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Dan Shaughnessy

Sox have a bridge to sell us

Fans shouldn’t buy this approach

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / December 10, 2009

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Storm the gates of Fenway Park. Cancel your NESN package. Stick your head out the window and say, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!’’

Do not buy the bill of goods the Red Sox are selling.

John Henry and Theo Epstein are preparing you for the Big Slide. While they continue to raise ticket prices and drain every dollar out of Fenway, they are telling you to put your expectations on the shelf. No more “championship-driven’’ campaign for your Red Sox. The Sox are building a “bridge’’ for the future. They are giving up on competing with those big, bad Yankees.

What a joke. First we had Sarah Palin’s Bridge to Nowhere. Then we had Bob Kraft donating thousands to Deval Patrick in an obvious (thus far, failed) effort to get the government to pay for a $9 million bridge to connect a couple of his parking lots. Now it’s Theo selling his bridge between championship seasons.

Please. Sounds to me like a bridge over troubled waters.

In an e-mail to the Globe’s Amalie Benjamin last month Henry explained that the Sox might not be as good this year, writing, “Those reali ties are a function of available talent and age-related transitioning once again, as we did prior to 2007.’’

Tuesday at the winter meetings in Indianapolis, Epstein hammered at the same theme with “we’re kind of in a bridge period. We still think that if we push some of the right buttons, we can be competitive at the very highest levels for the next two years. But we don’t want to compromise too much of the future for that competitiveness during the bridge period.’’

Translation: Don’t expect us to make any big deals. We don’t want to spend any more money on payroll. We’ve already blown enough on the likes of Matt Clement, Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Smoltz, and Brad Penny. Let the Yankees spend the money. We’re not going to compete with them anymore.

So keep ponying up the dough for those Fenway tours and wait for our “kids.’’ You’re gonna love Jose Iglesias, Ryan Kalish, Ryan Westmoreland, Casey Kelly, and Lars Anderson, but they are a couple of years away.

Just like Juan Bustabad was always a couple of years away.

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.

Oh, and last time I checked the Yankees developed Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, and Joba Chamberlain. They developed the players they traded in the deal that brought Granderson.

Nothing is more pathetic than the Red Sox crying about the Yankees - unless it’s Henry crying about revenue sharing. Henry loved commissioner Bud Selig when Uncle Bud delivered the team to him in the bag job sale of 2002. Here we are seven years later and Henry is doing something the Yankees never did; he’s complaining about his luxury tax money going to the Royals and the Pirates.

The Yankees blew past the Red Sox in 2009 and New York just got better. Granderson is an All-Star leadoff hitter, a defensive artist in center field, and a 30-home run guy in his prime. Meanwhile, the Sox are standing still and holding the line on their four-year offer for Bay. If Bay winds up in New York, Anaheim, or Seattle, the Sox are going to have to deal with Scott Boras for Holliday. Or do nothing and remind us that the kids will be available to help in 2012.

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.

Red Sox fans love their team unconditionally. For eight seasons, Henry and Co. returned the love, rebuilding Fenway and overtaking/embarrassing the Yankees.

Now the Yankees are back on top and it feels like the Sox - happy with their trendy, ever-filled ballpark - are giving up. The ballpark is done (thanks for helping, Janet Marie Smith, now take a hike) and the championships have been won. Loyal fans can keep coming to Fenway and singing “Sweet Caroline’’. Just don’t expect the Sox to compete with the Yankees this winter or next season.

Sorry. Not OK.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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