For two consecutive seasons, Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox front office have made a splash on the infamous “Deadline Day”. His shrewd ability to assess his team and aggressively make maneuvers to address any weaknesses or “fatal flaws” has been well documented and proven out year over year.
The question I pose to you all today, is who was larger impact on their respective teams in the year of their deadline day acquisition; Jason Bay in 2008 or Victor Martinez in 2009?
Of course much of VMart’s story is still to be written and Bay’s success last post-season places a high bar against which Martinez will be measured, but there is certainly enough of a sample between July 31 and today from which to engage the conversation.
Jason Bay’s story in 2008 was of course, right or wrong, inexorably linked to one Manny Ramirez. It is nearly impossible to look solely at the acquisition of Jason Bay as a right handed power bat as the impetus for the 2008 deadline deal. But Bay’s performance following and the team at large proved out that no matter what herculean feats Manny was accomplishing on the left coast, Bay’s impact was positive.
You don’t need to look much further than the team’s Aug/Sept record last season to demonstrate that point; 34-19. Jason Bay, riding personal success all the way to the coveted 2009 Fire Brand of the American League Award, was a critical cog in that newly oiled machine.
This was a man who wouldn’t crave the spotlight, instead perform under its hot light.
In two months as a member of the Red Sox, Bay would hit .293, with 9 home runs, 37 runs batted in and 39 runs scored. Over that time, his steady influence filled the chaotic void that had been left by the player he replaced.
If the regular season was his proving grounds in Boston, the post-season would be his statement that he was an impact player despite the relative lack of fanfare surrounding him. In 51 post-season plate appearances, Bay would hit .341 with 14 hits (3 doubles, 3 home runs, 10 walks) and a 1.105 OPS.
While it’s true that the 2008 season may be more remembered for the exit of the sure fire Hall of Famer that proceeded him, Jason Bay’s arrival was as much the indelible mark on the season as Ramirez’ departure. – Tim Daloisio
Coming into the 2009 trading deadline, it would be hard to imagine a situation that would again yield such positive results, a .641 winning percentage is hard to come by over a two month period under any circumstances.
But once again, even when “failing” to make the deal that they really wanted*, the Red Sox ability to make the trades that matter has “oiled the machine”.
*I still contend that Theo was hunting for a #1 starter at all costs over a bat at the time and wasn’t able to pull the deal due to the asks of his partners being too high at the end of the day. In many ways, it has worked out better that he had to fall back on his back up plan as the emergence of Clay Buchholz and the returning Daisuke Matsuzaka may have been all the “trade” this rotation needed now that a playoff birth is essentially locked up.
The Bay/Martinez comparison is remarkably tight in terms of both individual and team performance.
In much the same way that Bay slid right into the fabric of the team last year in as seamless a way imaginably, Martinez has done just the same. In fact, his quiet fire and flair for the dramatic have seemed to elevate others games around him (i.e. David Ortiz) in very complimentary ways.
Another interesting difference between the two situations comes to light when you consider who they were replacing in the lineup; Bay for a departing (but still great hitting) Manny Ramirez, Martinez (primarily) for a very light hitting Jason Varitek.
As much credit as I give to Jason Bay for being the spark that lit the fire of the 2008 Red Sox playoff run, the subtraction of Manny alone and a warm body to replace him was certainly a factor in that mental turnaround.
When I look at the 2009 Red Sox in a world without Victor Martinez, I see a lineup that could have struggled down the stretch more than the 2008 team would have without Jason Bay.*
*Let’s not forget the surprising and lucky impact the Red Sox got from Alex Gonzalez at the bottom of the lineup over the same time. With a .230, little power, little impact bat in the nine hole, this team isn’t as sound up and down the lineup as they have been with Gonzalez.
As I mentioned in the outset of this comparison, the playoffs still leave much of the overall story unwritten, but if forced to make a call between the impact of Bay in 2008 or Martinez in 2009, I would err on the side of Victor Martinez acquisition having had the greater impact.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/3779893068/in/photostream/