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Did Yanks win ... or did Sox just lose?

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  December 23, 2008 06:20 PM

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The Yankees and Mark Teixeira agreed on an 8-year contract worth a reported $180 million. (AP Photo)

Please, no whining, crying, kvetching or moaning. The Red Sox had their chance. They have the money. They ultimately lost Mark Teixeira to the Yankees for maybe $1 million-$2 million a year, roughly 1 percent of their 2008 payroll.

Unhappy holidays.

What a kick in the pants.

Whether or not you wanted to see Teixeira in a Red Sox uniform next year, you’re missing the point. The Red Sox wanted him and they wanted him badly. Roughly two months after making the final payments on Manny Ramirez’s eight-year, $160 million contract, the Sox are believed to have offered Teixeira an eight-year deal in the range of $170 million. The Sox drew a proverbial line in the sand last week when owner John Henry issued the statement that the Sox would "not be factor’’ in the Teixeira sweepstakes. Today, with agent Scott Boras holding his hand, Teixeira crossed it.

In retrospect, maybe Henry’s remarks were posturing and maybe they weren’t. Maybe he was merely starting the damage control for losing Teixeira to the Sox’ bitter rivals to the south. Whatever the case, the Red Sox now have to deal with the reality that the Yankees are very much back in business in the American League East and that the Sox currently might be nothing more than a third-place team.

Before we go any further, let us state the obvious truth that the Red Sox are not going to collapse. They have a good team with good management and good farm system, and they have the money to compete for any free agent in the business. The Yankees entered this season far more desperate than the Red Sox did, which is why New York now has spent in excess of $420 million on Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

Still, exactly what happened here? Did the Sox get used or did they just completely whiff? In the coming hours and days, Sox officials (who thus far have generally declined to discuss any all things Teixeira) will put out their spin on how they got their pockets picked by the Yankees. None of it will be worth a darn. Baseball is a results-oriented business, and the Red Sox seemingly had all of the necessary elements to make this work.

Instead, they got burned.

The money? Please. Despite what has generally been one of the highest the payroll in baseball over the last several years, Sox officials have publicly lamented an inability to compete with the absurdly wealthy Yankees. The argument was lame to begin with, and it is positively foolish with regard to Teixeira. With Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling and others off the payroll, the Sox had anywhere from $40 million-$60 million to spend this offseason. They could have given Teixeira $25 million per year if they chose, and they still would have had money to spend on lesser needs.

Instead, the Sox lost Teixeira for what amounted to about $10 million-$15 million over eight years, which is chump change for a franchise with an estimated value (including NESN and Fenway Park) of somewhere in the range of $1 billion. Sox officials celebrated the freezing of ticket prices earlier this offseason, but the gesture seems rather hollow when the team payroll now stands to drop by maybe 15-20 percent.

When you get right down to it, does it really matter if the Sox offered Teixeira $21.25 million per year, $22.5 million per year or $23 million per year? No, no, no. Once you get to that stage, you either need the player or you don’t. If the Red Sox believed the latter, they could have pulled out of the negotiations altogether instead of suggesting they would not be "a factor.’’ It simply makes no sense to stop bidding based on principle, particularly after dropping $51.11 million for the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka and another $70 million for J.D. Drew.

Where were the principles then?

Where was the line in the sand?

Lest the Sox be labeled the sole losers in this, think again. There is plenty of blame to be shared. There is now serious question as to whether agent Scott Boras and Teixeira bargained in good faith, whether they had any real interest in coming to Boston at all. Earlier this offseason, one major league executive whose team was not involved in the Teixeira talks stressed that Teixeira had the reputation of being someone who would accept the biggest bid, which was meant as a criticism. In this case, Teixeira ended up getting it from the Yankees, who swooped in the way they did with Johnny Damon precisely three years ago.

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Theo Epstein (Jim Davis / Globe Staff)

Nonetheless, this is Boston and these are the Red Sox, which means the actions of Boras and Teixeira are not nearly of equal concern. The bottom line here is that the Red Sox did not get this done. Theoretically, Sox general manager Theo Epstein could now look to improve the offense with upgrades at catcher and/or shortstop, each of which seemingly would require the Sox to make a trade. The problem there is that the Sox will have to give up young talent, too, which means Teixeira would have been a far better option because he would have cost them only money.

And before anyone suggests otherwise, don’t kid yourselves. The Sox need a middle- or end-of-the-rotation starter, too.

Is this all the end of the world? Of course not. We’re talking about baseball here.

In the interim, all involved parties will undoubtedly have plenty to say when the Teixeira deal becomes official in the coming days, and we caution you against believing any of it. No matter how you slice it, the Red Sox are getting their tails kicked this offseason. Anyone who suggests otherwise is perpetuating organizational propaganda, and the Red Sox suddenly appear to have slipped badly in a hardened AL East.

Soon, after all, Mark Teixeira officially will be a Yankee.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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