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Around this time of year, most of the sports world has its attention fixated on the upcoming college and pro football seasons. And baseball takes a back seat until the playoffs come around.
This year, there’s also the gigantic waste of U.S. taxpayer money known as USADA’s Lance Armstrong witch hunt. “We the people” have now paid millions of dollars to “bust” Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Lance Armstrong for using performance enhancing substances, and have therefore brought about sweeping changes in the minds of athletes who will now be more careful about covering up their cheating and who now know better than to talk to Congress. A fun way to celebrate this victory is to Google “shut down due to lack of funding” and see what useful programs in your area could have used some of those millions of dollars.
Meanwhile, with all that noise going on, the baseball world has been witness to the single greatest, weirdest, expensivist trade ever in the history of baseball. The Boston Red Sox have traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers for James Loney and four prospects.
Never before has this much contracted money been traded between two teams. [Editor’s Note: Jed, can you cite a reference on this?] [Note to Editor: Uh, yeah, the reference I’m citing is my memory!] The Red Sox dumped over $260 million in contractual obligations on the Dodgers – freeing up about $55 million alone for Boston next year.
The trade itself is somewhat unprecedented. When we’ve seen salary-dump trades in the past, a financially stout team like the Red Sox is usually the dumpee, not the dumper. And they’re not even close to this much dough.
I’m in a somewhat peculiar position on this trade because I am a Red Sox fan and, since I live in Los Angeles, I’m also a Dodgers fan.
All of this was set in motion when the Dodgers put in a claim on Adrian Gonzalez as the Red Sox did an administrative procedure that I won’t bore you with that all teams do this time of year. These kinds of “claims” happen all the time on all teams with most players and teams usually just block the claim by withdrawing the player. Boring stuff.
And when the sports radio stations around LA started going on about how the Dodgers should claim Gonzalez and get him on the team, I laughed out loud – or as the kids say: I LOL’ed. Typical radio guy stuff to get fans all worked up over nothing. The Red Sox would never let Gonzalez go.
Unless … what if the Red Sox were able to also dump a ton of terrible contracts on the Dodgers in the process? And that’s when the rumors started on Friday that the Dodgers’ claim on Gonzalez was real and the Red Sox might let the claim go through if, as part of the deal, they could dump the struggling and highly remunerated Josh Beckett and the severely struggling and recently operated-upon Carl Crawford.
I was so overwhelmed with confusion, sadness, anger, excitement, hope and despair that I could barely enjoy my iced tea while tracking the story on my iPhone as I laid poolside – the life of a writer does have its perks.
No matter which way this rumored trade went, I was going to have to write about it. Just the fact that the Red Sox would even contemplate this “dump” was absolutely bizarre. And the fact that the Dodgers would be willing to take on that much of a financial obligation was absolutely bizarre. We’ve never seen anything like it, even in the rumor state.
Then the rumors turned into reports that this trade was happening. I still couldn’t quite believe it – right up until someone posted a picture on Twitter of a Red Sox employee taking down the poster of Adrian Gonzalez along a hallway of Fenway Park.
And on Saturday, the deal was done. A trade that looked more like an NBA salary dump than a baseball trade was official, and now we can only guess at what the effects on each team will be. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do: guess.
Red Sox guess
While as a fan, I’m still reeling from the idea of my team giving up on the season, the trade actually makes a lot of financial sense. Gonzalez wasn’t quite living up to expectations and the ability to shed the $150 million owed to Beckett and Crawford would let the team essentially hit the reset button. They save a lot of money. A lot. And they get two very good pitching prospects from the Dodgers who could be on the big league club as soon as next year.
The Red Sox can still have a decent season this year. There’s a lot of talent on the team, and they really only have to replace the underperforming Gonzalez because Crawford was already out for the season. Beckett was pitching terribly, so that might be one of those “addition by subtraction” things that guy’s who drink cappuccinos always talk about.
But they probably won’t have a decent season, because something is clearly rotten in the Red Sox nation. This is a team that about a year ago had the best record in baseball and is now a cautionary tale. With all the “reasons” that have been thrown around in the media, it sure just seems like there are serious problems at the very top of this organization
Whatever the Red Sox do from this point on, no one will consider this Theo Epstein’s team. People may not consider it Ben Cherrington’s team either, because it seems like the owners are running the show.
Do you remember that scene in the movie Step Brothers where Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have an argument, and in retaliation Farrell goes up to their room and proceeds to rub his balls all over Reilly’s drum kit? Okay, well now you know. I feel like that’s what Red Sox co-owner Larry Lucchino is doing here. He is rubbing his balls all over the team. “Get rid of Theo.” “Get rid of Francona.” “Hire Cherrington, but limit him.” Balls. Balls. Balls.
For the Dodgers, this could be exactly what they needed to get them into the playoffs this season and maybe even for a few seasons to come. Gonzalez has already proved he was worth it with a home run in his first at-bat as a Dodger, and even his modest production for the Red Sox would be a vast improvement over the black holes previously occupying first base for Los Angeles.
Maybe Beckett will respond to the change of scenery and pitch at his previous high level against a weaker National League. He’s also a good hitter, so that’s a slight bonus. Crawford is all about next year, but he didn’t seem to fit in Boston and had wanted to play for the Anaheim Angels, so he’ll dig LA.
This deal for the Dodgers means they have acquired over $300 million in contracts in the last month. In a way, it’s like they’re making up for lost time from the last couple years. This is what one of the most profitable franchises in all of sports does with its money when Frank McCourt is no longer siphoning off cash like a hobo stealing gas from your car at a rest stop.
A year ago, the Dodgers were floundering around on the field and in Bankruptcy Court trying to sort out the mess the McCourts had made of one of the greatest organizations in all of sport. This trade can almost be viewed as the official changing of the guard in Chavez Ravine.
Kudos to general manager Ned Colletti for not letting Boston also include John Lackey or the costs of Boston’s Big Dig project. But I still think Ned should be let go at the end of the season. Anyone could have done these recent trades, but only Ned could dole out $30 million for Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang, Juan Uribe and Mark Ellis.
Despite the epic magnitude of this trade, I think there’s very little chance for either team to regret it because they both already got what they wanted. The Red Sox have the flexibility to start fresh moving forward from some terrible choices, and the Dodgers are a serious playoff contender with tons of star-power to make fans forget Frank McCourt ever happened and bring them out to games even when they aren’t giving away bobbleheads.