Hindsight (Biases)

During my sophomore year, I tried to make connections between baseball with some of my classes to help myself understand it better. As my junior year starts up, I’ll try to do the same. I have a feeling that physics will relate a lot more to baseball than chemistry did (but then again, what does chemistry relate to that is of any importance at all?), and I already have a way that psychology can relate to our perspectives on the game. Though I’m sure Emily is a lot more qualified to talk about that than I am. 

As the season progresses, many of us have come to realize that many of our offseason acquisitions have not performed in the way that we expected them too. It may be easy to point fingers at our brilliant general manager, Theo Epstein, but before any of us do any such thing, I think it is important to experiment with empathy, travel back in time a bit, and use our imaginations. 
You are now sitting in Theo Epstein’s office, sipping some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and constantly making phone calls with agents. It’s late December, and you are reflecting over the 2008 season, and looking at areas where you can improve. Clay Buchholz was not quite ready for the 2008 season, so it is evident that the Red Sox need a fifth starter. It is certainly wise to consider the options of signing a high profile free agent such as CC Sabathia or AJ Burnett, but would such an acquisition truly be necessary with aces already in Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Dice-K (remember, we have no idea yet that Dice-K’s season would look nothing like 2008’s 18-3 record). 
Dice-K Matsuzaka.jpg
Let me go on a quick tangent on Dice-K before I make any significant phone calls. On paper, his 18-3 record looks stellar, a Cy Young contender if you didn’t look at how many innings he pitched per game. Dice-K got really lucky during the 2008 season. He had a knack for loading the bases with no outs, and getting out of it unscathed. In other words, he got really lucky. Sure the Red Sox may have won most of the time, but it is inefficient to have your starter go only five or six innings because he racks up his pitch count early on. Not to mention it puts a massive strain on the bullpen. I think that Dice-K’s case is very similar to the “downfall” that Brad Lidge is experiencing in Philadelphia. I’m not trying to take away any credibility from his perfect season, but I think that it is a valid comparison. 
Back to the phone calls. Considering the Red Sox have four quality starters, it is unnecessary to sign a high profile free agent. It would be more wise to sign a “low risk” acquisition in a veteran pitcher that could guarantee a lot of success. The problem with signing high profile free agents is their massive contracts. What if they don’t perform? What if AJ Burnett continues his injury woes, and he can’t pitch effectively? 
This is why I like incentive contracts so much. Too bad they are mainly used with these low risk acquisitions, and when I think of these, I tend to think of veteran players who are coming back from injuries or bad seasons who are looking for another chance. Obviously, signing them is a gamble, but it could turn out to be very beneficial. And regardless of their contributions on the field, I think that their contributions equate that or even surpass it. Having a veteran voice in the clubhouse for the younger players to talk to is always an advantage. 
In psychology, we learned a bit about ‘hindsight biases’, which basically means that when we look back on events, many of the consequences seem much more obvious than they actually were at the time. Think about who we signed. 
John Smoltz 2.jpg
John Smoltz is obviously a Hall of Fame pitcher, who had a great twenty year career with the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, his stint with the Red Sox did not work out, but was it really a bad signing? No. Would I have done it? Yes. Another thing to remember about this deal was that it was very similar to the deal that Curt Schilling signed for 2008. Neither of them worked out, but the incentives for signing them were valid. Plus, if Randy Johnson is still pitching, why can’t they? 
Another offseason acquisition that didn’t work out: Brad Penny. The same theory applied when signing him, but his history isn’t as convincing. However, it was only but 2007 that he came in second for the NL Cy Young. His 2008 season was anything but spectacular, but given an incentive laden contract, there is the opportunity for success. And if they incentives aren’t met? No big deal in the big picture. Penny was released, and both he and the Red Sox are moving on. 
Some have been disappointed with Rocco Baldelli also because he has spent a considerable amount of time on the Disabled List. Granted it’s a bit disappointing, but it’s not like we expected him to play every single day because we were well aware of his channelopathy disorder. The reason for acquiring him was so that he could be a valuable player coming off the bench. 
In other words, I just think that these offseason acquisitions are very justifiable even if they didn’t work out. But now instead of looking at the offseason acquisitions, I’d like to look at our most recent acquisition: Billy Wagner. 
This trade reminded me a lot of the Eric Gagne one of 2007, a trade that I absolutely hated because I didn’t want to part with Kason Gabbard (luckily, we have him back now). However, I am much more open to this Billy Wagner acquisition because our bullpen band could really use an extra hand, the chorus is sounding a little shabby. 
Oh, and the bullpen could use some help too. After Justin Masterson left, it kind of threw off the bullpen in my opinion. We were calling a bunch of guys up from Pawtucket who simply weren’t ready yet. I think that this acquisition solidifies the bullpen and gives us a more definite notion of an eighth inning set up man. In a way, it will be redefining everyone’s role. 
I am very excited for September call ups–I am very anxious to see who will be up. I am really hoping that Michael Bowden gets another chance. I really don’t think that we can judge him on that poor outing against the Yankees. I am also very interested to see what is going to go on with who will be catching Tim Wakefield, because I think that Victor Martinez did a very solid job the other night. And if V-Mart can do the job, what use is George Kottaras? 


  1. juliasrants

    I think Wags is going to turn out to be a great addition to the pen. He wants a job somewhere as a closer next year, so he is going to be working very hard to prove that he deserves it. Penny & Smoltz? Yes, both of them were low “risk” (dollar-wise) but it does beg the question – should we have been depending on two “low risk” players to help bolster our pitching staff? One or the other, alone, might have been more acceptable. And sorry, at least for now, Bowden has not been called up. September will be a wild ride for everyone.


  2. TribeTed


    Theo ripped us off:

    giving us Masterson instead of Buchholz.

    We got Hagadone too:

    who throws 98 mph and such sort – but he won’t be up in the majors til 2012 at the earliest.

    In my opinion: Buchholz is a number 1: Masterson is a number 3.

    it just doesn’t work that way:

    and Mark Shapiro shoulda held out until we got Buchholz.

    Buchholz: is a real pitcher compared to Masterson:

    Who is a relief pitcher. It is hard to convert – I have seen guys go down trying to make the transition.

    That is why I don’t see Masterson being great and dominant for a few years.

    You guys are lucky that you got Victor: who is a beast might I say,… and Billy Wagner: who is a top gun closer.

    He could now be the setup guy for Pap and could really set him up nicely.

    The Red Sox needed to make that trade:

    to get Victor because they didn’t have any good hitting C.

    Now in Victor they do! Good luck with him! Take care.

    Happy September:



  3. redsoxathinon

    Hey Elizabeth!

    Victor Martinez did a decent-good job behind the dish when Wake was on the hill. I think that It’s gonna be a Kottaras/Martinez catching situation next year, based on financial and future reasons. George is going to make $400k and Tek could make upwards of like $5Mil.

    Good luck in school this year!!!!

    Christos 🙂

  4. xcicix

    Billy Wagner, though he did blow the all star game two years in a row, is a hugely underrated pitcher. The Mets should not have gotten rid of him, even if they have Rodriguez and Putz. You should re-sign him ASAP…except you do have quite a few closers already. But playing for a contender like the Sox will be great for Billy personally. Instead of finishing up this injury-plagued walk year for the Mets, he’ll get a few holds and saves with the Sox. Plus, they’ll get the draft picks via refused arbitration. Can’t think of anyone who needs him, maybe the Phillies? Or the Angels?

  5. Jane Heller

    I think the Wagner acquisition will be a really good one. Yes, he’s coming back from injury but he’s being asked to play a roll, not be the closer, so he shouldn’t be feeling too much pressure. Best of luck in school this year. You’re so adept at bringing baseball into your academic subjects!


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