since leaving the Red Sox, Adrian Beltre has been every bit the player the Red Sox wanted Adrian Gonzalez to be, and for less money.
Beltre signed with the Texas Rangers in 2011 for five years and $80 million, or an average annual salary of $16 million.
In the same time that the Red Sox were waiting for Gonzalez to come around and embrace the role they had predetermined for him, Beltre was doing just that in Texas.
Since 2011, Gonzalez played in 282 games for the Red Sox compared to Beltre's 280 for the Rangers.
That resulted in 1091 at-bats, 177 runs, 338 hits, 66 doubles, two triples, 68 home runs, 207 RBI and 61 base on balls for Beltre in Texas.
As for Gonzalez in Boston, he had 1114 at-bats, 171 runs, 358 hits, 82 doubles, three triples, 42 home runs, 203 RBI and 105 base on balls.
As for their batting lines:
As you can see, the offensive numbers are fairly comparable. Why then were Red Sox fans so disappointed in the performance of Adrian Gonzalez?
It might be as simple as the type of extra base hits. It can't be the quantity—Beltre only has the edge by nine in that category, 136 to 127 in the course of over 1000 at-bats.
Or it could be the fact that Beltre hit home runs while Gonzalez was busy peppering doubles off of the Green Monster.
Of course, it could be the price tag attached to the double-hitting machine. Red Sox fans know better than most as to what it's like to overpay for a player that just doesn't give you what you want or need (again, see J.D. Drew).
The value attributed to Beltre is significant as he owns a 12.3 WAR in the past two seasons versus Gonzalez's 9.2 in the same period of time (9.9 cumulative if you count his time in Los Angeles.)
While nobody will say that they are glad to see Gonzalez gone, there was a collective sigh of relief when the team was able to absolve itself of so much salary.
Whatever the case may be, Red Sox management missed the boat on the opportunity to build the franchise around solid baseball players like Beltre.
At this juncture in team history, Red Sox Nation can hope for a realigned sense of player scouting and team ideals. This franchise and fanbase may not be able to stomach another season of mistaken identity.