The honor goes to this legendary piece from Jayson Stark, who is normally a solid writer. I am sure that you have read this article before, as it was posted here in March and has made its rounds over the last few months. Here is the juiciest portion:
“For $423 million, the Yankees obviously got some nice pieces,” said one scout. “But in terms of filling needs, I think Boston did just as well, if not better.”
We know the names in the Yankees’ new stimulus package: CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett. They were the biggest, brightest packages on the free-agent shelves, and the Yankees bought out the store.
But the Red Sox’s additions were products of a whole different philosophy, not just a whole different checking account. The four free agents they imported — John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito and Rocco Baldelli — cost this team 4 million fewer guaranteed dollars ($12.5 million total) than the Yankees will pay Burnett alone this year.
Nevertheless, the upside of those men gives the Red Sox four potential impact players without the price tags, or long-term inflexibility, that come with handing out contracts that run through 2016.
And that, for this team, was the whole idea.
This is what I said at the time:
The Red Sox offered Teixeira an 8 year deal worth 170 million dollars. They did not choose to go to the bargain bin, they were forced there by their inability to reel in their top target. Being that they did not bring in any other big bats, it seems that the Red Sox have acknowledged that they have a weakness in the middle of the order that has now gone unaddressed. This canard that they set out on this plan prior to the offseason is ridiculous, being that most baseball insiders believed that Smoltz and Saito would sign with their 2008 clubs. The Sox failed at their offseason goals, and turned to gambles that may pay dividends, if everything falls their way. They need Baldelli to remain healthy for the first time, Smoltz to recover from major surgery on the wrong side of 40, Penny to avoid shoulder issues that have already flared up, and Saito to stay away from the surgery that Dodgers officials were certain that he would need. I am sure some of these players will help the 2009 Sox for at least part of the season.
As it turns out, the four guys Boston brought in during the offseason have turned in performances from awful to inconsequential. As Sean McAdam states:
Fast forward to last weekend and the evaluations — to say nothing of the AL East standings — had changed completely.
Sabathia and Burnett have combined for 22 wins and helped spearhead a stretch in which the Yanks have won 32 of 44. Teixeira, too, has rebounded, and leads the Yanks in virtually every significant offensive category, including homers, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases.
Meanwhile, Penny has won just twice since May 25 and Smoltz was designated for assignment last Friday. Reliever Takashi Saito, while seemingly recovered from an elbow injury, has been used mostly when the team trails. A fourth inexpensive free agent — outfielder Rocco Baldelli, who signed for $500,000, barely above the minimum — has been a useful bench player, but perhaps predictably, has already had two stints on the DL.
Their low-risk, high-reward strategy proved to be only half-right: they didn’t spend much, but they didn’t get a lot in return, either.
The season is not over yet, and plenty of things can still change. However, one thing that is evident at this point is that the Red Sox gambled and lost. While it may not have cost them much money, it has cost them plenty in the standings, as evidenced by the 7.5 game lead that the Yankees currently hold in the division. I expect a retraction column from Jayson any day now, but I am not holding my breath.
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