FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Hang your heads, Sox fans. It's a sad day in the Nation when George Steinbrenner sounds like the reasonable party.
Bad day for the BoSox yesterday. Owner John Henry got things started with an early-morning e-mail in which he cried about the Yankees' deep pockets and advocated a salary cap for Major League Baseball. Naturally, Boss Steinbrenner responded and concluded his unusually lucid (but highly personal) remarks with the words, "sour grapes."
Steinbrenner is right. The Red Sox look like big babies in all of this. They walked away from a deal that would have brought Alex Rodriguez to Boston. It was simply too much money. Fine. But now they're complaining because the Yankees were in position to make the deal.
Sorry, people. I know here at the Globe/Times, we love the new Sox ownership. We've got $75 million of our own dough in the partnership. But as a fellow owner, let me say I'm embarrassed by Henry's statement. Sure, we'd all love a salary cap. But the Red Sox are hardly in position to be advocating for the Expos and Pirates of the world. Boston's payroll will be in the $125 million range, the second highest in the majors. Please let's not have the Sox pretend to carry the torch for the have-nots of baseball. It does sound like sour grapes. Imagine Donald Trump making fun of guys who get the best-looking girls only because they are rich. Would Lisa Guerrero do a commentary on beautiful talking heads who get great jobs based on their looks? That's what the Red Sox sound like.
Henry did return a call from the Globe last night but said that, because of an embargo levied on both teams by commissioner Bud Selig, he couldn't comment further.
Henry described the commissioner as apoplectic.
Sox CEO Larry Lucchino weighed in before Selig's edict. "Have a little perspective," he argued. "Stop talking about the Yankees and Red Sox as 1-2 in payroll. We're there with Houston, Anaheim, and Los Angeles, who might be north of $100 million. But there's one team approaching $200 million. They're $80 million higher than the next team."
No, Larry. You can't make this argument. It is not the time and you are not the team.
Henry's unfortunate statement ("He was just answering questions you all posed while he was out of the country," Lucchino said) characterized the Yankees as going "insanely far beyond the resources of all the other teams." Then he urged a salary cap and said that revenue sharing has not solved "a very obvious problem." (Let's remind ourselves for a second that Henry once owned a small portion of the Yankees with George and has the rings to prove it.)
George responded like Col. Jessup of "A Few Good Men," firing back with both barrels.
"We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated, and disappointed by his failure in this transaction," it started. "Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston." You can't handle the truth.And what part of Steinbrenner's statement is untrue? As a fellow owner, I have no problem with Henry's reluctance to part with the extra $30 million needed to bring Rodriguez to Boston, but just because the Sox didn't get A-Rod, Henry's hardly in a position to cry about it now. Not when he keeps picking up stars that other teams can no longer afford such as Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling. Schilling made his first appearance in Fort Myers yesterday and had this to say about Henry's statement: "I don't believe there should be a salary cap. And Mr. Steinbrenner operates within the rules of the game. He just gets to play differently than everybody else. And I don't begrudge him that [neither did Henry when he was George's partner]. It's been that way for a long time. I'm not going to complain. I'm on a team with a $130 million payroll. I believe when I look back at this winter and the way things have gone on that this club operated with regard to the luxury tax the way everybody wanted the teams to operate with it. They didn't want to go over it. Some things happened that allowed them to inch over it a little bit, but they felt it was worth it to the club. And they did that with an eye toward the tax all the time. Mr. Steinbrenner doesn't have to do that and if I'm Mr. Steinbrenner, I wouldn't, either."
Steinbrenner correctly pointed out that Henry voted in favor of the system he now trashes. "It is time to get on with life and forget the sour grapes," concluded the Boss.
"I think John's comments and thoughts were well founded," countered Lucchino. "It's a legitimate issue. Look at the gap. There's a system that governs 29 teams and then you have one team that has so much greater revenue. It's a mistake to lump them with the rest of us. And remember that we're not the first ones talking about this. The issue of a salary cap has been around for a long time and the Yankees were strong proponents of it in the early 1990s.
"Two sports have salary caps [football, basketball] and both are better off for it. It's inevitable, it really is."
Perhaps. But again, this is not the time and the Sox are not the team to be making this argument.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.