Mailing it in, Dec. 22 2006 edition

December 22nd, 2006 → 12:33 pm @ // 11 Comments

And the prize for lazy story of the day goes to…ESPN’s Jim Caple’s “Empirically Speaking,” the latest in an onslaught of stories about how the Red Sox’s profligate ways have, in essence, made them the newest member of the Evil Empire Club.

If you want to throw stones at the Sox for the manner in which they’ve opened their wallets this offseason, you have plenty of good-sized rocks to choose from. The most obvious, of course, is the way Theo cried poverty at the trade deadline, only to offer J.D. Drew a 5-year, $70-million deal at the season’s end. (At the very least, that seems to have been a misreading of the market.)

That, of course, would involve some analysis. Instead, Caple makes fun of the Red Sox’s $51,111,111.11 posting bid for Matsuzaka (“when you have the luxury of slapping $1,111,111.11 on a bid for the pure look of it, you definitely are not living in the same neighborhood as the Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates (or even the Chicago White Sox, for that matter)”) and compares John Henry to the Boss (“It’s to the point that if John Henry gained 40 pounds and started acting like an ass, you would think George Steinbrenner owned the Red Sox”).

Huh? The Sox’s bid of $51 million was arrived at because they thought it possible another team would bid $50 million; that’s a common tactic in blind bids (just ask Bob Barker+). Adding on $100,000 more was done for the same reason. The extra .002 percent represented by the final $11,111.11 was done because of the number 11’s significance to Henry (which I explain in Feeding the Monster). That relatively puny amount is something the White Sox (or even the Royals) could afford.

As for comparing JWH to Steinbrenner, I’m not sure where to start. Those people that consider big, blustering George offensive think so, at least in part, because of the way he blindly throws around money, overruling Brian Cashman, his beleaguered GM, in the process. Signing the 41-year-old Randy Johnson to a multi-year deal when Cashman was advocating picking up Carlos Beltran is a case in point: there was no rationale for throwing away that kind of dough on an arthritic giant except for the fact that the Sox had Schilling and George wanted a “warrior” of his own. Regardless of what you think about the Red Sox’s posting fee, there is a clear rationale for spending resources on a pitcher like Matsuzaka, a phenomenal talent whose best years are in front of him, not behind him.

Caple sets up plenty of other equally silly straw men:

* “No team has ever paid more money for a world championship than did the 2004 Red Sox.” And no National League team has paid more money to lose a world championship than did the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals. And no team’s payroll has topped $100 million in three of the past four years without even making it to the World Series expect the New York Mets. And no team has spent over $100 million in payroll and put up a losing record except the 2002 Rangers. Since they don’t win, I guess they’re not Evil Empires but just…stupid? What’s more, because of the unbalanced schedule, comparing the payrolls of teams in different divisions doesn’t really make sense. The Yankees’ 2006 payroll was 60 percent higher than the Red Sox’s, a greater percentage than that between any division winner and either of the two teams that finished behind it.

* “Further, when those Red Sox recorded the final out of that World Series, not a single player on the field was homegrown.” True, but that has absolutely nothing to do with what the Red Sox under the new ownership group has/had done, because it hadn’t been in place long enough to have a significant impact on minor league players who’d worked their way through the system to the point where they’d be in the bigs. (What’s more, Trot Nixon and Kevin Youkilis were both on the WS roster; Tim Wakefield, Derek Lowe, and Jason Varitek had been acquired early in their careers (Tek’s never played a major league game for another team) and David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, and Bill Mueller were all on-the-cheap pick ups and not Evil Empire-like acquisitions).

* “When the Sox open the 2007 season, they may have just two homegrown players in the lineup, first baseman Kevin Youkilis and second baseman Dustin Pedroia.” And if you add pitchers, you have Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Hansen, and Manny Delcarmen. I guess they don’t count. Because who needs pitching?

I know, I know: no sooner will I post this than the homer accusations will start to fly. Fine; I’m used to it. It’s not that I’m blindly defending the Red Sox, or even that I’m really defending them at all. Take a shot at the disorganized way they went about things last offseason. Unpack all the reasons the Arroyo-Wily Mo trade was a bad idea. Ridicule the panic move of reacquiring Mirabelli for Cla Meredith and Josh Bard. But whatever you do, put some thought into it.

+ I know that’s not how “The Price is Right” works. But you know what I mean. So lay off.


Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Jim Caple & Sports Reporters

11 Comments → “Mailing it in, Dec. 22 2006 edition”


  1. Ogie Oglethorpe

    10 years ago

    I still say the Arroyo-Pena deal will prove to be a good move over the long haul. Arroyo’s lengend exceeds the actual man. I was always a fan of the guy because he has guts but he is simply not as good as people in this area claim. He might be a 1st or 2nd starter in the NL but he is a 4th or 5th starter in the AL that eats up innings and gets smoked by lefties. Pena could hit 30-40 HRs if given a spot full time. In my mind, that is a deal that you make. Of course it did hurt last year because of lack of depth/injury issues but in the long run it will be a good move.

    Reply

  2. Jack

    10 years ago

    I agree with Ogie on Arroyo. And I think that you’re as much of a homer as I am, Seth. That’s why I love reading your blog. Yes, some deals suck. Bringing back Mirabelli was one…although at the time it was pretty fucking painful watching Bard try to catch Wake.

    Reply

  3. crimsonohsix

    10 years ago

    yikes, somebody didn’t get what he wanted for chanakuh… cheer up, i bought a second copy of your book as an xmas present for my mom!

    Reply

  4. Zabathan

    10 years ago

    I completely agree with both of the above comments, and also the blog. I read the full Caple article yesterday and was incensed at most of the claims he made. What really bothers me is the continued assault on the posting fee, which was a one shot payment. I know the Sox spend way more money than nearly every other team, but how can people compare them to the Yankees because of the posing fee when the difference between their two payrolls in recent years is always that and then some? *Sigh* It just bothers me a lot. Too bad we don’t still have Meridith though.

    Reply

  5. tinisoli

    10 years ago

    The interest in payroll among fans and writers seems to take two forms:
    1) Does a team surpass the luxury tax threshold? If not, then all is good. Let’s talk about something else. But if it does, then that team is repulsive. And that’s how a nickname like the Evil Empire sticks: because a lot of fans think that teams should try to stick below the luxury tax threshold, and that the game is purer somehow if a lineup is not loaded with All-Stars. The Yankees are loathed, the Sox are forgiven because they at least try to stay under, and the Marlins are beloved for being poor.
    2) Does a team spend a ton of money, period? If you think this way, as Caple does, then you’re not interested in the difference between a $51.1 million posting fee that doesn’t count a payroll and a $52 million contract that does. To you, it’s all money, a dollar is a dollar, and you don’t like how rich these athletes are getting. The ’04 Sox spent more than any other WS champion, therefore, they bought the title. The Yankees spend the most, so they’re the most evil; the Sox spend the second most, so they’re maybe getting a little bit evil. Blah blah blah…

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  6. carnett

    10 years ago

    Seth, thank you very much for your response to Caple’s article! Like yourself, what really pisses me off is the lack of work and preporation that goes into an article such as that.

    Sure I would love to see the Sox win at a $90 million payroll, but the Sox play in the AL east! The Sox don’t have the luxary of playing in the Central or the West.

    Mr.Caple completey forgot baseball is a business after all. You spend money to make money. Caple actually says it best, ” (the Sox) Have the highest ticket prices in the game. Over the top fans seemingly everywhere.”

    For us fans to pay the highest ticket prices, the team has to remain competitive!? The bold moves of the Henry ownership group has insured that those “Over the top fans seemingly everywhere” will remain fans?! (I’m I the only one getting this?) More fans = More money?

    Mr.Caple’s just a pissed off White Sox fan because of Garcia trade!

    Reply

  7. jthewes

    10 years ago

    Jim Caple has some competition for lazy story of the day. Check this out.

    How was this even a headline?

    http://thesportshernia.typepad.com/blog/baseball/index.html

    Reply

  8. maineiac

    10 years ago

    It still amazes me that there are people that feel the Red Sox $51 million posting fee was ridiculous but the Yankee $36 million posting was reasonable. The Yankees are/were the No. 1 team in Japan as well as Asia. They generate $10-$20 million per year in the far east. YES is carried almost nation-wide in Japan. There is almost NO potential for expanding their market in Japan.

    The Red Sox were a reported No. 5 most popular team in Japan. The Red Sox had to mend fences with many people in Japanese baseball just to feel like they could bid on Dice-K. Now all the Red Sox need to do is drum up $25 million in “new” revenue during the 6 years of Dice-K services and its a wash. I can’t imagine that should be very difficult – Dice-K is a national treasure! NESN will be everywhere over there, cripes there are already Red Sox shirts in Japanese.

    If Caple made the point after the Red Sox stupidly signed Barry Zito or Gil Meche (thank God they didn’t) than that would be understandable because they wouldn’t start a new revenue source for the organization. I can’t say it enough, Dice-K is a bah-gin! Theo couldn’t have done better at Filenes Basement on that crazy wedding dress sale day!!

    Reply

  9. maineiac

    10 years ago

    Sorry about the math in my previous post. The Sox only have to generate $15 million in new revenue in Japan for their bid to equate to the Yankees (not $25 million!).

    Reply

  10. HFXBOB

    10 years ago

    Wow, mailing it in is right. Didn’t anyone tell Caple the ‘ Red Sox are the new Evil Empire’ theme has been done to death? As for the arguments, Seth picked those apart like a turkey drumstick. Enough already about Theo ‘crying poor’ about the Yankees acquisition of Abreu. I think he actually said something to the effect that the Red Sox were blessed with great financial resources, but the Yankees were even more blessed. The fact was that shelling out that much for Abreu would not have been smart when it was highly unlikely he was going to make the difference in them making the playoffs or not.

    Personally I think the whole Evil Empire thing should be put to rest. Unless money itself is evil, the Red Sox aren’t evil and neither are the Yankees. They have a lot of money and they are willing to spend it, and the MLB system doesn’t oppose it. When it comes to success, just spending a lot of money doesn’t assure it. As the subtitle of Seth’s book says, you also need the smarts and the nerve. While the $51 million bid for Matsuzaka may have seemed excessive at the time, when you look at how it all worked out and the market in which it was done, it seems like a very nice combination of money, smarts and nerve.

    Reply

  11. jolley16

    10 years ago

    I almost feel like Caple is turning into CHB with his selective facts and Sox brow-beating. Living in Cincy, I know how it feels to have a “small-market” team. This is a term that our owners adorn us with dispite MLB having no salary-cap. Once every year, some “small-market” team has some success and its thrown back into the fans face, “See what they did in Oakland, Minnesota, or Florida.” Meanwhile none of these teams can really be taken seriously and can’t make that turn into actually contending. Sometimes when I’m rooting for the Sox, I feel like Madonna’s new baby. Like I was rescued from the a poverty with minimal hope to a life of luxery where my parents (John Henry, Theo) actually want me to succeed and have the resources to let me. Man I wish my Dad would stop talking to Pat O’Brien!

    Reply

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