Several Red Sox players were sporting new undershirts in Fort Myers Tuesday that read simply: "Turn The [Expletive] Page."
No word if the other side read: "Have Your Read The Globe Today?"
The "This is our F--king City" Red Sox have traded the "Curse of the Bambino" for just plain old cursing.
The Red Sox are either emotionally moving on from last year's World Series Cup championship season or have been enlisted as subliminal salesmen for John W. Henry's media entity, which also happens to be The Parent Company of This Blog.
To the credit of the players, they have said all the right things in this offseason about focusing on what's ahead, once they parked their Duck Boats in Alabama, shaved off their beards or found their shirt in the dumpster behind Daisy Buchanan's on Newbury Street.
The Red Sox will undoubtedly monetize last season's worst-to-first campaign with as many shirts, hats, books, DVDs, trinkets, authentic uniform parts and whatever else they can come up with. Nothing wrong with that. Any Red Sox fan who endured the Nuclear Winter, never mind had their childhood scarred by whatever cataclysmic collapse happened to befall their generation, should savor and celebrate 2013 for at least another 95 years.
It is a baseball season that we will not see again in our lifetimes, and thank God given the circumstances that framed it.
But the biggest change in the Red Sox, if we are to believe Larry "He Who Runs The Red Sox" Lucchino hasn't taken place on player t-shirts or even on the roster.
Lost amid Lucchino's passive-aggressive Pinstripe Envy from the other day was the subtle expression of the team's new philosophy.
"We're very different animals. I'm proud of that difference," Boston's President and CEO said of the Bronx Bombers. "I always cringe when people lump us together. Other baseball teams sometimes do that. They are still, this year at least, relying heavily on their inimitable old-fashioned Yankees style of high-priced, long-term free agents. I can't say I wish them well, but I think we've taken a different approach."
The Yankees were once the "Evil Empire."
Now, they're "Different Animals,"
What's next, "Misguided Adversaries?"
As some one who chanted "Reggie Sucks" [misguided days of youth] as a kid, told Lou Piniella that "you ruined my teen years," and raised a son who wore his Red Sox hat for two straight days during his first visit to Manhattan, this is very weak Clam Sauce.
Of all the profane and bitter invective hurled at the Yankees by Red Sox players and fans for the past 113 years, no one better nailed it than Bill Lee. His shoulder was mauled in an epic May 1976 brawl at Yankee Stadium. In the aftermath, Lee stated he was attacked by "Billy Martin's Brown Shirts."
The Red Sox were defending American League champions that night when Herr Nettles delivered his cheap shot to Lee's shoulder. Whatever "Curses" that haunted the Red Sox had not been commercialized as of yet. The Red Sox were just a good team that could never quite win Game 7 of the World Series or crucial games when the pennant and/or playoffs were on the line. [See 1948, '49 and '72].
There's little question the Yankees are living on a long-term lease inside Lucchino's head. His "Evil Empire" remark from 2002 was made in the wake of the Yankees swiping Jose Contreras while Theo Epstein was off destroying his hotel room in Nicaragua.
"The Evil Empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America." The name stuck so well the Yankees have turned it into a marketing slogan and won a court battle in 2013 to keep others from using it.
Team President Randy Levine told the New York Daily News that "I feel bad for Larry; he constantly sees ghosts and is spooked by the Yankees."
For those of us who aren't Red Sox team presidents or Yale Law School grads, the simple reaction to the question of the Yankees is: "[Expletive] them. We don't waste our time on third-place teams."
The Yankees will do better against Boston than they did in 2013. They can hardly do any worse, given the Red Sox won 13 of the 19 games the teams played. The Fenway denizens even got to laugh with [and a little bit at] Mariano Rivera during his Farewell to Arm tour. It's easier to laugh with Mariano when your team has beaten Mariano when it counted the most and had the A.L. East in your pocket.
The Yankees spent $458 million this off season for Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and untested in the Western Hemisphere pitcher Masahiro "Don't Call Me Dice-K" Tanaka. That will prove terrifying for either the Yankees or the rest of the American League East depending how well they perform.
Lucchino scoffs at this approach, or least that's what he's leading us to believe. These new "Kansas City Red Sox" won't be doing long-term, big-money contracts for veterans at or past their prime any more.
You know, guys like Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew. The only reason why Lucchino and the Red Sox can take the self-righteous and quite smug fiscal highroad is because of the triple-organ transplant [sorry, Nick Punto] they received from Magic Johnson and the Dodgers in August of 2012. [Remember, Henry said didn't want Crawford because the team had too many left-handed batters, but OK'd the deal nonetheless.]
The phrase "Ben Cherington doesn't get enough credit" was said 5,383,294 times last season in New England for a reason, as well.
Lucchino is deserving of plenty of credit for 2013's success, as well. But going forward, it appears that the days of 7-year, $142 million deals are long-gone in Boston. Not all bad news. But this does not bode well for the 99.3 percent of Red Sox Fandom who wants to see Jon Lester locked up over the long term.
Any hope of a substantial "hometown discount" has already disappeared, especially once you consider what Lester's version of that "discount" actually means.
There are a few certainties when it comes to Lester and this new "Kansas City Red Sox" approach. One, the cost of signing him goes up every day. If the Red Sox intend to keep him, he will never be cheaper than is today. If they wait until after the season and Lester performs in any way close to how he did last year, he will command anywhere between $28 and $30 million a year for at least five seasons.
There's the injury factor. But not signing Lester before he becomes a free-agent fearing he might get hurt makes the team's eight-year, $110 million extension given to Dustin Pedroia completely senseless.
The Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Mets Tigers, Phillies et. al will all eagerly and aggressively bid for Lester services even if he goes 10-13 with a 4.21 ERA. Don't kid yourselves. Lester will at the top of the free-agent charts next winter. Chicken and Beergate is now ancient history, right along with 1978 Boston Massacre and Mrs. Yawkey's trip to the Red Sox clubhouse before the 10th inning of Game 6 against the Mets.
Lester's career cratered during the Regime of Terror known as the Bobby Valentine Administration, but so did the rest of the team's. The presence of John Farrell has been an undeniable boost to his mental and physical performance. Any "hometown discount" Lester may consider is more of a John Farrell discount. The manager is the best thing the Red Sox have in helping to keep Lester in Boston, aside from $130 or so million.
The unanswered question is: Do these new "Kansas City" Red Sox want to sign Lester to a long-term deal after this year at anything close to market price?
Given what Lucchino said about the Yankees the other day, that answer right now appears to be "no."
The Red Sox still have a payroll of $167 million or so for 2014, once you factor in all the incidentals and subtract Ryan Dempster's $13.25 million. So there's no shortage of dollars being expended on payroll inside 4 Yawkey Way.
But of that, $50 million belongs to David Ortiz, Jake Peavy and John Lackey. Ortiz is signed through only this season. Peavy has a $15 million player option for 2015 but it can't vest unless he pitches 335.3 innings this season, which won't happen. And Lackey is due to come back in 2015 for a team option at $500,000. There will be plenty of money to sign Lester for 2015 and beyond.
But the Red Sox claim they are no longer in the business of beyond much beyond three years.
Lester is a bonafide ace and a No. 1 starter on 25 or so teams in the majors. He's a durable, proven, left-hander who is 3-0 in the World Series with an ERA of 0.43. The last time the Red Sox had a starting pitcher with an ERA under 1.00 in the World Series with three or more starts, he too was a lefty and his name was Babe Ruth.
And you know what happened when the Red Sox let him leave town.
It spawned the creation of that "Evil Empire."
And one baseball "Evil Empire" every 1,000 years is enough.
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