Monday, December 14, 2009

Are the Boston Red Sox building a bridge to nowhere?

Gather round, Boston fans. I have some questions about what you think about the state of your team these days.

I wrote something for The Faster Times about Jason Bay's rejection of the Sox's offer, and the pending Mike Lowell trade. It seems to me that the concept of loyalty is very one-sided in Soxland. Lowell took the hometown discount to stay in Boston, and he gets traded (pending that thumb issue, of course). Same thing happened with Bronson Arroyo - he got traded two months after leaving four million on the table. Nice!

Then there's the way that we inevitably hear negative things about the player when they're on their way out the door. Last year, Jason Bay was considered better than Manny Ramirez. Now, he's supposedly an injury risk. Right. The same way that Mike Lowell, considered one of the classiest guys to ever put on a Boston uniform, is supposedly now a clubhouse complainer. (See my article for more details, and go to Baseball Think Factory to read others commenting on my piece.)

The way the Sox front office trashes its players is so unseemly, yet it happens pretty much every single time a Boston player goes elsewhere. Tacky.

Anyhow, Theo Epstein had some talk the other day about how 2010 will be the bridge period. Sounds like it's the cheap period to me, with another year of John Smoltz/Brad Penny type supposed "low risk/high reward" signings. Like this year, with the Sox signing the immortal Boof Bonser, after all!

Of course, ticket prices are still going up during this transition time. Shocker!

Are the Sox already conceding the 2010 AL East division title to the Yankees? I think they are. As does Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy. He sharply criticized the Sox in a recent column, saying fans should "not buy the bill of goods the Red Sox are selling." He continued:
I’m not buying. The Sox have the dough to sign Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. Just like they had the money to bag Mark Teixeira last winter. But they keep getting beaten by the Yankees and then they cry about it.

Stop. It’s hideous of the Sox and their fans to complain about the Yankees buying championships. Sure, the Yanks can afford Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett, just like the Sox were able to afford Matsuzaka and Drew. The Sox got Curt Schilling and Victor Martinez the same way the Yankees got Curtis Granderson this week. The Sox are not the Pirates. They are not the Brewers or the A’s. The Sox are Haves, not Have-Nots. Like the Yankees, the Sox are happy to raid the rosters of teams that can’t afford high-priced talent.
Absolutely. I thought about that Schilling deal the other day, and how Sox fans I knew then tried to claim that Boston gave up a lot in that trade in Casey Fossum and Brandon Lyon. Please.

Shaughnessy also writes:
It’s nice that Theo has a passion for player development, but asking fans to take a year off is outrageous. Henry is a billionaire and the Sox are making bundles of money. If you don’t believe that, call their partners at Ace Ticket and try to score a few tickets.
Agreed. John Henry is worth a lot more money than George Steinbrenner is. Why are they holding the purse strings tight with one hand, and raising ticket prices with the other?

One other thing I also read at the Boston Globe this week was about how Theo opposed the Josh Beckett/Mike Lowell for Hanley Ramirez trade, made in his brief absence from the team in 2005.  That makes no sense to me. Yes, the Sox gave up a future superstar in Ramirez. But they also won the 2007 World Series thanks to Beckett and Lowell. That seems like a pretty fair tradeoff.

Let's take a quick look at some of the 2010 Red Sox payroll obligations. Right now, they've committed to pay Texas nine million to take Mike Lowell off their hands, assuming the trade goes through. They're also paying nine million for Julio Lugo not to play for them. They'll be paying $14 million for J.D. Drew - a heck of a bigger injury risk than Jason Bay - to play right field; that is, when he isn't taking his weekly day off.  They're paying $12.5 million to David Ortiz - which looked like a great deal at the time - to be their DH. Dice-K (or is that Dice-BB, as my friend William calls him?) may actually show up to spring training in shape this time around to earn his $8 million this year. And don't forget that captain Jason Varitek will be getting $5 million as a lifetime achievement award for 2010.

Yes, yes, I know the Yankees have ridiculous contracts as well. (Kei Igawa, anyone?) My point is that Theo Epstein, for all his brilliance, has made a bunch of bad deals that have cost his team. And that not many other teams could afford to essentially pay other teams to take on their players, the way Theo did with Manny Ramirez, Julio Lugo, and is trying to do with Mike Lowell. So sorry, I'm not going to feel too bad for the Red Sox's payroll obligations. If they're having to pinch pennies now, it's because of bad decisions by Epstein, not because of the Yankees' dominance.

Of course, now that I've written this article, watch the Sox sign John Lackey, Matt Holliday, Adrian Beltre, and some other high-priced free agents this afternoon, just to prove this all irrelevant!

But what do our Sox fan readers think? Tell us about it!


"Nutball Gazette" said...

seeing rumors that John Lackey is taking a Physical for the Red Sox

Anonymous said...

Yes, Lisa, you and the Yankee frachise are the Anti-Tacky Organization. And thank goodness you never say anything bad about a Yankee player.

Machon said...

A little early to make such assertions no?

I'd give it time. They have had Lackey in for a physical and apparently offered Chapman a pretty nice contract which would seem like they are making room to trade Clay and/or Casey Kelly...

That said, if they do land those two players... I'd almost like them to make a play for Beltre - give Hermidia the chance to prove himself and make a move at the deadline if he doesn't. Maybe sign a Mike Cameron type as a platoon for now.

Uncle Mike said...

The Yankees are World Champions, the Red Sox are in their Jean Yawkey (definitely NOT Tom Yawkey) and John Harrington era period of one-way loyalty and misguided free-agent signings, and Dan Shaughnessy is writing woe-is-Red-Sox-Nation columns in the Globe.

I've heard of "party like it's 1999," but this is... just the way I like it.

Now the Phillies have, essentially, traded Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay, the result being that neither the Red Sox nor the Mets get either. Fine with me.

Besides, John Henry and Larry Lucchino already have Theo Epstein. What do they need another lackey for? Ha ha!

Fred Garvin said...

Lisa wrote: "Sounds like it's the cheap period to me, with another year of John Smoltz/Brad Penny type supposed "low risk/high reward" signings."

How obnoxious! A Yankees fan lecturing the Red Sox about spending habits is like Congress lecturing state governments on fiscal restraint. And Tacky? Please. The Yankees have a long, sordid history of tackiness (how many other owners have been banned from the game). So please don't lecture the RS. The Yankees finally succeeded in buying the championship. Be happy and leave it at that. OK?

As for whether or not John Henry is richer than George Steinbrenner, that's only part of the equation. The Red Sox don't benefit from the revenue stream generated by a new, expansive, taxpayer-subsidized ballpark like the Yankees.

As for Dan Shaughnessy, he's a bomb thrower who hasn't had an original idea in 20 years and is still pissed about 2004 -- he needs another curse to write about. His days with The Globe are numbered anyway (he's already showing up on and has his own poorly-rated sports talk radio show). Given all that has come out about Texeira's true intentions, it's amazing that anyone is actually still saying the RS blew it by not signing him. They never had a chance. NY was his first/only choice because that's where he would make the most money and Boras made sure he got the highest bid out of the RS before going back to Cashman. BTW, I'm not complaining about that. I'm just injecting a little reality into this blog entry.

The one area where you are correct in your criticism of Theo is Boston's free agent signings. Theo's record on this is abysmal. He hasn't had a good free agent signing since Schilling (e.g. Rent-a-error, Lugo, Drew, Clement, Smoltz, Penny, etc). Plus I'm not thrilled at the Lackey signing; his record against the AL East is not good. As for Bay, he's a nice guy but I'm not that sad to see him go; he strikes out way too often. Most RS fans who are realistic knew the team would probably take a step back this year simply because the available free agents are not that great, there's no one of significance coming out of the RS farm system this year, and the RS have several key performers who are aging/underperforming but are in the final year of their contracts.

As for Lowell being a clubhouse complainer, that's old news. He started complaining last year when the Sox acquired Martinez and he became the odd guy out due to Beckett and Dice-K needing their binky, Varitek.

Anonymous said...

One of the most insightful blogs I've read.

Michael said...

Mr. Garvin is being disingenuous. The Red Sox have a ballpark that produces loads of revenue for them due to being sold out 81 times a season. They also have a cable-TV network from which they get loads of revenue, just like the Yankees. The Red Sox can spend whatever they like, and, very often in their history, they have.

The difference, as always, is that the Red Sox are dumb about how they spend it. Tom Yawkey owned the Red Sox for 34 years and bought 3 Pennants and no World Series. And he was the richest owner in baseball, with the possible exception of Phil Wrigley of the Cubs, who also never won, but he had a different problem: He spent money on the ballpark instead of the players, resulting in Wrigley Field also approaching its 100th anniversary but the Cubs' last World Series win already having surpassed its centennial.

An owner who is willing to spend for a winner will usually put his team in position to win. Gussie Busch of the Cardinals often did, and got some results. But there were times when his pathological need for his players to be "company men" overrode his desire for October baseball. Those who toed the Anheuser-Busch line, like Roger Maris, got rewarded with distributorships after they retired. Those who didn't toe the line, like Curt Flood, got exiled. (It took years, but Busch finally told Flood he was right about the reserve clause, which Busch clung to like a religion.) Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" is littered with references to Pilots manager Joe Schultz, who had been a Cardinal coach, telling his players to win and then go "pound some Budweiser," ignoring the fact that Busch was no longer his boss.

Say what you want about the House of Steinbrenner, but they know that the most profitable way to do business in sports is to win, and you can't win unless you try. An owner who's told he can spend $100 million now and the result is that he will make $1 billion as a result, and refuses to do it, is an idiot.

Uncle Mike said...

Sorry, used a different account to post the last comment. But regular readers could probably guess it was me, because of my insistence that there are 29 other teams that CAN spend what the Yankees spend, but WON'T. If they truly can't spend it, then why did they buy the teams in the first place?

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