Garin Cecchini, the Boston Red Sox number five ranked prospect in their system, played the hot corner. Blake Swihart, the Sox fourth ranked prospect and Chris Crawford’s “Most Underrated Prospect in Baseball,” called the game from behind the plate. Bryce Brentz, seventh overall down on the farm, showed off his sweet swing and continued his near-unbelievable narrative.
To watch these guys on the field, along with established Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and developing power Brandon Snyder, was an exciting moment for me as a fan of the Boston Red Sox. To see what these guys could do and evaluate if, maybe, they could contribute on the Major League stage. They were all in the order for the Sox (1-5) Grapefruit League game against the Miami Marlins (5-2).
The “watered down, B-lineup” that the Boston Red Sox sent to Jupiter, Fla. to play the Marlins was an “outrage” to Marlins management and they quickly filed an official complaint with the league office.
They complained that the Red Sox failed to comply with a rule that states each team must feature four Major League caliber players in their Spring Training starting lineups. The Red Sox had three of the four. Jackie Bradley Jr. (95 at-bats), Ryan Lavarnway (269 at-bats), and Brandon Snyder (148 at-bats). Sports Illustrated missed Snyder in their accusation of the Sox playing half of the required rule. Even the starting pitcher, Allen Webster, had made eight appearances for the big league club in 2013, when he was a rookie, totaling 30 1/3 innings.
The Marlins complained about a club not fielding a credible, Major League team. This all after Miami stockpiled weapons like a warmonger in an arms race before a 2012 fire-sale saw Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Hanley Ramirez and others leave for fractions of pennies on their dollar-value.
The Marlins, conversely, sent out a team which features seven of their nine likely to start on Opening Day. Wow. Good for them, right? To play the players they’re going to play. Only, who were those players?
Rafael Furcal, a 37-year old who hasn’t played in the Bigs since 2012; third baseman Casey McGehee who just returned from Japan where he spent all of 2013, and Adeiny Hechavarria. Besides having the worst name in baseball to spell (he jumps even you, Saltalamacchia) he was the worst player in baseball last season with an appalling WAR of minus-1.9. Furthermore, their lineup featured possible starters like Jeff Mathis, Donovan Solano, and 37-year old Placido Polanco who wasn’t good on the Tigers five years ago. (Hint: he hasn’t gotten better.)
The Miami complaints prompted John W. Henry, co-owner of the Red Sox, to send the quip of the year so far in 2014 with this:
The main beef that Miami had with Boston was that the Marlins had just recently instituted what they’d called “super premium” pricing in which they charged between $10 and $13 more per seat because it was the defending-World Champion Boston Red Sox. The only thing they forgot was that it was an exhibition game. I understand, as a fan, that Red Sox-Yankees tickets cost exponentially more than Red Sox-Marlins tickets, but that’s during the regular season when the games count. Spring Training is for time to evaluate the likes of Swihart and Cecchini and Brentz; it is not time to price gouge your fans and make them believe elder MLB icon David Ortiz will leg out a possible infield single.
The Miami Marlins are a team that charged their fans full price to watch a team that finished last in every offensive category there is in MLB and finish 34 games out of the National League East lead and an abysmal 62-100 record, which is second worst in MLB. So why do they get to complain about another team being noncompetitive? The four player rule is one that needs changing, the reason baseball has things like non-roster invites to Spring Training and expanded rosters is to see how these young players – or old players who still have something left to prove – can contribute to the team. Spring Training is NOT a time to take advantage of your fans who already have to suffer while watching your games, anyway.
The irony of the whole situation? The game was a wash – literally – after the contest was called off after the eighth inning because of rain. The ballgame ended in a tie of no score, but the Red Sox, with a lineup featuring three Major Leaguers, Swihart, and Cecchini, held the hits advantage 7-2.