Trade of the Century: How Alex Rodriguez Shook Up the Boston Red Sox
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  Trade of the Century: How Alex Rodriguez Shook Up the Boston Red Sox
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Author Topic: Trade of the Century: How Alex Rodriguez Shook Up the Boston Red Sox  (Read 219 times)
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SawxDem
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« on: June 17, 2022, 04:50:40 AM »

Prelude

Excerpts from Keeping The Faith: A 21st Century History of the Red Sox

On December 7, 2003, Rose Lucchino, a retiree from Pittsburgh, had a heart attack. The health scare forced her son, Larry, to take a leave of absence from his job to take care of her. As the president of the Boston Red Sox, he was going through a turbulent offseason. He was knee deep in negotiations for the best player in baseball, two of his star players demanded trades, and nearly his entire core was entering the last season of their contracts.

For now, all eyes were on Alex Rodriguez. Most had accepted A-Rod as the best player in the Major Leagues. At just 27 years old, he had 7 Silver Sluggers, 7 All-Star nods, 2 Gold Gloves, and an MVP. He also had 345 home runs, 772 RBIs, a .307 batting average, and a $252 million contract. The contract was so expensive that his team, the Texas Rangers, openly sought to trade him. They had some key pieces in Mark Texeira and Hank Blalock, but needed to diversify and free up some capital. Nobody denied A-Rod was a fantastic player. They just needed to diversify their options.

The 2003 season had left the Red Sox reeling. An unknown third baseman named Aaron Boone dashed New England's hopes with a single stroke of his bat. It was yet another painful, humiliating loss to the team that had dominated them since the Roaring Twenties. They made all the right moves and acquired the best players available. 85 years of suffering wore down on Lucchino. For now, assuaging his mother’s was more important.

The CEO of the Boston Red Sox had planned to see her for Christmas, but needed to leave now. Even under the weight of the city, he needed to do what was right. The next day, he delegated his responsibilities to the rest of upper management. John Henry would handle negotiations with free agents and Tom Werner would handle the outreach to other owners. He left the Alex Rodriguez negotiations in the hands of his trusted subordinate, Theo Epstein.

Epstein had been the linchpin to the earlier Curt Schilling deal, turning his unease to excitement. He and Jed Hoyer even got an invite to the Schillings’ Thanksgiving dinner, working overtime to convince him to come to Boston. The star pitcher originally had Philadelphia in mind, but their all-in approach brought one of the greatest arms of the era on board.

A-Rod didn't need the red carpet. In his eyes, the Rangers were going nowhere, and the Red Sox were one piece away from a championship. Texas eventually hammered out a deal where they would trade A-Rod for Manny Ramirez and Boston's top prospect, a 19-year-old pitcher named Jon Lester. The hardest part was done, and all they needed to do was make the money and logistics work.

The Red Sox needed a trade partner for Nomar Garciaparra as well. Their star shortstop had zero interest in moving to second, as it would mean a pay cut. Just as quickly, they settled on a swap with the Chicago White Sox for Magglio Ordonez and prospect Brandon McCarthy. The biggest setback would not be finding takers for their discontented players, but securing the consent of Major League Baseball.

The biggest setback was Gene Orza, the lawyer for the MLBPA. Rodriguez and the two teams had set up a deal where A-Rod would give up about $27 million on his current contract in exchange for licensing and more advertising. Orza vetoed it due to the precedent it would cause for players to voluntarily give up money, and offered a deal that saved $12 million instead and pushed the opt-out to 2005.

After the rejection of the deal, Lucchino had privately raged to the rest of the ownership team, but did not make a public statement bashing the deal. He had been busy taking care of his mother, and the rest of ownership refused to put his words on the record. After Lucchino rejoined the team, they tried negotiating compromises with the MLBPA and the Rangers, but one party was always dissatisfied. The roaring talks had turned into a Mexican standoff, with occasional murmurs coming from each side.

Suddeny, Aaron Boone’s knee injury and release had kicked the talks back into overdrive. The savior of the Yankees' 2003 season had injured his knee in a pickup basketball game, voiding his contract and sending him to free agency. Suddenly, another suitor for A-Rod - the most catastrophic of all - had emerged from nowhere. Yankees GM Brian Cashman had planned to offer disgruntled second baseman Alfonso Soriano and whichever middle infield prospect they preferred between Robinson Cano and Joaquin Arias to the Rangers.

But the Red Sox had one goal for 2004: win at all costs. Trot Nixon, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, and Jason Varitek all needed new contracts at the end of the season. Curt Schilling and new reliever Keith Foulke pushed them to the favorites. They knew the core could win a World Series, and everyone knew it was their last chance. The Red Sox could barely afford fitting A-Rod into their payroll, but they absolutely couldn’t afford another loss to the Yankees.

A week after Boone’s injury, the Boston Red Sox begrudgingly chose to eat the contract without any strings attached, on its original terms. Manny Ramirez got a fresh start in Arlington, where he could play under the shadow of the Dallas Cowboys. Magglio Ordonez would be able to play in the playoffs. Nomar Garciaparra went to a lowkey team with enough room for his star. And Alex Rodriguez would get his chance to contend, grow, and break the Curse of the Bambino.
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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2022, 04:51:00 AM »

reserved for possible prelude/index if there's interest
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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2022, 06:20:58 AM »

I'm interested in this...though A-Rod going to Boston seems like the exact opposite thing that would be required to break the Curse of the Bambino.
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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2022, 12:59:13 AM »

Addendum I: Birth of a New Era

Lamb Impresses, Wins Starting Third Base Job

Fort Myers, FL - The Yankees have solved the question of who will play third base this year, with Mike Lamb having a strong Spring Training. Originally acquired as organizational depth, he is hitting 4 home runs, 11 RBIs, and a .280 batting average. Manager Joe Torre also likes his versatility, being able to play first base, second base, and outfield if needed. Miguel Cairo and Enrique Wilson still serve to see playing time, but for now Lamb has brought unexpected stability in the wake of Aaron Boone’s departure.

Achilles Inflammation Sidelines Nomar

Mesa, Arizona - An injury to new White Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra has thrown a wrench in the White Sox’s plans. Garciaparra had some tendinitis in his Achilles during batting practice and will be out until at least May. The injury is unrelated to his wrist injury in 2001, which sidelined him for most of that season.

New acquisition Juan Uribe serves to see playing time in his stead. Uribe has performed well in limited action, hitting 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in 87 games for the Colorado Rockies. The White Sox traded second baseman Aaron Miles for him and see him as a future utility piece. Jose Valentin will move to second base as a result of the shuffle.

A-Rod Fits in Boston as Fans are Hopeful

Fort Myers, FL - Alex Rodriguez is meshing well with his new teammates in Boston. He has already grown close to breakout DH David Ortiz and has hit it off with Pedro. Most surprisingly, A-Rod has brought into the clubhouse camaraderie, goofing off with everyone. Rodriguez has historically been great.

The Red Sox have missed Trot Nixon due to his recovery from a back injury, but hope for him to be ready around June. Magglio Ordoñez will shift from left field to his natural right field position in the meantime, while Gabe Kapler will take his place in left.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Opening Day Rosters:

Red Sox:

C: Jason Varitek
1B: Kevin Millar
2B: Mark Bellhorn
3B: Bill Mueller
SS: A-Rod
OF: Gabe Kapler, Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordoñez
DH: David Ortiz
BENCH: Brian Daubach, Doug Mirabelli, Pokey Reese, Ellis Burks, Cesar Crespo

SP: Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Byung-Hyun Kim, Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield
RP: Bronson Arroyo, Mark Malaska, Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Keith Foulke
DL: Trot Nixon, Lenny DiNardo


Yankees:
C: Jorge Posada
1B: Jason Giambi
2B: Alfonso Soriano
3B: Mike Lamb
SS: Derek Jeter
OF: Hideki Matsui, Kenny Lofton, Gary Sheffield
DH: Bernie Williams
BENCH: Miguel Cairo, Tony Clark, John Flaherty, Ruben Sierra, Enrique Wilson

SP: Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, Javier Vazquez, Jose Contreras, Jon Lieber
RP: Brad Halsey, Felix Heredia, Steve Karsay, Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon, Mariano Rivera


Rangers:

C: Gerald Laird
1B: Mark Texeira
2B: Eric Young Sr.
3B: Hank Blalock
SS: Michael Young
OF: Manny Ramirez, Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench
DH: Brad Fullmer
BENCH: Rod Barajas, Manny Alexander, David Dellucci, Brian Jordan

SP: Kenny Rogers, R.A. Dickey, Ryan Drese, Chan Ho Park, John Wasdin
RP: Francisco Cordero, Joaquin Benoit, Mike Bacsik, Mickey Callaway, Armando Almanazar, Ron Mahay

Red Sox Top 10 Prospects:
1. Hanley Ramirez - SS (#39 OA - BaseballAmerica)
2. Kelly Shoppach - C (#74 OA - BaseballAmerica)
3. Kevin Youkilis - 3B
4. David Murphy - OF
5. Abe Alvarez – P
6. Matt Murton – OF
7. Chad Spann – 3B
8. Manny Delcarmen - P
9. Anastacio Martinez – P
10. Juan Cedeno - P
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« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2022, 12:00:50 PM »

I know it's not something the Rangers would normally do, but I feel like Jon Lester would have made the Opening Day roster in this scenario.
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« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2022, 03:31:10 AM »
« Edited: June 23, 2022, 01:39:45 PM by Beta Oz »

Chapter 1: A Comedy of Errors
[/b]

“At the time, you looked at the moves made, you looked at the team and the standings, and you just thought to yourself, “What happened? What exactly went wrong?” It was pretty easy to see, looking back. The Red Sox built a team with plenty of hitting and names, but they were made of glass.” - Peter Gammons, former Boston Globe columnist

“We call him The Cooler. ‘Cause he may be doing good, but every team he’s been on, he cools off.” - Kenny Rogers, Texas Rangers pitcher

“I really do think that stretch of games fired us up. We came into the season expecting to break the Curse, and then everything started to fall apart. During May and June, injuries started to catch up. You had Trot recovering from back surgery, Magglio and Bill hurt their knees, and a bunch of people swapping all around the outfield. I even had to play right field for a bit. Everyone was saying how much of a disappointment we were, and that sorta fueled us to prove them wrong.” - Kevin Millar, ESPN 30 for 30: Four Days in October

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The expectations for the Red Sox reached a fever pitch. They managed to add the best reliever, starter, and position player on the market to a team that was one run away from a pennant. The world considered their offseason the best of all time. The team started to gel in Spring Training, and they started April by living up to the hype.

A-Rod had a solid 5 home runs, 8 RBIs, and a .252 batting average, but the rest of the team picked up his slack. Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling were as dominant as advertised, but the real star was Magglio Ordoñez. Ordoñez had hit 7 home runs, with 22 RBIs and a BAA of .289 in the month of April, only edged out by Royals star Carlos Beltran. With a 16-5 start to the season, the Red Sox had announced their arrival.

Inside the team, the clubhouse had begun to gel. Pedro Martinez and Alex Rodriguez were goofing off together, often with Ortiz and Ordoñez joining in on the fun too. Curt Schilling and Kevin Millar bonded over their love for country and rock music. The ostensibly clean-cut, hyper-polished A-Rod had bonded with rugged, jocular Johnny Damon. Everyone had settled into their roles and everyone put their egos aside for the sake of the team.

On May 3, 2004, Curt Schilling had posted on the Sons of Sam Horn forum, “I love it here. Just being a part of something, having a bunch of great guys with me, and having the chance to make history. It’s a blessing.”

The Red Sox had come back down to earth in May. For the first three weeks, they were 14-8 on the season. It was impressive, and still enough to keep their lead over the Yankees, but not otherworldly like April. Bill Mueller had injured his bum knee against the Blue Jays. Despite his batting title, they weathered his loss because they had two competent backups in Pokey Reese and Kevin Youkilis. Both saw occasional playing time when Mueller or Bellhorn needed a maintenance day. They each hit the ground running, but Youkilis’s play became too good to overlook and he earned the full-time backup job within two weeks.

Then, May 25 rolled around. That day, Magglio Ordoñez hurt his knee trying to make a routine catch in left field, and would need minor knee surgery. He would be out for at least six weeks.

They could afford one outfielder being out, but couldn’t afford two. The injury forced the team to start players like Cesar Crespo, Adam Hyzdu, Dave McCarty, and Brian Daubach just to stop the bleeding. Kevin Millar had to move back to right field. Nobody worked out on offense, and the constant turnover meant nobody could get a groove on defense. By the start of June, the Yankees had taken the AL East lead and the Rangers were beginning to catch up to their Wild Card spot.
The hitting suffered to the point where they traded a prospect to their rivals for Brad Fullmer in late May.

When they acquired Fullmer, he had lost his starting job midway through May to David Dellucci. A combination of knee injuries, a logjam, poor play, and Manny’s arrival had pushed the gritty hitter out of town. In Texas, he hit 4 home runs and 13 RBIs with a .209 batting average. In his first three weeks, he had hit closer to his usual numbers, with 5 home runs, 14 RBIs, and a .282 batting average. Fullmer had been a very pleasant surprise for an otherwise slumping Red Sox team, but hitting was never the issue.

The defense had taken a massive step back. Most notably, Kevin Millar failed to field a routine fly ball against the Yankees, leading to a run scoring in a slim 7-6 Yankee victory. When playing first, Fullmer missed outs that Millar or a faster player would have gotten. Aside from the frequent defensive lapses, the pitching had fallen off of a cliff. Martinez and Schilling were doing well, but Wakefield and Arroyo were pedestrian. Derek Lowe was nowhere to be seen. They were hitting, but not doing much else.

On June 16, the cavalry started to sound. Trot Nixon had recovered from his back surgery. Kevin Millar could play first again, and Kapler could play right field. The Red Sox were on the road to being a passable baseball team again. Magglio would even return in a few more weeks. Even as they played .500 ball, talk about rallying to pass the Yankees came anew.

A week later, their archrivals would respond with a shock move of their own.
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