Thanks for the memories, Jacoby.
Funny, the things you find in the archives.
This version of Ellsbury scampering between first and second set to Benny Hill's "Yaxety Sax" theme doesn't have much to do with Jacoby Ellsbury following in the footsteps of Babe Ruth, Carl Mays, Sparky Lyle, Wade Boggs, Johnny Damon and Roger Clemens [among other notable ex-Red Sox players who eventually became Yankees].
But it was fun to watch.
The Red Sox were never really in the Jacoby Ellsbury sweepstakes, which ended Tuesday night when news broke that Ellsbury and the Yankees had agreed on a seven-year deal worth $153 million with a club option for an eighth. It's reportedly pending minor details and a physical.
As detailed here before the season was finished, it was clear his asking price was going to be far too much for Boston to bear.
Much of the reason for that was the fact that the Red Sox are still in Franchise Payroll Recovery Mode from the circumstances that triggered Great Salary Transplant of 2012, which jettisoned the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez [7 years, $154 million] and Carl Crawford [7 years, $142 million] and was the first step along the Golden Magic [Johnson] Road that ended with Boston's first Fenway Park World Series-clinching celebration in 95 years, #DrunkNapoli and Jake Peavy getting his own Duck Boat.
While the Red Sox took 86 years to recover from the "Curse of the Bambino," they've learned quickly from the "Curse of Carl Crawford" and appear to have an Old Testament aversion to the long-term, blockbuster deals that punctuated the last decade and start of this one.
Ellsbury's agent, Scott Boras, is an all-too easy target for fans upset with Ellsbury for spurning whatever offer[s] made by Red Sox and taking the big money and bright lights of the Bronx.
Boras did his job, which was to get the best possible contract for his client. Plain and simple. Ellsbury took care of himself and cashed in with the deal of a lifetime.
The thought of the oft-injured Ellsbury roaming center field in Yankee Stadium when he's 37 years old [perhaps in one of those carts you see at Target or Wal-Mart] might offer some comfort to spurned Red Sox fans.
Ellsbury went from bad guy [was he faking it or wasn't he?] to good guy during the 2011 season. The same teammates who questioned his determination after a rib injury left the franchise in ruins on the field, in the standings and with its fan base.
So what's left for the Red Sox in center field?
Shane Victorino is one option, shifting over from right.
Jackie Bradley Jr. is not ready for prime time [he wasn't on any postseason roster], nor is he ready for full-time duty in center field. He can't come close to replacing Ellsbury's numbers [.298, .355, .426 with 52 steals and 92 runs scored]. The Red Sox appear still viable in the chase for Shin-Soo Choo [he's represented by Boras] or [doubtful] Carlos Beltran.
Who among us would turn down an extra $50 million or so over six or seven years to play baseball in Boston over New York, Chicago or Mars?
Not me, not you, not Ellsbury.
No, you wouldn't.
There's a "hometown discount", then there's a "hometown discount".
Dustin Pedroia took a "hometown discount" when he signed a seven-year, $110 million extension to stay in Boston during this past season. Perhaps had he let his former deal expire, he could have made out significantly better in the long run financially. But not $50 million better.
Not only is Pedroia's heart in Boston. He has a heart.
Ellsbury has possesses many strong attributes: speed, power on occasion, an uncanny ability to make contact, grace in center field.
But he's no Pedroia when it comes to passion, at least in the field. The front of his uniform is rarely dirty, or even grass-stained in the seven inning, never mind the first. He all too often pulled up on fly balls and yet was never hesitant when it came to stealing bases, especially this past season when he was heading into free-agency.
Ellsbury was beloved by millions of fans and helped bring much of that "sex appeal" that Tom Werner was in desperate need of to help boost NESN's ratings at least according to Terry Francona's recent biography.
There was plenty of reason for Red Sox fans to love Ellsbury, even if they weren't titillated by his taut backside. His numbers at the plate and on the basepaths in Boston, when he was healthy, were solid if not spectacular. His 162-game average with Boston his .297/.350/.439 and he averaged 55 steals and 108 runs. Substantial numbers, especially coming from the top of the order. He gave the team a bona fide leadoff hitter, when he was healthy.
In his seven years with the Red Sox, Ellsbury, who turned 30 on Sept. 11, earned two World Series rings. We all got free tacos in 2007 when he stole the first base of the World Series. And in 2013 his most memorable moment in the World Series came when he didn't steal a base, was almost picked off and delivered perhaps the final crushing morale blow/humiliation to the Cardinals in Game 6.
He stabilized the Red Sox up the middle. And while his arm was suspect, and will look even less effective in the monstrous space of center field in Yankee Stadium, he did cover acreage better than any other Red Sox center fielder in a generation [or since Coco Crisp], when he was healthy.
Signing Ellsbury for a $90-$100 million contract over six or seven years [$15 million per or so] would have been a sound investment, considering the marketplace dynamics and the other players available to the Red Sox this offseason. Any more money over a longer term didn't make financial sense for the Red Sox, given the risks present due to Ellsbury's age and injury history.
The Yankees, on the other hand, are so desperate they'd probably sign Roger Clemens if he decided to come out of retirement.
Even with this Crawford-esque deal, Ellsbury won't even crack the top three on the Yankees' payroll roster next season. Alex Rodriguez, who turns 39 in July, will cost them $27.5 million in 2014 [$86 million overall through 2017, suspension appeal pending]. Pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who got pounded on a regular basis by the Red Sox this past season, will be paid $24.4 million. And Mark Teixeira [remember him?] is due, drum roll please, $22,500,000. New catcher Brian McCann is also getting $17 million next season. The Yankees will also be carrying Derek Jeter, who turns 40 in June, for $12 million in 2014.
By the way, Yankees still don't have a legit second baseman in the fold. Their latest offer to Robinson Cano was seven years and $170 million. Cano's most-recent request was nine years at $252 million with a $29 million vesting option. And were not talking Monopoly money.
Admission to the Bronx Zoo has never been so expensive.
John, Larry, Tom and Ben have earned the benefit of the doubt on this deal, even if Mr. Henry won't be reinvesting those saved millions into his newspaper's digital sports lineup. Cherington's most notable move this off season, signing catcher A.J. Pierzynski, was blown off the front page of the internet by news of Ellsbury's shift to pinstripes.
Perhaps it was fitting that on the day reports broke of Ellsbury leaving center field in Boston to play center field for the Yankees, following the path of
Judas Johnny Damon, the Red Sox signed a former high school teammate of Damon's in Pierzynski [they played together at Orlando's Dr. Phillips High School].
Ah, the circle of life, or meaningless baseball trivia.
On Monday, April 21, the Red Sox will play Baltimore at home on Patriots' Day. The 2014 Boston Marathon will be run that day, 371 days after the 2013 race and the bombings that scarred it forever. There will undoubtedly be countless ceremonies across the city, at Fenway Park and elsewhere commemorating both the darkest day in Boston's post-Revolutionary War history and so many stories of survival and recovery.
The next night, Ellsbury returns to Fenway Park with the Yankees. The reaction, undoubtedly, will be mixed, at least judging from the voices of fans heard last night via social media. The timing will offer plenty of somber perspective. Maybe, just maybe, Ellsbury will be greeted with an appreciative ovation and a nice video tribute, not to mention his 2013 World Series ring.
He certainly deserves it.
Ellsbury gave the Red Sox several years of top-caliber baseball and helped the Red Sox to two championships before he took the money and ran - to New York.
Perhaps, once, that would trigger outrage and anger. But now, in the aftermath of both the Red Sox recent history with lucrative contracts and the success of 2013, his loss and defection to New York doesn't sting nearly as much as it would have under different circumstances.
Thanks for the memories, Jacoby.
We'll leave you with this:
Congrats on your nice, new contract.
And we wish you nothing but failure and bad luck in New York.
After all, you're a Yankee now.
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