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.
Teams are barreling toward $2 billion spent on free agents this offseason.
Now, they may fall short of that nice, round number and still absolutely obliterate the previous spending record: around $1.75 billion in the 2006 offseason, a number that includes major league free agents as well as the posting fees for Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa.
Already teams have lavished approximately $1.543 billion on players, the latest a $130 million investment by the Texas Rangers for seven years of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. He is the third nine-figure player of the offseason, joining Jacoby Ellsbury ($153 million) as an offset diamond around the center stone, Robinson Cano ($240 million).
There is plenty more to come. If Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka gets posted – his status remains in limbo – the $2 billion threshold is certain to be obliterated. Between his contract and the $20 million posting fee, teams expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 million for Tanaka. Beyond him are three pitchers who reason says will cash in for around $60 million each (Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza), an outfielder worth the same (Nelson Cruz), a shortstop a notch down from that (Stephen Drew), another starter sure to get multiple years (Bronson Arroyo), a bevy of relievers who will get papered (Fernando Rodney, Grant Balfour and Jesse Crain, among others) and the dregs of the class, who can fetch $5 million here, $3 million there and add up quickly.
For those surprised, don’t be. Baseball’s economic system, as presently constituted, guaranteed free-agent salaries ballooning to unfathomable levels. A number of factors conspired to turn it into even more of a money booth than in the past.
First are the revenues. Back in 2006, a year before the recession started, baseball’s revenues were around $5.5 billion. Today, they are nearly $8.5 billion. And only now is free-agent spending catching up; over the previous three offseasons, it fell somewhere in the $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion range.
More than that are the mechanisms in place that more or less force teams to spend their money on free agents. Simply put: They can’t spend it anywhere else. The league capped how much teams can spend on the draft and international free agents. Many of the best players in the game don’t even make $1 million a season because the system artificially depresses salaries for the first three years of a career. Plenty of the best would-be free agents forgo the open market by signing long-term extensions, which can be for big money, sure, but almost every time represent a discount against what the player would receive with his services available to all 30 teams.
For those, then, with the patience to wait for free agency and the luck to do so coming off even a decent walk year, the rewards are massive – enough so to make you wonder if there will be some sort of a market correction in which pre-free-agency extensions start to inch closer to the open market or players who might’ve been locked up opt instead to chance free agency.
There is an expectation within the industry that at least a couple of the monster class of free-agent pitchers next offseason will sign extensions. The group includes Clayton Kershaw (who will command the first deal for a pitcher over $200 million), Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Homer Bailey and Justin Masterson. If each went to free agency, there’s a good three-quarters of a billion dollars among the six, more than making up for a hitting class that includes Hanley Ramirez and a group that is best referred to as Et Cetera.
It’s one of the biggest reasons the Rangers went so hard after Choo, giving him more years and money than they wanted: the outfield market next year is paltry, and they’ve got goo-gobs of TV money from local and national sources to cover it. Give the Rangers this much: They’ve long made a habit of being ahead of other teams in how they spend their money. They went bigger in Latin America than any other team before the spending cap, then blew by it when the penalties weren’t as severe as they are now. This offseason, they’ve committed more than a quarter billion dollars to Choo and Prince Fielder and helped spearhead the spending that left the American League West as baseball’s most munificent division and the AL spending nearly three times as much as its National League counterparts.
The five AL West teams have combined to heap $466.6 million on free agents – Cano and Choo account for 79.2 percent of that – while the AL East is at $399.25 million (with the Yankees at 79.1 percent of that). Next is the AL Central ($268.75 million), followed by the three NL divisions: East ($182.98 million), West ($148.25 million, not including the Hunter Pence or Tim Lincecum deals because they signed before free agency) and Central ($77.95 million – and, without Jhonny Peralta, less than $25 million combined).
Thirteen players by themselves have signed for $25 million, and another seven have exceeded the $20 million mark. It’s almost exactly like 2006, with 15 at $25 million-plus and 20 at $20 million-plus. With the five starters, Cruz and Drew left to go, this year’s numbers should dwarf ’06 in all respects.
Welcome to baseball in 2014, which rewards free agency more than ever. Ask Robinson Cano. Ask Jacoby Ellsbury. Ask Shin-Soo Choo. Ask any of the middle relievers cashing in for $6 million a year, the back-end starters and utilitymen getting four-year guarantees, the fourth outfielders getting paid what used to be All-Star wages. The union sought free agency with such fervor 40 years ago because the brilliant men leading it saw this day, when owners would make money hand over fist and give players their fair share.
Even those brilliant men could not fathom just how big that number would be: $2 billion or bust.
Although the Red Sox made their one-year deal with A.J. Pierzynski official on Dec. 4, it seems the free-agent catcher’s interest in Boston began much earlier than that.
How early? According to Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves, about five weeks earlier — when the team was on the verge of winning the World Series. “We spoke in St. Louis because he was there [working as a television analyst],” Nieves said Saturday. “He mentioned the fact, ‘I would love to come here and be with this group,’ because he saw the atmosphere in the locker room.
“The seed was planted there.”
Indeed, Pierzynski worked as an analyst during the 2013 postseason for Fox, his third year doing so. However, it was the five years Pierzynski spent working closely in Chicago with then-bullpen coach Nieves that led to the conversation the two had in October.
“He’s going to bring a lot of energy, a lot of will to win,” Nieves said. “It’s going to be exciting to see how he manages our pitching staff.”
Pierzynski served as the Chicago White Sox’ primary catcher from 2005 to 2012 before signing with the Texas Rangers a month after Nieves left Chicago to join the Red Sox staff as pitching coach. Pierzynski hit .272 with 17 home runs and 70 RBIs for Texas last season.
“When you see A.J. as an opposing player you don’t like him, but when you see him on your team you’re going to see a guy that comes in every day and plays hard,” Nieves said. “He wants to be in that big situation.”
Pierzynski spent the first five seasons of his major league career on the Minnesota Twins, playing with current Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz; he caught pitcher Jake Peavy with the White Sox from 2009 to 2012.
“For the experience and for the type of player he is, I think he will be a nice fit on the team,” Nieves said. “We’re going to embrace that, but that will start right after the beginning of January.”
Wednesday night’s huge (what other word do you use for a transaction involving Prince Fielder?) deal between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers — Fielder to Texas, Ian Kinsler to Detroit — could have a ripple effect on the Red Sox.
For one, it may take the Rangers out of the bidding for free agent first baseman Mike Napoli, although it’s still conceivable that the Rangers view Napoli as an ideal complementary bat to the left-handed hitting Fielder, who could DH while Napoli plays first. The Rangers ranked 14th in the league in OPS at first base (.700) — only the Yankees were worse — and they were slightly worse at DH (.698, ninth in the league).
Less than two years after boldly signing Prince Fielder to a $214 million contract, the Detroit Tigers traded the slugging first baseman to Texas in another blockbuster move.
Fielder was dealt to the Rangers on Wednesday night for second baseman Ian Kinsler. The Tigers agreed to pay the Rangers $30 million as part of the swap, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the amount of money exchanged was not revealed when the teams announced the trade. The $30 million is payable from 2016-20.
”Obviously, a very exciting trade for us in adding Prince Fielder to the organization,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. ”Also a tough trade to make in that Ian Kinsler’s been with the organization since he was drafted in ’03, and we’ve signed him here a couple of times. Been here, a catalyst for our World Series clubs, and a huge part of this. A winning guy, a heart-and-soul guy, and Detroit got a tremendous player and person.”
The Tigers, meanwhile, made it known last week at the GM meetings that contrary to speculation, they are not in the market for Ellsbury. Moving Fielder wouldn’t seem to alter that. The Tigers’ priroities remain re-signing pitcher Max Scherzer and extending two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera, whose current deal runs out after the 2015 season.
It’s the first headline-grabbing move of baseball’s offseason, and it involves two of the American League’s top teams. Detroit has won three consecutive AL Central titles and reached the World Series in 2012, while Texas won the AL pennant in 2010 and 2011.
Fielder, a five-time All-Star, had to consent to the trade before it could be completed. The big first baseman signed a $214 million, nine-year contract with the Tigers before the 2012 season that includes a limited no-trade provision.
”We’re thankful for what he did for us,” Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski said. ”It’ll be a bat that we miss at times – there’s no doubt about it.”
Kinsler just finished the first season of a $75 million, five-year contract.
With stars like Fielder, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez in the fold, Detroit’s payroll had become one of the game’s biggest. And although Fielder hit 55 home runs over the last two years for the Tigers, his numbers dipped this season and he struggled in the playoffs when Detroit lost to Boston in the AL championship series.
Fielder hit .279 with 25 homers this year. He drove in 106 runs, but it was his lowest home run total over a full season. He did not have a single RBI in the 2013 postseason and hit .182 in the ALCS.
Daniels said the trade came together quickly – the first discussions took place Tuesday. The Rangers will welcome the durable Fielder, who has played 162 games in four of the last five seasons. Texas was interested in Fielder when he signed with Detroit as a free agent.
”Our offer was well below what it ended up being, so we weren’t that close,” Daniels said. ”I thought he was a genuine guy that really loved the game, really loved playing the game, loved his boys, his sons.”
Kinsler batted .277 with 13 homers this year. The a three-time All-Star was limited to 136 games because of injuries to his ribs and right side. Kinsler stole 15 bases in 2013 – not a high total by his standards but more than any player on the Detroit team he is joining.
The trade could save the Tigers more than $75 million in the long run, giving them more financial flexibility with Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer a year from free agency.
Fielder is still only 29, and the Rangers are set to add a big bat to the middle of their lineup while also resolving a logjam in the middle of their infield. Jurickson Profar, a highly touted 20-year-old prospect, appeared to be blocked by Kinsler and shortstop Elvis Andrus. Now, Profar should have a chance to play regularly.
The Tigers signed Fielder to a huge contract shortly before spring training in 2012 – after designated hitter Victor Martinez injured his knee. Martinez came back in 2013. With Fielder gone, Cabrera may move from third base back to first.
”I’m really not sure what we’re going to do as we sit here now today,” Dombrowski said. ”Eventually, we see him as a first baseman. Will it happen this year or not? I’m not sure.”
The 31-year-old Kinsler fills a need at second base for Detroit after Omar Infante became a free agent.
Fielder is due $168 million through 2020, a salary of $24 million per season. Under his no-trade clause, he submits a list of 10 teams each year that he can be traded to without his approval.
Texas was not on that list this year, but Fielder agreed to accept the trade and instructed agent Scott Boras to approve the deal.
”If he was coming off the best year of his career, he’s not available,” Daniels said. ”I think that’s kind of the whole idea of this deal – if anybody feels like that’s a sign of things to come, that he’s slipping, you may not like the deal. We don’t feel that way. We don’t feel that way at all.”
Kinsler is guaranteed $62 million through 2017: $16 million in each of the next two seasons, $14 million in 2016, $11 million in 2017 and a $5 million buyout of a $10 million option.
It’s already been an unpredictable offseason for the Tigers. Manager Jim Leyland stepped down after the season and was replaced by Brad Ausmus. Detroit could have come back with a similar roster and probably been favored to win the division again, but now more changes seem possible.
”If you put Kinsler’s bat at the top of the lineup, that’s an instant threat,” Ausmus said. ”It changes the dynamic, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less potent.”
If Cabrera moves back to first base, prospect Nick Castellanos might replace him at third. Previously, it appeared Castellanos would have to play the outfield if both Cabrera and Fielder were still on the team.
Andy Dirks is still available to play left field, but that’s a spot the Tigers could still try to upgrade. They also have six capable starting pitchers – Drew Smyly was used in the bullpen this year – so that’s a surplus that could come in handy in a possible trade.
Detroit’s bullpen will likely undergo a makeover after struggling last season.
The Rangers lost slugging outfielder Nelson Cruz to a late-season suspension as a result of MLB’s investigation in the Biogenesis case. He’s now a free agent, and if Texas loses him, Fielder, who hit 50 homers in 2007 for Milwaukee at 23, should help replace his production.
”A huge focus for us this winter was finding some kind of middle-of-the-order presence and power, and at 29 years old, I still think there’s still a lot of big run production and years ahead of him,” Daniels said.
The Rangers also were thought to be on the margins for free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but taking a contract that pays Fielder $24 million a year through the 2020 season would seemingly be a deterrent to GM Jon Daniels adding another $20-million-plus per year in Ellsbury. The Rangers have two outstanding outfield defenders in Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry, so it would seem they would be better served going after catcher Brian McCann.
Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios are among the dangerous hitters under contract next season in Texas. Beltre had an AL-high 199 hits and Rios, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in August after Cruz was suspended, has a year left on his deal.
The Rangers lost a one-game tiebreaker to Tampa Bay for the second AL wild card this year.
I picked this up from SB Nation: And I can’t really argue with it.
These comparisons are based on the 2013 editions of each team. Yes, the all-time Yankees would be “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase or Hulk Hogan or whatever; the 2013 Yankees are neither of those. So kick back, enjoy and try not to take things too seriously.
Just kidding; it’s pro wrestling discussion on the Internet! Tear each other limb from limb!
The Boston Red Sox are John Cena
No one over the age of 12 wants to admit it, but John Cena is absolutely outstanding at what he does. The problem is that everyone is sick of him. They’re sick of his dumb shirts, they’re sick of his Sincere Serious Voice, they’re sick of him constantly Beating the Odds and they’re sick of him in general. That’s the Red Sox. They’re terrific this year — again — after an epic collapse and a lost year. They used to be America’s darlings until they won 3 World Series’ and the country got exposed to Red Sox Nation. Wait a minute … Red Sox Nation … the “Cenation” …
The Tampa Bay Rays are Daniel Bryan
You know the story of the Rays by now. They don’t get any help from anybody. They’re a small-market team in the second-worst stadium in the league, playing in front of no one, with one of the smallest payrolls in the league. But it’s okay; they’ll still be one of the best teams in the world, year after year. They’ll do it their own damn selves. Daniel Bryan, AKA “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson has been wrecking shop coast-to-coast in independent federations for 13 or so years and he’s always been exactly this good. Always. Now he’s the hottest wrestler on the planet and wrestling fools for an hour on Raw and everyone is like “lol where the hell did this guy come from?”
The New York Yankees are the Undertaker
Spends most of the year injured, but will still never lose.
The Baltimore Orioles are Booker T
Everyone likes the Orioles in some way. They’re not really a team that lends itself to intense hatred. They probably don’t even have a real arch-rival (maybe the Giants for stealing their colors). I bet they think they do, like the Padres and Mariners have arch-rivals. But they don’t. Everyone loves that the Orioles are doing well again (except Yankees fans). Everyone likes the team’s history (except Yankees fans) and of course everyone is crazy about those gorgeous uniforms. (Yankees fans, you like the uniforms okay, right?) The Orioles have been up, they’ve been down, they’ve been the best, they’ve disappeared. That’s Booker T: no one really hates the guy; lots of people think of him very fondly. His career is all over the place. I mean ALL OVER THE PLACE. He was a tag team specialist, he was a guy who lost the rights to his name so he had to start wrestling as G.I. Bro, he feuded with a guy over shampoo, he was suddenly a foreign king, he kicked around in TNA hating everything before reinventing himself as an announcer. Like the Oriole’s, there is some aspect of Booker T’s career that you can recall fondly.
The Toronto Blue Jays are 2013 Chris Jericho
We had such high hopes, but then it was all just terrible.
The Detroit Tigers are Kane
Kane has been extremely popular and successful for like 15 years. He’s been pretty much every champion there is, crowds love him, he sells merchandise and rarely makes a fool of himself in the ring. All that said; there’s nothing really getting worked up over. At the end of the day, he’s still just Kane.
(I am so sorry, Tigers fans.)
The Cleveland Indians are Tatanka
The Kansas City Royals are Chainsaw Charlie
It should have been a can’t-miss opportunity. Mick Foley was just starting to set the world on fire as Mankind following his infamous interview with Jim Ross and being tossed off that cage. Everyone knew he was a crazy guy who would do just about anything to get ahead. Who better to bring in to be his tag team partner than Terry gosh dang Funk? So Funk and the (then-)WWF put their heads together and … introduced Terry Funk as “Chainsaw Charlie,” a guy in suspenders who wore panty hose on his head.
The Royals during the offseason were determined to make a big splash. They traded away the top prospect in all of baseball and got woefully shortchanged on the deal. They traded, they spent, they seemed to make a bunch of bad decisions and now… It could have been amazing. Instead, they’re wearing panty hose on their heads and wondering what went wrong.
The Minnesota Twins are The Miz
Because WHOOOOO CAAAAAAARES
The Oakland Athletics are ACH
I know; you’ve never heard of ACH. ACH is an amazing pro wrestler who is out there killing himself in front of 15 people in a rec hall in a ring that looks like it has linoleum for a mat. But he’s not going to stop; he’s just going to keep being great at what he does. And the people who DO show up love him to death and realize they’re watching something special. So you can see how there might be SOME parallels. Just throwing it out there.
The Texas Rangers are Ricky Steamboat
Ricky Steamboat is probably one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. But he never rose much higher than “second fiddle.” His contemporaries were more colorful, or more charismatic, or just more interesting. He got right up against superstardom, but never really got over the hump. That’s where the Rangers are finding themselves now. Ricky Steamboat won that match at WrestleMania III, but Randy Savage will always be more beloved. Can the Rangers find a way to make themselves memorable? (For those who don’t know, he’s pictured here holding the WWF/WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship: It’s like winning the American League pennant but not winning the World Series… sorry)
The Seattle Mariners are Al Snow
In one of his books, Mick Foley uses “Al Snow” as a euphemism for taking a poop. The Mariners are not as bad as all that. Mostly because the Astros are in their division now. But I mean, come on; the Mariners are Al Snow.
The Chicago White Sox are Zack Ryder
From tarnished and shamed, to a long stretch of awfulness, to a relatively-brief period of intense success. Then they vanished from the face of the earth, never to be seen again.
The Los Angeles Angels are Scott Steiner
Once amazing, but now bloated with … contracts. Flashes of brilliance interspersed with deep slumps of sheer insanity. Either way, you can’t look away. Always, always, always entertaining. For better or for worse.
The Houston Astros are Dennis Rodman
Yes, Dennis Rodman wrestled. He fell asleep on the ring apron. He’s one of the worst wrestlers in history, but you can’t even be mad, because he’s Dennis Rodman. Like, what else is he gonna do, you know what I mean? I hope you know where I’m going with this.
Let the clock-watching, the countdown or however you want to refer to it begin!
October is closing in fast, and that means the 2nd Season.
• Red Sox record: 87-58
• Games left: 17
• Lead in AL East: 7½ games over Tampa Bay (78-64)
• Magic number to win division: 12
• What does magic number mean? If Tampa Bay wins all 20 of its remaining games, Boston would have to win 12 to win the division.
• How to calculate magic number: You calculate your magic number by looking at the number of games remaining in the season and assuming that your nearest competitor will win all of their remaining games. Then you see how many games you still need to win to ensure the division title even with your nearest competitor winning all of their remaining games.
• Overall ranking in league (important for determining home field in playoffs): First, 3 games ahead of Oakland, 4 games ahead of Detroit
• If season ended today, teams in playoffs: Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Rangers, Rays.
• What about the Yankees? Salvaged the final game of a four-game series against the Red Sox with a 4-3 win. They remain 2½ games behind the Rays for final wild-card spot.
• Who’s hot?: Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks has five straight multi-hit games, the first time in his career he’s done that. He’s batting .500 (11 for 22) in that stretch, with 4 home runs, 8 runs, and 7 RBIs.
• Who’s not?: The Indians fell two games behind the Rays in the wild-card race when they were beaten, 2-1, by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was agonizing for Terry Francona to watch in his last years in Boston and really tormented him Sunday. Matsuzaka, who had begun the season with the Indians, had lost his first three starts for the Mets, posting a 10.95 ERA. Against the Indians, he allowed one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked three on 103 pitches.
• Red Sox latest outcome: Lost to the Yankees, 4-3, on Sunday.
• Rays latest outcome: Beat the Mariners, 4-1, on Sunday.
• Notable: The Yankees, who don’t expect to have shortstop Derek Jeter for at least a couple of days as his bad ankle flared up again, begin a four-game series Monday night with the Orioles, who are two games behind the Rays in the wild-card race. CC Sabathia faces Chris Tillman in the series opener Monday night. The Yanks then come to Boston on Friday, so this week will be critical to their fading wild-card chances.
• Playoff format: AL wild-card play-in game on Wednesday, Oct. 2. AL best-of-five division series begins Friday, Oct. 4.
A few days taken for a family emergency… but nothing too exciting had been missed, in Red Sox Nation anyway.
The Patriots won 23-20 over the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game: The Patriots advance to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on Feb. 5. It will be the team’s fifth Super Bowl appearance in Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach (2000-present) and is the Patriots’ seventh Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick become the first starting quarterback/head coach combination to advance to five Super Bowls. For Brady, he ties his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, with his 16th career postseason win as a starting quarterback.
Just a ‘Classic’ game. At one point, Brady’s emotions showed as he was jawing with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis after the quarterback scored on fourth down goal-line drive in the fourth quarter, a play in which he took a big hit from Lewis. The Ravens had a chance to win with 22 seconds left when Lee Evans dropped a touchdown pass. Then, after cornerback Sterling Moore deflected a pass on third down, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal wide left that would have tied the game. A breath-taking ending.
The Red Sox signed free agent outfielder Cody Ross to a one-year deal worth about $3 million: Boston had maintained an interest in Ross throughout the signing season, but pounced after his asking price dropped significantly (initially, he was seeking a three-year deal) and after left fielder Carl Crawford underwent surgery last week to address an arthritic condition in his left wrist. The signing followed the Sox’ trading of infielder Marco Scutaro and his $6 million salary to the Rockies, which freed up the money they privately said they needed to have before making additional upgrades. Even before Crawford’s injury, the Sox had maintained a healthy interest in Ross, who has hit left-handed pitchers well, with a career .912 OPS, even though his 2011 season could be considered a slight disappointment. Ross, 31, is a .261 career hitter with 100 homers in eight seasons with Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati, Florida and San Francisco.
Right-hander Scott Atchison was designated for assignment to create space for Ross on the team’s 40-man roster.
The Sox are still interested in adding another starter to the mix at the right price. Roy Oswalt remains their No. 1 target, though a team source acknowledged fears that Oswalt would prefer to pitch for either the Rangers or Cardinals (the free-agent turned down an offer from Detroit). If they do not succeed in signing Oswalt, to whom they have made an offer (supposedly for $5 Million), a team source said Wednesday night, they most likely will shift their focus to trying to swing a deal with the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Gavin Floyd, with free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson a long-shot option at this stage.
The Sox also are thin at shortstop after dealing Scutaro, with veterans Nick Punto and Mike Aviles and rookie Jose Iglesias their only options at this time. The Sox have indicated they do not want to rush the 22-year-old Iglesias, who has fewer than 700 professional at-bats, and with neither Punto and Aviles the answer on an everyday basis, the Sox are expected to seek more help there. Punto is the better glove of the two, Aviles a better bat. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much shortstop help available. Even the soon-to-be 45-year-olds have signed, Omar Vizquel coming to terms Monday with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Clay Mortensen, received from Colorado in the Scutaro trade, will compete for a spot in the bullpen, but more likely will open the season in Pawtucket. Don’t look now, but the Sox have the makings of a potentially strong bullpen, especially if Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller can click from the left side. If the Sox succeed in acquiring another starting pitcher and elect to return Alfredo Aceves to the pen, on paper they look strong with Andrew Bailey closing and Mark Melancon sharing setup. If Bobby Jenks can be healthy and Matt Albers proves he just ran out of gas last season, the Sox pen has a chance to be strong and deep. If.. If.. If…
With Jorge Posada announcing his retirement Tuesday after 17 seasons with the Yankees, it would appear to be a matter of time before we hear similar announcements from Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. Wakefield’s agent, Barry Meister, said the 45-year-old knuckleballer just returned from a vacation in Mexico, and that he hasn’t had substantive conversations with him in about 10 days. He acknowledged that while there have been inquiries from other teams, there’s nothing in the works. As Bobby Valentine noted the other day, it’s inconceivable that Wakefield would accept a minor-league offer from the Red Sox. Varitek turns 40 just after Opening Day and got married in the offseason. No word from the player or his agents on Varitek’s plans, but the signing of Kelly Shoppach virtually closed the door on a return to Boston, and while Varitek last spring expressed a desire to play for as long as he can, he may have reached the endgame.
Tim Thomas Skipped the White House: Boston Bruins president Cam Neely admitted Tuesday that he would have liked goaltender and Stanley Cup MVP Tim Thomas to be with the team when they visited the White House on Monday, but that Thomas “felt very strongly about not going” so the team respected his wishes. He said the team didn’t make the event mandatory because “we didn’t think it would be an issue.” Neely said he doesn’t expect the controversy to adversely affect the Bruins’ chemistry, pointing out with a laugh that not a lot of political discourse occurs in an NHL locker room.
Thomas explained Monday night in a Facebook page posting that he skipped the White House event due his disappointment in the federal government. His post read:
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”
Later Monday night, Neely released this Bruins statement:
“As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject.”
Of course, Timmy ‘The Tank’ is not alone. Theo Epstein, who had made a campaign appearance on behalf of John Kerry, was not on the stage when President Bush honored the team in 2005, choosing to sit in the front row of the audience next to Stacy Lucchino, wife of the Sox CEO. The reason, he said, was because he wanted attention focused on those most deserving. Epstein was with the group of players who subsequently visited wounded vets at the Walter Reed Medical Center. Bush was still in office when the Sox won again in 2007. Epstein did not attend the ’08 ceremony, citing “family reasons,” and his absence barely registered. It was overshadowed by the no-show by Manny Ramirez, whose absence from the stage was noted by the President himself.
And then of course… there’s this:
Prince Fielder stood with a smile and recalled his earliest memories of old Tiger Stadium, when he would hang out at the ballpark where his father hit so many massive home runs. “For me, it was always Sparky saying I was going to pinch hit—and I really believed him,” Fielder said, referring to former manager Sparky Anderson. “I’m just glad I get to come back.” The Tigers introduced Fielder on Thursday after finalizing a $214 million, nine-year contract with the free agent first baseman, who is expected to hit a lot more home runs than his dad. Detroit plays at Comerica Park now, and times have changed. Jim Leyland manages the Tigers, not Sparky Anderson.
Fielder was born in 1984, the last time Detroit won the World Series. After luring him back to Michigan with the fourth-largest deal in baseball history, the Tigers are hoping Fielder will help usher in a new championship era for the Motor City. “This is awesome, it’s kind of a dream come true. I’m excited.” Detroit began seriously pursuing Fielder after designated hitter Victor Martinez tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during offseason conditioning. Now the Tigers have three of baseball’s biggest stars—Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander—all in their primes. Detroit won the AL Central by 15 games last year but lost to Texas in the AL championship series.
It will be up to manager Jim Leyland to figure out where to play all of his powerful hitters. He said Thursday the Tigers will move Miguel Cabrera from first base to third to make room for Fielder. He also listed a possible batting order, with Cabrera hitting third and Fielder fourth. It’s a lineup based on power, not speed. That much is clear. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski indicated he’s satisfied with his roster heading into spring training, although it’s hard to rule out any more moves after the Tigers shockingly emerged with Fielder. The pitching rotation is anchored by Verlander, who won the Cy Young Award and MVP last year, but Detroit’s fifth starter spot is still uncertain. Dombrowski said the Tigers could bring in some non-roster invitees to compete for that job. “I think positional player-wise, we’re pretty well set,” he said.
Fielder’s father Cecil became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990. Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season, and young Prince made a name for himself with his prodigious power displays during batting practice at Tiger Stadium.