Year in Review: 1997


Re-rank the list of top sports stories of 1997


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Tiger Woods takes
golf world by storm

Pedro Martinez signs
record deal with Sox

Latrell Sprewell
assaults coach, gets ax

Rick Pitino becomes
Celtics coach, president

Bill Parcells quits after Patriots' banner year

Martina Hingis
rules women's tennis

Florida Marlins win World Series

Women's pro hoop
meets with success

A Patriots surprise:
Super Bowl XXXI berth

Wil Cordero charged
with assaulting wife

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Check out the top news stories of 1997
That's serious money

For $75m, Sox get Martinez and goodwill

By Dan Shaughnessy, Globe Staff, 12/11/97

aise a glass of orange juice to the Olde Towne Team this morning, you citizens of Red Sox Nation. According to Pedro Martinez, the Boston ball club has put its money and its reputation on the line and locked up the most coveted pitcher in baseball for six years at a whopping reported price of $75 million.

It's been 20 years (Bill Campbell, Mike Torrez) since the Red Sox went out and got the best guy and paid the most dough. Breaking ranks with the brotherhood of baseball owners, the Sox have made Martinez the highest-paid player in the game.

When Dan Duquette first traded for Pedro last month, he boldly announced, ''The Red Sox are back in business.''

That's how it feels today, now that the Sox have committed so many millions to the best pitcher on the planet.

But the signing has many other implications. It's certainly a show of good faith to Sox fans that the front office is not afraid to compete with the big boys from New York, Baltimore, and Toronto. Other than Ken Griffey Jr., Martinez might be the most valuable commodity in baseball and the Sox gave up a prime prospect (Carl Pavano) to get him, then opened the vault and ensured that he will be part of the Fenway landscape well into the next century. This should dispel any notion that the Boston front office is content to draw well, make money, and not worry about competing.

Suddenly, the Red Sox are taken seriously around these parts and should recapture some of their eroding fan base. Local front-running fans have hopped on the Patriot bandwagon in recent years, and this winter Rick Pitino has used smoke and mirrors to make folks take the Celtics seriously for the first time since Larry Bird retired.

But now the Red Sox are major players again. They have the best pitcher in baseball. For seventy-five million dollars. It gets your attention.

It certainly flies in the face of the rhetoric that's been spilling out of Yawkey Way for most of this decade. Sox caretakers John Harrington and Dan Duquette have done nothing but moan about lack of revenues because of a crumbling ballpark with no luxury boxes. They have painted the Local Nine as a Third World Baseball Country, unable to make a run at the top-paid players. And now they have broken the bank for the 1997 National League Cy Young winner, a colorful, candid righty who went 17-8 with a major league-leading 1.90 ERA and 305 strikeouts.

There is a potential downside (don't forget, these are the Red Sox), and that would be the ramifications this has on Messrs. Vaughn and Valentin.

What is this spectacular signing going to do to the Mo Vaughn camp? It cannot be good. Vaughn Tuesday told the Globe he would agree to a deal before New Year's, but all bets are off now that Pedro has struck the mother lode of the Yawkey Trust. Think about it, Sox fans. Vaughn has been part of the Boston organization since 1991. He had bled for this franchise, and his contract is up at the end of the 1998 season. The Sox are offering him a two-year package, yet they just committed to paying Martinez - a man who has not yet played a game for Boston - $75 million over the next six years. If you were Mo Vaughn, what would you think about this? We can hope that Vaughn sees the Pedro signing as a franchise commitment to competing. But Mo's also got to be asking, ''What about me?''

Unless the Red Sox are misrepresenting their poverty or willing to take a major financial bath to win in 1998, the club simply cannot afford to keep Martinez, Vaughn, John Valentin, Steve Avery, Flash Gordon, Tim Naehring, Tim Wakefield, and Reggie Jefferson.

That said, they cannot let the Martinez signing stand alone. The Blue Jays last year proved that you can finish last with a 20-game winner who puts up the best numbers in baseball. Martinez can't operate in a vacuum, and Boston needs to take care of its many problems. But are the Sox willing to jack their payroll to $50 million? Doubtful.

This is no time for Duquette to let his ego get in the way. Under the Duke Regime, there's been a pattern of taking care of Duke guys and discarding those who were here before. This has happened with scouts, front-office employees, dugout personnel, and ballplayers. Notice that Aaron Sele (a Lou Gorman guy) was traded and Jeff Suppan (Gorman) was not protected, while the likes of Gordon, Wakefield, Troy O'Leary, Butch Henry, and Avery are all re-signed or protected.

Pedro is a Duke guy and has been rewarded even though he's never played a day here. Now it's time to address Vaughn and Valentin, two holdovers from the previous regime. Here's hoping the Sox continue to spend and take care of guys who have already done a lot for the ball club.

This story ran on page D D1 01 of the Boston Globe on 12/11/97.
© Copyright 1997 Globe Newspaper Company.

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