THE NEWBERG REPORT — April 20, 2008
It’s still my firm belief that, in terms of the big
picture, it’s all about building a consistent contender, whose arrival may be a
year or two away, and yet, while it’s not about this series or that one, or
this homestand or that road trip, or this month or this season, it’s still
about today’s ballgame.
Part of the process of building a winner is building
winners, players who grow together into a culture of doing whatever it takes,
having each other’s backs, depending on each other and internalizing that sort
of accountability themselves. While it
may not matter so much in the long haul how Texas fares over the next couple weeks, to
me there’s still plenty riding on the next at-bat with runners in scoring position,
the next opportunity for a shutdown inning, the next game.
These last two losses to the Red Sox have been killers to
watch, but there’s something I’ve taken out of this series that losses to the
Yankees or the Angels or the Mariners don’t provide.
They are the ultimate team.
Yes, the Red Sox can outspend their mistakes, maybe not like
the Yankees can but more so than anyone else.
Yet consider how that club was built.
Sure, their catcher makes more than $10 million a
year. But they acquired Jason Varitek, a
AAA player at the time, in what has to be baseball’s best trade of the last 20
years (Varitek and Derek Lowe from Seattle
for Heathcliff Slocumb).
David Ortiz pulls in $13 million annually, granted, but Boston signed him to a one-year, $1.25 million contract in
2003 five weeks after Minnesota
had released him.
Tim Wakefield? Released
by Pittsburgh 37 games into what is now a 500-plus-game career, signed by
Boston six days after that for about 1/20th of the $4 million he’s made each
year, give or take, over the last 10 seasons.
Josh Beckett is in Boston
because the Sox signed Hanley Ramirez out of the Dominican Republic — not because
they outspent all other suitors, but because they saw a kid in 2000 they deemed
worth a extraordinarily modest signing bonus of $20,000.
Mike Lowell is there only because Florida insisted that he be tacked onto any
deal involving Beckett.
Kevin Youkilis: Eighth-round draft pick. Dustin Pedroia (Ian Kinsler’s successor at
shortstop for Arizona
Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen: Fourth round, second
Jon Lester: Second round.
Two-year, $2.5 million contract. At
about the same age and for about the same price Texas landed Kazuo Fukumori.
Sean Casey’s one-year, $800,000 deal is a lot less than
the one-year, $3.85 million Ben Broussard gets for his one year.
A lot of teams (including Texas) could have taken Jacoby
Ellsbury well before Boston popped him with the 2005 draft’s 23rd pick, or Clay
Buchholz with that same draft’s 42nd pick, or Jed Lowrie with that same draft’s
Yes, the Red Sox paid $21 million a year to sign Manny
Ramirez days after Texas
committed $25.2 million a year to Alex Rodriguez, but even they felt they
overpaid, as evidenced by their decision to run Ramirez through irrevocable waivers
three years later. Still, today, is
Ramirez all that overpaid? Think the Red
Sox exercise their $20 million option for 2009 (and again for 2010)? If not, how much will the Mets, for instance,
Boston stepped up with its silent bid on Daisuke Matsuzaka
a year and a half ago, winning negotiation rights for a little more than $51
million, but then held the line in talks with Scott Boras, ultimately signing the
26-year-old to a six-year, $52 million deal.
Curt Schilling’s initial deal with Boston
(three years at $37.5 million, plus a $13 million option for a fourth year) was
roughly equivalent annually to Kevin Millwood’s deal with Texas.
J.D. Drew for $70 million over five years? Yeah, that’s probably a deal that Boston and only a few
other clubs make.
This is a roster largely built on shrewd drafting and
trading. The Yankees, on the other hand,
have 11 players earning at least $11 million, and the only ones they can really
take credit for from a player development standpoint are Derek Jeter (chosen sixth
in the nation in 1992), Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada. Give them credit for Chien-Ming Wang, Joba
Chamberlain, Robinson Cano, and Phil Hughes, but that club’s ability to build a
team (as opposed to a roster) isn’t nearly as impressive as far as I’m
concerned as Boston’s
The big thing that I think the Red Sox have over New York, and everyone
else, is that tight-knit chemistry they exude, the character they play with, the
tenacity and relentlessness and lunchpail swagger. It’s a team full of closers.
Full of hockey players.
Varitek (from Michigan), Youkilis (Ohio), Papelbon (Louisiana),
Beckett (Spring, Texas), Pedroia (California), Wakefield (Florida), Mike Timlin
(Midland, Texas), Drew (Georgia), Casey (New Jersey), Lowell (Puerto Rico). All hockey players.
You know who would fit on this generation of the Boston
Red Sox? Nolan Ryan. He had that swagger without the irritating New
York Yankees sheen. Ryan played by a
code that the Red Sox seem to stand by collectively. Mickey Tettleton had it. Rusty Greer.
Michael Young and Millwood and Hank Blalock and Milton
Bradley and Josh Hamilton, too. Kinsler is
a developing Brenden Morrow.
I had plenty of sports hurt Sunday afternoon seeing
Millwood denied his first road win since June 17 — he’s an impossible 0-9,
3.93 with eight quality starts in 12 efforts in that span — but my cap is tipped
to the Red Sox. They find a way.
Texas will take the field in a couple hours with a 7-12 record,
but it’s easy to imagine it being 12-7 if things had broken in different ways,
which isn’t to suggest luck or randomness are to blame. The Rangers have led in eight of their 12
losses, and in several of those the lead seemed somewhat comfortable, the game
well in hand. Some of those losses shouldn’t
have happened, much like some of the victories the Red Sox tend to pull off
shouldn’t have happened.
Some may suggest that chemistry, character, and confidence
are by-products of winning, rather than ingredients. Maybe so.
Either way, I look forward to seeing the winning, and the winning
attitude, return to Texas. It’s a process, and I don’t think the payoff
is all that far off.