Mailing it in, Dec. 22 2006 edition

December 22nd, 2006 → 12:33 pm @

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