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The Difference Between Boston and Tampa Bay

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As I'm sure everyone has noticed, the Boston Red Sox have released John Smoltz and Brad Penny within a week of each other. The number one misconception regarding these moves is that the pitchers suck. They don't; John Smoltz had 40 rough innings where a number of things were fluctuated, and as I showed on FG earlier today, you can take 40 inning samples and make a lot of pitchers look good and bad who really aren't. Meanwhile Brad Penny is the whipping boy because about 34% of his balls in play went for hits; otherwise Penny had fair strikeout, walk, and home run rates.

Boston chose against allowing either to regress towards the mean, and why? Well, because they can. The main difference between the Rays and Red Sox front offices is not talent. Despite the star power associated with the names of Theo Epstein and Bill James, or the attractive potential of Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherrington, and it's not the money with which they have to work. This isn't a post calling for revenue or salary caps because those kill innovation and promote a distilled sense of parity. Instead, the difference is the patience either side displays when faced with adversity or criticism.

Look at the Rays roster for players making decent money who struggled. Pat Burrell, for instance, do you think Boston keeps him around to this point, or do you think they say, "We can show our fans we will not stand mediocrity and cut Burrell." During that process they open up a roster spot for another potential player and since they have the capabilities to absorb the Burrell "mistake", it's a win/win situation.

With the Rays, there's absolutely no way they can release Burrell as long as there's reason to believe he'll bounce back. They can limit his playing time and make use of whatever attributes he still possesses, but actually releasing him? No way.

There are more differences - Boston's foolish loyalty to Jason Varitek, for instance, which they can justify because A) they have the money, B) the other options weren't outstanding - but the main one is the skill of being patient. The Rays are ridiculously so, maybe if only because they have to be.

I'm not saying it's the greatest quality to hold, because sometimes it does cost you in the short run, but overall, I think I'd rather have a front office in place that understands time can heal and revert things rather than one that goes on cutting streaks based on 40 inning samples when the track record and underlying metrics reveal everything is fine.

For whatever reason, I think Boston jumped the gun on cutting bait with both. Hopefully it turns out to be detrimental.