December 08, 2022

It Breaks Your Heart. It is Designed to Break Your Heart.

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops."  

This is from one of Bart Giamatti's great baseball writings "The Green Fields of the Mind". The whole passage is talking about the abrupt end of a season (written on the final day of the 1977 season, the next verse starts "Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone").

But I always go back to the first two sentences:

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart"

This applies to so many other baseball related topics.  A failed rally, a heart-breaking loss, a promising prospect getting injured.... or a beloved player moving on to another team.

I am writing this only a few short hours after news broke that despite the Red Sox being "close" to signing Xander Bogaerts, an abrupt announcement was made that he had signed a long term contract with the San Diego Padres.  

Many others are currently writing reflections of what Xander meant to this team and sharing highlights of his time in Boston, others are debating the merits of his new contract and arguing what the Red Sox should or should not have done to keep him. Yet others are feverishly pontificating on what the next steps should be, whether another signing, a trade, or in-house options.

Enough people are writing about those topics, and I don't want to just add to that noise.

However, I noticed that Xander was the longest tenured member of the team, and wanted to look back and see throughout recent history, who has been with the Red Sox the longest, and what current player is likely to have that title in the near future.

Going back to the start of the championship era (*), I will look at the yearly rosters since 2004. 

In 2004, our longest tenured player was Tim Wakefield who had been a member of the Red Sox since we signed him in 1995 and had already over 100 wins in a Sox uniform going into the season.  Honorable mention goes to Ellis Burks who was also on our roster that season and had roots with Boston having been drafted in 1983 and playing there from 1987 to 1992.

From 2005 until his retirement after the 2011 season, Tim Wakefield continued to be our longest tenured player.

In 2012, that honor was passed on to David Ortiz, who we famously acquired after he was released by the Twins after the 2002 season.  He kept that title until his retirement following the 2016 season.

In 2017, Dustin Pedroia who had been a September 2006 callup and mainstay of the team ever since, took over until his premature retirement in 2019. 

And since 2020, Xander Bogaerts who came up just ahead of the September callups in 2013 but became an important part of that championship team has been the most tenured player. (Again, an honorable mention to Rich Hill who was on our 2021 squad and had been with the Red Sox on and off since 2010, but like Ellis Burks, not continuously). 

So who is taking over this role as longest tenured member of the Red Sox? Right now there are only three players who were part of the recent 2018 Championship - Chris Sale, Matt Barnes, and Rafael Devers.  Barnes has been here the longest, since a 2014 September callup.

In chart form, here is the list showing the players, and the number of seasons they had been on the roster coming into that season:

(For completeness sake, the previous player prior to Wakefield was John Valentin in 2001, who had been with the team since 1992. Wakefield's run started with the 2002 season). 

So, looking at the current lineup, who do you think will be on this list over the next few seasons? If Rafael Devers has his contract extended, it will likely be him until the end of his contract. But if he doesn't, as early as 2024 Verdugo and Arroyo may be the only players who were with the team in 2020, and they may not be fixtures for much longer than that. After that it may be Garrett Whitlock, or one of the guys who made their debut this season - Casas, Bello?  What are your thoughts on who will be the longest tenured Red Sox player in 2027?  Whoever it is, it will be a long time before we have guys that have been on the team for 10+ years again. 

(*) For those saying that this ownership group prioritizes profits over winning, note that the Red Sox have won 4 titles in the last 18 seasons, almost always being near the top of the league in payroll. Since World War II, the Yankees are the only other franchise to win 4 times in such a short span.

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