OAKLAND, Calif. — Cody Ross’s first season with the Red Sox couldn’t have been more chaotic.
The world around him collapsed. Friends were traded. The team went in the tank. About $270 million was traded away. The Sox will miss the playoffs for the third straight season.
Yet Ross loves being with the Red Sox.
Why is his world so sunny?
“I love being on this team,” he said. “I love the players I play with. I love the ballpark I play in. I love the atmosphere. I understand what’s happened here.
“We had our team in San Francisco go from championship season to being out of the playoffs. So I’ve lived through this before.
“This is a first-class organization. There are a lot of things when I look around, I don’t think I’d be able to duplicate elsewhere. They really take care of the families here. They do everything first-class. Those things aren’t lost on me.
“I’d recommend everyone play here. This is a special place. The fans are unbelievable. You can say with all the stuff that’s happened, you could make a case that this isn’t so great anymore, but it is. And I’m not just saying that. I believe it. I believe it strongly.”
And Ross believes that things will turn quickly in the right direction.
“They’re committed to being a great organization, and great organizations don’t let things stay status quo,” he said. “If they feel something doesn’t work, they change it up, and that’s what’s happened here.
“I believe they’ll make this better in a hurry and I want to be here when it’s good because I’ve heard about what it’s like when it’s good and the team is playing winning baseball. I just feel that’s going to happen here again.”
Ross, who went 0 for 4 in Saturday’s 7-1 loss and is hitting .275 with 19 homers and 67 RBIs, said the Sox have not begun negotiating a new deal with him. But there are signs, based on conversations he has had with the higher-ups, that they would like to work out a longer-term deal.
The Sox obviously have a lot of money to spend. It’s not that they’d break the bank on him, and Ross only wants what’s fair.
Ross’s deal may end up being close to the three-year, $21 million pact Josh Willingham signed with Minnesota last offseason. Righthanded hitters with power, perfectly suited for Fenway Park, aren’t easy to come by, so Ross appears to have some leverage there.
He hopes to have the contract settled before he even enters free agency. He said he doesn’t want to go what he went through last season, when he was out there for what seemed like forever. The Braves and Giants both kicked the tires and the Sox then swooped in and signed Ross to a one-year, $3 million deal, one of baseball’s best bargains.
Ross now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and acknowledged the temptation to move to a team closer to there, to a team that has spring training in Arizona.
“Sure, that’s always something you think about, but I’d be disappointed if this didn’t work out with the Red Sox,” Ross said. “I know the history of all the guys who were here and left as free agents or got traded and they regretted it.”
Nick Esasky, Jason Bay, and Mo Vaughn all regretted leaving, especially for the wrong reason – money. Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez would have stayed if the organization had wanted them.
Vaughn and Fred Lynn will tell you that if they had spent their entire careers in Boston, they’d be in the Hall of Fame.
Ross has no illusions about that, but he understands that playing at Fenway will only enhance his career.
“I knew the ballpark would be suited for my swing when I signed here and that’s one of the reasons I did,” said Ross, who said the Braves wanted him on a two-year deal for less money. He elected to give Boston a try. And he hasn’t been disappointed.
He also said that playing alongside Dustin Pedroia “has made me a better player. Just to watch his intensity in everything he does. He plays the game with such passion, and that rubs off on you because you want to have that same passion.
“It’s a game we all love and we should play it the best we can every time we step on the field and I think that’s what I get from Dustin. There’s no relaxing. Everything is done at 100 miles per hour, and we want our whole team to be like that.”
Re-signing Ross will be easier with the Dodgers taking on those big contracts. Ross should get a fair and competitive offer from the Sox. He may leave something on the table, because if he does go into the market, there will be teams willing to tie him up long term, when last year he was coming off a poor season with the Giants and wasn’t as in demand.
Ross knows waiting is probably the smart thing to do. But he’s in love. As someone who played in Miami, then played in San Francisco and had the greatest moments of his career when he was a postseason hero for the Giants, he knows what he wants for the rest of his career.
“You do this once in your life and we’re so privileged to be able to do it,” Ross said. “I know guys who make $15 million-$20 million and are miserable because they don’t like where they play.
“I want what’s fair like anyone else, but there’s no team I’d rather play for than the Red Sox.”