Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Oh the drama of off-season baseball. The international cast of characters. The intrigue. The villainy. Fans clamoring for one company to pay another company millions in order to secure the rights of a pitcher, then being shocked that the pitcher wants even more money. Fans griping about high salaries, which are inflated because of fan demand for talent.

The Red Sox have just about 2 days (at the time I'm writing this, 10 PM Tuesday night) to sign Matsuzaka or he will return to Japan next season. The jubilation that occurred nearly a month ago when we won the rights to negotiate with him has turned into harsh reality.

Scott Boras, Matsuzaka's agent, has become the apparent antagonist in this drama. He wants a lot of money for his client. Is that supposed to shock us? An agent wanting money for his player? Is this news worthy of report on BostonDirtDogs.com? Why are we villainizing him?

Let's play agent's advocate. You're Scott Boras. You see the Red Sox willing to put up $51.1 million just to talk with Daisuke. You see every free agent in baseball getting paid salaries that range from a bit too high to way too much. The contracts for pitching are particularly high. Now, you also see that many other teams were willing to put up big money to sign Matsuzaka. It is logical to assume that they'd likely do so in the next off-season. Now, why wouldn't you try to get a boatload of money for your client?

A great many fans are moaning about greed. They're calling Boras and Matsuzaka greedy because they want money. Are you f*cking kidding me, people?

Let's just imagine you work for a company. You're very good at what you do, one of the best in the industry. But you work in Barre, Vermont. You'd like to work for the bigger companies in places like Boston and NYC. But you're under contract. The company you work for, however, listens to your requests. They agree to allow you to leave Barre and get work for a larger firm, but they will take half of the money the larger firm is willing to pay you. You think you might be a bit upset? You think you might be feeling gypped?

This is the situation in which Matsuzaka and Boras find themselves. If you want my opinion, the Sox kind of dug their own hole on this one. They put up the $51.1 hoping to sign Matsuzaka for about $50 million more. But now they're staring at a price tag of about $120 million total. Now they either have to pony up the money, or have to face disgrace and failure to acquire a #1 pitcher this off-season.

My opinion is that if it is the 0 hour and Boras hasn't budged, pay him and Matsuzaka the money. The sad truth is, we need Matsuzaka more than he needs us. And to be honest, we've already spent $100 million total on Drew and Lugo, two above average players, it would appear foolhardy of us to refuse to spend $120 million on a player who could potentially be great.

Great pitchers, like Matsuzaka is capable of being, win World Series. Above average hitters like JD Drew and Julio Lugo do not.

Former Red Sox utility outfielder Gabe Kapler retired from playing pro ball at the age of 31 the other day. He was then named as manager of A Greenville within the Sox organization. He replaced Luis Alicea who is now the Boston Red Sox first base coach.

It is good to see that the organization has been able to create some good relationships with players. The Yawkey trust/Dan Duqeutte years were marred with problems between personnel and management. But the new Red Sox seem to be a team that players and coaches want to stick with. With the notable exceptions of Shea Hillenbrand and Nomar Garciaparra.

The Red Sox are negotiating with Doug Mirabelli to be the backup catcher next season. The deal would probably be short-term and not worth an exorbitant amount. Another possibility could be 40 year old Sandy Alomar Jr.

Eric Gagne is close to signing with Texas for $8 million guaranteed. That's a lot for a guy with a big time recent injury. Understandably, the Sox backed out of those negotiations. The Sox are rumored to be in trade talks concerning Chad Cordero, Akinori Otsuka, and Mike Gonzalez.

What about Jose Mesa? Why not?

I think that the recent decline of the Patriots isn't just their fault. I think that part of it might be due to the fact that the NFL has finally woken up and smelled the coffee.

When the Pats first started winning, they were underdogs. They were maligned for their short dump passes and screens. Bill Cowher complained that his more talented Steelers were gypped in the AFC title game in the '01 season. The Raiders similarly complained of outright robbery. The Rams just seemed to not give much attention to how the Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl that season. And it cost them.

The in 2003, the mystique began. After week 4, they simply stopped losing. They won high scoring shootouts like the 38-34 win over Indy. They'd win tight close games like the 9-3 win over Cleveland. They then went into the playoffs, beat the two MVPs (McNair and Manning) then edged Carolina 32-29. By then, the Patriots had not only earned respect from the NFL. They had earned fear.

In '04, we only lost twice. The loss to Pittsburgh was when we had no RB and no DBs. It was the exception to the new rule that the Patriots were unbeatable. The other loss was a silly 29-28 defeat at the hands of Miami in which everyone and their mother knew that the Pats simply dropped the ball in a relatively meaningless late season game. The playoffs saw the Pats completely dominate Indy, holding the best offense to 3 points. Then they routed Pittsburgh, scoring 41 against the best defense. Another Super Bowl win and the Patriots were crowned a dynasty. The best team in the NFL, by far. 34-4 in two years and truly unbeatable at home.

I remember those games, and even when it was close or we were behind, you just felt confident that we would win. I've been wondering lately, did the opposing team also feel so sure about the result. Did teams go into games, knowing in the back of their minds that they were playing the best team in the League and one imperfection would result in a loss?

Did our opponents in '03 and '04 fall prey to self-fulfilling prophecies. Did their fear of screwing up cause them to screw up. For some players, ahem Peyton Manning, this appeared to be blatantly obvious. One mistake would build on another. Meanwhile, we'd make mistakes (Brady's late INT in the Super Bowl against Carolina) but we'd recover. Were we that much better than the NFL, or was the NFL in such a defeatist mindset that subconsciously they quit when they made mistakes?

In 2005, we were somewhat exposed. Teams started beating us. The rest of the NFL picked up on that. These weren't freaky losses like in '04. Nor were these only to the best teams in the NFL. In 2005, we lost 6 regular season games. We lost to the 9-7 Chargers in Gillette, the 10-6 Chiefs, and the 9-7 Dolphins, along with losses to top teams like Carolina, Denver, and Indy.

It is entirely possible that the NFL is starting to play us with confidence, and not fear. We've only dominated our opponent in 4 games (@ Cincinnati, @ Buffalo, @ Minnesota, @ Green Bay). Our games against bad and mediocre teams are typically very close (19-17 win vs. Buffalo, 28-21 win vs. Detroit,). We've also been beaten, consistently, by good teams that are playing well. Some of these losses were absolute beatdowns. 17-7 loss vs. Denver, 21-0 loss @ Miami.

We no longer inspire fear in the NFL. That's a problem. We have the talent, despite the injuries and the loss of players to other teams, to win football games. We haven't been. And every loss inspires more and more confidence in the NFL.