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Gammons's take

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  January 7, 2009 12:24 PM

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ESPN baseball guru Peter Gammons, while promoting his upcoming "Hot Stove, Cool Music" event, spoke at length this afternoon on sports radio station WEEI about the future of Jason Varitek, Mark Teixeira's icy past relationship with Alex Rodriguez, and numerous other topics. Here are some of his more notable comments:

On why Teixeira chose the Yankees over the Red Sox when the conventional wisdom was that he would sign with Boston:

Gammons: As we saw over the time line, once [Yankees general manager Brian] Cashman went to his house -- first Terry Francona and Theo {Epstein] went there -- five or six days later Cashman went, and that was decided that the Red Sox were the stalking horse and the Red Sox would go to a number and then the Yankees will sign him. And the Yankees did a very good job of saying, 'We're not in it, we're not in it' . . . all along, that's where he was going. Not because his father was a [high school] teammate of Bucky Dent, but he made it very clear watching it yesterday [and wading] through the baloney . . . Teixeira is Scott Boras's ultimate client, and he's very well-programmed . . . The Red Sox didn't know it, and in the end there was nothing they could do about it. He wanted to go to the Yankees, his wife doesn't like Boston -- apparently she doesn't like the stores on Newbury Street or something -- and in the end that's the way it goes.

On whether -- or when -- John Henry realized Teixeira was ticketed for New York:

Gammons: They didn't know it. They were waiting on the day that he signed . . . they thought that they were going to get him. They tried to close the deal on Monday night [Dec. 21], and Scott [Boras] said, 'Well, the Teixeiras are flying, and they haven't quite done this, and they haven't quite done that," and he kept putting it off an all along it was to just finish the language with the Yankees. That's the way it goes. The Yankees cut their $180 million and they got an extraordinary player. It's going to be interesting. As you probably remember, there was a lot of testiness between Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira when they played in Texas together . . . and I don't think Alex really cares about communicating with other players, we know [that] from Derek Jeter. Also, we haven't really seen Teixeira in a situation where the expectations are really that high, and he's going to have to deal with them in New York. It will be very interesting to see how it goes with the Yankees.

On whether there was a number that would have convinced Teixeira to come to the Sox:

Gammons: Maybe $220 million . . . This is one of the worst winters I can ever remember. What happened this winter is that, as the internet has expanded to become the media power, the flow of information is quickly controlled by agents. A lot of general managers and those of us in the business kid about a couple of sites referred to as ScottBoras.com, and Scott will float things out there and throw it out there and people will report it, you know, 'The Brewers are jumping in on Derek Lowe.' They're not jumping in on Derek Lowe. I mean, please. 'The Red Sox are really hot for Derek Lowe at $16 [million] . . . ' No, they're not. But Scott floats this stuff out, and he's able to get people to report it.

On whether the economy is affecting the free agent market for players like Manny Ramirez and Adam Dunn:

Gammons: In a state like Ohio . . . the economics are really bad. The Indians may have had the best offseason of anyone [signing reliever Kerry Wood, among others], and they can't sell tickets. On the front page of the Sunday New York Times, there was a story that 10-12 major Broadway shows are closing down this month, the most ever. And I kind of compare that . . . they're luxury items the way baseball games have become luxury items, and I think that may be a tell-tale sign about the economy. A couple of friends of mine who were playing back in the mid-'90s -- Harold Reynolds was one of them -- remember after the strike, they all had to go down to Florida and go to a tryout camp. And Harold went from making about $4 million a year to about $200,000, and I think you're going to see a lot of guys on March 1 calling around asking for jobs. For instance, I know Derek Lowe feels very strongly that if A.J. Burnett is making $16 million a year, why am I not making a year? But this is not arbitration, this is the market, and the fact is there's no market [for him] at $16 million. Now, there could have been. He could have gotten four-times-$15 million from the Yankees, but A.J. Burnett's agents stopped Scott Boras [who is Lowe's agent] and beat him to the Yankees. The Yankees wanted Lowe, but A.J. Burnett's agents did a better job.

On whether there is a strain on the relationship between Boras and the Red Sox:

Gammons: Well, it's good that Scott didn't call back at 5 o'clock that afternoon [when Teixeira chose the Yankees] and try to sign up another player . . . I think in time, things will heal. In was unnecessary for Scott to try to lay some of the blame on Larry Lucchino, as if, you know, Teixeira didn't like him. Well if he didn't like him, tough. There are some hard feelings, but they'll do business again. We'll see what happens. I don't think he has anything else on the market that they'll go after right now.

On whether they Sox will sign Varitek, a Boras client:

Gammons: Well, if he calls and says, 'I'll sign at $2 million,' they might do it. If someone would just sign Varitek, the Red Sox would say, 'Thank you, we'll take the draft choices.' Now, I'm not sure anybody is going to sign him. One player said to me, 'Well, the Marlins might sign Varitek for $5 million.' No, they won't . . . they Marlins aren't giving up a first-round draft pick for Jason Varitek. Can't happen. I don't know what's going to happen . . . I still think the Red Sox will trade for a catcher, whether it's now or the 15th of March, and I don't know what's going to happen with Jason. It's too bad. How Scott Boras looked him in the eye and said, 'By the way, I turned down $10 million [in arbitration],' is beyond me. He turned down arbitration -- he would have made a minimum of $10 million, maybe $11 million. And there are a bunch of guys like that -- Jon Garland, Orlando Cabrera. There are a bunch of guys who are not even going to come close to what they made in arbitration.

On whether Varitek wanted to accept arbitration and Boras steered him a different way:

Gammons: I don't know. I know the players' association was strongly advising agents not to take arbitration. They felt that teams were trying to control players for one year at a lesser amount than they'd have to pay down the line. But again, if you're Jon Garland or Ben Sheets or Orlando Cabrera or Jason Varitek, it cost you a lot of money.

On how he sees the AL East at the moment:

Gammons: They actually asked me to do this last night on "SportsCenter." I took Tampa third, and I really like Tampa. Buster Olney disagreed -- he thinks Tampa is the team to beat with all of their young pitching . . . I don't see their bullpen coming close to doing what they did last year. I picked the Red Sox second, just because we don't know about the health of David Ortiz and Mike Lowell, and I think Josh Beckett will be fine. You never know about J.D. Drew's health. And the Yankees, with the innings that [CC] Sabathia and [Chien-Ming] Wang can give them and all the offense they should have, they clearly have to be the favorites.

Audio: Listen to Peter Gammons's appearance on WEEI here.

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