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Today's deadline just no big deal

Sox, Rangers still hoping for trade

Just when you thought this was about a property impossible to move, the Red Sox scored a breakthrough, and at a bargain, too.


Yes, Curt Schilling yesterday confirmed that he and his wife, Shonda, had entered an agreement to buy the mansion vacated by Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe when he was dealt to the Buffalo Bills more than a year ago, and, Schilling said, for "much less" than the listed price of $6.5 million.

Oh, that wasn't the big deal you were asking about? Sorry. Alex Rodriguez is still with the Texas Rangers. A deal sought by all the principals involved -- the Red Sox, Rangers, Rodriguez, and nearly everyone else whose last name is not Garciaparra remained inert, hours before a 5 p.m. deadline set by Texas owner Tom Hicks. The Rangers earlier set a deadline of the end of the winter meetings but have not yet exhausted New Year's Day, Lincoln's Birthday, or the first day of spring training, so it's not clear whether today's line in the sand marks anything other than today being that much closer to Christmas.

As much as Hicks's deadlines have challenged credulity, so, too, have Red Sox declamations that the deal is dead, kaput, fini, chicken fried. There were no talks between the clubs yesterday, sources on both sides indicated, but the desire to consummate the deal remains strong on both ends, regardless of what is being said publicly. If anything, the Red Sox wish all public communiques would cease and desist -- which is a polite way of saying they wish Hicks would shut up -- and that the parties would assemble in one place and hash this out, once and for all.

John W. Henry's yacht might work. Keep everyone shipside until a deal is struck. But that didn't seem likely, at least not yesterday. Hicks remained in Texas, where he bemoaned the fact that the Rangers missed on signing free agent outfielder Ben Grieve yesterday because Grieve couldn't wait on the A-Rod deal any longer and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers instead.

"People continue to fall off the board," Hicks told the Fort Woth Star-Telegram yesterday. "That's why I feel it's even more necessary to bring a finality to the process and go ahead with putting our team together."

Grieve, a bust in Tampa Bay, is hardly a franchise-maker. Rodriguez is.

Is Hicks bluffing with this last deadline? The Red Sox, who so far have resisted cutting a deal if it means giving Hicks the $13 million he is asking for on top of Manny Ramirez and prospect Jon Lester, appeared prepared to find out, since in their view Hicks was passing up on perhaps his one (and only?) chance to get out from under the $179.5 million still owed Rodriguez on his record-setting $252 million contract he signed three years ago.

For the Rangers' part, they are banking on the Red Sox having careened too far down a path in which they would jettison Ramirez -- a great hitter whose antics would be far less aggravating if he was making far less than $21 million -- and Garciaparra, the superstar shortstop who may have inadvertently drawn his own line in the sand when he turned down a $60 million, four-year offer for a contract extension last spring -- in exchange for A-Rod, the reigning league MVP, and budding star outfielder Magglio Ordonez, whose bat may not be quite the equal of Ramirez's but who is a far more reliable citizen.

This deal has involved much more than the teams and players involved. Commissioner Bud Selig, who first gave the Sox the green light to pursue this deal, may sustain some collateral damage if it falls through, especially if he is perceived as being powerless in the face of a players' union that quashed the restructuring of Rodriguez's contract agreed upon by the player and Red Sox. The union is accustomed to playing the heavy, so it's unlikely union lawyer Gene Orza will do anything but let the criticism roll right off him. Agent Scott Boras, however, might have some explaining to do to Rodriguez, who surely would not have invested so much time and effort into making this deal happen unless he'd been assured it was a likely go.

All of this should be made clear by 5 o'clock. Then again, maybe not. For now, the only thing on the calendar that is a sure thing is Christmas. . . .

The Red Sox yesterday welcomed back Gabe Kapler, just two days after the club let the outfielder become a free agent. Kapler, who hit .291 with 4 home runs and 23 RBIs in 68 games, signed a one-year deal worth $750,000.

Kapler earned $3.4 million last year and Boston was afraid of what kind of raise he'd get in arbitration, therefore it elected to let him walk.

It was always believed Kapler wanted to stay in Boston, however. In addition to his base salary, he can earn performance bonuses.

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