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Thursday, November 16, 2006

  About That Matsuzaka Deal

Lots and lots of moneySo I've been thinking about this, a lot. $51.1 million is a boat load of money. An obscene amount of money. A ridiculous amount of money. Certainly more than any single baseball player is worth, once you add in the additional money the Red Sox will actually have to pay directly to Daisuke Matsuzaka to play for them. Even though it doesn't count as payroll, I find myself wondering how this makes the Red Sox any different from the Yankee$. Do we just spend and spend to get the players we want?

Then I started thinking about what signing 26-year-old Matsuzaka would mean to the Red Sox, on and off the field. If he is what many people think he is—a top of the rotation pitcher—then he will mean a better chance at another championship. Still, once the playoffs begin, it's a crap shoot to a certain extent. Consider that since MLB implemented the wild card format, a wild card team got to the World Series seven of 12 years and won the Series four times. Eight of 12 years, the Series winner had a worse regular season record than the team they beat. And the last time the Yankees won the World Series, they did not have the highest payroll in baseball.

So if winning the Matsuzaka sweepstakes doesn't guarantee the Sox another World Series trophy, what does it do? Three words: return on investment. As Peter Gammons pointed out (ESPN.com Insider subscription required) after the bid amounts were announced, this is in part a marketing move for the Sox:

[T]he Red Sox want to cash in on Japanese marketing dollars and have already made plans for one marketing official to go to Tokyo after the first of the year. They expect that all of Matsuzaka's starts will be televised in Japan, with the Japanese advertising superimposed behind home plate. Media members from Japan, who claim that Matsuzaka, Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki are the biggest stars from their country in the last 20 years, say that when Matsuzaka pitches against the Yankees or Mariners, it will be major theater in their homeland.

In other words, if the Red Sox can sign Matsuzaka to a four-year contract, they will have a $12.8 million annual investment in a virtually untapped market. Japanese fans will be buying Red Sox apparel, Japanese television stations will be paying for the broadcast rights to Red Sox games, and Japanese corporations will be signing contracts to advertise, if not physically at Fenway Park, then on that chroma-key advertising section on the backstop that appears on everyone's television screens. All that means additional revenue sources the team doesn't have now. And as my brother the Yankees fan pointed out, that marketing opportunity is worth much more to the Red Sox than it is to the Yankees, who already have penetration in the Japanese market because of Matsui. That could explain why the Red Sox placed a higher value on the rights to Matsuzaka than did the Yankees, who reportedly bid about $19 million less.

None of this economic logic will sway those who insist on lumping John Henry and George Steinbrenner into the same category. Such people don't understand that Henry and Steinbrenner may both be rich, but Henry has shown more fiscal restraint and business sense than Steinbrenner, who has apparently been spending baseball's historically most successful team in America's biggest media market to a loss. While Steinbrenner is willing to pay not only stratospheric payroll but also luxury tax dollars for which he gets nothing in return, the Red Sox ownership has made a decidedly calculated expenditure that, they know from the Yankees' and Mariners' experiences, will pay off in real dollars. How many dollars depends on Matsuzaka's success with Boston.

When you look at it that way, there is nothing ridiculous about the Red Sox' $51.1 million bid. It's a risk, like all business investments are. But if the risk pans out, it may be the smartest $51.1 million John Henry has ever spent.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 8

When you put it "that" way, I guess it sounds like any other business venture or purchase...GREAT writing

I'm with Tex. This is the best breakdown of the deal I've read anywhere. And I've read just about every freaking thing written about it thus far.

//Japanese fans will be buying Red Sox apparel, Japanese television stations will be paying for the broadcast rights to Red Sox games, and Japanese corporations will be signing contracts to advertise, . . .//

And, according to the Asian contingent at the boarding school I live at, those sales will even out the $51.1 million spent by the Red Sox already. Japanese fans like to demonstrate their support by shelling out cash for team paraphernalia.

Thanks for the accolades everyone, but I feel compelled to remind you that Gammons was the one who first brought up the marketing angle. Frankly, I'm surprised more writers haven't delved into that aspect of the deal.

(P.S. Hi RBG!)

It's pretty obvious that Mr. Henry is bringing his hedge fund experience and using it in his baseball world. I can't wait to see what comes next.

I couldn't agree with you more...take a look at some info I was able to uncover:


It all sounds like sound investment strategy but what about the issue of revenue sharing in MLB? Don't The Red Sox have to give up close to half of their revenue earnings to the rest of the teams in MLB per this agreement?

You are correct, sort of. International revenues go to MLB, not the Red Sox, which I learned some time after writing this piece. So the economic return to the Red Sox is much less direct.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

  If This Says, "Your Mother Wears Army Boots," Blame Google Translator

Perhaps I'm jumping the gun just a bit, but I couldn't resist seeing what Google's beta Japanese translation tool would spit out when I entered the lyrics to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame":

I have asked a friend to have her daughter, who speaks fluent Japanese, tell me what the above really says. I'll let you know what I find out.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

  How Do You Say "CHA-CHING!" in Japanese?

$51.1 million.

Let me say that again. $51.1 million. That's the Red Sox' winning bid for the right to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.

I am speechless.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Spring Training Planner

The Red Sox have announced their schedule of exhibition games for spring training 2007, and all is right with the world.

When I first started going to spring training, I went for the first week of exhibition games. That week carried the most games in Fort Myers, either at the Red Sox' City of Palms Park or across town at the Minnesota Twins' spring training facility. Typically, that means seven games in six days.

These days, I plan my trip around a charity dinner and auction event known as Springing for a Cure which began in 2004 as a get-together for members of the RedSox.com message board to benefit Curt's Pitch for ALS. It has become a bigger and more organized event, now benefitting the ALS Association's Florida chapter.

Springing for a Cure 2007 takes place on Friday, March 16. Judging from the air fares I have found for different dates around that time, it looks like I may get in only three games, less than half what I saw my first two years. But it's for a good cause.

Update 11/21/2006: The date for Springing for a Cure 2007 has been changed to Saturday, March 3! That means I'll be able to return to my seven-games-in-six-days spring training routine. I'm happy.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

Well kelly, Soxonthebeach and I are only getting to see the St Paddy's Day game that weekend. Just can't afford more than that since I have to pay for my trip to Boston trip. I know I know...someday perhaps Tex will live in New England

Monday, November 13, 2006

  Fashion Police, Please Report to Florida

There is a very special place in hell for whoever decided that baseball's General Managers should wear matching tropical shirts at this week's meetings in Naples, Florida. That's all I have to say.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Papelbon a Distant Second

Detroit right-handed pitcher Justin Verlander is the 2006 American League Rookie of the Year, Major League Baseball announced this afternoon. Red Sox rookie Jonathan Papelbon came in second, but the voting really wasn't close.

How much of the difference in votes has to do with Papelbon's late season injury is anyone's guess, but the numbers make a strong case in favor of Papelbon. A comparison is apples-to-oranges, of course, since Verlander was a starter and Papelbon closed all year.

Papelbon clearly dominates Verlander in every stat except those related to starting versus relieving: games and innings. Verlander's 17 wins is roughly the starter's equivalent of a closer's 35 saves, not quite the magic threshold of 20 wins or 40 saves, but more than respectable. But on the other numbers, Verlander's are very good, while Papelbon's are better than superb.

Papelbon, of course, didn't throw a pitch after September 1, and that certainly hurt him. But the overwhelming superiority of his numbers should have been enough to counteract that fact enough to at least deliver him a few first place votes. Then again, no rule requires the voting on these awards to make sense, and if you need verification of that, remember that the best defensive team in the major leagues—and one of the best defensive teams in history—garnered not a single Gold Glove award this year.

Incidentally, there was also a National League Rookie of the Year named today, but I don't want to talk about it.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Friday, November 10, 2006

  Hot Stove Update

My recent silence doesn't mean the Red Sox players and management haven't been doing their offseason thang. Just today, we have a few notable stories.

Red Sox Win Rights to Negotiate with Japanese Pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka?

Daisuke MatsuzakaESPN.com's Buster Olney is reporting on Insider (subscription required) that the Red Sox may have placed the high bid in the sweepstakes for "gyroballer" Matsuzaka.

One bit of speculation heard yesterday -- and it was nothing more than speculation -- was that maybe Boston had made an enormous bid, in the range of $45 million.

That doesn't sound much like a story to me, but WEEI sports radio has been abuzz over it beginning with the Dale and Holley show and continuing now into the Big Show. In addition to the exclusive right to sign Matsuzaka, winning the initial bidding war would guarantee that other teams (read: Yankees) don't have a chance of getting him. Evidently, if Matsuzaka fails to reach a contract agreement with whichever team hits the jackpot, he would return to Japan to play another year and then try again with MLB as a free agent.

J.D. Drew Possible Replacement for Trot Nixon

J.D. DrewOlney also says that the Sox are interested in outfielder Drew, who exercised the opt-out clause in his contract with the Dodgers. Drew would cost the Sox big money—possibly, writes Olney, more than they offered Johnny Damon a year ago.

That move would seem to suggest the impending departure of Nixon, who almost certainly would not accept a bench role for short money just to stay with the team that drafted him. Presuming the team declines to entertain Manny Ramirez' wish du jour to be traded, a deal for Drew would leave only the center field situation with Coco Crisp as outfield positions to be determined.

Foulke Departs

Keith FoulkeA few days ago, the Red Sox declined to pick up the $7 million club option on reliever Keith Foulke. Today, Foulke chose not to exercise his own option for half the money to return for another year to the team where he had some of the best and worst moments of his career.

The conventional wisdom says that Foulke is highly unlikely to get anything close to $3.75 million a year as a free agent, which means that he either wanted out of Boston really badly or he plans to retire. The former is a strong possibility after his injury-laden 2005 and 2006 seasons, terrible performances, and tactless remarks that drew merciless boos from many Fenway fans. As for possible retirement, Foulke has made no secret of the fact that his preferred sport is hockey and that he embarked on a baseball career because that's what he was good at.

For the record, I found it despicable how shabbily some people have treated Foulke. As foolish as he was to make the infamous "Johnny from Burger King" quip, the fact is that Keith Foulke is one of a handful of players without whom the 2004 Red Sox would not have won the World Series. It is very likely that the injuries that dogged him in 2005, and for which he had surgery that hobbled him into 2006, were caused by his aggressive play at the end of the 2004 season and through the playoffs. Like Dave Roberts, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, and a very few others, Foulke should never have been booed in this town no matter what he did. I, for one, wish him the best wherever he ends up.

Besides Nixon, five other Red Sox have filed for free agency: second baseman/shortstop Alex Cora, shortstop Alex Gonzalez, outfield Gabe Kapler, second baseman Mark Loretta, and catcher Doug Mirabelli. Reports earlier this week had Cora re-signed for another two years, but it isn't official yet.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Wrapping Up the (Ex-)Sox

Jeff Suppan, St. Louis Cardinals   Todd Jones, Detroit Tigers

I watched the playoffs. Really, I did. Despite the fact that my last update on former Red Sox playing in the postseason was three and a half weeks ago, I swear that I watched at least part of every game, right through the end of the World Series. Several times, I thought about posting an update. And it's the thought that counts.

Since the last update, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Mets for the National League title, with Jeff Suppan winning the series MVP award. Then they went on to utterly outplay the heavily favored Detroit Tigers. Think about how inept the Cards were against the Red Sox two years ago and you'll come close to how St. Louis made the Tigers look. The big difference between 2004 and 2006 is that the team that committed all the errors lost this year.

These are the final postseason stats for the ex-Sox, presented with congratulations to Suppan and the winning team.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

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