not exactly earth-shaking observations, but sad nonethelessYankees and Red Sox: Money Well Wasted
By BILL PENNINGTON
Published: May 23, 2007
For nearly a century, the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees have made each other crazy. Lately, it may be more true than ever.
They have always been rivals and baseball enemies, even if now it seems to have less to do with snarling on-field confrontations. Watching today’s opposing players kibitz on the field before games could make one wistful for the days when Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk would convincingly insult each other across the batting cage during pregame warm-ups.
Now the enmity has been moved to a higher level of battle, to team front offices, where the dollars and sense seem to move in opposite directions. Enemies? You bet. In the modern era of escalating salaries, the Red Sox and the Yankees have become their own worst enemies.
Last night at Yankee Stadium provided the setting for a good example in how a wonderful rivalry has made reckless bedfellows. On the first-base side of the diamond, the Yankees waited another day to announce whether Carl Pavano would have season-ending reconstructive elbow surgery. There may be a sliver of hope that Pavano will return to the Yankees, but it felt more like forestalling the inevitable. Pavano is more than likely a $40 million humiliation waiting to be registered on the loss part of the ledger.
And who brought on this careless investment in 2004? Go back to December of that year and recall how zealously the Red Sox pursued Pavano, who 10 years earlier had been a Red Sox draft pick. The result was a manic battle between the Yankees and the Red Sox over Pavano, the holder of an unspectacular 57-58 career record to that point. Nonetheless, the Yankees had Manager Joe Torre make personal appeals by telephone to Pavano, imploring him to come to New York. Boston’s response to that was to have its pitching ace, Curt Schilling, have Pavano for lunch at his home.
It seems unlikely that the Detroit Tigers, the Baltimore Orioles or the Los Angeles Dodgers could bring out such enticement and counterwooing in either the Yankees or the Red Sox, especially for a pitcher with two winning seasons after six years in the major leagues.
But when the primary competition is the Red Sox or the Yankees, neither side can think straight. In the end, those old rivals from early in the 20th century combined to make Pavano a well-paid disappointment.
The folly did not stop there. Days after the Yankees signed Pavano, the Red Sox would not be outdone. They found their own mediocre pitcher in the free-agent pool and signed Matt Clement, the poor man’s Carl Pavano. Clement had a career record at that point of 69-75 with two marginally successful seasons in six years in the big leagues. Sound familiar?
He received a $25 million contract from Boston.
Last night at Yankee Stadium, Clement was, like Pavano, nowhere to be found. Clement is rehabilitating his surgically rebuilt shoulder in Florida and is not expected to pitch for the Red Sox again. Although he won 13 games in his first season for Boston, most of that success came from a 6-2 start. Last season, Clement was Pavano-like, frequently injured and appearing in only 12 games with a 5-5 record.
Pavano’s Yankees record to date: 5-6 in 19 starts. Or about $8 million a victory.
There was precedent for the crazed free-agent conflict these teams bring out in each other: the recruitment and battle for pitcher José Contreras in 2003. That confrontation, which people thought the Yankees won, cost the team $32 million for 15 victories in 2003 and 2004. Perhaps fittingly, Contreras was sent to the Chicago White Sox in large part because he could never seem to defeat the Red Sox.
Contreras, of course, has since compiled a 37-24 record for the White Sox, and helped them win a World Series title in 2005.
Even the most recent off-season brought out more impractical dealings involving the Yankees and Boston. When the Red Sox won the bidding for the Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka by forking over $103.1 million, the Yankees could not help themselves. It was as if it were 2004 all over again and the teams had reversed roles.
Like the Red Sox chasing Clement, the Yankees pursued Japan’s Kei Igawa, whom they scooped up for a tidy $46 million. Igawa, after stumbling to a 7.63 earned run average with the Yankees this year, is at the team’s minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., where he is learning a new way to throw the ball to home plate. In effect, the Yankees have spent $46 million for someone whom they are now reteaching the basics of his position, as if he were a raw prospect in high school.
It may be the greatest rivalry in baseball, but it makes those in it crazy.