Lady Luck is a fickle mistress — just ask the Sox and Yankees

MLB: FEB 17 Alex Rodriquez Press Conference
This decade has been the most monumental in the franchise's history. Not only did new ownership arrive, but Fenway Park was revitalized, a Nation was born (in the media, that is), a new generation of stars (Nomar, Manny, Pedro, Big Papi, Papelbon, Pedroia) put their stamp on their team... oh, and there were those two World Championships as well.

All this was done thanks to the incredible work that Theo Epstein and the rest of the baseball operations put in to give us the players that we root for every day. They are, to be certain, the reasons why we have our first two rings since 1918.

But let's not count out Lady Luck. Lady Luck is a fickle mistress; you never know when she'll turn on you.
Boston Celebrates Historic Red Sox Victory

This decade has been the most monumental in the franchise’s history. Not only did new ownership arrive, but Fenway Park was revitalized, a Nation was born (in the media, that is), a new generation of stars (Nomar, Manny, Pedro, Big Papi, Papelbon, Pedroia) put their stamp on their team… oh, and there were those two World Championships as well.
All this was done thanks to the incredible work that Theo Epstein and the rest of the baseball operations put in to give us the players that we root for every day. They are, to be certain, the reasons why we have our first two rings since 1918.
But let’s not count out Lady Luck. Lady Luck is a fickle mistress; you never know when she’ll turn on you.
Fate turned on the Red Sox for dealing Babe Ruth, and now she’s set her gaze upon that team in New York.
Make no mistake about it: the Yankees have come out worse for the wear than the Sox in their head to head battles… and I don’t mean just on the field.
Let’s recap where luck favored the Sox.
2003: In a bitter struggle that forever attached the moniker “Evil Empire” to the Yankees, the club beat out Theo Epstein and the Red Sox for the free agency prize of the year: Jose Contreras.

Contreras walks off the field

So upset was Theo that a chair was reportedly destroyed upon receipt of this news.
Conteras would spend two months on the disabled list that year and shuttled between the rotation and bullpen. In the bullpen, he posted a 7.43 ERA, but experienced success in the rotation.
He was inconsistent yet again in 2004, when he started out the season in the rotation. So tumultuous was his career with the Yankees (marked by constant blowups at the hands of the Sox) that he was moved to the Chicago White Sox, where he remains to this day.
2004: A year after the Yankees won the Contreras sweepstakes, they were back at it again.
This time, it involved the best player in the game.
No one needs reminding of what happened: two deals were in place to drastically change the complexion of the Red Sox. Alex Rodriguez would have been imported to play short, while Manny Ramirez and then-prospect Jon Lester would have headed to Texas.
Nomar Garciaparra would have then been dealt to the Chicago White Sox for Magglio Ordonez.
Thanks to the greed of the Players’ Association, the deal fell apart and A-Rod headed to New York.
Since then, Nomar Garciaparra wore out his welcome, necessitating a trade for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, who were instrumental in the historic 2004 playoffs. Magglio Ordonez missed most of 2004 with injuries and left to Detroit.
Manny Ramirez won a World Series MVP and was a feared combination with David Ortiz for years. Jon Lester threw a no-hitter and won the 2007 World Series clinching game.
Alex Rodriguez?
All he’s done is struggle in the spotlight of New York, become known as perhaps the worst playoff player ever relative to his regular season success, go through an ugly divorce while hooking up with Madonna and being outed for steroids. Not just that, but new relevations contend he has been using steroids since high school and used as a Yankee.

MLB: FEB 17 Alex Rodriquez Press Conference

If that trade had happened, we could be looking at the worst decade ever to be a Red Sox fan.
2005: Two straight years the Yankees had took who the Red Sox wanted. They were hell-bent on making it a third straight year, and they did just that.
Carl Pavano, a former Red Sox farmhand, had a career year for the Florida Marlins after years of inconsistency and injuries. This didn’t deter Theo Epstein from chasing Pavano, but he missed out.
Pavano would go on to have countless injuries happen to him. A bruised buttocks (insert crude joke here), two unreported broken ribs, an injury in his final start as a Yankee… it all added up to a 9-8, 5.00 ERA line in 26 starts. He earned $39.95 million in his four year campaign for the Yankees.
Now imagine A-Rod, Pavano and Contreras all playing together for the Red Sox. Oy.
2006: Johnny Damon’s defection made headlines, and Damon would be the short-term victor as the Red Sox missed the playoffs that year.
One move to left-field later due to his noodle arm and an exciting, vibrant player in Jacoby Ellsbury later, no one misses Johnny.
2007: The land of the rising sun was the next battleground.
It was one that the Red Sox won, importing Daisuke Matsuzaka with a stunning bid of $51.1 million as the posting fee, embarrassing the Yankees, who had been preparing to fit Dice-K for pinstripes. In their haste to compensate and assuage their fan base, Kei Igawa was brought on for five years and $20 million.
He has a 6.66 (spooky!) ERA in 71.2 career innings. He was awful in his 2007 rookie campaign, pitched only four innings in 2008 and is currently a distant thought in Triple-A.

Roger Clemens throws

Oh, and there was that whole hullabaloo with Roger Clemens, too. The Red Sox were desperate to bring him back. The Yankees were even more desperate. An obscene $28 million later, Clemens contributed a 6-6, 4.18 record in 17 starts and one relief appearance and one famous brouhaha in Congress.
For that $28 million, he gave the Yankees $7.3 million worth, according to Fangraphs.
2008: Five straight disastrous years had completely destroyed the Yankees’ confidence. They had three straight years of winning the bidding contest only to see it implode in their faces. They then stole their rival’s leadoff man who would start having his all-out style catch up to him. They whiffed on Dice-K and blundered badly to compensate.
So what did they do in 2008?
They let Joe Torre, the team’s most successful manager in decades, walk for Joe Girardi, fired after just one year (albeit successful) in Florida. Girardi is still trying to live up to his reputation.
They had had enough of all the failures, so battened the hatches and hyped up their “Big 3″ — Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy.
Joba ended up relieving most of the year and being hurt. Hughes was just plain hurt. And Kennedy? He was just plain bad. It all contributed to the final season at Yankee Stadium ending in September, not October.
2009: So far, Lady Luck isn’t cutting the Yankees a break.

CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett sign with the New York Yankees

The Yankees beat out the Red Sox yet again for the free agent prize of the year: Mark Teixeira. Teixeira is hitting .206/.363/.381. Basically, he’s the broken-down Giambi of 2004 (when he had that mysterious injury, he apologized without specifying what for, and hit .208/.342/.379). We all know he’s too talented to not eventually hit and be one of the better players on the team, but still.
The club also brought in a player who has a ton of talent but has trouble staying on the field. A.J. Burnett is a ticking time bomb for an injury. He’s the new Carl Pavano. So far, he’s gotten off to a Contrerian start: good start here, bad start there, inability to hold the Red Sox down. He has a 5.47 ERA after four starts.
And of course, CC Sabathia… is not the CC we know. Is it all those miles catching up to him? Maybe. In five starts, he’s 1-2 with a 4.73 ERA. He has 14 walks against 19 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. It’s his worst BB/9 (3.9) ratio since his rookie year in 2001. His 5.3 K/9 is his worst ever, period.
Conclusion: Well… what can you say? It’s rather striking how all the players the Red Sox lost out on haven’t helped the Yankees one iota yet… and saw the Yankees scramble for Kei Igawa.
The only person that can, so far, be considered the closest to justifying his contract is Johnny Damon… a player the Red Sox wanted to leave anyways.
Theo should be praised for his work in getting the Red Sox to compete year in and year out on a budget that makes sense.
Just don’t forget to leave presents at the altar of Lady Luck. Lord knows we wouldn’t want to tick her off: we’ve seen how cold-hearted she can be.

Categories: A.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez C.C. Sabathia Carl Pavano Daisuke Matsuzaka Ian Kennedy Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Joe Torre Jose Contreras Kei Igawa Manny Ramirez Mark Teixeira New York Yankees Nomar Garciaparra Phil Hughes Roger Clemens

Born on the 37th anniversary of the the day Babe Ruth died (1985) which later became the day Jimy Williams was fired in 2001 (a monumental event at the time), Evan was too young to experience the pain 1986 brought, but a deep wound was sowed in 2003. Since then, Fire Brand has become a blog that Red Sox “club officials read,” as per Peter Gammons. Evan enjoys working out, writing, reading, quality television, science fiction and history and being newly married. He is a professional baseball journalist as well as president of a state non-profit and member of the Board of Directors for a national profit. (Twitter.)

3 Responses to “Lady Luck is a fickle mistress — just ask the Sox and Yankees” Subscribe

  1. anonymous May 1, 2009 at 5:24 AM #

    Nice article! I think we really missed out on aj burnett though. and you forgot to mention the time we picked up eric gagne, and matt clement.

  2. jvwalt May 1, 2009 at 8:30 AM #

    Anon — you missed the point. Evan was talking about the players for whom the Sox and Yankees competed. Gagne and Clement don't apply.

  3. Gerry May 1, 2009 at 4:25 PM #

    Wonderful chronology, and well balanced. Just the facts. Let me venture into what may or may not be fantasy.
    The Sox had the Curse of the Bambino, The Cubbies still suffer under the Curse of the Billy Goat. It is logical that if the Babe had enough clout as to keep even the truly great Red Sox away from the championship for 86 years, often with terrible luck, he has enough clout to prevent those who happily tear down "The Cathedral", the "House That Ruth Built" to transfer the curse from Boston to NYY. It also makes sense that after helping the Yankees to 26 championships, he would be truly ticked off at those who would treat him and his legacy so shabbily. If that's the case, the Yankees will be back in contention when the Steinbrenners sell the team.