June 8, 2013

On Baseball: Spending time in the cellar

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Rain kept us from watching the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday night. It would have been Boston's first look at the Los Angeles Angels.

Josh Hamilton
click image to enlarge

Josh Hamilton joined the big-money, low-performance disaster that is the Los Angeles Angels, producing a measly .216 batting average thus far. And yes, that makes him a bust.

The Associated Press

SATURDAY'S GAMES

at Fenway Park

GAME 1

WHO: Red Sox (Doubront 4-2) vs. L.A. Angels (Hanson 2-2)

WHEN: 1:05 p.m.

TELEVISION: NESN

GAME 2

WHO: Red Sox (Buchholz 8-0) vs. L.A. Angels (Wilson 4-4)

WHEN: 7:15 p.m.

TELEVISION: FOX

The woeful Los Angeles Angels.

Actually, woeful describes a few L.A. teams.

The Dodgers are bad.

Even the basketball Lakers were miserable, despite a roster with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.

Big names. Big money. A whole lot of nothing.

Ask the Red Sox what lavish spending got them. With Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, Boston missed the playoffs in 2011 and were 60-67 on Aug. 25 of last year.

That date is significant. Aug. 25 should be a day of celebration for Red Sox fans, the day when Boston traded Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett to the Dodgers. They dumped their salaries -- those three make a combined $60 million this year -- and received two top pitching prospects.

The Red Sox were starting over but not from scratch, while the Dodgers and their new ownership were going for the big splash.

How is that working out for you, Los Angeles?

The Dodgers were 26-33 heading into Friday night's games and in last place in the NL West. Gonzalez (.327) and Crawford (.301) are not the problem. Most of the team is underperforming, including Beckett (0-5, 5.19 ERA before a groin strain put him on the disabled list).

With a payroll of $216 million (over double last year's $105 million), the Dodgers are second in spending to only the Yankees ($228 million). And the Yankees, with all their injuries, are contending.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers' AL counterparts in la-la land are not doing any better.

The Los Angeles Angels have made their share of splashes in the free-agent market the past two years.

Before 2012 they signed slugger Albert Pujols ($240 million over 10 years) and pitcher C.J. Wilson (five years, $77.5 million).

They also signed pitcher Jered Weaver to a five-year extension ($85 million).

This past offseason the Angels again went after the big name and got him, signing outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract.

In a lesser deal the Angels tried to bolster their rotation with Joe Blanton (two years, $15 million).

And now for the results so far:

Weaver is a proven performer but he's been hurt, limited to four starts because of a fractured elbow.

Pujols is batting .243 with a .732 OPS (combined on-base and slugging percentage).

Hamilton is a bust so far with a .216 average and .660 OPS.

Blanton came relatively cheap but is still underperforming: 1-9 with a 5.53 ERA.

The Angels looked like they might be turning it around in May with an eight-game winning streak -- against the lowly White Sox (another big-money disappointment), Mariners and Royals). But then they split a series with the Dodgers, were swept in four games by Houston (and its $22 million payroll) and split two games with the Cubs.

Teams that spend a lot of money and then lose face a boatload of second-guessing on their decisions (see the Blue Jays, who upped their payroll 43 percent to $119 million, and sit last in the AL East).

Boston had its struggles the past two years and showed some financial restraint this year, but the Red Sox still have a $154 million payroll, fourth-highest in the the majors.

It's just that Boston is not stuck with any big, long-term contracts. The worst of those deals still remaining is John Lackey's (five-year, $82.5 million), which expires in 2014. Boston actually can exercise a club option for 2015 at the league minimum because of Lackey's elbow surgery -- not a bad price for a No. 4 starter.

Boston has been helped by stars in the past (and Beckett did help the team win a World Series in 2007).

Boston can still spend. It signed a solid (but not a star) outfielder in Shane Victorino to $39 million over three years.

But these Red Sox are more than a few high-priced stars. As pointed out before in this space, they have their best depth in years. They didn't make a big splash in signing stars. They simply spent wisely. And for now they sit in first place.

Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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