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Red Sox drop the ball

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff December 25, 2008 05:58 AM

Please, no whining, crying, kvetching, or moaning. The Red Sox had their chance. They have the money. They lost Mark Teixeira to the Yankees for maybe $1 million to $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 neighborhood of $170 million. The Sox drew a proverbial line in the sand last week when owner John Henry issued the statement that the Sox were "not going to be a factor" in the Teixeira sweepstakes. Tuesday, with agent Scott Boras holding his hand, Teixeira crossed it.

Maybe Henry's remarks were posturing, and maybe they weren't. Maybe he was merely starting the damage control. 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 might be nothing more than a third-place team.

Before we go any further, let us state the obvious: The Red Sox are not going to collapse. They have a good team with good management and a good farm system, and they have the money to compete for any free agent in the business. The Yankees entered this off-season far more desperate than the Red Sox did, which is why New York 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 days and weeks, Sox officials (who thus far have generally declined to discuss all things Teixeira) will put 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 their pants pulled down.

The money? Please. Despite what has generally been one of the highest payrolls 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 to $60 million to spend this off-season. They could have given Teixeira $25 million a year, and they still would have had money to spend on lesser needs.

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

When you get right down to it, does it really matter if the Sox offered Teixeira $21.25 million a year, $22.5 million a year or $23 million a year? No, no, no. Once you get to that stage, either you need the player or you donít. If the Red Sox believed the latter, they could have pulled out of the negotiations altogether instead of suggesting they would not be ďa factor.Ē It simply makes no sense to stop bidding based on principle, particularly after dropping $51.11 million for the exclusive rights to negotiate a contract with 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 share. There is now serious question about whether Boras and Teixeira bargained in good faith, whether they had any real interest in Boston at all. Earlier this off-season, 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 three years ago.

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 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, donít 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. Weíre 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 off-season. 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.

Tony Massarotti can be reached at tmassarotti@globe.com and can be read at www.boston.com/massarotti

12 comments so far...
  1. Not true!! The Sox did not drop the ball. Teixeira wife was uncomfortable and did not want to live in Boston. The Sox were never an option for him to come and play. I truely believe if the Yankees had said No on Tuesday he would be a National today.

    Posted by Bob December 25, 08 07:42 AM
  1. I don't think there's any question at all about Boras and Teixeira bargaining in bad faith anymore, Mazz. Even Peter Gammons suggested as much on ESPN Radio when he said he "was convinced that the negotiations with the Nationals and Red Sox were hoaxes." Sounds like Teixeira wanted to be a Yankee all along, doesn't it? Boras did what he always does, and got his man the deal and the team that he wanted, regardless of the fallout. I just wonder how much, or whether, this situation will affect Jason Varitek? Can the Sox, truly, even consider sitting down across the table with Boras anytime soon and not have this color any meaningful discussions about Tek?

    Posted by Tim December 25, 08 06:39 PM
  1. Tony, your off base on this one. Tex. did not want to come to Boston. That's why Borass call the Yankees to get then in.

    Posted by alhouse December 25, 08 08:06 PM
  1. I can't agree with you on your overall assessment. You say, "They lost Mark Teixeira to the Yankees for maybe $1 million to $2 million a year, roughly 1 percent of their 2008 payroll." That would be true if we knew that the Yankees were willing to go 180 million and no higher. When were the Yankees ever outbid for a marquis player they wanted (or any player for that matter)? Matsuzaka is the only one, and that's because the bids were sealed. If the Red Sox had exceeded 180 million, the Yankees simply would have bid more. Didn't the Yankees say that they were not going to go 5 yrs and 80 million for Burnett, then the Braves do and the Yankees go 5 and 82.5. So once the Yankees decided they wanted Teixeira, the Red Sox had no shot. I think that you'd have to admit that.

    Posted by Jack Peters December 26, 08 05:16 AM
  1. Come on, Tony. Do you really think the Yankees just happened to be walking along, casually minding their own business, when out of the corner of their eyes they see a shiny bright quarter just sitting on the sidewalk waiting to be picked up? Of course not. The Yankees were ALWAYS going to swoop in at the last moment and offer TB (that's Teixeira/Boras) more money than the Sox were going to offer. If they Sox had offered $180 million over eight years, the Yankees would have offered $185 million. For you to imply that Red Sox some how dropped the ball here is grossly naive.

    Posted by Vermonter17032 December 26, 08 09:58 AM
  1. If it was all about money, why haven't the Yankees won this century. I say let them do their thing, spend ridiculous amounts of money and let the Sox do their thing, build from within. Which, is a lot more rewarding, and it sends the right message to home grown players.
    For example, take Texeira, if they gave him $180 million, what would Youk be entitled to? Then what would they do with a true hero Lowell. What about Lars for example he might be the real deal. He has better numbers than, Pedroia had is the farm system and Lowrie and Youk had for that matter. How they goin? I say stay the course it's working

    Posted by Aussie Sox Fan December 26, 08 06:54 PM
  1. Among the reputations damaged during the engotiations, I would place Peter Gammons towards the top of the list.

    Posted by Robert December 26, 08 08:47 PM
  1. At some point the price for players truly gets to be ridiculous. Teixeira seems to be a consistent .300/30/100 type of player, so he'll do well in New York. But regular season performance isn't where the rubber meets the road. How great has A-Rod been in the post season? How come the Yankees haven't won with him?

    I've always thought it better to build from within. A strong farm system gives the Red Sox wide latitude and more options than simply buying players.

    You know, if CC, AJ and Tex don't live up to their hype and contracts and produce a championship, the New York press will have a field day. If Burnett has arm trouble again, if CC chokes in the playoffs again, if Tex is mearly good (not great), how does Cashman justify all that money? Did the Mets get their money's worth out of Beltran and Pedro?

    Posted by Stephen Harris December 27, 08 09:54 AM
  1. No Tony, YOU dropped the ball. Not only are all of the comments above correct, you left out one important factor-Tex got a no trade clause. After what happened here with Manny the Sox have obviously learned their lesson-NEVER give a player a no trade clause. Otherwise if they just don't feel like playing or giving their all or saying they're injured when you can't prove it, you have NO recourse. They still get paid and you can't trade them. That kind of inflexibility is about anti-Theo as you can get.

    Don't be fooled-if Tex and his wife don't like Boston they WOULD have if it was for 10 years and $200 million (hypocrites), but if they wanted to go to NY all along the Sox were just being used to drive up the price and maybe even intentionally embarrassed in the process. The Sox won 2 World Series having some sort of fiscal sanity, and while certainly having Tex here would be a help it's not like the Sox can't get someone at some point who gives you 80% that Tex does at half the cost. America is in a recession because many lived too high on the hog and got into bad deals-the Sox are being the smart ones in a bad economy. All those people who regretted the Yanks "swooping in" and getting ARod from the Sox 5 years ago...do you think he's worth the $28 million he got paid last year? He's 33 and has NINE years left on his deal at around $30 million per-what happens in 5 years when he stinks at 3B-you can't put him at 1B now...so are you going to pay $30 million for your DH? That's financial stupidity.

    Think ARod is worth that $28 million he was paid last

    Posted by BostonBR December 27, 08 01:22 PM
  1. GO SOX GO!

    Theo is a smart man and knows how to build a TEAM, the Yanks are a bunch of selfish, rich in it for the money ball players. They fail, they still get paid. The Red Sox will continue to do things the smart way, from within their own organization.

    Posted by Earl of Halifax December 27, 08 07:08 PM
  1. Earl of Halifax,

    Can you be any more out of touch? Can you tell me the last good move Theo has made since 2003 offseason? So what's the smart way, not spending your huge available monies, to address, say, Both catchers, SS, 3rd, center field, right field, your bull pen, your 4th outfieler and your bench? It's idiot, suckers like you that have launched ticket prices to $400 bucks a seat to watch the team pocket all the dough. And then you call them schrewd?

    Halifax is for losers and dirt bags.

    Posted by Earl is an idiot sucker fan December 30, 08 02:23 PM
  1. Stupid, Stupd comments in this article. Teixeira's wife did not want to live in Boston!!!! He favored New York!!! No matter what the Red Sox offered, they were going straight to the Yankees for at least a similar offer... Good God.... NEITHER OF THEM WANTED TO COME TO BOSTON...however They both wanted to use Boston to get more money from the Yankees.....and they did just as they planned.

    Posted by Linda December 30, 08 10:50 PM
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Charles P. Pierce writes for the Boston Globe Magazine. A long-time sportswriter and columnist, Pierce is a frequent guest on national TV and radio.
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