In Comic Books they are known as ‘What If?’ (Marvel) issues or ‘Elseworld’ (DC) tales, taking the established character out of their established norm and seeing what would have or could have happened if….
A decade later, we revisit called-off engagement between Rodriguez and Boston
From: Gordon Edes
They rank among the great what-might-have-been stories in Red Sox history.
What if an organization with a history of racial intolerance had given more than a sham tryout to Jackie Robinson or listened to the urgings of a scout named George Digby to sign a young outfielder named Willie Mays?
What if Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had, in the cold light of morning, decided to follow through on the trade arranged over drinks the night before with Yankees co-owner Dan Topping, one in which the Sox would have swapped Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio? (Note: This deal also was scuttled due to the Yankees reluctance to include a young catching prospect named Yogi Berra.)
And what if the Red Sox had succeeded in their audacious effort 10 years ago to acquire Alex Rodriguez, generally acknowledged as the best player in the game at the time, from the Texas Rangers?
Ten years ago Monday, Rangers owner Tom Hicks declared that effort “totally, totally dead.” He would soon send a letter to Rangers season-ticket holders pledging that Rodriguez would be the team’s shortstop on Opening Day 2004. Then, on Valentine’s Day, he traded him to George Steinbrenner’s Yankees.
With A-Rod now shamed and a shell of his former self, a player who went from being championed by the game’s ruling class to pariah, it is easy to regard Boston’s failed courtship as a blessing, a disaster averted.
But that’s with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, the Sox — and A-Rod — were bitterly disappointed that it did not come to pass, this deal first proposed by Hicks to the Red Sox within days of their crushing Game 7 loss to the New York Yankees in the 2003 ALCS.
Hicks was looking to get out from under the game’s biggest contract, a $250 million, 10-year deal that in its first three years had not lifted the Rangers out of mediocrity. He asked for Nomar Garciaparra in return. The Sox countered by offering Manny Ramirez, whom they had placed on irrevocable waivers only weeks before without any takers.
With that deal in play, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made another at the winter meetings, arranging to trade Garciaparra to the White Sox for slugging outfielder Magglio Ordonez. That second trade was contingent on the A-Rod deal being approved, but when Epstein entered the hotel room of his new manager, Terry Francona, and rattled off a prospective lineup that included Johnny Damon, A-Rod, David Ortiz and Ordonez, on knees made unsteady by multiple surgeries, Francona climbed onto his bed and did an impromptu dance.
That same night, Epstein slipped out of the meetings in New Orleans and flew to New York to meet with Rodriguez and his then-wife, Cynthia. Owner John W. Henry had already met with the couple in Miami, granted extraordinary permission to do so by commissioner Bud Selig, who had run into Rodriguez at Sammy Sosa’s party in the Dominican Republic and listened to A-Rod earnestly express his desire to play for the Sox.
I was working for the Boston Globe at the time, and I, too, went to Miami to meet with Rodriguez. I liked him. He was smart, engaging and gracious. I believe he really wanted to play for the Sox. I had seen him when he’d made his major-league debut at Fenway as an 18-year-old from Miami, and I was impressed with his appreciation of Boston and what it would mean to his legacy if he would be the one who led the Sox to a World Series title after 86 years without one.
The deal was complicated and ultimately collapsed under its own weight. The Red Sox, for luxury tax reasons, wanted to reduce the value of Rodriguez’s contract by $4 million a year, a total of $28 million over the remaining seven years of his deal. That was a nonstarter for the union. Any reduction, the union lawyers said, would require “added benefits” from the Red Sox — like the Mets gave Mo Vaughn when they added two more teams to the no-trade provisions in his contract in exchange for a $500,000 reduction. The Sox tried to sell the union on an “added benefit” of allowing A-Rod the chance to opt out of his contract after two years and become a free agent, a proposal ridiculed by the union, which argued that A-Rod, because his contract was so much more than anyone else’s, probably would have been looking at a pay cut. They made a counteroffer the Sox deemed unacceptable.
Hicks, meanwhile, was seeking some immediate financial help and not only wanted the Sox to assume A-Rod’s contract, but pay a portion of Ramirez’s deal so that he could pursue some pitching in free agency. That was not going to happen. But on his own, A-Rod contacted Hicks and offered to pay, out of his own pocket, the $15 million Hicks wanted from the Sox. That’s how badly he wanted to come to Boston.
By the end of talks, there were bruised feelings on all sides. Henry was upset that Hicks had made little effort to keep negotiations quiet. Hicks was furious with Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, to the point that Tom Werner became the Sox point man with the Texas owner. Lucchino and union lawyer Gene Orza took whacks at each other. Garciaparra never recovered from the shock of learning that the Sox had sought A-Rod, even as Henry later explained he initially thought that they could have co-existed. And A-Rod resigned himself to remaining with the Rangers.
The upshot, of course, is that the Sox won two World Series in the next four seasons without A-Rod, and won their third in the 10 seasons in which Rodriguez has been a Yankee. And A-Rod alienated his longtime friend Derek Jeter, the first of many soap operas that would mark his time in New York. And then came the PED revelations.
That part of the story, sadly, would have been no different had he played for the Red Sox instead of the Yankees. But the rest of it? Ten years later, I still believe it could have gone a different way for A-Rod in Boston. Instead of a wary Jeter, he would have been embraced by David Ortiz, who remains one of his good friends in the game. He also was very close with Ordonez, who would have combined with A-Rod to more than compensate for the loss of right-handed power Ramirez represented.
He would have remained at short, where his value to the club would have been greater than it was to the Yankees at third.
In his first five seasons with the Yankees, through the 2008 season, Rodriguez hit 208 home runs. No one in baseball hit more. And Fenway is much kinder to right-handed hitters than Yankee Stadium. He was one of 10 players who had an on-base percentage greater than .400 in that time. He averaged 6.8 in WAR in that time.
Call me naïve, but I think Boston would have brought out the best in him, and he would have been loved for it.
We’ll never know, of course. And in this town, I am well aware, that’s hardly a popular thought. But there’s a part of me that has never forgotten the shining promise of that 18-year-old and laments that it has ended the way it has.
On a personal note: I was at that same game, just a few rows up and sitting between home and the visitors dugout (best seats I ever scored) for that Fenway game where an 18-year-old Alex Rodriguez debuted for Seattle. I sat close enough to see all the awe and wonder on the face of a kid who was walking out into a Cathedral to take his first big league swings. My how times changed as he was on his way to Texas!
Before the PED’s, before the even more inflated ego and sense of entitlement, I was not a fan of the proposed trade. I was a Nomar guy. I didn’t dislike A-Rod at that point, I just disliked the perceived greed and the monster contract and the handcuffs that came with it. How could you as a team hit the free agent market for pitching and additions under those circumstances? Yeesh! Sure the Yankees did it and eventually put a World Series ring on A-Rod’s finger, but we won two in the same amount of time and of course just added the third.
Would or could any of that have happened if we found A-Rod under the tree for Christmas of 2003? Maybe a ring… two at an outside chance? Luckily, this is one of those Scarlett Hose / Bronx Bombers hypotheticals we don’t have to put too much emphasis on… after all, we came out for the better.
To borrow a phrase from a slightly popular local music group…. It is indeed the same old song and dance, just different dance partners. Or to put in easier terms, “Same sh!t, different day”.
Anyone who is a ‘real‘ fan of the Red Stockings, meaning a member of the Nation since the dark days long before 2004, already know what all of this is. Red Sox ownership in their version of Spin Control. Sure, their Doctors of Spin are the equivalent of a mentally defective monkey humping a baseball but they apparently get the job done.
Regimes change, the excuses stay the same.
Has there been a need for this nuclear warfare in the aftermath of ‘The Collapse’? Of course not. Francona fell on the sword, took the blame and left town. Ah, but he do it in the way he was told to? Apparently not. Tito alluded to the problems which arose in the clubhouse (which the owners also alluded to) and the fact he was tuned out… but then dropped that little ticking time bomb of “I wasn’t sure the owners had my back…” And the Mass Destruction of Terry Francona had begun. Sinfully Disgraceful may be the only way to put it. Unnamed sources, personal matters… all disgusting. Of course they’re unnamed sources, they’re rats running about the sinking ship on fire trying to burn whatever they can for their masters in hopes of keeping their job once the flames are put out and the ship is righted. And the press? Using this fairly unconfirmed personal information about Tito’s mental health, medication and then his unfortunately distressed marriage? Well, the Boston press has been heavy-handed and taking liberties ever since Paul Revere proclaimed that little warning about the oncoming British. Especially the Boston Sports Press, which is a blessing and a curse as they are the best at what they do from both sides of the spectrum. And whose to say that even if the Sox hadn’t collapsed, if they made a decent run or perhaps won it all that Theo wasn’t leaving? The Cubs think he’s a hot commodity following the epic September fail? Imagine what hot sh!t Theo would have been if they’d won? This has been coming (remember the off-season back in the ’05-’06 days when he quit the job, took a vacation and then came back? It was because he was tired of having his toes stepped on…), it just didn’t have to end like this.
Or if history has shown us, maybe it did.
Let’s look at Boston’s divorce history (Bill Buckner, Manny and Grady Little aside). Pedro and Derek Lowe and even Johnny Damon pale in comparison to that nutty, paranoid Nomar. Then there’s Mo Vaughn and his drunken, truck flippin’ hung-over stripper lovin’ self. Wade Boggs defection to the Bronx Zoo was fairly quiet compared to The Rocket who was a drunk, fat bastard in the twilight of his career (remind you, he hadn’t hit the juice yet… and is still a bastard) or even the ousting of Joe Morgan. Dewey had a fairly amicable split for an in-house legend, unlike Jim Rice or Yaz. The 1970’s and early ’80’s was basically a huge divorce gone bad… Bill Lee, George Scott, Fergie Jenkins, Louis Tiant, Eck and let’s not forget Pudge Fisk. Of course the Patron Saint of the Red Sox, Johnny Pesky, could tell you how complimentary everyone was when Teddy Ballgame left town. Not cause he was here but because he was Ted’s friend and had a front row seat. (I’ll omit Babe Ruth because most of his behavior was, in fact, dead on juvenile delinquent true.)
Notice a lot of these names… they’re part of the lore. All easily recognized by one name. Ted. Fisk. Yaz. Rice. Rocket. Nomar. Pedro. Theo. Tito. The Red Sox are the embodiment of that old adage, “You build your heroes up just to tear them down.” But they’re hardly alone.
So, to David Ortiz (yeah, I’ll say it) and all you bandwagon Yankees fans (because the actual fans already know how it works) who want to remind us of the class and swagger a dynasty carries… f*@% you. Stop trying to take the ‘high road’ by ignoring the Steinbrenner Era or the legacy the Sons of Steinbrenner have already forged. Ask Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly, Joe Torre or most recently Mo Rivera or ‘Mister Yankee’ himself Derek Jeter. Yeah, the ‘Bombers have never had drama or been a soap opera… jacka$$.
Are the Sox still an elite team? Yes. Do they still have the talent to contend? Yes. Do they still have an ownership group committed to winning? No wins, no money.. so Yes. Is it time to change the ‘make-up’ of the team. Yes. But these are matters, some of them possibly drastic, best saved for the GM and field Manager… oh, wait.
I think at the end of the day, all the real fan can do is wish Theo all the best in Chicago (we’ll see you next season at Wrigley) and thank both he and Tito for everything they did to bring two WS titles home. Same to a number of faces from the wonderful October of 2004 which may be joining them… Papi, Wake and Tek.
Same Old Song and Dance.
Obviously I have been quiet through ‘The Collapse’ and now the ‘Aftermath’ or ‘The Fallout’ or whatever title the press and history will give it. And as disgusting as things have gotten, in the mass destruction of Terry Francona, the finger-lickin’ good pointing in the clubhouse, and mass silence from the players and supposedly the owners to a degree… I decided to wait all of it out and see who was left standing when the nuclear winter dust settled.
But this simply pissed me off. We’ve all seen it… The David Ortiz ESPN interview.
And boy did it do just what he wanted. Now Boston is officially the end of the world. Free agents, run for your life, David Ortiz has declared the Red Sox dramatic, a soap opera and therefore toxic. All eyes now fall upon one of the Scarlett Hose’ most legendary performers.. and his free agency.
There’s no need to be angry with him. Big Papi is just speaking his mind… sort of. He’s been fairly quiet on the subject of Tito Francona, mum on the clubhouse happenings but loose on his free agency. When asked if Terry’s exit would affect his decision to stay in Boston he responded absolutely not… he plays for the Red Sox and not Tito. He loves the city and blah blah woof woof. For learning of Theo’s departure live in an interview… he didn’t seem all too taken aback. But oh, wait… the drama. So of course, let the reporter give the dog and pony show question of the Yankees and watch Big Papi jump through the hoop. Really? Was your agent in the background giving you a high sign for licking the Yankees free agent nuts? Like being a Red Sox free agent and praising the ‘Bombers isn’t a rather old positioning tactic?
Yes, the end of an era has occurred in Boston. The bulk of the 2004 magic is gone. Theo and Tito (unjustly put under a personal microscope in such a disgusting display) are gone and most likely Wakefield and Varitek, a stoic veteran and the team’s rugged captain… who have been and still are extremely quiet on all this (and apparently were during the season as well) are probably going.
Yes, Mr. Ortiz, you had a great year. A contract year. You’ve earned your free agency and the last big payday of your career. Take advantage of it.
Yes, change has come to the Boston Red Sox. It came quickly and with the blunt force of 007’s Walther PPK but it is here. Chances are, you may not be and all the ‘drama’ will make it that much easier for you to leave. But please don’t give us the ‘Yankees class act Bu!!$#!t’… the ‘Bombers didn’t have the single worst collapse in MLB history (followed one half game behind by the 2011 Braves.. by the way). They got dropped in the first round… so have the Sox in several recent post-seasons. The Yankees players didn’t tune out their manager due to elite selfishness or entitlement or supposedly fried chicken and the owners (not yet anyway) didn’t hang that manager out to dry. Please don’t try to kid us that if the Yankees fell apart the same way and Joe Girardi were hung out like Tito that Cashman would still be there? There wouldn’t be a poor excuse for spin control in the form of Venom from the Sons of Steinbrenner? Hell, wasn’t King George banned from operating his own team for a while? Nevermind the soap opera of Jorge prima donna not wanting to bat ninth.
All positioning. And sadly, it was probably effective/ineffective. The Yankees are set with Russell Martin catching and Jesus Montero DH’ing. They can afford you, but don’t need you. Eh, but now you threw that “Yankees do it right” thing in the faces of Red Sox Nation. You also have Kevin Youkillis coming off an injury plagued season and a new General Manager who may have the idea of moving him to DH more often to keep his bat in the line-up. You may have simply talked yourself out of Boston… but if the clubhouse culture is changing under a new manager, maybe you’d rather leave..? Where to now? Sure, you’d love to play for New York but probably wouldn’t mind staying in Boston because they can afford you. As many have seen, the DH market has taken a huge drop in recent years with teams using it to slot younger players who need at bats and veterans who need a bit of a rest. There aren’t all too many professional DH’s anymore, teams want players who can still physically play a position as well as sit for half the game and ply their hitting prowess. I’d say that rules out the NL, and who in the AL can afford you and satisfy what will undoubtedly be a need for another title?
Mr. Ortiz, you’ve been a fantastic player in Red Sox lore. You’ve given great contributions to two WS titles and been the heart and soul of the team for near a decade. You too have made mistakes (remember the steroids media leak?) which made us cringe and shrug our shoulders and look past it just as we did the repeated slow starts (most of us, anyway). But for all your bravado, all your love of the City and ‘love’ of the team the one thing you obviously haven’t been is a leader and that is what the Boston Red Sox require at this time.
Good night and good luck.
“Well, if you’re going to make up some ground.. better do it now. The next two weeks are slightly different for the Pinstripes than the Scarlett Hose. The Yanks will be returning from Redlegs country to face the Rockies and the Brewers in The Bronx Zoo…. with neither team having been overly impressive lately. July opens with ‘Subway’ series @ Citi Field and depending on the fill-ins for the ‘Bombers, it could be a fairly even match (should the Metropolitans still be fairly streaky). The Boston Americans meanwhile will be taking on the entire state of PA with stops to meet Captain Jack Sparrow’s Bucs and then the pitching goliath known as Philadelphia Philadelphias (which I might add, many have picked as the World Series showdown this season.. PHI pitching versus BOS hitting). From there it is into Houston… so as you can see, two thirds of that trip will be fairly uncomfortable.
So fear not Virginia… like your summer, things are about to get more exciting and a lot warmer.”
As Captain James T. Kirk once said, “Those words were spoken by me.” I made this comment back on the 21st in response to Miss Virginia’s ‘Bomber’s Blog (http://southernbelle.mlblogs.com/ which is a recommended read)… I’m a friggin’ genius… oh joy. Why can’t I pick lottery winners this well? Well that’s fine, now the Scarlett Hose can feel free to live up to my prophecy and kick some Texan ass in Houston to make up the lost ground on the Pinstripes. The standings as of this second read something like this…
The New York Highlanders
The Boston Americans (2.5)
The Tampa Bay Smokers (4.0)
The Toronto Blue Jays (9.5)
The Baltimore Browns* (12.5)
*note: Formerly the St. Louis Browns (or original Milwaukee Brewers) not to be confused with the former Cleveland Browns. So Baltimore can’t keep it’s own teams and colors (team called the Yankees, colors went to the NY Baseball Giants) but keep taking other city’s teams named ‘Browns’ who happen to share the color scheme? Whatever works.
If we can take the Colt .45’s before heading into the last home stand before the break where we face the lower half of the AL East in the Maple Birds and O’s we should be in fairly good shape to set fire in the second half. We’ll have to be since the Eastern Division love-fest continues with trips to Tampa and the aforementioned Baltimore. The month will run through with a home stand against the Seattle Nintendos (think Ichiro could be moved by then?) and Kansas City Royalty. We close with a visit to the Chicago Bleached Hose who haven’t been especially nice this season. Riding into the break on a high note could be fairly important as the Pinstripe’s will be looking at a fairly matched schedule coming out of the second half gate. They’ll close out with a Subway series at Citi Field against the still surging Metropolitans then travel to Cleveland to face Chief Wa-Hoo’s tribe before finally closing in the Bronx Zoo against the Rays. They then get hip deep in the love-fest as they travel to both Toronto and Tampa before returning to the House That Ruth Financed to play the Athletics (diggin’ those yellow retro uniforms) and the Nintendos before closing the month with the O’s.
This past week was to be the preview of the Fall Classic… well, let’s hope we fare better in the fall. But like a few of the MLB and BB Tonight analysts have said, “This was just a feeling out period…” Curt Schilling did raise a fairly interesting point though, that the emphasis now has to fall on the All-Star Game because home-field in the World Series could make or break the series. Think of the Sox having to open at Philly versus their fully healthy rotation with no DH? (And before anyone out there starts giving me protests over “How do you know it will be the Sox?” Fine. Think of the Yankees doing it, cause if it isn’t an AL East team versus the Phillies in the World Series you better pack your sh!t and jump in the TARDIS because the Earth will have officially fallen off it’s axis… ’nuff said)
Congratulations go out to ‘Tito’ for winning his 700th game as manager of the Boston Red Sox. Throw in two Championship titles since he took over in 2004 and I’d say he’s done a lot better than the people in Philadelphia ever imagined. Also, Jon Lester’s victory on Wednesday was the 100th decision of his career (71-29). For all he’s been through in his still young career and developing into his prime, kudos to him.
The Boston Red Sox have no idea how long Tim Wakefield will pitch.
He might just go on forever.
“As long as Wake wants to keep working the way he does, I don’t see any reason for this to stop,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “He’ll be done when he wants to be done, I guess.”
The 44-year-old held the Detroit Tigers to two runs on five hits in seven innings Friday, as the Red Sox picked up their 12th win in 14 games, winning 6-3.
“I’m just doing what I’ve always done—trying to help my team win games,”said Wakefield, who picked up his 195th career win.
He’s been with the Red Sox since 1995, picking up a pair of World Series rings. -Yahoo Sports
Now in my last blog, I referred to Tim Wakefield as a 900 some odd year old Time Lord… and damn if I wasn’t right (The series Doctor Who premiered in ’63… Wake born 3 years later!! He’s older than the Impossible Dream team). It was 1992 when he impressed the baseball universe with the final stand of the Pittsburgh Pirates dynasty that never was and following a fade out and release resurfaced with the Scarlett Hose for a near Cy Young campaign in 1995. He’s been here so long, he played with that guy who was once on the tip of everyone’s tongue as possibly the greatest pitcher of his and many a generation… The Rocket. That means he’s been in Boston for the majority of the last two roller coaster decades… Kevin Kennedy and Jimy Williams through Joe ‘Oops” Kerrigan and Grady “Managers should manage” Little and possibly the best manager since Bill Carrigan (Joe Cronin got to a WS but as we know…) in the man known as “Tito”.
And as we know, Wake is in the driver’s seat. He has the awesome responsibility of deciding just when he’s done… holding his repeating one year player option. Though I’m quite sure no one can really imagine him tipping his cap for the final time to the Fenway faithful… we know it will it happen. And after all the nights of wild butterfly pitches, passed balls, hit batters, bases on balls and flashes of Cy Young brilliance how will we say goodbye? One hopes with the same class and dignity the multiple Clemente award nominee (1 win and counting) has shown us over the years. Luckily we won’t have to find out for some time but at least we can be at peace in the knowledge this will be the last man to wear the number 49 in Red Sox font. Sure we may never see anyone wear 21 either, but 49 will be placed in a white circle on retirement row. (I’ve had this discussion before… in fact I may just re-post it.)
Now many have countered “He’s a knuckleballer, so what?” Well at an age where most mortal men would be nearing the end (unless you’re the aforementioned Rocket.. and juiced up…) and looking for the studio job to give analysis and color commentary (Ask the ageless Jamie Moyer… he’s just taking a year off), Wakefield is still going strong. Yes he has a balky back and it’s a problem at times… but Wake had one of his best seasons as a possible Cy Young contender and his first AL All Star break after the age of 40… and it was the balky back that cashed his season in. Now as a part-time / spot starter and stop-gap he can flash his brilliance as needed and step up in those high-pressure situations to save a starter or a bullpen. And like The Doctor, he saves the world a thousand times over yet hardly gets the recognition he deserves and never asks for it or even expects a Thank You from the doomed he has saved… he’s not a ‘knuckleballer’, he’s a madman with a big blue box. He’s the myth of ‘forever young’, a legend of ‘The Nation’.
Well baseball… bask in the legend. In another five days the blue box will re-appear and Tim Wakefield will emerge to once again challenge the doubters, defy time and common sense and just plain win the game.
Thank You.. Time Lord.