Same rivalry, new faces

When David Ortiz takes to the field plate later tonight, it will mark his 101st regular season game as a member of the Red Sox facing the Yankees. Since 2003, no one on Boston has faced the Yankees more often than Ortiz has, and he knows the rivalry quite well.

Lately, though, Ortiz has been a shell of the player who killed the Yankees in 2003 and 2004. As Alan Schwarz detailed yesterday, Ortiz is an out-of-shape DH-only player, and those do not age gracefully. While his bat has shown signs of life over the last few games, he is hitting .220/.294/.322 with no home runs in the early going. He’s either primed for a breakout or has entered what we’ll diplomatically call the “decline” phase of his career.

Yesterday, in preparation for this weekend’s big series against the Yankees, the Red Sox vet offered up some unsolicited advice to the Yankees. Particularly, Ortiz decided to warn Joba Chamberlain about his past headhunting. “None of that, man — just play the game the way it’s supposed to be, and that’s about it,” Ortiz said “This is a guy, as good as he is, the next step for him will be to earn respect from everybody in the league. He’s not a bad guy, but when things like that happen, people get the wrong idea.”

Apparently, Kevin Youkilis can’t speak up for himself.

Anyway, when Joba takes the mound tonight, he’ll get the hero’s welcome in Boston, but he has a game to win. He has to keep his emotions — and his fastball — under control, and he will have to go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox ace. Last year, he outdueled Josh Beckett in Boston to announce his arrival as a Major League starter. This year, he’ll have to go toe-to-toe with Jon Lester, arguably a better pitcher than Beckett. It is no small task, and with boos raining down, it won’t be the easiest environment in which Joba must pitch.

But Chamberlain isn’t the only player due for some Boston scorn. While A-Rod, the object of New England’s collective affection, won’t be there, Mark Teixeira will, and you know what they say about a lover scorned. As the Yanks’ first baseman said to The Star-Ledger, he expects a hostile crowd tonight. “I’m sure they’ll be heavy boos,” Teixeira said. “I would expect nothing less from those fans. I would expect nothing less than tons of boos and tons of energy in the stadium. This is a great rivalry. It’s going to be a fun weekend.”

The Red Sox will be booing at Teixeira because he had the audacity to take a better offer in New York when the team’s owner refused to up his deal by another $10 million. Teixeira reminded anyone listening of that fact yesterday. “I enjoyed talking with the Red Sox all offseason,” he said. “There’s no question why the Red Sox are in the position they are. Because he’s an incredible GM and they have a great organization. There were opportunities for every team that I dealt with. Every team had a chance. Every team was given an opportunity to make their best offer. In the end, the Yankees made the best and it was a great fit for me.”

And so it goes. It’s the same game with new faces, and those new faces are fitting in off the field quite nicely. Welcome to the Red Sox/Yankees Rivalry 2009.

VP of RSN: Teixeira will ‘get booed as much as A-Rod’

Just to round off the early Sunday morning, Ken Davidoff caught up with Rob Crawford, elementary school teacher and vice president of Red Sox Nation. Whatever that means. Davidoff wanted get an idea of Fenway’s eventual reaction to A-Rod on April 24, but Crawford thinks they’ll hold just as much for Mark Teixeira, the one who got away. It will make for an interesting atmosphere when the Yankees send up their three and four hitters. Both were rumored to be Red Sox, but both ended up in pinstripes. “We really thought we had him,” said Crawford.

Hank responds to Boston salary cap jabs

When the Red Sox leadership blamed the Yanks and called for a salary cap yesterday, it was really only a matter of time before Yankee attack dog Hank Steinbrenner got in on the action. While Hank’s comments were not up to their usual biting self and generally pale in comparison to anything George used to unleash, the Steinbrenner son did not disappoint.

In his response, he defended the Yanks’ spending on revenue sharing grounds. “Along with a few other teams, we’re basically baseball’s stimulus package,” he said. “As long as we’re..giving all this money to other teams in revenue sharing, a staggering amount, we should be able to spend on salaries what we want to. Because of revenue sharing and because of the popularity nationwide, the Yankees are critical to baseball.” Amen, Hank. Amen.

Red Sox officials renew salary cap calls

After suffering through an off-season of Yankee spending and losing out on Mark Teixeira at the last minute, Red Sox owner John Henry and team president/CEO Larry Lucchino have renewed their calls for a salary cap. Henry last called for a cap following the 2004 trade of Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers to the Yankees, and while the Boston officials feel that support may be growing among other owners for an “enlightened” cap, the Yankees are sure to oppose a firm spending limit.

“I think you have to make an intelligent, persuasive case for it,” Lucchino said to MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “I do look around and I see a hockey league, a basketball league, a football league, all with forms of a salary cap or payroll system, and I think it’s as inevitable as tomorrow that there will be some kind of system like that in baseball. It’s just not as imminent as tomorrow.”

According to Lucchino, the owners are already doing what Browne termed their “due diligence” in advance of the 2011 expiration date for the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Obviously, the Yanks’ off-season spending has spurred on the dissent from Boston despite the fact that the Red Sox consistently are among the game’s top spenders. Lucchino slammed the Yanks’ winter spree despite the fact that the team’s Opening Day payroll will be on par with 2008’s. “I think we’ve seen when the Yankees have spent like the U.S. congress,” Lucchino said. “I agree whole-heartedly with John, that an examination of a salary cap, an enlightened approach to a salary cap, could make sense for the game. I think people in baseball are examining that possibility.”

Clearly, the next few years will be telling. If the Yanks continue to spend as they have, teams will band against them. However, the owners may be spoiling for a fight they can’t win right now. The Players Association will probably not support a salary cap, firm or otherwise, and the PA leaders aren’t too happy with the way they have been portrayed during the recent PED scandals. With the Red Sox on board, though, we’re just getting a glimpse of labor fights to come.

NY Times hires Goldman Sachs to sell interest in Red Sox

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks it strange that The New York Times Company owns a stake in the Boston Red Sox. It’s not only that, though. They own 17.75 percent of New England Sports Ventures, which also includes a stake in Fenway Park, 89 percent of NESN, and 50 percent of NASCAR’s Roush Fenway Racing team. This morning, NYTCo announced that they’ve hired Goldman, Sachs & Co. to “explore the possible sale” of this asset.

Hey, maybe this is where Mark Cuban gets his in…

Sox sign Saito

In their on-going effort to capture the low-risk signing market, the Red Sox inked former Dodger closer Takashi Saito to a one-year, incentive-laden deal, according to Ken Rosenthal. Saito will make between $1.5 and $2.5 million with incentives that could push his contract value past $7 million. When he’s on and healthy, Saito is utterly filthy, and while he did pass his physical, he missed much of 2008 with a sprained elbow ligament. All in all, this is a very nice pickup for Boston.

Who’s spending more on pitching?

When it comes down to the Yankees and the Red Sox, it’s always a competition. One team has to be better, smarter and more popular than the other. One team always has to win.

This off-season, the Yanks have emerged the winners. They’ve out-spent the Red Sox, and they even snatched Mark Teixeira seemingly out from under Boston at the least minute. Yet, still, their fans insist that the Red Sox may come out ahead. Just take a look at this post by a Sox fan using Win Value to show how much smarter the Sox are. Never mind the Yankee injuries and other 2008 speed bumps.

Of course, two can play that game. Courtesy of frequent RAB reader Scott Falivene, let’s take a look at some payroll figures. Scott writes:

Red Sox fans — and their front office it seems — love to cry about the advantage the Yankees have over them in spending. So with the Sox signing Smoltz, I was curious what the cost of their rotation will be, you know, because they can’t compete on the Yankee’s level. I used the top seven guys most likely to see time in the rotation because it’s unlikely the same five guys start and end the year in the rotation.

Here are the total 2009 expenditures in millions, courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Homegrown players are denoted with an asterisk:

Red Sox
Beckett 10.5
Dice-K 8.0
Smoltz 5.5
Penny 5.0
Wakefield 4.0
Lester* 0.5
Buchholz* 0.4
Total 33.9
Yankees
Burnett 16.5
Sabathia 14.0
Wang* 5.0
Hughes* 0.4
Kennedy* 0.4
Chamberlain* 0.4
Aceves* 0.4
Total 37.1

Scott adds some more commentary:

Granted, that CC figure is a bit misleading, and the Yanks might still sign Pettitte. But that’s the way [Sabathia’s contract] is structured. $3.2 million sure doesn’t seem that crazy different, no?

Better yet, the Red Sox have “bought” $33M of pitching for 2009 while the Yankees have only “bought” $30.5M. Evil Empire indeed.

Also, EVERY team in baseball has the ability to sign Smoltz and Penny as their 6/7 starters, right? Those Red Sox sure have it a lot tougher than the Yankees. They should really complain more often. I don’t want this to seem as if I’m not aware of the spending advantage the Yankees have but, seriously, aren’t Red Sox fans supposed to be hyper-educated about the game? They need to stop.

We’ll have some more guest opinions on the Red Sox over the next couple of days, but I think Scott raises some valid points. Sure, the Yankees can outspend the Red Sox by a significant amount, but when push comes to shove, officials, fans and columnists in Boston don’t really have much credibility if they start claiming poverty. The Red Sox may not be the wealthiest team around, but they’re in the top five. No one will be too sympathetic to the team’s self-perceived plight.