Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jackie Bradley Jr. and the True Meaning of "Moneyball"

While some probably predicted that David Ortiz would be injured at the beginning of spring training, no one could have predicted the performance of Jackie Bradley Jr.  JBJ has been tearing the cover off the ball, and this would be a welcome sight at Fenway -- especially since the injuries to Ortiz and Drew open up a spot on the 25 man roster for him -- but we probably won't see him in Boston until May at the earliest; if at all.

Which is stupid.

The biggest argument against bringing Bradley up to Boston immediately to start the 2013 season is that, if he's held in the minors until May, the Red Sox gain an extra year of control over him; extending their contract with the prospect until 2018.  Therefore, if we're patient with Bradley, we'll be rewarded in the long run.

This argument forgets the short run, though, and the importance of placing the best team possible on the field at all times.  As any first year Economics major knows: In the long run, we're all dead.

If your primary concern is the short term, though, then there should be an argument postulated to bring Bradley up to Boston immediately -- which might return benefits to the club in the long run.  Consider this hypothetical situation: Bradley comes to Boston in May and plays well for the rest of the season, but the Sox fall a couple games short of making the playoffs.  Tough shit, right?  Well, that's a lot of lost potential revenue for the Red Sox, too.  Fenway sold out for two to, potentially, 11 games?  Gone.  Playoff merchandising opportunities?  Gone.  A share in television revenues?  Gone.  That's gotta be a few million dollars of potential profit lost.

But, if Jackie Bradley Jr. had started his season with the big club in April, the Red Sox would have won those games and made the playoffs.

Like I said, that situation is totally hypothetical.  Could it happen?  Yes.  Could the Red Sox have another injury riddled campaign; similar to 2010 and 2012?  That's also possible, we just don't know yet.

But why can't the Red Sox start this season with the best team that they can put forward?  The team that has the best chance to make it to the playoffs?  Because if they make it to the playoffs, then revenues that the club sees will increase.  And if revenues increase, they'll pull down more profits in return, and have more money to spend on players like Jackie Bradley Jr. when contract time comes a few years down the road.

The formula here is simple: Place the best team on the field, and make more money.

Besides, if budget is such a concern, why did the Red Sox just give $9.5 million to Stephen Drew?  His last good season was in 2009.  Why did they give a three year, $39 million deal to Shane Victorino?  Even the Dodgers wouldn't spend that kind of money on him, and they willingly ate Carl Crawford's contract just to get Adrian Gonzalez.  Why pay any money, at all, to Ryan Dempster?

To me, this behavior is schizophrenic.  On one hand, the Red Sox are so concerned with penny pinching that they want squeeze everything they can out a prospect -- potentially to the detriment of the quality of the final product on the field at Fenway.  But, on the other hand, they'll spend wildly by giving $9.5 million to risky veterans like Stephen Drew.  The Sox believe in the ethos of Moneyball for a couple days, then shout "Fuck it! Let's get another old veteran!"  It's like a little kid trying to concentrate on the Legos they just got for their birthday before getting distracted by a new shiny object.

The Red Sox appear to lack a core philosophy for building a team right now.  So, I have a suggestion to fill in this important gap: Place the best team on the field at all times.

This proposition for a new philosophy may seem like an expensive investment in the short run, but when this team actually starts winning, the money will roll in.  The Sox front office and fans worry so much about Jackie Bradley Jr's contract now, but this kind of short term thinking only perpetuates the lessons you learned from all of those stuffy Economics courses in college -- they'll be dead in the long run if they continue to be cheapskates with the future of their franchise.

Red Sox need to play for the short term now, because that will better prepare them for the long run.  Right now, Jackie Bradley Jr. is the hot hand and the one of the best players for the short term.  If he's not on the 25 man roster at the beginning of the season and the Red Sox miss the playoffs by a couple of games, then their attempt to save a few million in the future will look incredibly stupid since they would have just lost a few million in the present.

Play JBJ now, all the financials will fall into place later.

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