The Boston Globe reported this morning that in 1993, the Red Sox were a heartbeat away from sending Roger Clemens to Houston for Craig Biggio, Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and gift certificate to Circuit City. The story comes to us courtesy of former GM Lou Gorman, who is on the cusp of publishing his memoirs. If this story is true, and there is no reason to think its false, it begs the question of what the Sox would have looked like if the intellectually challenged Gorman had pulled some different levers in the early 90s.
The story in today’s Globe suggested that the trade would have gone down before the start of the 1993 season, the year in which Clemens began a terrible four-year stint for the Sox. Had Gorman pulled the string on this deal, the Sox would have been set at second and centerfield for the rest of the decade. That alone would have been tremendous since it would have spared Sox fans from the pain of watching Jeff Frye, Luis Alicea, Jose Offerman, Darren Bragg and Darren Lewis. The Sox spent the entire decade of the 90′s looking for a centerfielder and leadoff hitter and its dissappointing to find out in 2005 that both were avaialble in 1993. Had this trade been made, the Sox would have had a very different decade.
I think its an interesting exericse to consider what the Sox would have looked like if Gorman had made the Biggio trade and a couple different decisions back in 1990. In that particualr year, Gorman earned his stripes by trading Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson and balking at a trade that would have sent Mike Greenwell to Atlanta for Tom Glavine. Just imagine what the Sox would have looked like in the mid-90′s if Bagwell had been kept and Greenwell discarded.
By mid-decade, the infield would have had Mo Vaughan at first, Bigs at second, John Valentin at short and Bagwell at third. This could always be adjusted by DH’ing Mo, moving Bagwell to first and sliding Tim Naehring over to third. That would have meant no Luis Alicea at second and no Jose Canseco at DH. That is a big time infield. As far as the outfield goes, Greenwell would have been gone in the Glavine trade but Finley would be available to roam center. That gives you an outfield of Lee Tinsley, Steve Finley and Troy O’Leary. That is more then servicable. And as far as starting pitching goes, the rotation would shape up as follows: Glavine, Harnisch, Eric Hanson and Tim Wakefield. That staff is fine so long as one assumes that Glavine matured in Boston like he matured in Atlanta. That is a pretty big assumption since he is a lefty and he would have had to grow up without the help of Leo Mazzone.
While the pitching would ahve been somewhat ordinary, this would have been a big time club that would have scored a ton of runs. Can you imagine a lineup of Bigs, Finley, Bagwell, Mo and Valentin? Biggio would have scored 150 runs with those guys behind him and Bagwell would have put up Foxx type numbers hitting ahead of Mo. The 2003 and 2004 teams scored an awful lot of runs, but I am not sure they could have done much more damage then this crew. At the very least, I think Bags and Bigs would have headlined a 900 run offense and been a real threat to the big bats in Cleveland.
Its easy to second guess Gorman on this one, but in his defense, it was probably a tough call to deal Clemens before 1993. Afterall, he was only a year removed from a Cy Young and no one could have predicted his subsequent fall from grace. Moreover, Biggio had not yet exploded and Finley was half the player he was in the late 90s. With that said, this trade was not a layup. However, on the flip side, Lou handed other teams layups on more then a couple of occasions so is it too much to ask that he get one of these right? Its too bad he didn’t nail this one because if he had, I wouldn’t have had to sit through 1200 freightening Darren Lewis at bats.