There's no doubting the respect the Red Sox and Yankees have for Scott Boras and the players he represents, but both teams seem to be taken aback by some of the claims the super-agent makes concerning the economic impact his players have with their teams.
The latest was Boras indicating that the re-signing of Alex Rodriguez to a mega-deal by the Yankees will yield a major revenue boost to the YES Network, which sounded eerily familiar to the financial boon he predicted for the Red Sox during the courting of Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Boras, at that time, cited Japanese sources who said the Yankee windfall on Hideki Matsui was somewhere in the neighborhood of $21 million in advertising and marketing deals, and he felt the Red Sox would reap similar rewards from Matsuzaka. But neither the Sox nor Yankees have benefited much financially from the Japanese stars. One major league source familiar with the marketing of the teams estimated that the benefits to the Sox and Yankees were "less than 10 percent" of the $21 million Boras threw out there.
"A grossly laughable estimate," said Red Sox CEO and president Larry Lucchino of Boras's number. "The reality is far, far, far below that. In reality, whatever financial benefit has been as a result of the signing has largely benefited the player and has only trickled down in small amounts to the Red Sox.
"We didn't do it for economic gain. We did it for baseball reasons. We made a baseball decision. That's the reason we bid what we bid, and that's the reason we're paying Dice-K the salary that we pay him. We feel he's a fine pitcher."
A high-ranking Yankee official concurred with Lucchino's stance. "Not even close," he said on Matsui.
The Red Sox never bought Boras's numbers, knowing full well that Major League Baseball controls just about all income that teams derive from a player. What little has "trickled down" would be from, say, the Japanese signage in the ballpark.
Lucchino said it's also hard to determine whether there was a boost in NESN ratings because of Matsuzaka, although he did say, "We have the highest television ratings in baseball. [Note: the Yankees make the same claim.] Any time you acquire a prominent free agent player, you do expect an initial bump in the ratings, especially early in the season, but it's hard to project what kind of staying power that has."
NESN always got a bump in the ratings when Pedro Martínez pitched, since Martínez was must-see in his heyday. It would be far-fetched to think that Matsuzaka has that kind of an impact, just as it's difficult to believe that Yankee fans watch YES just to watch Rodriguez play.
The Yankees overflow with star power. Fans love Derek Jeter. The team also reacquired the popular Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens this year. It would stand to reason that Yankee fans watch the Yankees because they're the Yankees. If A-Rod should opt out and YES ratings fall (which they actually have the past three seasons), would it be because A-Rod is gone or because the Yankees might not be as good in 2008?
Asked about the Yankee situation and Boras's comments concerning A-Rod, Lucchino declined comment, as the player is still property of the Yankees. He did, however, say that in general when the Sox acquire a big-name player, "We try to exploit every marketing opportunity and we feel we do a good job of it here, but in the end, we do it to enhance our baseball team on the field."
Lucchino feels that without a strong product, fans are not going to come to games or watch TV no matter who is playing for the team.
Lucchino also pointed out, "We sell all of our tickets. We have our media deals in place. If you're trying to gain added revenue through ticket sales, a team that needed that would certainly get great economic benefit."
The Red Sox do sell out every game, and the Yankees had 4 million fans go through the turnstiles this season. Even in the new Yankee Stadium, where the capacity will be lower, many of the new luxury boxes are already sold. With A-Rod or without.
Boras has claimed that A-Rod's presence helped finance the new Yankee Stadium, but the Yankee source indicated that the stadium plans were already in place.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said it, and a higher-ranking official confirmed it: The Yankees will make A-Rod a new offer, but if he opts out of his deal, they will not chase him. The Yankees believe that if they can't sign him, nobody else can. But with A-Rod or without him, the Yankees will make a boatload of money.
The Great Debate
Which way to go with Joe?
Will Joe Torre return as Yankees manager or be replaced, and by whom? We asked former Red Sox and Yankee catcher John Flaherty, now a color commentator on YES, and former Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, who runs DugoutCentral.com.
FLAHERTY: "Don Mattingly has great support in the clubhouse, and while he doesn't have managerial experience, the experience he received from Joe makes him a candidate that would be attractive to the players and, I think, to the people making the decision. But a lot of this will stem from what direction the team decided to go in. Do all of the veterans come back or do they decide to build with younger guys? If they stay with the veterans and re-sign Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, then Donnie would be a guy who would likely keep things status quo. If you're not, a guy like Joe Girardi would come in and have tighter control of the clubhouse."
PAGLIARULO: "I thought Joe did his best work this year. Given where they came from at the beginning of the year, where they had so many injuries and they were dipping down for kids in Double A to play for them. I thought it was remarkable what they did. They were using two 21-year-old kid pitchers [Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain] in Cleveland, and I'm sure if they had their druthers, they wouldn't have brought those kids up so soon. I don't know if they're waiting to gauge public response or what, but if they do replace Joe, I would think they'd want someone who was very close to him in style. I would think someone like Don Mattingly. Joe Girardi is also a good choice and I know Joe and Donny are very good friends. Donny has a lot of respect for Joe. But I think we're all waiting and very interested in what might happen. I think Joe has been great for that organization and it would be a shame if it had to end."
Gorman's old players are managing quite well
A few questions for former Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman, who has links to three of the four managers in the two championship series:
What do you remember about Eric Wedge?
LG: "He was a bright, energetic young man from the moment we signed him and had him in our system. Our scouts really thought that this kid would manage someday. The first time I ever saw him was during the Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown the year Yaz was inducted. We were supposed to play the Reds, but they had played in Montreal the night before and for some reason they couldn't make it out. So I called our Elmira club and had them come down to play the major league team. In that game we used Wedge as our catcher with the major league team. I remember Joe Morgan saying at the time how impressed he was with Wedge's knowledge for such a young kid and how he handled the pitchers."
You left him unprotected in the expansion draft in the winter of 1992.
LG: By that point we were considering changing his position because though he thought he was a terrific receiver, he just didn't have the arm strength. We took a chance and we actually thought that maybe nobody would take him."
You drafted Clint Hurdle when you were a Royals executive and then brought him back with the Mets when you were there.
LG: "He was an outstanding athlete, a top high school football prospect. I know he had many opportunities to play Division 1 at Georgia Tech, Florida State, Florida, etc., but he chose baseball. He had a couple of good years but I don't think he ever lived up to his promise. But he was very, very astute about the game and the type of person who could motivate people."
You acquired Bob Melvin in your last year (1993) as Red Sox general manager. What do you remember about him?
LG: "It's just a guess on my part, but I think Bob really learned a lot being around Tony Pena. He was Tony's backup and we had acquired Tony to be our starting catcher and of course Tony became an excellent manager in his own right, winning Manager of the Year for the Royals a few years back. Bob, again, very smart about the game. Great personality. He seems to have a great rapport with his players and can obviously motivate."
Touching the bases
Apropos of nothing: 1. Former Red Sox lefty Kevin Morton was a guest of Eric Wedge during the Division Series against the Yankees last week; 2. Pittsburgh resident Ken Macha or former Pirate catcher Tony Pena for the Pirates managerial job? Or does that make too much sense? 3. Two teams that need another layer of management between owner and GM: Dodgers and Astros. 4. Does it bother anybody that the Indians won as many games with $60 million as the Red Sox did with $140 million? 5. Of all the players disturbed about the possibility of Joe Torre not returning, the one guy who may not come back if he doesn't is Andy Pettitte. That would be a blow to the Yankees.
Something to consider down the line
A major league official recently questioned the wisdom of having umpires working the lines in the playoffs. "Umpires aren't used to working from that angle," he said. "It was like Johnny Damon's home run in the first game, first at-bat in Cleveland. At first the umpire called the ball foul down the line because there's no way he had the best shot at it from being so far down the line. The best shot at the play was by the home plate umpire or the first base umpire. They're the ones who actually reversed the call because they had the best shot at it. It's not natural for an umpire to call something in back of them." Umpires wouldn't complain about the assignment publicly since it means more opportunities and more money, but logistically it doesn't appear to work.
Tale of the tape for the
Postseason record: 9-19.
Winning seasons: 9.
Losing seasons: 17.
Amount paid for team: $20 million.
Hits and misses
The Red Sox lucked out when Toronto passed on NL Rookie of the Year candidate Troy Tulowitzki with the sixth pick of the 2005 draft and took Cal-Fullerton lefty Ricardo Romero instead. Romero was 3-6 with a 4.89 ERA for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats this year. Imagine Tulowitzki, who was taken seventh by Colorado, in the AL East? There are all kinds of stories like this. In the '06 draft, the Orioles passed on Tim Lincecum with the ninth pick and took third baseman Billy Rowell. The Giants took Lincecum at 10. In the same draft, the Red Sox took Wichita State lefty Kristofer Johnson (9-7, 5.56 ERA at Lancaster) with the 40th pick. Joba Chamberlain was taken at 41 by the Yankees.
Playing the percentages
Don't know whatever happened to GMs hiring managers with a history of winning, but here's a few of the most successful managers among the available pool, by winning percentage: Macha (NESN) .568; Davey Johnson (Team USA) .564; Jimy Williams (Phillies bench coach) .535; Bobby Valentine (Chiba Lotte Marines) .534, Kevin Kennedy (Fox TV) .531; Dusty Baker (ESPN) .527; Jerry Manuel (Mets bench coach) .515.
The Rocket's trajectory
Astros catcher Brad Ausmus, a close friend of Roger Clemens's, when asked what he thinks the 45-year-old righthander will do: "A long time ago I stopped trying to think along with Roger. It's really not an exercise that you get anywhere with. Over the years, I've certainly called him and urged him to stay with the Astros, and it's been a good decision. Two years ago, he had the best ERA in the National League, and I know that you have to account for American League hitters, but I know the players there embraced him as they did here. I know how much he can do for young pitchers and how much they look up to him. I always told him that I'd rather play with him than play against him, but I always told him if he was happier being in New York, then that's where he should go. Is he at the point now where some physical things are entering into it? It looks that way, but you never know."
Ausmus had an interesting take on the horrible season the Astros had: "It wasn't fun, that's for sure. It was one of those teams where if you bring back all of the same guys and replay the season this year, you'll get a reverse of the record we had this season. I don't know how to explain it." Ausmus, who has a home on Cape Cod but lives in San Diego, said he will play one more season in a part-time role and then consider other options.
Yankees first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz works out with Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramírez in the offseason at an exclusive Miami gym. When asked about Ramírez, Mientkiewicz quipped, "He's always a little late." . . . Larry Lucchino told me he tried to hire Frank Coonelly in the Red Sox front office. Coonelly, who worked for Bud Selig, was recently hired as the Pirates CEO . . . A name to watch as a possible Japanese free agent: Hiroki Kuroda of Hiroshima Carp. He's 32, a sinkerballer who has played in the smallest ballpark in Japan. Sound familiar? . . . Red Sox minor league hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez is being considered for the Giants hitting coach position . . . Major league sources indicate that John Farrell might be interviewed for the vacant Pirates managing job . . . The Red Sox could do worse than to hire former Astros scouting director Paul Ricciarini to their scouting staff . . . Happy 67th birthday, Tommy Harper.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org