It has been three long years since the Boston Red Sox last won the World Series. The Red Sox have not won a single postseason game since then. The preschools of New England are overflowing with kids that have not been alive long enough to see a championship parade.
This kind of civic angst cannot be allowed to stand.
They did not need Chris Sale, certainly. But they swooped in last week and traded for him anyway, giving up four top prospects, including perhaps the best one in all of baseball — infielder Yoan Moncada — and 103-mph fireballer Michael Kopech. They traded their best pitching prospect last summer for Drew Pomeranz, who figures to be no better than Boston’s fourth starter this season. They traded four good prospects last winter for closer Craig Kimbrel.
In an era when “years of control” and “financial flexibility” have become almost as valued as talent itself, the Red Sox heard plenty of criticism about the price they paid for a Sale. Dave Dombrowski, the general manager of the Red Sox, stepped to the microphone at the winter meetings and explained his rationale.
“When you have a chance to win, you want to give yourself every opportunity to do so,” Dombrowski said, “if you can improve your club. And for us this deal improved us.”
But the prospects …
“Nothing is guaranteed in life,” Dombrowski said.
He added: “I think you keep taking a chance and going for it as much as you possibly can and hopefully it works for you some day.”
The Chicago Cubs traded their best prospect last summer for fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman. They won the World Series. The Cleveland Indians traded their best prospect last summer for wondrous reliever Andrew Miller. They won the AL pennant.
The Dodgers have not traded any of their elite prospects since Guggenheim Baseball Management bought the team in 2012. They have won their division in each of the four full seasons under Guggenheim ownership. No other team has appeared in the postseason in each of the last four years.
The Dodgers got closer to the World Series last year than the Red Sox did. That, of course, is no consolation to the Dodgers fans already paying off student loans that have yet to see their team play in the World Series.
Yes, the Dodgers are well aware that 1988 is a very long time ago. They hear that every day. But what they did Monday demonstrates yet again how firm they are in their conviction that their path is the one most likely to deliver a parade, and then another.
What did the Dodgers do on Monday? The owners did the very same thing they did when they took over in 2012: They spent the money on the major league roster.
They didn’t necessarily want to spend $260 million on player contracts just to get Adrian Gonzalez four years ago, but it was the best way to upgrade the major league roster while allowing the minor league crop to grow. They didn’t necessarily want to commit $144 million to Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner on Monday, but it was the best way to preserve the major league roster without sacrificing the blossoming minor league crop.
The Dodgers probably would have gotten three times as many innings from Sale over the next three years as they would get from Jansen, at little more than half the cost in dollars. But the cost in prospects would have been prohibitive, and that is a price the Dodgers simply do not pay.
Julio Urias was not traded. As a 19-year-old rookie, he went 4-0 with a 1.96 earned-run average after Aug. 1.
Joc Pederson was not traded. The Dodgers like his power and defense in center field, but they have been reluctant to play him against left-handers.
Not all the prospects pan out. But the more you have, the better your chances, and the Dodgers have what might be the deepest farm system in baseball, overflowing with lottery tickets from the Latin American market.
They also have Cody Bellinger as the heir apparent to Gonzalez at first base, and Willie Calhoun if he can field well enough to stick at second base, and Alex Verdugo developing power to accompany excellent contact skills at bat and defense in the outfield, and pitchers in Jose De Leon, Brock Stewart, Chase DeJong and Walker Buehler.
None of those prospects ranks as highly as Moncada. The Red Sox traded him anyway, for a better chance at the World Series.
“It came down to a point where we thought this gave us a significant chance to win,” Dombrowski said. “And you never can tell what happens if you can, first of all, make it to the postseason. But, secondly, if you get there, do you progress from there?
“We saw last year we did not, but we think it gives us the best chance to do it.”
The Dodgers are not about this year, not at the expense of the year after, and the year after that, and the years to follow. They won a ticket to the postseason derby in each of the last four years, but they went 0 for 4 in getting to the World Series.
The Dodgers say the best chance to win in as many years as possible is to avoid going “all in” in any given year. They run the team as a disciplined business, on rationality rather than emotion, and this is their business plan.
They like it. They should put a ring on it.