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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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:
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.
The Red Sox are on the verge of landing themselves a pair of injured players with high upside. Buster Olney reports that John Smoltz, a 20-year veteran of the Braves, will jump leagues and cities. He and the Red Sox are nearing a deal on a one-year, $5.5-million contract. Smoltz will be playing his age 42 season in 2009, and he’s coming off surgery. The Sox don’t expect him back until the end of May, and I wonder how he’ll handle the AL for the first time in his career. Boston, however, can well afford the risk.
Meanwhile, MLBTR directs us to various reports on an impending deal between Rocco Baldelli and the Red Sox. When healthy, Badelli ranks up there with the game’s top outfielders, but he has played just 155 games since the end of 2004. Baldelli received some good news earlier this winter when his mitochondrial disease was revealed to be a misdiagnosis, but he’s not out of the injury woods yet. Again, this is a nice potential low-risk, high-reward signing, but Baldelli shouldn’t be considered more than a role player until he can be healthy for long stretches at a time.