It’s official! Sort of! Almost!

December 13th, 2006 → 1:51 pm @

From Gordo’s Globe blog: “A source close to the negotiations confirmed that the Red Sox contingent in Southern California is flying back to Boston with pitcher Daisuke Matsuzka and his agent, Scott Boras, on board. ‘You can assume that a deal is done or close,’ said another source with direct knowledge of the talks.” (Who is this mysterious “source with direct knowledge’? Besides, I mean, someone who’s close enough to the actual negotiating room to know what’s what and who also has enough time to put in calls to reporters whenever anything happens.) Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but the Herald‘s Michael Silverman stresses that “negotiations are ongoing” and that “the final language of a long-term deal has not yet been struck.” In fact, “[o]ne source said it is too early to say that a preliminary agreement has been reached. However, it is safe to conclude that Matsuzaka and Boras did not board Henry’s private jet if both they and the Red Sox were not, at the very least, hopeful of striking a deal.”

I was covering Bush HQ in Austin, Texas, on election night in 2000…and honestly? I don’t think there was this level of minute-by-minute coverage back then. Of course, that wasn’t nearly as important a story.

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

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

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

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

You got to roll me

December 10th, 2006 → 3:59 pm @

I sure as hell hope it’s not true…but that doesn’t stop me from fully appreciating the Herald‘s headline on Michael Silverman’s story about the disintegrating negotiations between the Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka: “Tumblin’ Dice.”

Even in light of Scott Boras’s well-publicized track record of shortening players’ careers in order to snare some extra dough, I think this deal will go down. Matsuzaka doesn’t want to return to Japan, the Seibu Lions don’t want him back, and there’s no other dog in this hunt. If it’s true that the Sox are at $8 mil a year and Boras is closer to $14 or $15 mil, I’d bet on Matsuzaka receiving an annual salary in the neighborhood of $10 or $11 million when the deal is done. Whatever the case, you can bet Boras’ll burn the candle right down.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Explicit References to Rolling Stones Lyrics & Oblique references to Grateful Dead lyrics & Scott Boras

The wonderful world of general managers, you can lead a horse to water edition

December 10th, 2006 → 10:24 am @

In today’s edition of the Times‘s “Keeping Score” column, Alan Schwarz has this nugget:

“Major League Baseball has devoted resources to educating club officials on how to make better decisions on contracts. One step was emphasizing how most players in their early 30s, though known commodities, quickly lose their productivity and value. More subtle is the message that purchasing extra years to hedge against market inflation — particularly with pitchers — may be outweighed by added risk. The player can become injured or simply not be as good as expected, leaving the club saddled with a payroll-draining deal or the drag of paying another club millions to take the player off its hands.”

Bill Stoneman and Dayton Moore must have slept through that seminar.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & general managers

Murray Being Murray

December 10th, 2006 → 10:15 am @

In today’s “Baseball Notes” column, Murray Chass has two items about the Red Sox (as compared to one that involves either the Mets or the Yankees. That one was about how Mike Mussina, who sits on the Little League international board of directors, isn’t in support of a ban on metal bats.)

The more vitriolic of the two Sox items is this total head-scratcher:

“Red Sox Being the Red Sox”
“The Boston Red Sox may have honorable intentions, but the next time they let it be known that they are trying to trade Manny Ramírez, everyone should ignore them. The Red Sox are wasting everyone’s time. The Mets were smart this time for not even asking about Ramírez. The Red Sox have supposedly tried to trade Ramírez, their slugging outfielder, the past three off-seasons and have yet to let him go anywhere. It’s understandable that they just don’t want to give him away, but if they haven’t been able to get equal value for him in three tries, they’re not going to get it.”

That’s an odd formulation, to say the least: because the Sox haven’t been able to get equal value for the best right-handed slugger of his generation, Boston is “wasting everyone’s time.”

What’s more, the Mets apparently are still interested in Manny. As the Globe‘s Nick Cafardo (who did put in a call to Minaya) writes in his “Baseball Notes” column, Minaya remains interested in Manny: “Minaya was a bit miffed early in the week that he hadn’t heard from Red Sox GM Theo Epstein about Manny Ramírez. It wasn’t until Thursday, moments before the GMs scattered, that Minaya struck up a conversation with Epstein. Minaya, who spent the weekend in the Dominican Republic on a scouting trip, has always had interest in Ramírez. Asked if anything was rekindled, Minaya said, ‘No. Theo was just the one GM I hadn’t had a conversation with. Just wanted to say hi.’ … Did the Sox feel Minaya was no longer interested in Ramírez because of the [Moises] Alou signing? Minaya sounded like a man who would have explored it even with Alou aboard. … You wonder whether something iwll get going again.”

It’s the second time in two days the Globe has, directly or indirectly, refuted one of Chass’s stories.

Chass also shows his difficulty with math. Referring to Alfonso Soriano, he writes, “The Chicago Cubs committed $136 million to a player who will have a salary of $18 million at the age of 39.” According to Baseball Reference, Soriano was born on January 7, 1976…which will make him 38 when his contract expires on October 31, 2014.

That’s just Murray being Murray.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Murray Chass & New York Times