December 26, 2008


Red Sox Are Happy to Deal (to a Point) (MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, 12/25/08, NY Times)

[W]hat has also stood out about the Red Sox has been their strict negotiating style, in which executives have repeatedly drawn a line with players and their agents about the price and length of contracts and been willing to suffer the consequences if it meant no deal could be reached.

This approach has led to the loss, in recent seasons, of Pedro Martínez and Johnny Damon. It nearly led to the departure of Mike Lowell. Now it is probably behind the failure to land Mark Teixeira, their top off-season priority. But the Red Sox survived the losses of Martínez and Damon, and it remains to be seen what moves the Red Sox may now pursue with all the money not used on Teixeira.

Boston’s approach to contract negotiations under Henry can probably be traced back to December 2003, when the team almost acquired Alex Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Manny Ramírez. As part of that deal, Rodriguez agreed to alter his 10-year, $250 million contract to save the Red Sox money.

Ultimately, the players’ union would not go along with all the concessions. At that point, the Red Sox could have moved ahead with the trade, but they would not. Two months later, the Yankees stepped in and acquired Rodriguez, although the Red Sox, not the Yankees, captured the World Series that season.

After that World Series, Martínez became a free agent and sought a four-year deal. The 33-year-old Martínez was not quite the dominant pitcher he had been earlier in his career, and there was concern about how much longer he could physically hold up. Boston offered him three years; the Mets offered him four. Martínez wanted to stay with the Red Sox but the extra year meant more, and off to Queens he went, where he pitched well in 2005, with a 16-8 record. But then he began to be hampered by various injuries, just as Boston had feared he might.

...he's rarely played long enough to be a free agent.


Buying an umbrella in New York
(Joe Posnanski, 12/25/08)

[I] love the New York frenzy for two reasons. One, I think baseball is much more fun when the Yankees are a truly despicable team that every non-Yankee fan in America can hate without conscience. There were too many shades of gray in 1998, when the Yankees were a pretty likable bunch, and again in 2001 when the World Series was going on Ground Zero still burned. It’s more fun when the Yankees do stuff like this and give us a clear cut, pro wrestling type of villain.

Two, more significantly, it always gives me great comfort to see the following facts:

– Over the last 10 years, eight different teams have won the World Series. In all 15 teams made the World Series — that’s half the teams in baseball.

– Over the last 20 years, fourteen different teams have won the World Series. In all 22 teams made the World Series. Now, we’re at more than two-thirds who have reached the Series.

– Over the last 30 years, 20 different teams have won the World Series, and only three — the Chicago Cubs, the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers — have failed to reached the Series. That’s extraordinary, if you think about it — ninety percent of all teams have reached the World Series the last 30 years. And the three teams that didn’t reach had their good moments too. The Cubs have made the playoffs six times and, well, only their Cubbiness has kept them from reaching the Series. The Mariners won 116 games in 2001, the most for any team ever. Even the Texas Rangers have made the playoffs three times and while there’s some dark cloud simply hovering over that franchise, you never get the feeling that the Rangers are hopeless.

By comparison, pro football teams that have not made the Super Bowl the last 30 years include: The New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings, That’s 10 — almost one-third of all the teams in Pro Football.

I don’t mean to make this sound like a defense of baseball’s system. The system’s lousy. The Yankees over the last 14 years have spent a half million dollars in payroll more than the Boston Red Sox or any other team (they have spent 1.2 BILLION more than the Kansas City Royals), and it has paid off, they have made the playoffs 13 of those years, reached the World Series six times and won four. So, money (to some degree) can buy you love.

But it is also amazing how baseball, the game itself, defies the takeover efforts of corporate raiders. The Yankees won their World Series when the team was, to a large degree, homegrown. They famously have not won a World Series since paying big bucks to sign Mike Mussina and then Jason Giambi and then taking on the A-Rod contract. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay last year reached the World Series with the second smallest payroll in baseball — no Rays player made more than $6 million last year. And here’s a beautiful bit of trivia for you, one you can definitely use at parties: According to the indespensible USA Today Salary Database, only one team in baseball history has won a World Series with a $100 million payroll. That team? Yep, the Boston Red Sox (twice — 2004 and 2007).

I’m not saying that the Yankees will not win in 2009 — that’s an awfully good team now, absolutely the best that money can buy. But just remember that key fact — 20 teams have won World Series the last 30 years. And by comparison:

Only 14 teams have won the Super Bowl over the last 30 years.

Only 14 different men have won Wimbledon over the least 30 years.

Only 13 teams have won the Stanley Cup over the last 30 years.

Only NINE teams have won an NBA title over the last 30 years.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 26, 2008 8:17 AM
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