If you heard a loud thumping noise a few minutes ago, that wasn’t your imagination. It was me bashing my head against the desk as I was reading Dan Shaughnessy’s latest opus. Like all Shaughnessy articles, he channels his most emotional nerves to convince us that the Red Sox ownership (or whomever his target du jour might be) is wronging us. That their “cheap” ways are depriving us of a championship that we’re entitled to experiencing. Clearly, he does it for attention and notoriety, and perhaps we should all be immune to his shtick by now. For some reason, I can’t let go. I realize that I’m giving him the attention he so desperately craves, everytime I write one of these pieces, but I feel it’s something that needs to be done. While he reaches a much larger audience than me, I feel as if I need to try to counteract his toxic, misplaced disgust that is poisoning the well from which Red Sox nation drinks. Is it a lost cause? Probably. But like those that write into Nick Cafardo’s mailbag, I feel it’s my duty to change perceptions to ones that are more rational and less visceral.
Here’s what the man Carl Everett once called “Curly Haired Boyfriend” had to say this morning.
The Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of American held its 73d annual dinner last night. With visions of the Super Bowl dancing in our heads, it was a chance to think about baseball on a cold winter night.
You remember baseball. That’s the six-month, 162-game warm-weather season that is supposed to wind up with the Red Sox in the playoffs. It hasn’t happened the last couple of years here, and the offseason of 2011-12 hasn’t done much to boost fans’ hopes. The Sox are the only folks having a worse winter than New England ski resorts.
Baseball? Hmm…I think I remember such a sport. It’s played with a stick and a ball, right? I must admit that I’ve done my best to forget about it’s wretchedness on the account that I’m a bitter old man that has nothing better to do than complain about things I can’t control. The Red Sox haven’t won a playoff game since 2008, so they might as well be dead to me.
Oh, and while we’re talking about the Red Sox having a bad winter, I love how Shaughnessy casually forgets to take credit for being one of the ringleaders behind the mob that’s been circling Fenway with pitchforks and torches since the end of September. Perhaps the Red Sox’s winter wouldn’t have been quite as bad without he and his cohorts overreacting.
Terry Francona, Theo Epstein, Jonathan Papelbon, and Heidi Watney are all gone, and we just learned that Carl Crawford had surgery on his wrist, which isn’t going to make things easier for his big bounce-back season.
I can live with all of the above – even if we won’t have J.D. Drew to kick around anymore – but I can’t stand talk about payroll limits and luxury tax obligations.
While Heidi Watney’s presence will be missed, I’m not sure how this will impact the team’s on field performance. If anything, I think the horny old baseball writers, like Shaughnessy, will be the ones missing her most of all.
Crawford’s wrist injury probably won’t make his bounce back season any easier, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be successful. The good news is that only the cartilege was torn in the wrist. Had he broken a bone, the outlook on his season would’ve been much less rosy. Recovery from such a procedure typically lasts 6-8 weeks, which would put him about 2-4 weeks behind in terms of Spring Training readiness. He seems to be a pretty quick healer, so he could be back even sooner. I don’t see any reason to panic until we’re given an actually reason to do so.
After spending like Charlie Sheen on a weekend bender, the Sox suddenly are fiscally responsible in this bad-news winter? They got burned when they signed John Lackey and Crawford, and now they’re worried about going over the dreaded $178 million luxury tax threshold (they were taxed at a rate of 30 percent last year, and that goes to 40 percent if they exceed the limit again this year)?
Way to slip in a relevant pop culture reference from last year, Dan. Anymore clever anecdotes you want to add? Would you like to drop a “winning” reference while you’re at it?
As for the payroll situation, yes, the Red Sox were burned on Lackey. He’s been awful for two seasons, and now he’ll miss the entire 2012 season. With Crawford, he’s played only one season, and it’s far too early to make a judgement on the contract.
“There’s been significant commitments made the last two offseasons which pushed our payroll further north, and we made those decisions knowing that it wasn’t going to continue to go further north at the same trajectory forever,’’ said new general manager Ben Cherington before last night’s feast.
“At some point, there’s a limit. There’s no marker necessarily on where that limit is, but we made decisions over the last two offseasons knowing we were going to be closer to where that threshold is.’’
Pete Townsend translation: We won’t get fooled again.
There’s dated pop culture reference number two. Nicely done. Moving on, Cherington sounds like a guy who has a clue. He understands the economics of the team, and the importance of maintaining payroll flexibility. You can’t go out spending crazy amounts of money every winter. Hell, not even the Yankees do that. Sure, they had a big day on Friday, but those moves cost them roughly $10M for 2012. That’s chump change in comparision to what they normally spend.
It is Cherington’s bad timing that he happens to be in the chair at a moment in Sox history when ownership has said, “Enough with the spending.’’
And while the Sox have been standing still, holding the line, the Angels, Rangers, and Yankees are getting better.
Are we sure that ownership said enough with the spending? Honestly, it seems like Cherington is the one holding the line. If there was anyone Ben really liked, I’m sure he’d go to Henry and company to sell them on the idea. This winter’s free agent crop hasn’t really meshed well with what the Red Sox need. Yes, there were plenty of nice players, but Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Aramis Ramirez, CJ Wilson, etc. didn’t really fit into the club’s long or short term plans. Do/did Roy Oswalt or Hiroki Kuroda fit into their plans? Potentially, but the cost has to be right. Responsible spending sounds like something that Shaughnessy should be behind given his criticisms of recent free agent signings.
In fairness, this was a good offseason to stay away from free agents. Nobody wanted the Sox to pony up for C.J. Wilson. But most of us would have been OK if the Sox matched the four-year deal the Phillies gave Papelbon. Instead, the Sox went for “value’’ with their closer search.
Did I want Papelbon back? Sure, but not for that price. The Phillies overpaid for an overvalued asset, where the Red Sox received a reasonable facsimile for a 30% of the price. It sounds like a pretty solid move to me. Would he pay $1M for a house when he get something nearly as good in a neighborhood near by for $300K? I know I wouldn’t.
It was a little alarming to hear Cherington’s response when he was asked how his starting rotation compares with his rivals’.
“I think we have more questions right now than Tampa and New York, for example,’’ he said. “There’s probably less competition for the rotation with those two teams. The Yankees made some moves to strengthen their rotation and Tampa has had a strong rotation.
“Ultimately the answer will be written on the field. There have been very recent examples of teams that looked like they were going to be struggling for depth at this point in the offseason and found some ways to put it together.’’
Is it really alarming? Didn’t we all know this already? Cherington is being honest about the construction of the team. His comments in no way imply he thinks he’s done for the season. Even if he is, he’s mentioned that he’s confident in the top three, excited about the prospects of Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves filling out the rotation, and happy about the depth he’s put together.
The Sox charge fans a ton of money for tickets. NESN makes a bundle. John Henry and friends have demonstrated a willingness to spend in commensurate fashion during their 10-year stewardship. But now it feels like they are pulling back, holding the line, worrying about luxury tax, and (gulp) monies spent on Liverpool soccer.
Yes, the obligatory John Henry’s cheap comment. The man has spent nearly $2B in player salary over his 10-year tenure as owner, and is projected to dole out $178M this season alone. If he wants to hold the line this year, that’s his choice. The Red Sox are trying to gain back some of the payroll flexibility they lost in recent years due to all of the players they’ve locked up to long-term deals. Every team needs to do that every so often–even the Yankees and Red Sox.
As for his comments about the Liverpool Football Club, they’re completely baseless. I love how it’s ok for Robert Kraft to own both the Patriots and Revolution, but it’s wrong for Henry to have controlling interest in both the Red Sox and LFC. The hypocracy is startling.
And they have Cherington telling us that re-signing Marco Scutaro and offering arbitration to David Ortiz is this year’s equivalent of signing big free agents. There’s a tough sell. It’s not quite the same as bagging Albert Pujols, is it?
Two things. One, I don’t ever remember anyone saying that re-signing Marco Scutaro and David Ortiz was this year’s equivalent of signing big free agents. You must be confusing John Henry with Giants controlling partner Larry Baer. As for Albert Pujols, where the hell were you going to put him? If you thought signing Pujols was realistic, then you live in a fantasy world where models gladly date nerds and M&Ms are the healthiest food on the planet.
Sox spinmeisters need to cease promoting the notion that the ball club is tapped out and can’t spend more. The money is there. Holding the line on spending is a choice, not a necessity.
“We just didn’t feel like we needed wholesale changes,’’ said Cherington. “This was a team that was on pace to win a lot of games and make the playoffs and we had a tough September.’’
He’s right. It is a choice. John Henry is choosing not to spend his money. Let me say it again, he is choosing not to spend HIS money. That is his right. The Red Sox are under his control, and he and his staff are doing what they feel is best for the long and short term health of the club. You don’t have to like it, but you have to respect it. He’s a billionaire, and I trust he knows how to spend and invest his money. When Dan Shaughnessy becomes a billionaire, let me know. I’ll start taking financial advice from him.