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MICHAEL HOLLEY

Blueprint won't work for Red Sox

If what we saw last Sunday in Houston is the reward for building a team "the right way," then why isn't everyone doing it? And assuming that you don't care about everyone, why don't the other pro teams in New England steal from the Patriots?

One week after the thrill in Texas, these are only the most logical sports questions in town. You just saw millions of people wearing their red, white, and blue hats. You saw the sprawl of City Hall Plaza finally used for something productive. You saw a silver trophy being held high, with all of Boston in its reflection.

You weren't alone in thinking that the hats could have been green, the trophy could have been the Stanley Cup, and the reluctant dancer could have been Theo Epstein.

It's a nice dream, and even Epstein said the other day that he's had it. ("Unlike coach Belichick," the Red Sox general manager said with a smile, "I'd make sure I stuck to the no-dancing decree.") But this is not an easy game of follow-the-leader, and it becomes much more difficult when you start comparing sports.

On one hand, you can understand why Epstein is friendly with the Patriots' Scott Pioli. They are both young executives, they both know and love music -- Pioli will be either a DJ or composer in his next life -- and they both are paid to evaluate players and build teams. Epstein believes the Patriots are the model franchise "in all of sports" for constructing teams and scouting amateur players.

Epstein also knows that there is a point where the baseball evaluator and the football evaluator have to separate. Baseball has 10 times as many games as football, and is a much more individualistic sport.

And don't forget the biggest difference.

"Baseball contracts are long and guaranteed," Epstein said. "Football contracts are not."

The Patriots have the leverage to discipline players and stack the roster with their kind of guys. The Sox, as all of baseball learned in a memorable irrevocable waivers lesson, are sometimes imprisoned by contracts they don't want.

Terry Glenn was a problem for the Patriots and they shipped him out to Green Bay for a fourth-round pick. (By the way, that pick turned into defensive end Jarvis Green; all things considered, it was a steal for the Patriots.) Manny Ramirez frustrated the Sox, and all they can ship is his equipment from Boston to Fort Myers.

Like the Patriots' decision-makers, Epstein has made the acquisition of good people a priority. He researched David Ortiz, Bill Mueller, and Kevin Millar before adding them to the roster. He recently signed Ellis Burks, who can impress any employer with just one line on his resume: got along with Barry Bonds in San Francisco.

These Sox are looking for a lot more than a player's on-base percentage.

"Seeing a player on the top step of the dugout supporting his teammates, even after he's gone 0 for 4, is huge in baseball," Epstein said. "We want to know if a player is happy when the team wins and he goes 0 for 4. We want to know if he's content going 3 for 4 in a loss.

"We talk about a player's makeup, but what we want to know is, `Is he a good teammate?' "

It's good to hear Epstein, a longtime Patriots fan, acknowledge the differences between the sports. If he didn't, he would be in trouble. Trying to copy what the Patriots have done is impossible. Frankly, the Patriots probably don't know how to copy and incorporate what they did in the 2003 season.

Of course, they hired reliable people and were able to sell them on the concept of sacrificing for the greater good. But by no means is this something that can be counted on as a given, year after year. Joe Gibbs said it a few years ago and Bill Belichick said it a few weeks ago: Dynamics change after championships are won.

Players want to be paid. Assistant coaches want to be paid. People who had no problem stepping back in the past suddenly don't want to sing backup anymore.

That's why a lot of coaches go on and on, repeating themselves about how special a championship is. It is special. It's hard to win with no restrictions, and twice as hard when you insist on winning with talent and character. It means that sometimes you have to watch a supremely talented player, with a rotten attitude, go somewhere else.

The Patriots didn't revolutionize sports by winning with high-character players. What they did is prove that there is enough room for an alternative. They proved that perfect gentlemen also can win their share of titles.

"I'm happy for them," Epstein said. "And I'm happy for the long-suffering Patriots fans out there. I remember the teams from the '80s and early '90s -- the Robert Weathers and Hugh Millen years."

There is nothing wrong with remembering. Copying can be tricky. I guess it would be all right to hear Carl Beane say on Opening Day, "And now choosing to be introduced as a team, the Boston Red Sox." Then again, the Panthers tried it during the Super Bowl and they came off as impostors, trying to claim an original as their own.

What the Patriots accomplished last week was great, but it cannot be cloned. Other executives are going to have to write their own How-To championship manual.

Michael Holley is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is holley@globe.com.

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