For $18 (to $25) million, is all this sturm und drang worth it?

December 13th, 2006 → 12:30 pm @

ESPN says that the Herald is reporting the Sox and Boras are about $3 million apart — the Sox are at $8 million per, Boras is asking for $11 million per — on a deal that’s supposed to be in the four-to-six year range. (I can’t find Michael Silverman’s Herald report — although the Globe is also acknowledging Silverman in its latest dispatch — or I’d link directly to that.) At the high end (in terms of years), that’s a differnce of about $18 million; if you add on the luxury tax and assume that’ll be somewhere around 40 percent of the Sox, the total figure is a bit over $25 million. At most, this should figure to be about 2.8% of the Red Sox’s annual payroll (if you include the luxury tax, although this would also add some money to the projected $150 million payroll…but whatever. You get the picture).

There are lots of ways you could look at this. The Sox, as many people are sure to point out if the deal falls apart, paid the Braves more than $3 million a year to take Edgar Renteria off their hands. Three million is about a third of what Matt Clement’s making a year. It’s approximatelty 20 percent of J.D. Drew’s annual salary. Etc.

All that’s all valid, but it’s also kind of besides the point. That kind of thinking can rapidly lead to profligacy. One of the Red Sox’s models has been to decide what a player’s worth and not pay above that amount; if you give everyone a couple of million bucks more than you think they deserve, you’ll end up with an out-of-control payroll. (The A-Rod deal, after all, fell apart over a similar amount of money. Well, a similar amount of money and Larry Lucchino’s squabbles with the players association. If you want to know more…yep, it’s in the book.

On the other hand, the marginal value of any one player to the Red Sox is potentially more than it is to a team like, say, the Royals…who are about as likely to make the playoffs as Paris Hilton is to win the Nobel Prize in physics. A win or two could be the difference between an October full of playoff games and an October full of finger-pointing. What’s more, the psychological impact of going all out on RSN is huge.

If Boras is really asking for $11 million at this point — and who knows if that’s truly the case; he was said to be asking for $15-$20 million per — then I think more than ever it’ll happen. But if it doesn’t, I’m not sure where the public’s reaction will fall; already Bob Ryan is saying the Sox should know what they were getting into while Nick Cafardo says Boras is batshit insane. (That’s not a direct quote.)

When this is all done with, I’ll have some more observations about Henry’s, Lucchino’s, and Epstein’s negotiating styles…at least as I observed them last year.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Red Sox Fans & Red Sox front office & Red Sox ownership & Scott Boras

Dicegate: T-38 hours and counting. Where’s George Mitchell when you need him?

December 13th, 2006 → 10:42 am @

George Mitchell has some impressive credentials — he served two terms in the Senate, he’s acknowledged as the prime force in getting the Belfast Peace Agreements signed in 1998, and he served as a co-chairman of the U.S. Task Force on the U.N. He’s also the director of the Red Sox. If he can negotiate peace in Northern Ireland, surely he can find a way to bring the Sox and Scott Boras together on the international crises known as Dicegate.

If he’s not holed up in Southern California yet, it might be too late. Today’s Herald reports the deal has to get done by this morning, Pacific Time, when the Trans World Henry heads back to Boston. If the Diceman ain’t on the plane with plans to take a physical, there won’t be a deal. (Of course, the parties could negotiate throughout the day and Matsuzaka could still, conceivably, be on a plane tonight. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that MLB tells the Sox and Boras that if they have a deal by tomorrow’s midnight deadline, it’s alright if it’s conditional on a physical.)

Meanwhile, the Globe‘s indefatigable Gordon Edes has a three AM update from his ubiquitous “source with direct ties to the negotiation” saying the “dialogue continues.” “That would appear to leave open the possibility that a deal could still be struck before the Sox make their scheduled departure this morning,” Edes writes. “But nothing appeared imminent.”

I figure the next updates will come around noon or 1 EST, when the business day starts out in L.A. Of course, I’ve assumed lots of things that’ve turned out to be wrong.

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Gordon Edes & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras

Go to sleep already

December 13th, 2006 → 12:55 am @

No, really: go to sleep. Your wives and girlfriends and husbands and MySpace buddies miss you. Here’s all you need to know: JWH’s plane leaves for Boston tomorrow morning (unless it doesn’t); the deal needs to get done by sometime in the AM so Matsu can fly to Boston to take a physical (unless he doesn’t); Dice hasn’t had any direct discussions with the Red Sox (unless he has); and the real reason Andy Pettitte left New York a couple of years ago had nothing to do with…oh, wait: wrong forum. Both the Globe and Herald websites have up to the minute updates about the fact that there’s nothing to update anyone about.

I’ve been through this before. Several times, actually, and each time I tried to convince myself that I absolutely had to sit in front of my computer screen hitting refresh until my finger cramped up and I had to soak it in ice water because of my professional obligation to chronicle every last second of The Story. I was wrong: right now, the story is in a windowless office somewhere. (OK, fine: the Boras Worldwide LTD offices have windows. But I like to imagine it all Death Star-like.) The next news we should care about will either be, yes, we have a deal or fuck, the deadline just passed and now we’re all screwed. Whatever the case, we’ll all be okay taking a few hours off. Even if Theo, et al, can’t sleep, we can. Whatever happens, we’ll all have plenty of time to obsess and discuss.

I promise. Nighty night.

(Obligatory, self-promoting plug: if you really need some tension building material relating to the Red Sox, try this. Oh, and did I mention a signed and personalized copy makes a great gift?)

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras

This morning in the Middle East, er, the Matsuzaka negotiations (And: Is Scott Boras pulling a Fonzie?)

December 12th, 2006 → 10:48 am @

It was an interesting night. There are plenty of news articles, plenty of columns, and plenty of commentary. Think of this as one-stop shopping. (I do love one-stop shopping.)

* Scott Boras is insisting that he did not say that Matsuzaka should receive $100 million; he merely said that’s what pitchers in today’s market are receiving. (Pretty much everyone who saw the press conference thought he said that’s what Matsuzaka should get.) Boras also stressed that Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman.

* After the Red Sox made their initial offer, Boras has not made a single counteroffer. Or, apparently, even spoken to the Sox. He has, of course, been speaking to the rest of the country, and will hold a series of town meetings later this week.

* John Henry provided his plane to whisk Theo and Larry out to California for a face-to-face with Boras, adding another $10,000 or so to the price of the negotiations. In the baseball world, this is also known as “a candy bar.”

* Henry is pissed. Gordon Edes details a late-night conference call Henry had with reporters: “‘We’re on Scott Boras’s doorstep because he hasn’t negotiated with us so far,’ Henry said, frustration registering in his voice during a post-midnight conference call with reporters. ‘We’re taking the fight directly to him to try to have a negotiation here.'” Later, Henry told Edes in a private call, “You make your best offer and just hope the player receives it.” And yes, Henry meant what you thought he meant there.

* Nevertheless, the Sox will make another offer “of considerable magnitude” today, according to Theo. “It’s highly unusual,” Epstein said, referring to the fact that the Sox were essentially bidding against themselves, “but it’s showing that Matsuzaka is extremely important to the Boston Red Sox. It’s normally not a good ploy, but we want to demonstrate to Matsuzaka, and the fans of Japanese baseball, just how important he is to us.”

* Boras finally seems to have stepped over the line, with the Boston media, the national media, and his great-aunt all turning against him. Matsuzaka can’t pitch for anyone else in MLB this year; he’ll make $3 or $4 million a year if he stays in Japan; both the Yankees and the Mets apparently agreed that Daisuke was worth somewhere in the $8 to $10 million range (which, as people are now increasingly pointing out, is a lot of money for someone who’s never thrown a major league pitch). The result is a drastic swing of public opinion, with more and more folks now siding with the Sox.

I’m about 94 percent sure this won’t happen, but it seems to me there’s an outside possibility (very outside, granted) that Boras will end up screwing himself not only in what will likely be a very lucrative Japanese market but could also hurt himself with MLB teams. (There is, after all, some precedence for collusion among the owners vis a vis salaries.) Obviously, we’re living in a whole different world today, but at some point you’d figure owners might get sick of negotiating with Boras, who’s establishied an impressive track record of obstinancy and lying and looks more and more like he’s preparing to waterski right over that great white. (Like I said, there’s a very small chance of this happening…but hey, I got to U-Tube Henry Winkler.)

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Arthur Fonzarelli & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Red Sox front office & Scott Boras

Do you feel like this doesn’t happen so much with other teams? Me too. (Why the Sox and Scott could be on a fatal collision course.)

December 12th, 2006 → 12:10 am @

Well, what did we learn from Scott Boras’s non-newsy news conference and the attendant coverage?

* Boras has threatened to take Daisuke Matsuzaka home to Japan if the Sox don’t budge in their negotiations, effectively ending any chance at a deal even if Thursday’s deadline hasn’t passed. (DK would presumably need to take a physical for any deal to go through.)

* Boras also referred to Daisuke as “Fort Knox” and said he’s worth in excess of $100 million. Shoot, who does he think he is: Carlos Lee?

* Lou Melendez, MLB’s VP of international relations, nixed any of the other scenarios by which Dice could pitch in the majors this year — by Boras buying out the Lions; by divine intervention, by Nippon Professional Baseball spontaneously combusting.

* There seems to be a growing consensus — raised on by Jim Allen, who covers baseball for Japan’s The Daily Yomiuri and echoed by Jack Curry in the Times article above — that it would incredibly difficult for Matsuzaka to return to Japan if he was rejecting, say, a $10 million-a-year deal. “If the sheer embarrassment of the nation’s hero being thrown back like an undersized trout is not enough to spark a showdown between Red Sox Nation and Japan,” Allen writes, “the fact that Japan’s loss of tax revenue would be 2.4 billion yen ($20.65 million), just might do it. Although Boras might think nothing of causing an international incident of these proportions, Matsuzaka is unlikely to be a party to it.”

Yup…it’s gonna be a fun couple of days. If this all feels familiar…well, that’s because it is. Somehow, the buttoned-down, press-shy Red Sox have found themselves smack dab in the middle of more imbroglios than any other team over the last several years. Way back in ’03, there was the Kevin Millar incident, making Millar surely the least consequential person ever to threaten relations between two superpowers. That same offseason brought the minute-by-minute machinations of the A-Rod to Boston, Manny to Texas, Nomar to Chicago, Magglio to Boston, etc., etc., deal. That had to be the most covered non-event in baseball history; a couple of months later, Brian Cashman somehow managed to orchestrate a trade for A-Rod to play for the world’s best known baseball team — you know, the one that plays in the country’s biggest media market — with nary a leak.

There’ve been the semi-annual Manny trade talks. (Manny’s not the only $20-million-plus superstar who was thought to be on the block…but we haven’t heard much about A-Rod, have we?) There was last year’s exceedingly public Theo-Larry blow-up/blow-out. (Cashman, to be sure, hasn’t had an easy time dealing with the Boss…but we haven’t heard much about that, either.) And now there’s Dice-K.


In a postscript to the paperback edition of Moneyball, Michael Lewis rails against the club of baseball insiders that set the games orthodoxy. At one point, Lewis writes, “It can never fully escape the larger culture that supports it.” He was talking about…well, never mind what he was talking about, but it strikes me that that’s a problem that’s going on with the Sox. To varying extents, the entire front office believes that it can succeed by both outworking and outsmarting the competition; no one thinks this is true as much as John Henry and Theo Epstein. In many, very creative ways, these guys are working to blow up accepted notions — not only of how to evaluate talent, but of how to do business, of how to construct a team, of how to relate to the entire game. That might work in the abstract, but sometimes I wonder if there’s not enough acceptance of the fact that the Red Sox are part of the larger baseball culture; that’s the world they’re trying to succeed in. Every trade doesn’t need to be the most clever; every negotiation doesn’t need to be won. Some, in fact, just need to be concluded.

In many ways, Scott Boras is an agent built from this same mold. He consistently gets much more money for his clients than anyone other team was willing to bid (see: Rodriguez, Alex…and maybe Drew, J.D.). He doesn’t have a lot of time for the accepted practices of the profession (he’s already making noises about suing to free Matsuzaka from the posting system, although it’s a bit unclear who’d be the subject of such a lawsuit).

In a worst case scenario, all of this means the two sides are on a mutually destructive collision course. Neither side compromises, Boras screws himself over by his failure to understand the intricate nuances of Japanese culture, and the lack of a top-of-the-rotation prize becomes the cherry on the top of a extremely unappetizing sundae for Red Sox Nation.

Of course, this probably will not be the case — as the above paragraph points out, both sides have too much to lose. But regardless of what happens, the distance between the Red Sox’s desire not to have their every move play out in the press and the reality of the amount of times they find themselves the focus of a national feeding frenzy deserves further discussion. (And, right on cue, the Sox announce they’ll have a press conference of their own. Sigh. I’m going to sleep.)

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Moneyball & Red Sox front office & Red Sox ownership

Reader mail: Did Larry railroad the team into the Beckett trade?

December 7th, 2006 → 9:40 am @

Jenny — if that really is her name — raised a question in the Johnny Jesus post below. To wit:

“Seth, can you clarify the Josh Beckett deal for me? The way I understand what you wrote about it in the book, it was railroaded through by Lucchino in an attempt to shift media and fan attention away from internal problems in the wake of Theo’s resignation. This was done over the objection of several baseball ops guys, specifically Jed Hoyer. Given the close relationship between Jed and Theo and thus the probable similarity in their viewpoints, I have been assuming all year that had Theo still been GM, that trade would not have occurred. Is this your take? Every time I try to advance this view to others, they call me a ballwashing Theo apologist or something of that ilk. One sportswriter (Bill Madden?) even wrote in all seriousness that the trade was Theo’s fault because he was “in the building.” Some help here? I know it’s not Damon-related, but that section of the book was really self-explanatory.”

I’d say that’s an oversimplifaction, but an oversimplification that has some connection to what went down. I wrote in the book that “Hoyer, in constant communication with Epstein, had been wary about making the trade, but Lucchino had been eager to get it done”; I go on to quote someone with an ownership stake in the team to say that people with the long-term interests of the club were advocating holding off and people who wanted to shift focus away from the front office fiasco wanted it to go down.

And that’s all I said on the matter, out of both space concerns and because at the time I wrote that (back in April) it was unclear, to say the least, how that signing would turn out.* That certainly was true: Larry was the trade’s largest advocate; he got most of the credit; it occurred at a time when the daily headlines were full of “this is as bad as it has been since the days of the Duke” type stories. But there wasn’t a Larry camp that was completely gung-ho and a Jed-Ben-Theo camp that was completely opposed. Instead, it was more of a 60-40/40-60 deal, meaning those in favor of making it were in favor of it 60-40 and those opposed were opposed 40-60. What’s more, those opposed were more worried about Josh’s shoulder than anything else…and that turned out not to be much of a concern.

Hope that’s a little more clear.

* In speaking with a senior member of the baseball ops staff late in the season (i.e., well after the point at which it became clear that Beckett’s season wasn’t going to be all we’d hoped), said staff member said he wasn’t worried about Beckett’s long-term success because a. he’s young, b. he’s had big-time success before, and c. there’s a natural adjustment period for any young player. I don’t know as much about baseball as the baseball ops staff — to say the least — but I was concerned, and that was mainly because his fastball is as straight as John Wayne and he seemed perpetually concerned about throwing breaking stuff. But we’ll see.

Post Categories: Feeding the Monster reactions & Jed Hoyer & Josh Beckett & Larry Lucchino & Red Sox front office & Theo Epstein

More thoughts on Aramis’s and Alfonso’s pay day: Coco and Wily Mo, Matsuzaka and Drew (fine, those last two don’t rhyme)

November 20th, 2006 → 7:48 pm @

The $8 billion to Cubs paid out to Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano make a couple of things clear:

* Despite all the talk about a new, smarter generation of GMs, there are still folks who are more than willing to shell out crazy amounts of money regardless of the long-term consequences.

* Coco Crisp’s three-year, $15.5 million contract extension (with an $8 million team option for 2010) is looking a lot more attractive. How attractive? Well, as Buster Olney points out, Carlos Lee, one of the remaining big-time free agents on the market, must be salivating at the prospect of an obscene payday (Lee is already said to have a five-year, $60 million deal on the table). From ages 24-26, Lee averaged (and I’m eyeballing this), a .275 average, a .345 OBP, and a .475 slugging percentage. If you take at face-value the notion that Coco was injured last year, his 24 and 25 year old seasons average out to somewhere around .298, .345, .450. That’s $7 million more a year for 25 points of slugging percentage. Let’s say Coco does end up being a bust; it still puts the Sox’s decision in much better perspective.

* Speaking of perspective, the WMP deal — while still, considering the dearth of good pitching (to say nothing of good two-tone mullets), an occasionally painful one — makes even more sense. Here’s a guy who has the potential to be an absolute monster who’s under the Sox’s control for two more years.

* All of which offers one more illustration of why it made sense to offer up that $51.1 million posting figure for Matsuzaka. The Sox have the revenue to spend a lot on payroll, but don’t want to shell out obscene amounts for free agents who want to be signing until they’re 52 years old. They do, however, want to spend that money on 26-year old studs.

* Finally, if the Sox were really thinking about J.D. Drew as a Trot replacement, that option just got a helluva lot more expensive. It’ll be interesting to see what happens here; overpaying on dollars and years for someone like Drew would seem to go against everything the Sox have been working towards as of late; on the other hand, maybe they can get Drew at a relative bargain because of his injury history.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Alfonso Soriano & Coco Crisp & Daisuke Matsuzaka & J.D. Drew & Red Sox front office & Wily Mo Pena