Please, no whining, crying, kvetching, or moaning. The Red Sox had their chance. They have the money. They lost Mark Teixeira to the Yankees for maybe $1 million to $2 million a year, roughly 1 percent of their 2008 payroll.
What a kick in the pants.
Whether or not you wanted to see Teixeira in a Red Sox uniform next year, you're missing the point. The Red Sox wanted him, and they wanted him badly. Roughly two months after making the final payments on Manny Ramirez's eight-year, $160-million contract, the Sox are believed to have offered Teixeira an eight-year deal in the neighborhood of $170 million. The Sox drew a proverbial line in the sand last week when owner John Henry issued the statement that the Sox were "not going to be a factor" in the Teixeira sweepstakes. Tuesday, with agent Scott Boras holding his hand, Teixeira crossed it.
Maybe Henry's remarks were posturing, and maybe they weren't. Maybe he was merely starting the damage control. Whatever the case, the Red Sox now have to deal with the reality that the Yankees are very much back in business in the American League East and that the Sox might be nothing more than a third-place team.
Before we go any further, let us state the obvious: The Red Sox are not going to collapse. They have a good team with good management and a good farm system, and they have the money to compete for any free agent in the business. The Yankees entered this off-season far more desperate than the Red Sox did, which is why New York has spent in excess of $420 million on Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett.
Still, exactly what happened here? Did the Sox get used, or did they just completely whiff? In the coming days and weeks, Sox officials (who thus far have generally declined to discuss all things Teixeira) will put their spin on how they got their pockets picked by the Yankees. None of it will be worth a darn. Baseball is a results-oriented business, and the Red Sox seemingly had all of the necessary elements to make this work.
Instead, they got their pants pulled down.
The money? Please. Despite what has generally been one of the highest payrolls in baseball over the last several years, Sox officials have publicly lamented an inability to compete with the absurdly wealthy Yankees. The argument was lame to begin with, and it is positively foolish with regard to Teixeira. With Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling, and others off the payroll, the Sox had anywhere from $40 million to $60 million to spend this off-season. They could have given Teixeira $25 million a year, and they still would have had money to spend on lesser needs.
Instead, the Sox lost Teixeira for what amounted to about $10 million to $15 million over eight years, which is chump change for a franchise with an estimated value (including NESN and Fenway Park) of somewhere around $1 billion. Sox officials celebrated the freezing of ticket prices earlier this off-season, but the gesture seems rather hollow when the team payroll now stands to drop by maybe 15 to 20 percent.
When you get right down to it, does it really matter if the Sox offered Teixeira $21.25 million a year, $22.5 million a year or $23 million a year? No, no, no. Once you get to that stage, either you need the player or you donít. If the Red Sox believed the latter, they could have pulled out of the negotiations altogether instead of suggesting they would not be ďa factor.Ē It simply makes no sense to stop bidding based on principle, particularly after dropping $51.11 million for the exclusive rights to negotiate a contract with Daisuke Matsuzaka and another $70 million for J.D. Drew.
Where were the principles then?
Where was the line in the sand?
Lest the Sox be labeled the sole losers in this, think again. There is plenty of blame to share. There is now serious question about whether Boras and Teixeira bargained in good faith, whether they had any real interest in Boston at all. Earlier this off-season, one major league executive whose team was not involved in the Teixeira talks stressed that Teixeira had the reputation of being someone who would accept the biggest bid, which was meant as a criticism. In this case, Teixeira ended up getting it from the Yankees, who swooped in the way they did with Johnny Damon three years ago.
Nonetheless, this is Boston and these are the Red Sox, which means the actions of Boras and Teixeira are not nearly of equal concern. The bottom line here is that the Red Sox did not get this done. Theoretically, Sox general manager Theo Epstein could now look to improve the offense with upgrades at catcher and/or shortstop, each of which seemingly would require the Sox to make a trade. The problem is that the Sox will have to give up young talent, too, which means Teixeira would have been a far better option because he would have cost them only money.
And before anyone suggests otherwise, donít kid yourselves. The Sox need a middle- or end-of-the-rotation starter, too.
Is this all the end of the world? Of course not. Weíre talking about baseball here.
In the interim, all involved parties will undoubtedly have plenty to say when the Teixeira deal becomes official in the coming days, and we caution you against believing any of it. No matter how you slice it, the Red Sox are getting their tails kicked this off-season. Anyone who suggests otherwise is perpetuating organizational propaganda, and the Red Sox suddenly appear to have slipped badly in a hardened AL East.
Soon, after all, Mark Teixeira officially will be a Yankee.
Tony Massarotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be read at www.boston.com/massarotti