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Calm, cool, and collected

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff January 1, 2009 05:59 AM

Ever since the Grinch, looking suspiciously like Yankees general manager Brian Cashman but with a slightly less greenish tint, swooped down from Mount Steinbrenner (rumored to be nothing more than an enormous stack of cash) and swiped Mark Teixeira from beneath the Red Sox’ Christmas tree, all of the sad citizens of Red Sox Nation have had one collective comment for young Theo Lou Who:

Well, that went well. What now, genius?

What, you expected more of that Dr. Seuss jibber-jabber? Hey, you know how it goes: Here in icy New England, cynicism is a traditional part of the holiday mood. And in the hours after the Yankees surprised just about everyone other than — ahem — me by signing Teixeira when conventional wisdom suggested he was already gift-wrapped for the Red Sox, the frustration was palpable and justified. He was supposed to be ours. But in the time it took for agent Scott Boras to whisper, “The Yankees have made an offer” into a media lackey’s ear, he was gone, to The Enemy, no less, and although the plot twist didn’t necessarily ruin a Red Sox fan’s holiday season, the eggnog didn’t taste quite as good this year, either.

Though it was convenient and cathartic to vent about Epstein and the Red Sox front office in the immediate aftermath of the Teixeira signing, the more consideration that was given to the way the situation unfolded, the more apparent the truth became: The Yankees, hindered a year ago by a lineup featuring a lot of famous names producing a lot of underwhelming numbers, coveted Teixeira, a 28-year-old Goody Two Cleats with 203 homers in six full seasons, at least as much as the Red Sox did, and their intent was to trump each and every high bid until they got their man. We didn’t know it as it was happening, but it turns out the Red Sox never had a chance. Someday, Teixeira might even admit as much.

Yet in a vaguely ironic sort of way, losing out on Teixeira has made it easier to appreciate Epstein and the bloodlessness with which he approaches his job. Many general managers, if not most, would react to losing out on a coveted free agent to a rival by throwing a blank check at the next-best thing, particularly if the fan base is clamoring for a countermove. Yet there has been no indication whatsoever that the club plans on pursuing anyone from that second tier of free-agent bats — Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu — and that’s as it should be. Each is a flawed player who doesn’t fit the club’s needs at the moment. Teixeira was a special case, a patient, prime-of-career slugger whom they have coveted for years and who fits their philosophy perfectly, and no one else available is nearly as appealing. Kudos to Epstein for not convincing himself otherwise.

So for the time being, yes, the status quo is the way to go for the Red Sox. Oh, there are exceptions — Epstein is relentlessly creative and proactive in terms of player procurement, perhaps even more so now that the Yankees reside in their own stratosphere economically, and the report that the Red Sox inquired about reacquiring one-time phenom Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins certainly falls into the category of “due diligence.” But the Red Sox as currently constituted are a deep, richly talented team, one that needs just a savvy tweak or two to its roster to be ready for the new season in the fiercely competitive American League East.

One item already crossed off Epstein’s short to-do list: Acquiring a capable fourth or fifth starter. With any luck, he may have found Terry Francona and John Farrell a pitcher who is going to make all of them look very smart: former Dodgers workhorse Brad Penny. If the right shoulder injury that quickly turned Penny’s ’08 season from promising to abysmal has healed — and by most accounts, it has — this is a brilliant low-risk, high-reward signing. Penny’s career adjusted ERA+ is 106, all of five points lower than A.J. Burnett’s (average is 100), and he owns more career postseason victories than Burnett and CC Sabathia combined. (Penny 3, Filthy Rich New Yankees 2.) But do you know what the main difference is between Penny and Burnett? Well, yes, roughly $77 million. But mostly this: Penny had the bad luck to get injured during his contract year; Burnett, for once, remained healthy. Penny’s misfortune could be the Red Sox’ bargain; Burnett’s fortune may be the Yankees’ albatross.

A Red Sox fan can only hope the pitchers’ fates play out in such a delightful manner. Yankees fans, uncharacteristically quiet in recent years for some odd reason, are thumping their furry chests again — yes, women included — apparently still blissfully ignorant that the standings aren’t determined in order of payroll. Their gleeful bleating in the days after the Teixeira signing was enough to make a Sox fan long for the New York silence of last October.

For now, though, we find our peace in this: The Red Sox of Theo Epstein remain uncommonly shrewd and prepared, and in the end, it will serve them well yet again. The Red Sox may not have received the holiday gift they wanted — damned Mark Teixeira, damned Scott Boras, damned Grinch — but as we optimistically ponder the season ahead, we can’t help but find ourselves stumbling back around to the words of that Seuss fella one more time:

Oh, the places they’ll go.

The Red Sox may not win the bidding wars, but the on-field battles to come will be a different matter. Bring it on, Bronx. The old drama is back.

OT columnist Chad Finn is a sports reporter for Boston.com and can be reached at finn@globe.com

11 comments so far...
  1. Thanks for some "come in off the ledge" perspective on the Tex fallout. Of course as fans all we know is what we hear in the media & had there not been so many reports of Tex already getting decked out for his Fenway Uni, this wouldn't have stung so much. If the Sox had offered $180 Mil, Cashman would have said $190, and on and on in the kind of idiotic bidding war that Elaine from Seinfeld once engaged in against Susan, her bra-less rival, over a set of JFK's golf clubs. Just want your thoughts on the one and only scenario that would trump a return of Manny on the crazy-meter, but would it seems actually fulfill a need (a big bat in the middle of the lineup, exclusive DH & protection for Ortiz): Barry Bonds. Is it really

    that crazy?

    Posted by spacemanfan04 January 2, 09 11:07 AM
  1. Great article, Chad. I was one of the people that berated you on that infamous "what if Papi were traded" article and I want to say that I apologize for that. You are my favorite writer on the Boston staff and I hope you stay around for a long time.

    P.S. If you run into Theo, put him in a full-nelson until he agrees to bring HanRam back to Boston, lol

    Posted by Cinco Ocho January 2, 09 09:36 PM
  1. Hey Chad, great take. And thoroughly on point. The Sox will be fine. They have the best defensive infield and three to four offensive threats (20-30 homers) in the lineup. Papi needs protection, but Mikey Lowell will be back, Youk, Pedey, and a presumably great second year for Ells will teat us well. The Sox will be fine, and let the Rays and Sox do their damage to the Bronx Bombouts. Their hairy chested females (laugh out loud line) will be fine in third place for yet another year.

    Posted by Capt. Stu January 2, 09 10:55 PM
  1. Good article, Chad. Now maybe you could go talk to Massarotti about his Tex man-crush and explain to him that Tex was NEVER going to be in Boston, regardless of what they offered? He seems to be having trouble with this concept.

    Posted by Rico January 3, 09 01:43 AM
  1. Chad 1 Massaotti 0.

    Posted by Joe January 3, 09 10:58 AM
  1. Whoa Chad - "a deep, richly talented team" ?? I would use that description for the Rays, not the Sox. There are large question marks in six spots in the batting order: (DH - C - SS - 3B - CF - RF) and we have 3 pitchers in the rotation that I feel give us better than a 50% chance to win. Even Papelbon had some not-so-glorious moments last year. The Rays are solid and young at every position, have a great bench (no DH yet) and with the addition of Price they have 5 young WINNING starters to go along with Joe Maddon.......you think this post is just crap ??? I'll write back at the end of June to either remind you or gladly admit I was wrong !!!

    Posted by samteka January 3, 09 06:16 PM
  1. It appeared to me that contracting the kind of time/money that Texeira was looking for was, in fact, a going for next-best-thing kind of move. He's very good, simply put. However, compared to Papi in his productive years and Ramirez in his many years, Texeira is a fallback plan in a year where there are no bigger fish.

    Masterson and Ellsbury didn't exactly spend much time in Pawtucket. Neither did Paps. Ergo, there's typically been some good Sox brew on the stove in Rhodey. Red Sox fans need to stop being so impatient. (We've got a great farm.) After all, it's not like we've been waiting since 1918- those days are over!

    Posted by DjM January 4, 09 01:02 AM
  1. Self congratulatory ahems bespeak of insecurity .. It was a no brainer that the Yank$$ would sign Texeira-They needed him more and have the most dough-

    What do you have to say about whether Papi used steroids? His face was square for awhile in say 04 to 06-He looked like an ancient Greek warrior, . He gave alot of thrills to Sox nation (to say the least) & has an engaging public personality but his face & trends suggest inquiry by an "objective journalist". If you know any maybe you can suggest they investigate.

    If Papi is no longer a 40 HR guy-Will he even be 30 HR guy?

    A. Dunn becomes an option -Especially since it appears no one seems to be bidding him up-If LA resigns the Manny-Dunn could be a good investment- as DH-

    In fact offensive numbers -wise please compare and contrast Dunn & Texeira-

    Dunn Ks much but also walks- Overall good OBP & he is a lock 40 HR-

    That Papi & Lowell had injury marred o8s and are of a certain age leaves matters uncertain for 09.

    MM


    Posted by ossiechavarria@yahoo.com January 4, 09 10:52 AM
  1. Finn is absolutely right--the Yankees were going to get Texiera all along because they needed him more and money was no object. It would have worked against the Sox' interests if Theo got into a bidding war with the Yankees. He would still lose Tex and would only be bidding up Kevin Youkilis' asking price when it ocmes time to sign him to a long-term deal.

    Posted by kaycee January 6, 09 08:31 AM
  1. I find it sort of funny that the sports writers in Boston keep saying that the Yankees swooped down and stole Teixeira when all along Boston was being used to up the Yankee money. Boston was never in the race for Teixeira...never. So wipe away your tears boys and sit back and watch the Steinbrenners go to the city on their knees and explain how they put all their money into 4 players, and now they need help paying for the new staduim. So do you think they will allow the common street people to watch from those fancy high priced boxes since it was money since it was the money for the poor taht paid for them?

    Posted by Anonymous January 7, 09 01:50 AM
  1. FYI Spacemanfan04, Elaine bid against Sue Ellen Mischke, heiress to the Oh Henry! candy bar fortune.

    Posted by beauregard jenkins jr. January 8, 09 07:08 AM
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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.
Tony Massarotti is a Boston Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. He is currently spotlighted as a featured columnist on Boston.com.
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Tom Caron serves as studio host for NESN's Boston Red Sox coverage.
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Bob Lobel was a WBZ-TV sportscaster for 29 years, anchoring more than 10,000 sports reports.
Chad Finn is a sports reporter at the Globe and founder of the Touching All The Bases blog. Before joining the Globe, he was an award winning columnist at the Concord Monitor.

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