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Rocky pique is high

Sox irked Colorado by nixing Bigbie deal

The Red Sox, in a faxed offer sent to the Colorado Rockies late Friday night, agreed to trade outfielder Adam Stern and Triple A catcher Kelly Shoppach to Colorado for outfielder Larry Bigbie and a prospect. But the deal was blocked by Sox ownership in the early-morning hours Saturday, a move that left Rockies owner Charlie Monfort threatening to call commissioner Bud Selig to complain.

Here's the timeline of what happened, reconstructed with the help of multiple club sources: Thursday night, Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd and Red Sox assistant GM Josh Byrnes discussed an agreement that would send Shoppach and Stern to Colorado once the Rockies obtained Bigbie, who was still a member of the Orioles. Sox management began writing up the proposal.

The next night, the Rockies finalized a deal with Baltimore to send outfielder Eric Byrnes and cash -- about $150,000 -- to the Orioles for Bigbie.

''Trading Byrnes for Bigbie was not something they would have done without the second deal," Josh Byrnes acknowledged yesterday.

Later Friday night, at about 11 p.m., the Sox faxed Colorado the offer, which outlined the specifics of a deal that would net Boston Bigbie and a prospect who probably would rank among the team's top 10. The fax was unsigned and indicated that the trade still required ownership's approval. That wasn't expected to be an issue until Boston management and ownership spoke sometime after midnight.

Ownership decided at that point that the Sox, who were consumed with whether and how to deal Manny Ramirez, were better off pulling any other deals off the table. So, Saturday morning, Josh Byrnes, who formerly worked under O'Dowd in Colorado, phoned his former boss to pass along the news. Byrnes, according to Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, did most of the work on the Bigbie deal because GM Theo Epstein's attention was focused on Ramirez.

''Josh has as much integrity as anyone I've ever met in baseball," Epstein said. ''If anyone is at fault, I'm to blame for allowing the Manny situation to disrupt our normal internal communication procedures."

The failed deal set Monfort off. The Rockies owner, speaking through Colorado vice president/communications Jay Alves yesterday, declined further comment. But in the Denver Post Sunday, Monfort said, ''I will talk with the commissioner, believe me. World Champions? If that's what it takes to be a World Champion, then people are right, we may never be one, because we don't operate and treat other organizations like that."

Byrnes said he understood Colorado's anger but felt the Sox acted the way they had to.

''With an enormous story unfolding, the Manny issue -- I have to communicate with Theo, the Rockies with the Orioles, us with ownership -- the timing was not as clean and precise as it needed to be," Byrnes said. ''It cost the Rockies.''Unless you glimpse into our week with Manny, you can't appreciate it."

Added Epstein, ''We understand the Rockies are disappointed that the deal was not finalized. However, it was very clear that one condition [ownership's approval] had to be met before the deal was to become finalized. That condition was never met. We empathize with the Rockies' position, but no trade was finalized."

Generally, a team in the Rockies' position would protect itself by requiring the third-party team to send along a signed fax outlining the second deal before making the initial deal.

Lucchino spoke with Monfort late Saturday afternoon and offered to split the cash the Rockies had sent to Baltimore for Bigbie, a $75,000 peace offering.

''To [Monfort's] credit, he said, 'That's not really that important,' " Lucchino said. ''Charlie is a terrific guy, a very popular guy, well-respected in the game. This will not affect or damage in any way, shape, or form my view of him.

''There was at least one misunderstanding when I talked to Charlie. He told me he thought we had a signed agreement. I said, 'That's a completely new fact to me. If that's the case, you were absolutely right, we were absolutely wrong.' He found out there was a fax the night before to be signed and never was. It expressly provided that the transaction was subject to [Boston] ownership's approval."

O'Dowd, reached yesterday by phone, refused to speak in specifics.

''We wish it didn't happen," said the Colorado GM. ''We wish them the best of luck. I harbor no hard feelings toward them. We spent a lot of time rehashing it. At some time, you've got to move on with what you have."

Lucchino claimed to be unconcerned with the future implications of this matter, though it marked another instance in which a club pondering a trade with the Sox was left feeling improperly treated. A year ago, the Sox were supposed to give the Twins another prospect in the Nomar Garciaparra deal but the Twins lost track of the player and the Sox later denied Minnesota's request. Before the 2003 season, the Sox and Marlins worked on a deal for Kevin Millar, but the Sox simply waited and claimed Millar off waivers.

''I'm not concerned," Lucchino said. ''Most experienced GMs are well aware this time and this stage this type of deal here was pending ownership's approval."

Lucchino also confirmed the Sox were willing to discuss deals involving Ramirez until the 4 p.m. Sunday trade deadline.

''Because of our experience last year [with Garciaparra], we kept everything going on all fronts until 4," he said.

The Ramirez situation, then, appears to have handicapped the Sox' ability to make other deals. The club didn't make any trades Sunday.

''I wouldn't use that word ['handicapped']," Lucchino said. ''There were a number of other deals."

Epstein, who wouldn't speak about specific deals the team contemplated, said he made every call he was supposed to, implying that his focus on the overall trade market did not suffer because of the Ramirez situation.

Lucchino said he's ''pleased [Ramirez is] staying here. We're all happy about that. We're pleased the fans gave him a loud and positive response [Sunday] when after the trade deadline he appeared from the clubhouse."

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