Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What A Fun Time

Even bears wake up every now and again.

It's Valentine's Day, a day of romance, love, and admiration, also coincidentally the two-year anniversary of Alex Rodriguez's move to New York. Some people look back at such times and remember the great loves they may have had or the emotional thrills they've felt when it turned out their girlfriend actually liked stuffed bears. But not The Ninth. No, The Ninth remembers waking up on a freezing Sunday morning in Queens, heading to the subway, and being assaulted by boastful headlines about Arod's acquisition. No, loyal reader, we are not heading to a HI-larious moment of self-deprecation at the expense of my love life (though we could), merely trying to create significance. That was a big day two years ago, one that put a new and permanent spin on the hometown nine, and one that we should remember.

Make no mistake, that move was a tragedy for Boston. It was disappointing when Alex was not brought into red socks a few months earlier, but down right heartbreaking when he went the other way. I mean, we hadn't even considered it. Fine, the hot chick doesn't laugh at my jokes, but she's into Jim Carrey movies? That guy talks with his butt. The whole season sagged before our eyes, and pitchers and catchers were still snuggled warmly in their beds. One thing that we often forget however is that Boston chose not to get Rodriguez. Sure, the deal fell apart when the Player's Union killed his contract restructuring, but the Red Sox could've gotten Alex anyway. The entire Manny for ARod package dissolved over about 20 million dollars. Not a little, but not a lot either. A reworked Rodriguez contract would've made that money disappear, but a couple flicks of John Henry's rich guy pen would've done the same. Didn't happen. The Sox wouldn't spend extra, and so turned down perhaps the most well-rounded player in the history of baseball. Of course, not having ARod led to the retention of Manny, Nomar, and some very attractive World Series rings, but that's not the point. The point is that two years ago, Boston took a tremendous risk, of public relations, talent, and chemistry, and
they just spent an entire winter doing it again. Somehow, we didn't see it coming.

Not many front offices would've attempted what Boston did in late 2003. They floated the acquisition of an enormous franchise player, implied the subsequent departure of a few beloved stars, and got their fanbase very very excited. Then they pulled it off the table. Oh, and all in extremely public fashion. It is hard to imagine that other franchises, after going so far down that road, wouldn't just say "F the 20 million, let's get this done." (Well probably they'd say "Fuck the 20 million", because they're boy's club-type ruffians, but we are not.) Theo, Larry, and John however, looked at the value, decided they were unimpressed, and calmly kept walking. When asked if they thought Manny and Nomar might be adversely affected, they shrugged and checked their voice mail. It's not that they didn't care about the negative reaction to their ARod choice, it's that they cared about other things more. Things that mattered. The same things that mattered this offseason. Time after time, the Red Sox made the unpopular decisions this winter. Their beloved General Manager hit the road and they took three months to replace him. With himself. Heck, the Reds signed GM Wayne Krivsky in three days. Would you like to know what was most likely said before Cincinatti went with Wayne? "F the 20 million, let's get this done". Or not 20 million, because that really wouldn't apply, but you know, something like that. The Ninth doesn't know a whole lot about the Krivinator, but I imagine there's a pretty good reason the he didn't make it past the first interview in Boston. Then the Red Sox traded their starting shortstop for a guy no one had ever heard of, and dropped 11 million on Atlanta for the privelage. After that little pu pu platter of a PR disaster (what does that mean?), they let their leadoff hitter and most popular player become a Yankee. Yippee. Wanna know what was probably said in the Yankee offices right before they offered a bit too much money to lure Damon away? "F the 20 million, let's get this done." (This time it actually works!). Then, finally, the Red Sox took Andy Marte, that guy from before, who they had just convinced us we actually like and sent him to Cleveland for a player named after a breakfast cereal. This is a pretty bold set of maneuvers. And they did every one without a blink or hesitation, stating simply "we think this will help". They did it when they passed on Rodriguez, and they've been doing it again ever since. No matter where you stand on the offseason Boston just completed, you must respect that they're working with a philosophy. A philosophy that, in truth, has been guiding them for several years. No player is too important, no amount of value is insignificant. And while that might cost you a few Damons and a Pedro Martinez, it'll never cost you a championsip. Because in the end, the smart guys usually win. And the dumb guys, well we know what they do. They say "F the 20 million, let's get this done."
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