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!

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