How one of sports greatest “what if’s” could’ve altered an absolute transcendence in culture from the former lovable loser Red Sox, to now a cherished staple dynasty in Major League Baseball.
Fall 2002- Following the infamous Moneyball, 103-win season in which Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics challenged generations of basic MLB team construction, John Henry and the Boston Red Sox were prepared to redefine their front office culture with an offer containing franchise-altering potential. Would it have been for the better? Or for the worse?
Billy Beane and his infamous implemented culture which embodied a statistic based theory, challenging generations of traditional baseball models and unwritten standards of scouting- Beane not only made Moneyball iconic but gave Bill James and his theory some validation to some extent.
Finishing the 2002 MLB season with an identical record to that of the New York Yankees when your organization’s payroll sits at $40,004,167, is certainly worthy of recognition. Spending $260,000 per regular-season victory versus the Yankees investment of $1.4 million per win.
Not to mention the rejuvenation of a has-been, damaged Scott Hatteberg adding one of the most infamous walk-off home runs in the history of baseball, to his resume. One that cemented Hatterberg as an iconic staple in one of the most iconic chapters in the history of Major League Baseball. A 20 consecutive game win streak which brought a sliver of validation to the table through Moneyball. Billy Beane managed to introduce a new view of creating on-field success through the utilization of sabermetrics and advanced statistics- implementing the philosophy of “stat nerds” by giving them a seat in the front office.
Nevertheless, Beane and his implemented ideology had a run that came to a crashing post-season end versus the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS. Eliminating not only his questionably designed roster but the notion of applying a computer-based theory on building a professional baseball team.
As previously stated, finishing a 162-game season with the same amount of wins as the Moneybag New York Yankees is certainly worth some form of recognition- and what better way to receive such recognition than being the highest-paid General Manager in the history of sports? Well, that’s what John Henry and Boston Red Sox ownership put down in the negotiation table with Billy Beane 17 years ago.
A five-year, $12.5 million deal to be exact, was the offer that Beane ultimately turned down in 2002. Electing to instead remain the head honcho of baseball operations in Oakland while receiving $8 million with a 2 1/2 percent equity stake of the Athletics.
While all worked out as well as possible for the Red Sox, Beane claims he has no regrets regarding the trigger he pulled following that rainy Boston day meeting at Fenway. “It turned out pretty well for the Red Sox and I have had a great run here and have enjoyed it here a great deal. We’ve had our challenges, mostly stadium related, but we’ve had our successes and failures, but I never regretted the decision I made”, Beane stated in a 2017 Boston Globe interview.
With the Red Sox embodying Beane’s model following his rejection, ending their 86-year championship drought via a Cardinals sweep in 2004, and winning four World Series titles entirely within a 15-year span; the question remains: what if Billy Beane accepted Boston’s offer?
Does Beane sign premier 2004 Red Sox characters/ key players such as Mike Timlin, Bill Mueller, Bronson Arroyo, and Kevin Millar? Does Pedro Martinez put together a convincing enough phone call in 2003 to urge Beane to take a flyer of soon-to-be Hall of Famer and the franchise’s most crucial signing in Mr. October, Big Papi David Ortiz?
Would Billy Beane have traded Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs with Matt Murton in a four-team deal which brought Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz to Boston? Or even the 2004 playoff catalyst himself, Dave Roberts???
Think about how this would’ve altered the history that we know and love today and the greatest comeback in the history of sports!
If there’s no Kevin Millar, is that walked drawn in the ninth inning, down a run in game four of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees? With no Dave Roberts, who does Tito (Terry Francona) call upon from the bench to steal the biggest base in over eight decades of Red Sox baseball? David Justice? Scott Hatteberg? Jason “strip-club” Giambi?
Without that steal, we don’t get the up-the-middle base-hit single from Bill Mueller. Remember? Mueller was the one who knocked the walk-off homer off Mariano Rivera a few months prior on July 24th. That was following the infamous Jason Varitek versus Alex Rodriguez fight where Pedro Martinez fully defended himself against a delusional Dom Zimmer who poorly played the victim card minutes later.
However, that’s beyond the point. Back to game four.
Without Mueller, we don’t get the single to Bernie Williams that drove Roberts in to score and gave Ortiz the at-bat to live up to one of his many nicknames “Mr. Clutch”. Smacking one of the most iconic walk-off bombs in playoff history just as the clock struck midnight at Fenway Park.
That blown Mariano save was pivotal in his standing ovation in the 2005 Red Sox home opener at Fenway Park!
If we don’t make it out of game four, then we don’t get to see Alex Rodriguez pull one of the most bush-league moves, slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in Yankee Stadium. Then we wouldn’t witness Orlando Cabrera sarcastically wipe the invisible tears from his eyes towards the 50,000 plus Yankee fans who tossed beer cans, baseballs, and more from the stands.
All coming together in the goose-bump raising words that Red Sox nation will never forget on October 27, 2004… “back to Foulke, Red Sox fans have longed to hear it. The Boston Red Sox are World Champions!”
What if? We’ll never know…