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May 01, 2004
Red Sox Doing Things The Patriot Way?
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net

ARLINGTON, Texas -- For those of you who wish that the Red Sox would become the next Patriots, that may be exactly what is happening.

Minus the rings, trophies and broken curses, we see the same thing happening on Yawkey Way as is on Washington Street some 30 miles to the south. Pedro Martinez and Ty Law must be related somehow, Damien Woody has probably shot the breeze with Derek Lowe, and Lawyer Milloy might place a call someday to Nomar Garciaparra and compare "team loyalty" stories.

Meanwhile, here's Alex Rodriguez in New York playing for a struggling Yankee team, while both Texas and Boston are better without him. Ask Seattle fans how they're getting along without A-Rod right now. Granted, the season is young, but thus far A-Rod's quest for ultimate personal glory may not come as soon as he would like, if it ever comes.

Martinez's latest outburst, in an "exclusive" in the Herald Saturday morning (if it's an "exclusive", then why was the Globe all over the story also?) tells us all that the ace righthander will indeed file for free agency at season's end. Aside from the fact that this revelation is as shocking as the sun rising this morning, it does raise questions over how the other "Big Four" free agents will be treated when the season is over. The Red Sox are perceived to be in a "win it all right now" mode, and likely will enter a rebuilding mode going into next year.

This means that Martinez, Lowe, Garciaparra and Jason Varitek will probably be playing elsewhere next year. Whereas in the past this might upset Red Sox fans everywhere, it really doesn't have to, if the Red Sox have a plan and the personnel people to pull it off. It boils down to the fact that the Red Sox may merely be trying to copy the Patriots' blueprint and build a team versus signing high-priced players just to placate the fan base.

Look at what goes down in Patriot Land. Law has spouted off all spring long about how badly he wants out of New England, and nobody is paying attention. This is a shutdown corner who has been one of the most vital defensive cogs in the last three years. So here he is, one of the best cornerbacks (and dance teachers) in the league, barely three months removed from a second Super Bowl win, and he is literally trashing out Bill Belichick and his team two or three times a month in the press because he wants a new deal which makes him the highest paid corner in the league.

Reaction? The team is saying nothing, they don't need to. He's under contract until 2005, and Law has no choice but to go out there and give his all. The fans are fed up and want the Patriots to throw the bum out.

Woody and Mike Compton were big hogs up front. Both men have left via free agency. Any problems with that? Why should there be when the Patriots won their last Super Bowl without them? Admittedly, the Patriots are thin at the offensive line and did nothing in the draft to remedy it, but the Patriots have many other chances later on this offseason to address this issue.

In short, Patriot Nation never worries about big name free agent departures because they don't have to. The team will simply replace them and go on. Having Belichick and personnel director Scott Pioli helps a lot, but the Patriots would never concern themselves with a Martinez tirade or a Garciaparra phone call to a radio station on his honeymoon.

And Manny Ramirez would probably never be a Patriot, but that's for another day. Then again, the team did bring in Corey Dillon…

Theo Epstein is emerging as a top notch GM, one who can perhaps be compared to Pioli in his field. Bringing the sabermetric approach to the Red Sox, he has been able to build a team which was able to break all sorts of team offensive records in 2003, and is getting by right now without Garciaparra and Trot Nixon in the lineup. For example, why be concerned about the loss of Garciaparra at the moment when you examine the unbelievable OBP of Mark Bellhorn? This is not to say that Bellhorn is the long term replacement for Garciaparra, far from it, but it does serve to make a bigger point.

Epstein and Larry Lucchino are perhaps ready and willing to let all these free agents walk because they already have cheaper alternatives in mind, ready to step in and contribute as if nothing has changed. Bearing in mind the Patriot philosophy of "building a team" versus "collecting talent" (go listen to the first NFL Films DVD regarding the champion Patriots and Belichick will say that exact sentence himself), Epstein may be doing the exact same thing with the Red Sox. Instead of breaking the bank to keep two or more of these valuable chaps, there are probably a bunch of Plan B's ready to step in and take over.

Some might argue that the dynamics between baseball and football are totally different, and that the Patriot way won't work in baseball. Football is the ultimate team game, while baseball is more individual-oriented, and baseball demands more high-end talent than football does. If you believe that the team concept is de-emphasized in baseball, consider that neither A-Rod nor Barry Bonds can pitch, nor can they hit but only every ninth time in the batting order. Teams succeed with several good starters instead of just one or two.

Granted, MLB doesn't have the salary cap to deal with. The Red Sox have the financial base to spend money with the best of them save for the Yankees. Some fans may not want the Red Sox to take a Jeremy Jacobs approach to running the club and be more concerned about the bottom line versus a winning team. Why jettison all these stars when the Red Sox really do have the money to spend, while Pioli and Belichick work within spending limits and force star players to either renegotiate/take pay cuts or be cast adrift?

Again, the Red Sox must be just as dedicated to building a team as the Patriots are. A-Rod is the best example that high priced hitters are not the key ingredient in postseason glory. Martinez may indeed leave the Sox and go on to some great years elsewhere, or he may be one pitch away from permanent damage and/or forced retirement. Lowe turns 31 in June. Some feel Garciaparra's best years are behind him. Ditto for Varitek.

There are lots of reasons to not keep these players, as well as reasons to keep them. It will come down to how badly these players want to stay versus how badly they want to leave. In Foxborough, players who want to stay and win Super Bowls badly re-do their contracts. Those who want the big bucks go elsewhere.

Therefore, assuming that Epstein has a plan and Terry Francona is the man who can really bring it all together, the guys who want to stay and bring home that elusive World Series win will emerge. They will place winning it all for Red Sox Nation above huge riches, just like Willie McGinest, Ted Johnson and Troy Brown do down in Foxborough.

So, listen to Martinez spout on and on, and just let it run in one ear and out the other. If he wants to stay, he'll stay. If he's not wanted, he'll be gone. Worry not.

Because the Red Sox team you'll see emerge will finally be the Red Sox team of your dreams.


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