Jason Bay needs to start shoving some old guys.
It’s clearly the only way he’s going to get noticed in Boston, where — you may not have realized — he put the finishing touches on a 30-homer, 100-RBI season since coming over from Pittsburgh in a trade for some other guy.
Oh, wait. Apparently, he is the other guy.
The talk leading up to the Sox’ ALDS against the Angels has focused on two players: Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez. What Teixeira’s addition means for Los Angeles — and what Ramirez’s departure means for Boston.
Consider this from Tony Massarotti:
In the final days of July 2008, the baseball landscape was decisively altered. That was when Mark Teixeira went to Los Angeles. That was when Manny Ramirez left Boston. That was when the Angels and Red Sox all but swapped identities and philosophies. …
"They’re the best team we’ve faced," one Red Sox official said of the Angels.
Those words were uttered months ago, before the Angels added a slugger and the Red Sox lost one, a proverbial two-game swing that resulted in a familiar Hollywood script.
Funny. I thought the Red Sox gained a slugger, too. I guess not.
The Associated Press had a similar take:
One of the biggest bats in the lineup is gone, the designated hitter had his worst season in years and injuries have made two starters questionable. Sound familiar? …
Manny Ramirez is gone, traded to the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers; David Ortiz’s numbers are way down; and injuries to hitters Mike Lowell (left hip) and J.D. Drew (back) and Game 3 starter Josh Beckett are concerns. …
Jason Bay arrived from Pittsburgh in Ramirez’s place, improving Boston’s defense in left field. The Angels pumped up their power, surrounding Guerrero with the big bats of first baseman Mark Teixeira (.358 since joining the team) and outfielder Torii Hunter (.278), who signed in the offseason.
So Bay was a defensive improvement, while Teixeira and Torii Hunter (.466 slugging, which would be sixth-best on the Red Sox) are examples of "pumped up" power. Maybe Jason needs to slap Kevin Youkilis a few times in the dugout. You know, raise his profile a little.
Let’s get things straight. I’m not saying Bay should be considered as formidable as Manny Ramirez, whose postseason numbers are spectacular and whose reputation has increasingly outshone his performance in recent years. Nor am I saying the Red Sox aren’t the underdogs in this series. The Angels have the 100 wins and the 8-1 regular-season record against the Sox. They’re also healthier.
But all this talk of Jason Bay … well, that’s the problem. There really isn’t any.
Last year, the Red Sox entered the playoffs with Ramirez coming off a .296/.388/.493 (126 OPS+) season, with 20 home runs and 88 RBI. This year, the Red Sox enter the playoffs with Bay coming off a .286/.373/.522 (133 OPS+) season, with 31 homers and 101 RBI.
Before July 31. the Red Sox received a .299/.398/.529 line from their left fielder. After, they received a .293/.370/.527 line. Maintaining those averages over a full season in Boston, Ramirez would have hit 30 homers and driven in 101. Bay would have hit 28 homers and driven in 113.
This after being thrown from never sniffing the postseason in the weaker National League to the midst of a pennant race in the American League East and, despite quickly being overshadowed by a rare Jonathan Papelbon meltdown, hitting what at that point was the biggest home run of the year in the biggest game of the season. Indications are he can handle the pressure just fine — and will continue to do so.
So, yes, the Sox are indeed still underdogs to the Angels, but it has a lot more to do with the Angels’ addition of Teixeira than the Red Sox’ subtraction of Ramirez.