Shopping At The Dollar Store
When the Red Sox entered the bidding war for Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006, they paid the Seibu Lions $51.1 million just for the right to negotiate a contract with the Japanese legend. They eventually signed Daisuke to a six-year, $52 million deal.
When the Red Sox purchased Daniel Nava’s contract in 2007, the price was considerably cheaper.
They paid the Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden Baseball League $1 dollar.
(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
“I don’t know the particulars of Daniel’s deal, but typically in those cases, we pay the independent team $1 for the player’s rights and $3000 if they make one of our minor league clubs,” said Boston’s Director of Player Development Mike Hazen. “So I don’t know it for a fact, but I would assume that was the case with Daniel.”
Nava, on the other hand, received nothing but an opportunity.
“Obviously I had the choice to say ‘yes or no’ but why would I say no?” Nava told me. “Once my contract was purchased I was the property of the Red Sox so I didn’t really have any pull, but I am not complaining.”
Neither is Boston. After going to the Red Sox minor league spring training camp in 2008, Nava was assigned to Single-A Lancaster where he won the California League batting title with a .341 average. Last year, he led Red Sox farmhands with a .352 average and .458 OBP between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. So far this season, the switch-hitting outfielder is hitting .328/.391/.448 in 17 games with Pawtucket, and he belted his first Triple-A home run on Monday in a 5-1 win over Buffalo.
“I’m pleased with how things have been going recently, but I have a lot of stuff to work on,” Nava said.
While most hitters would be thrilled with Nava’s early-season statistics, the 27-year-old from Northern California has reason not to be satisfied. Despite batting .395 in his final year of college baseball at Santa Clara University, Nava was not drafted by a major league team.
“When I didn’t get drafted, disappointment turned into frustration and that turned into motivation for me to go out and prove that I did deserve to play and that I could play,” Nava said. “You can only dwell on certain situations for so long until they take control of you so I said, ‘I can’t let this negativity ruin me.’ So I tried to turn it into motivation.”
After college, Nava tried out for the independent Golden Baseball League and got cut. After being out of baseball for a year, Daniel tried out again and made the Chico Outlaws.
The Golden Baseball League is best-known for publicity stunts. In 2005, Rickey Henderson ended his career with the GBL’s San Diego Surf Dogs at the age of 46, and this year, the Outlaws signed 18-year old female Japanese knuckleball pitcher Eri Yoshida. She will be the first female pro baseball player in the United States in ten years.
But playing in the Golden League was serious business for Nava.
“The league has a lot of older guys, but our team was young – I don’t think we had anybody over 25,” Nava said. “That was awesome for us because we got to bond as a team and did everything together. It was a great experience. Our manager was ex-big leaguer Mark Parent so he did a great job of preparing us for the next step which for me was getting picked-up by Boston.”
Now Nava is one step from Fenway. Considering that he was 4’8″ and weighed 70 pounds as a high school freshman (read more here), Daniel’s odds of making the majors were probably longer than any horse that will compete in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
“It’s a ridiculous long shot,” Hazen said. “It’s amazing that a guy with that kind of talent has been passed-over every step of the way including the amateur draft. But Allard Baird, Jared Porter, and our scouting staff did an outstanding job of finding him and he continues to produce at every level. And if he continues to do it, he’s going to get an opportunity to play in the big leagues.”
* * * * *
I hope Boston Bruins fans were kind to the attractive woman in the Buffalo Sabres #55 Jochen Hecht jersey on Monday night at TD Garden.
It was Torey Lovullo’s wife Kristen.
Since the PawSox played a noon game, the Lovullo’s were able to attend Game 6 of the Bruins/Sabres playoff series. Unfortunately for Kristen, her beloved Sabres lost the game 4-3 and the series 4 games to 2.
When Torey met his future wife he decided to test her Sabres knowledge and asked her to name the three members of Buffalo’s famed 1970′s line known as “The French Connection.”
She immediately reeled off the names Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert, and Rick Martin.
Torey has not tested her hockey knowledge since.
* * * * *
It was great to see Kris Johnson earn on win on Monday vs. Buffalo . . . and easy to see why the Red Sox haven’t given up on him despite his 3-16 record between Pawtucket and Portland last season.
The 25-year-old lefty his 92 mph on the stadium radar on a first inning strikeout, and did not allow an earned run in 5 innings to pick up his first win in 309 days.
That ended a personal streak of 14 consecutive losses for KJ dating back to June 21, 2009. And he did it against one of the better offensive teams in the International League.
Former PawSox standout Jeff Bailey is off to a great start with the Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League. On Sunday, he hit a walk-off HR in the bottom of the 10th inning to cap off a 6-run rally (more details here). In his first 19 games, Bailey is batting .353/.438./.632 with 3 HR and 9 RBI.
Thanks to PawSox fan Don Werner for the heads-up.
* * * * *
The PawSox open a 4-game series against Indianapolis on Tuesday night at 6:15. I’m looking forward to seeing Brandon Moss return to McCoy Stadium as a member of the Indians. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:00 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is email@example.com.
And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard