The Price Of Patience

How soon is too soon to judge the success or failure of a particular strategy?

That I don’t honestly know.

What I do know is that from the comments streaming out of Fort Myers this week, it sounds as though the Boston front office doesn’t really know either.

There were the comments Wednesday from owner John Henry that perhaps the team (the subtext was specifically former General Manager Ben Cherington) had relied too strongly on analytics over the past several seasons — noting the three last-place finishes in four years as evidence.

That evidence gets thrown around a lot in dissecting the Cherington years.

And it is strong evidence.

The problem I have in accepting it, though, is that Boston won the actual World Series (something only six other clubs have been able to do since the Red Sox won in 2004).

In fact, since Boston adopted the more analytical approach to developing both its pro-level club and its farm system, no one has one the World Series more.

To me, that is stronger evidence.  Evidence, by the way, that represents a more significant frame of time.

It’d be hard to argue anything over the past two season as a success.

However, the feeling watching the team over ferocious streaks from just before the All-Star break last season right through to about two weeks from the close of the year, was that it is very much a team on the cusp of greatness.

Don’t forget, the Red Sox were mathematically still in the playoff picture until very late in the year.

The argument can certainly be made that Cherington had assembled all the correct pieces, but that they just didn’t fit together at the right time. I’ve always wondered if the ‘flop’ moves – Panda, Hanley, Bobby Valentine, etc. — came as directives from higher up and were put on Cherington post-mortem. 

When Cherington left the club last August, there were exactly two players in the starting lineup that had been on the World Series roster two years prior.

Rebuilding projects take time. Look at the Chicago Cubs, who under the direction of former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein have assembled one of the most promising rosters in all of baseball. If they don’t win the World Series this year (I thought they had it last year), they’ll find their way to one in the next two or three.

That’s a five-year project he’s been working on there.

The upstart contenders now – Kansas City, Houston and Pittsburgh are of particular note – were allowed to incubate their projects over time, growing young prospects and making efficient deals through the trade and free agent market.

No one at the top of the current game has spent their way there. Not in the “Win The Offseason” manner Boston has attempted to execute.

There is a price to patience. But it doesn’t draw from the pocket book.

It’s paid in long, frustrating seasons like we’ve suffered through the past two years.

If Boston succeeds this year, it will be due to the longer-term projects they’ve committed to: Jackie Bradley Jr. Mookie Betts. Blake Swihart. Henry Owens. Xander Bogaerts. Brock Holt.

They’ll be led by other long-term projects they committed to in days past. Ortiz. Pedroia. Buchholz.

They’re commitment to the numbers has been just fine – you can’t discount the good fruit it’s produced.

It’s just easier to miss when you’re busy wading through the spoiled fruit on the ground.

 

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