THIS IS a tale of two big baseball contracts.
One of them will be on display at Fenway Park the next two nights.
The other will not.
First, we take you back to the end of last winter. After a long and painful offseason for free agents, the Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a 13-year/$330 million contract. Then, as this season was about to begin, the Red Sox handed Chris Sale a five-year/$145 million extension — as he was about to enter the final year of the five-year deal he’d signed with the White Sox.
Harper, who seems to be heating up at the right time as the Phillies come to town two games out of a wild card spot, will be on the field tonight, a day after Sale, who didn’t have to be re-signed at that particular time, went to see Dr. James Andrews because of an elbow problem.
If you’ve forgotten, the Sale signing came at the behest of owner John Henry, who didn’t want the Red Sox to go through a repeat of the Jon Lester situation. Henry wanted it headed off at the pass, which is why the money was thrown at a guy with a questionable long-term future.
In short, Sale has had a shaky past in terms of durability. His late-season numbers have been way down and people looking at the cross-body pitching motion said that couldn’t be a great thing for endurance. He’s a great pitcher, but you have to wonder why the Red Sox, a team already up against it when it comes to the luxury tax, would give the skinny left-hander that kind of money when there was no deadline.
Let him pitch and see what happens? Why not?
The Harper situation was clearly different. Ordinary first-half numbers had people already screaming about him being baseball’s biggest bust EVER because of the money.
Now, Harper comes to town with a .254 batting average, 26 homers, 90 RBIs and an .866 OPS. He has had his special moments, like last week when he hit a walk-off grand slam to bring his team from two runs down to a win over the Cubs. Whether or not he lives up to the contract remains to be seen. But if he drives in, say, 110-120 runs in his first season, that’s not a bad start.
Sale has gone through an uneven — putting it mildly — season and his extension doesn’t kick in until NEXT year. Obviously, the Red Sox have their fingers crossed hoping for the best. If he merely has to rest through the remainder of the season, the jury will remain out on the deal.
But bottom line here is that the Red Sox didn’t NEED to do this deal.
The Red Sox did what they had to do over the weekend, beating up on the woeful Orioles at Fenway. But the Rays managed to pull out a 1-0 win in 13 innings Saturday and then rallied for two runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth to beat the woeful Tigers on Sunday.
So, the week ended with the Sox still 6½ games out of the second wild card spot.
Our buddy Chris Smith from MassLive said Monday, “The Red Sox should consider using 2020 as a bridge year if the worst-case scenario happens with Sale. This offseason, trade players eligible for free agency after 2020. Acquire young pitching. Rebuild farm system. Build around (Rafael) Devers and (Xander) Bogaerts.”
But the Sox’ spot in the standings shouldn’t overshadow what’s going on with Devers.
“It’s amazing,” said Cora. “We go back to April, like people were talking about him going to Triple-A and trying to find it down there. But his on-base percentage was way up there and he wasn’t striking out. So we saw a few things that we liked and he wasn’t hitting the ball in the air. When he found it, he just took off. Just quality at-bat after quality at-bat. He’s a joy to watch.”
From @SoxNotes: “Rafael Devers is the first player with 100+ RBI and 100+ runs in a season — all before turning 23 years old — since Miguel Cabrera in 2005. The only other Red Sox player to accomplish the feat is Ted Williams (1939 & 1940).”
Touching moment over the weekend, when Chris Davis hosted 9-year-old Henry Frasca, a Red Sox fan who sent Davis a note of encouragement with Davis mired in an 0-for-54 slump. Young Henry gave the note to a Baltimore coach, who passed it along to Davis, who put the note in his pocket and went out and ended the streak.
The letter read: “Dear Mr. Davis, from Henry Frasca, a nine-year-old kid and diehard Red Sox fan. There are two things I want you to know. First, the way you play baseball has nothing to do with how good a person you are. Also, you are incredible. You’ve played in the MLB. You’ve done it for a long time and everyone goes through a slump. Don’t give up. We’re rooting for you.”
Davis brought the young fan into the clubhouse, played catch with him and did other fun things with the kid.
Carl Yastrzemski played in 3,308 major league games, hitting three homers in a game once. His grandson, Mike, who comes to town with the Giants next month, recorded his first three-homer game in career game No. 70!
Matthew Slater likely spoke for the entire Patriots locker room when he talked about Josh Gordon’s conditional reinstatement by the NFL.
“We are excited,” Slater said. “I’ll say this: Football is number two. We want to see him first and foremost doing well as an individual, doing well as a man, and we want to support him however we can. We’re just going to take this one day at a time, which is all any of us can do. And we’ll see what tomorrow brings and then we’ll let the day after that worry about it when it comes around.”
Bill Belichick released a statement on Gordon and has since refused to add anything to it. The following from Monday’s Pats interview transcript:
Q: Have you had a chance to meet with Josh Gordon this morning?
BB: I meet with the players every day.
Q: Is he in good spirits and excited about his opportunity?
BB: Yeah, I mean, I released a statement on that. I have nothing to add to it. That’s where we’re at.
Q: Did he come in in good shape?
BB: Yeah, I think I’ve already covered all of that. Did you get a copy of the statement?
Q: I saw it on Twitter, but it’s been a couple days.
BB: Yeah, sorry. I don’t do “MyFace,” but I mean, we’d be happy to give you a copy of it. Really, that’s where I’m at.
Q: Is there any uncertainty about Gordon’s role or future with the Patriots, based on your statement?
BB: Well, I mean he hasn’t even been on the field yet. I think I covered it. There’s nothing more to add. Is there another line of questioning, or can the witness step down now?
Finally, RIP Jack Whitaker, one of the great voices of his generation.