The Manny trade may have fixed the clubhouse issues in Boston, but what does it mean for the Red Sox on the field?
While Jason Bay is an improvement over Ramirez in left field defensively, Manny's bat is irreplaceable. The AL East is the toughest division in baseball from top to bottom; even the Orioles have proven to be a formidable opponent at times. The race for the AL East crown is going to be a dog fight until the last week of the season. I know the Sox can pitch, but so can the Rays, the Yankees, and the Blue Jays...
I know the Sox still have a frightening batting order even without Manny, but so do the Rays and the Yankees. Oh, by the way, the Yankees now have one of the greatest hitting catchers of all-time in Ivan Rodriguez to pair up with Derek Jeter, A-Rod, and Jason Giambi. And Chien-Ming Wang should be back for the playoffs…
The one advantage the Sox had over the Yankees is gone: the intimidation factor. The prospect of having to face Papi and Manny back-to-back in the bottom on the 9th inning with the season on the line is gone. Ramirez is a Yankee-killer, and the Red Sox line-up is simply not the same without him. It can't be... not after you lose someone who has the most career grand slams of any active player.
Who will hit behind Ortiz and give him so many chances to get hittable balls? His production should decline. Pitchers will no longer have Manny Ramirez in the back of their mind when they pitch to Ortiz. This leads me to believe that Terry Francona will have to alter the line-up, perhaps have Bay or Kevin Youkilis bat 3rd and Ortiz bat 4th. It still won't be the same though.
It wouldn't be as bad if Bay was a left-handed batter. He has decent power, and his bat combined with the famous short porch in right field at Fenway could be a useful run-manufacturing tool. But he's not a lefty, and in terms of on-the-field production, this trade is a disaster for the Red Sox.
But off the field, this was a no-brainer. Manny had to go. He was an incurable disease in the clubhouse. He had to be for Theo Epstein to give him up. Manny is the most feared right-handed hitter in the past twenty years. The timing is just really REALLY bad because this season the Red Sox have to battle the Rays as well as the Yankees.
I'll go ahead and say it: I think the Red Sox have traded themselves right out of the playoffs. The AL East is just too competitive. The Rays pitch too well, and once again, the stars are aligning and the baseball gods are on the Yankees' side. Who knows? Maybe running your team like you're a fantasy baseball owner really does work...
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