Breaking My Red Sox Silence
-Scott Coombs (02-08-2006)
As an unabashed Boston Red Sox homer, I've taken the opportunity in the past to use this column as a place to discuss my favorite team many, many times. No matter how big or small an event may have been - as long as it involved my beloved Sox - I found a way to write a column about it. In fact, it got so bad during Boston's run to the 2004 World Series Championship that 8 of the 10 articles I wrote in the months of September and October were about Big Papi and company.
Now as someone who gets paid to comment on all major sports, not just the events occurring inside the borders of Red Sox Nation, this was not a good thing and I knew it. So for the past year I've done exactly what my bosses have wanted, writing articles about everything from football, to basketball, to golf. Hell I even wrote a racing column.
Well, I can hold my tongue no longer! After watching the Red Sox endure the most tumultuous off-season in recent history I have to end my silence. There are just too many feelings welling up behind this dam of emotion I've built, and if I don't release it now I'm going to end up like Edward Norton's character in the movie "Fight Club", beating the crap out of myself in the parking lot of a bar.
So shield your eyes, Yankee fans. Here are my thoughts on Manny, Theo, Johnny, Coco Crisp, and everything else that's happened in Red Sox Nation this off-season.
How many times has Manny demanded to be traded out of Boston now? It's got to be something like nine or ten times at least. And every time he does this it plays out the exact same way.
First, Sox fans get mad that he doesn't want to be on their team. Then a rumor of some horrible trade like Ramirez for Kaz Matsui starts circulating around to all the media outlets. Next, Manny and his agent dig their heels in, claiming that he refuses to play for Boston and a deal must get done soon (i.e. putting Manny's condo in Boston up for sale). This gets Sox fans really upset, and they start calling for the head of anyone and everyone in the front office if a good trade isn't made immediately. At this point there are countless rumors bouncing around the internet (my favorite is always the complicated 20-team deal involving 9,000 players and 5 head of cattle). These rumors then escalate for the next three weeks, which gives the members of the Red Sox Nation time to crunch the numbers and realize that no matter what happens they're not going to get equal value for Ramirez. This then leads to a change in public opinion, and suddenly Sox fans are begging Manny to stay. It's at this stage of the game that David Ortiz comes forward and says something to the effect of, "Manny is a strange cat but he's a great player and a great teammate; we all want him on our team." From here Manny rescinds his trade demand and tells ESPN Deportes that he loves playing in Boston and hopes to be there for years to come. It always ends with Peter Gammons flashing his pearly whites on SportsCenter saying, "What can we say? It's just Manny being Manny." The end!
The truth of the matter is there was no way that a deal involving Manny was or is going to get done. I mean we have traveled this path multiple times already and outside of the A-Rod deal two years ago there has never been anything even close. It always comes down to the fact that Manny's contract is too big for most teams, and the teams that can afford him aren't willing to give up enough or don't have enough to get him. That was the case last winter, it was the case at the trade deadline in 2005, it's the case now, and it will be the case this coming June when he demands to be traded again.
So rather than get my tighty-whiteys in a bunch over "Manny being Manny" I've decided to treat this situation the same way I treat those "enlarge your penis" junk emails I get every day and just ignore the whole situation. Pretend it never happened. This way I don't have to get all worked up over a trade that will never happen, or worry about the size of my genitalia.
During the 80+ days that King Theo was out of power you would have thought that the sky was falling. Everywhere you looked in Red Sox Nation people were freaking out that this was somehow the end of the Boston Red Sox. I mean Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe was running around like a curly-haired Chicken Little preaching gloom and doom to everyone that would listen.
The truth of the matter is that not a single deal got done this winter without Theo's input. Every trade, every free agent signing, and even every arbitration case has Epstein's fingerprints on it. Some deals, like the Renteria trade, were constructed by Theo before he left. Others, like the Josh Beckett trade, had to get his approval despite the fact that he supposedly no longer worked there.
This whole thing was nothing more than a power struggle between Epstein and team president Larry Lucchino. They had different ideas as to where the team was headed in the future and how they were going to get there. And since they had these philosophical disagreements, Theo wanted to make sure that he had ultimate power when it came to baseball operations. Lucchino, on the other hand, wanted Epstein to answer to him before making any final decisions.
So when Larry wouldn't give him the freedom that he wanted, Theo played the only hand he could and "quit". This forced team owner John Henry to get involved and he ultimately sided with Epstein. So Theo "came back", and is now the Red Sox GM once again.
The bottom line is that Theo never really left. The 2006 Red Sox were constructed by Theo Epstein. Sure, some of the time he was using Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington as his puppets while he was away, but he was always pulling the strings.
So all of you Sox fans out there who were concerned with Boston's off-season moves must remember the Red Sox Nation motto; In Theo We Trust.
When I first heard the news that Johnny had turned to the dark side I was heartbroken. Johnny was the heart and soul of the Sox. He was the guy who did naked pull-ups in the locker room to get his teammates pumped up before the big game. He was the one who coined the phrase, "We're just a bunch of idiots." Hell, this was the same guy who only a few months prior had said that he would never be Yankee.
But as soon as old Georgie boy flashed a little money in his direction he was gone.
This is the type of thing that I normally hate a player for. In the past, when guys like Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens crossed enemy lines and joined the Yankees, I instantly hated them more than any other players in the league. And that's what I expected to happen with Damon. But the truth is I don't really care. When I look at Johnny's age (33), the amount of money he's making ($13 million per year), the length of his contract (4 years), and the guy we brought in to replace him, suddenly it doesn't seem like such a loss.
Dude got too much money and/or too many years to make signing him worthwhile. The general consensus among scouts is that his bat speed is slowing down considerably, his base running has deteriorated, and his defense is slipping. So imagine two years from now, when he's 35, still has two years left on his contract, and is owed $26 million. That does not sound like a good investment, which is why Theo and his puppets didn't counter the Yankees' offer. Instead they decided to go out and get a younger, less expensive player who is just entering the prime of his career. You may think I'm just saying this stuff to make myself feel better about Damon's decision, but in this case the truth actually is stranger than fiction. Read on...
Let's do a quick comparison shall we?
Those numbers are amazingly close. The largest discrepancy comes in the runs scored category, which is largely a product of the lineup behind a hitter. And considering the Red Sox had the highest scoring offense in the league last year, it's safe to say that Crisp's runs scored number will jump considerably once he's their lead off man.
Sure, Damon's numbers are slightly better, but when you consider that A)Crisp is a young player who is still improving while Damon is in the twilight of his career; B) Crisp is moving to a more hitter-friendly park in Fenway; C) the lineup behind him will be much better; D) he will bat leadoff rather than 8th as he did often with the Indians; E) he costs $10 million less per year than Damon; and finally F) he isn't even eligible to be a free agent for another 4 years. Can anyone argue that this isn't a GREAT move for Boston? It's like getting a young Johnny Damon.
Now I know that I'm making everything seem as if it's coming up roses for the Sox, which obviously isn't true. The idea that they let a player like Bill Mueller go and that they haven't added a solid arm to what was the worst bullpen in the AL doesn't leave me with warm fuzzies in my stomach. Add in the fact that the Blue Jays made some major improvements bringing in players like B.J. Ryan, Bengi Molina, Troy Glaus, and A.J. Burnett and suddenly the AL East looks like a real dog fight.
But the point I'm trying to make is that this off-season hasn't been nearly as bad people have been making it out to be. Boston added a Top-5 second baseman in Mark Loretta and gold glove winners at third base and shortstop in Mike Lowell and Alex Gonzalez, respectively. Add an ace starter in Josh Beckett, and when you look at their roster 1-25, especially that starting rotation, they have assembled as solid a ball club as anybody in the game.
So let's all settle down - the sky is far from falling. Red Sox Nation can breathe easy. Boston is going to be in the hunt for the championship all year long, just like they have been for the past few years.
Man it feels good to get that off my chest!