Deep down, be honest: What makes more sense?
Whatever the hatred level is today for Alex Rodriguez and the prospects of him replacing Mayor Mike Lowell in a Red Sox uniform, shouldn’t Theo Epstein and company be more comfortable backing up the Brinks truck for him in lieu of committing long-term to their incumbent?
Even with a potential record-breaking contract attached, Rodriguez makes all the business sense for Boston that Lowell simply does not. In a lineup that includes David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, he might put up even more astounding career numbers playing in a park where he has had more home runs (nine) and runs batted in (25) than any other park outside of Yankee Stadium the past three seasons.
He’d make his assault on the all-time home run record in a Red Sox uniform, in our own backyard. And when the Red Sox find themselves without Manny Ramirez in one, two, or three seasons from now, they will have assured themselves of a top-dollar marquee attraction for years to come.
For $350 million? Probably not. But seven years at $210 million might be realistic.
But for all the reasons Rodriguez doesn’t make sense, there’s Lowell sitting there, the polar opposite of what A-Rod brings to the team in personality, karma, and postseason production. While Lowell is coming off a World Series MVP performance, Rodriguez is 0 for his last 27 playoff at-bats with runners on base. One is reviled in New England, the other hailed as the epitome of class. A-Rod has never won a ring with any of the three teams he’s left on rocky terms. Lowell now has two.
Rodriguez makes sense for the business. Lowell makes sense for the team. Somewhere in the middle Epstein and the Red Sox need to make their decision for the future at third, whether that be A-Rod (the owner’s choice?), Lowell (the people’s choice), Plan C (Miguel Cabrera?), or Plan D (Kevin Youkilis, address first base).
For all the hue and cry that is bound to be heard in the streets of Boston should Lowell receive, and accept, a four-year, $60 million deal from the Yankees, these will be the same voices that this morning are scoffing at New York’s new deal with 36-year-old catcher Jorge Posada, worth $52.4 million. The Yankees are stuck with Johnny Damon for two more seasons, while Jacoby Ellsbury will more than likely be chasing down fly balls and breaking hearts at Fenway for the foreseeable future. Pedro Martinez is broken down heading into the final year of his deal with the Mets.
The worst thing that can happen in this instance is for Lowell to follow suit.
Lowell certainly has his supporters in the Red Sox clubhouse and among the fans. But it will be interesting to see how the latter would react should the third baseman regress as he approaches 40, while A-Rod is out West making people forget about Barry Bonds. As solid of a career as Lowell has had, is he really a $15 million a year player?
Bring up J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo all you want for examples as to how the Red Sox have awarded rich contracts to sub-performers, but the first person that can fully explain why the need for either of those albatrosses might as well put a few other mysteries of the universe on their plate next. Let’s not forget that 2007 was a career year for Lowell, a contract year in which he didn’t suffer his trademark second-half swoon. Is that alone worth overlooking the remainder of the resume?
And while we’re discussing resumes, it’s hard not to notice the guy who is potentially his replacement carries with him one of the greatest in the sport’s history.
At what price though? And no, I’m not talking dollars, but sense. Rest assured most fans will come around in their lifelong mission to hate all things A-Rod — in some period of undetermined time — but it won’t necessarily be the same in the clubhouse, where the captain of the team, Jason Varitek, will have to bury his lingering feelings for Rodriguez for the betterment of the club. Is A-Rod’s postseason history a concern, or a matter of bad luck and matchups?
He can be a dirty player, but so can Rodney Harrison, and he’s embraced in this region, HGH and all. What would be your average New England sports fan’s reaction to the name Randy Moss a year ago? People change in the right situation, for the most part. Or at the very least, the perception of them changes.
But with such a deep hatred for this particular player, would it ever really work in Boston? Please. Fans conveniently forget past transgressions when the villain embraces their laundry. By May, June at the latest, “Rodriguez” t-shirts would be en vogue at Fenway.
In Rodriguez, you’re paying top-dollar for the top player in the game, with plenty of baggage.
In Lowell, you’re paying half that for fewer years, with a proven personality record, and only half, maybe two-thirds of the offensive production.
At the age of 34, Lowell isn’t the answer long-term for this club. If he gets a four-year deal elsewhere, yes, even New York, he’s likely to take it amid the moans of Red Sox fans, which will grow louder with every A-Rod update. But the Sox didn’t listen to any negative feedback in their curious pursuit of Drew last winter (but perhaps they should have), and they’re not going to be swayed by talk radio and fan message boards this time either. He’s only a year younger, but comes with a Hall of Fame career that has shown no signs of breaking or slowing down at any point soon.
He’s a franchise player, marketable overseas where they don’t know enough to despise him so. His pursuit of Bonds would likely allow new business opportunities for the club, always looking for new marketing avenues in an environment once thought to be maxed out. He’s another superstar in a town that already boasts Tom Brady, Manny Ramirez, Kevin Garnett, and David Ortiz.
But while Mike Lowell isn’t half the player Alex Rodriguez is, A-Rod will never have the same affect on his fellow teammates as Lowell managed, instilling veteran leadership into a team that will be getting progressively younger over the coming years.
Both make sense for very different reasons. And the route the Red Sox take will speak volumes about what they deem to be most important.