December 2008

Rivalry back to 2003-2004 intensity

That’s right. The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry got a little tepid by its lofty standards from 2006-2008. Not anymore. We are back to peak intensity after the Yankees got Mark Teixeira yesterday for a cool $180 million over eight years. You know what? That’s fine.

All along, I couldn’t get into the whole Teixeira move mainly because I thought it was a terrible thing to do to Mike Lowell, one of the classiest and most professional Red Sox players I’ve ever come across.

So fine, the Red Sox made Teixeira a very fair offer — eight years at $168 million — and then walked away when the player said it wasn’t enough.

If Teixeira didn’t want to play for the Red Sox at fair market value, the Red Sox were right not to keep jacking up their offer until it was good enough.

Remember how done everyone felt when the Yankees swopped in and got A-Rod on Valentine’s Day in 2004? If memory serves me correctly, the Red Sox and not the Yankees won the World Series that year. Remember how worried everyone was when Brian Cashman stealthly swooped in and got Johnny Damon just like he got Teixeira on Tuesday? If memory serves me correctly, the Yankees haven’t won a playoff series in their three years with Johnny in the leadoff spot. Meanwhile, the Sox won it all in 2007 and came within a three-run homer of getting back to the World Series in ’08.

The Boston Red Sox have worked long and hard to put together a machine of an organization. Much like the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s, the Red Sox are stacked and don’t need to go out and make lavish offseason spendings to compete for championships.

So you have a nucleus that a lot of teams would love — Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Lowell, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Dice-K, Jonathan Papelbon and others. You have Lars Anderson ticketed for 2012, once Lowell’s contract is up, and other young pitchers on the way, such as Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden.

Last year didn’t feel as fun with the big competition coming from Tampa Bay instead of the Yankees. Now the Yankees truly are the evil empire again and it’s going to make the Red Sox that much more determined.

Why is everyone so surprised that the Yankees swooped in here? Since Theo has been GM, he’s the first to admit that the Yankees have won every bidding war. Yes, they won Contreras; Yes, they won A-Rod; Yes, they won Damon; And now they’ve won Teixeira. The Red Sox won Dice-K, but only because it was a highly unique situation in which they were able to win blind date rights and then beat Boras when he had no leverage.

Yet throughout all these bidding losses, the Red Sox have been the better team than the Yankees over the complete body of work since 2003.

Theo Epstein recently said from his hotel suite at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas that the goal is not to “win the offseason”. The goal is to win April-September, and then hopefully October.

It can still happen. The fun will be watching it unfold. The only way the rivalry could have been any more fierce in ’09 is if the Yankees had gotten Manny. But his will more than suffice. I can’t wait to see that first Teixeira at-bat at Fenway. It will be the loudest jeers you’ve heard since Johnny Damon stepped up to the box at Fenway on May 1, 2006. Then, Mr. Teixeira will truly be welcomed to East Coast Baseball.

Happy Holidays to all readers.


Mike Kahn: A great boss and even better man

I’ve been a little out of sorts over the last couple of days since hearing that Mike Kahn, my first boss, died at the age of 54.

Mike had fallen ill over the last few months to lung cancer. However, right before Thanksgiving, we got some great news from Mike and his family. The doctors, though they had to remove a lung and reconstruct the lung cavity, had gotten all of the cancer out of Mike’s system. It seemed as if Mike was going to get through this terrible ordeal still standing, which didn’t surprise me because I knew full well what a strong man he was. This guy was a fighter all the way.

But sometime recently, Mike developed a post-operative infection. That turned into pneumonia and his heart simply gave out either late Wednesday night.

It’s been a tough loss to swallow, for many reasons. First of all, Mike leaves behind a great family that he absolutely loved, including long-time wife Jo Ann, son Andy and daughter Sarah, not to mention a grandchild who had changed his life wonderfully.

On a personal level, it’s hard for me to swallow because Mike was the guy who officially got me into the world of journalism. Sure, I had my internship at the Boston Globe and Don Skwar, Larry Ames and Bill Griffith and all of the great editors and writers there were tremendous and put me in position to get a full-time job. But Mike was the guy who gave me the chance in the “real world”.

I was 24 years old. It was 1996. The Internet was just starting. Mike, a long-time writer for various papers and an NBA expert, was hired by SportsLine USA — which later became CBS SportsLine and now — to be the managing editor. Mike literally got that site off the ground. He had a vision that this site — that didn’t even have a major media partner like CBS at the time — could be a major player and compete with and the like. It might have sounded preposterous, but not the way Mike sold it. He was so persuasive about his goals for the company and it was hard not to take him at his word.

Mike’s vision was to turn SportsLine — and later CBS SportsLine — into “The National” of the Internet. Many of you who read this blog probably know that the National was a paper in 1989-90 or thereabouts that had opinionated writers from all over the country chime in on sports from a regional basis. It was one-stop shopping. Unlike the National, which unfortunately folded, CBS  SportsLine became the power Mike had envisioned.

Mike’s enthusiasm and zest for sports rubbed off on all those who worked under him. I can’t even describe how much confidence he gave me. Without any major experience, Mike told me to go cover the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996. By 1997, I was covering the ALCS, the World Series and the NCAA Tournament. He threw “the kid” in the water, and fortunately, I swam. I’m not sure how many other people in his position would have given me a chance like that, and that’s why I am forever grateful to him.

At the time, we were all based in a little office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. with satellite dishes on the roof. It was my first year away from home and Mike and his family graciously invited me to their home for Thanksgiving dinner. It was typical Mike. Mike was my boss, but he made me feel like extended family.

After a couple of years in Lauderdale, SportsLine took the next editorial step, putting writers in various pockets of the country rather than all of us brainstorming under one roof in South Florida. Mike moved me to New York City as a one-man bureau, where I was set free to cover all things baseball and all things New York from 1998-2001.

Eventually, Mike and I both went on to different career endeavors, but I always felt connected to him. And now, there’s a certain feeling of “disconnect” because  this great man is no longer around.

As a pioneer in web journalism, Mike fueled a lot of careers — in the writing, editing and supervisory capacity — and I’m sure every single person I’m speaking of feels as empty as I do right now.

But we can all smile at the great memories that Mike left us with. He is the only person I knew who loved a pastrami sandwich as much as I did. He also loved to debate about sports as much as I did, and we seemed to disagree on quite a few subjects, but we shared a similar passion for our arguments. Even in those days Mike was a boss, he stayed in the writing game, serving as the journalism equivalent to player-manager.

You could always tell when Mike was writing because of the way he pounded the keyboard and was so locked in on what he was writing. If you tried to have a conversation with Mike while he was writing, he might try to answer, but it would be kind of a blank stare. The man was engrossed with what he was doing, whatever subject he was writing or reporting on and I think all journalists can relate to that.

When I was entrenched in New York, Mike and I got to cover the NBA Finals together at Madison Square Garden in 1999. While the series itself was not memorable, the time I spent with Mike was. We would take the media bus from the media hotel to Madison Square Garden every day and have great chats. After the game, we would back to the hotel and have more fun times in the media hospitality suite.

In recent weeks, Mike and I had been in semi-frequent touch. I was awed by the way he was battling his illness. And each time we exchanged e-mails, he always asked that I pass along my best to my wife Amy and my kids, which meant a lot.

So now I ask all of you to please think of the great family that Mike leaves behind and remember the most important lesson of all — to try to live in the moment as much as impossible.

Ian Browne.

Thanks for the support

I just wanted to thank everyone for their great following of Brownie Points in 2008, which was our third season. I just learned that Brownie Points was one of the Top 15 MLBlogs in terms of traffic this season and that’ a tribute to all of you.

I apologize for not posting more frequently in the winter and one of my New Year’s Resolutions might be to change that!

Hopefully we can crank up to Top 5 or Top 10 for next year.

 Have a great weekend.


Winter Meetings Day 2

Still no moves from the Red Sox, just plenty of chatter? Are the Red Sox interested in A.J. Burnett? Sure they are. But will they offer him five years?  I don’t think so. I think the Braves remain the likeliest landing spot for the electric righty with a history of injuries.

Mark Teixeira? Industry scuttlebutt still has the Red Sox as the most likely suitor, but it doesn’t appear an offer has been made yet.

CC Sabathia? He still wants to go West and is still sitting on a mammoth offer from the Yankees that isn’t likely to be duplicated anywhere else.

Nolan Ryan mentioned earlier today to a couple of media members how much he would love to have  Clay Buchholz, referring to him as “A Texas kid”. But don’t expect the Red Sox to trade the righty, who could emerge into an ace at some point.

The Orioles traded Ramon Hernandez to the Reds, scratching off yet another landing spot for Jason Varitek. By the way, the Red Sox were not players for Hernandez, he was, at best, a fallback option.

And the Red Sox still can’t find a catching fit on the trade market. Alex Speier of fame reports that the Sox rejected an offer from the Diamondbacks of Miguel Montero for Michael Bowden.

Live from Las Vegas

A typical quiet first day here at the Winter Meetings, at least as of 7:30 p.m. ET.

A few Boston scribes just bumped into Theo Epstein in the lobby and he certainly painted a picture of having nothing new to report. Epstein’s session with the media is at 8 p.m. ET and he already warned some of us that we shouldn’t expect bulletin-board material: “Get ready to be underwhelmed … I’ve got nothing.”

In other news, Greg Maddux announced his retirement at a classy press conference a bit earlier and the Red Sox continue to have extreme uncertainty when it comes to their catching situation.

With the Rangers trading Gerald Laird to Detroit, they may no longer be a fit as a trading partner with Boston. Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both become far more necessary to the Rangers with Laird gone.

And the Tigers, who might have been in the running for a catcher if not for acquiring Laird, obviously aren’t players anymore for Varitek.

A lot of people are questioning Varitek’s strategy, as in, why didn’t he accept arbitration? That might have been the best contract he was going to get. If there are teams interested in Varitek for multiple years, none have come out and said so.

As for other options the Red Sox might have, Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina — both veterans — are both said to be available via the trade market.

The guy just gets it

How else to explain Dustin Pedroia? Could he have made more money if he had gone year to year and took arbitration for three years and then free agency following the 2012 season? Of course.

But Pedroia didn’t take that into account when he opted to take the six-year, $40.5 million contact that includes an $11 million option for 2015. What he took into account is the fact that he loves Boston, he loves everything that comes with playing in Boston.

Pedroia loves playing under pressure. He loves playing in games that count. He loves losing to manager Terry Francona in cribbage. OK, maybe he wins those battles every now and then. He loves roaming around the clubhouse after a big home run, proclaiming himself as “the strongest 165-pound man in baseball.”

It’s good to know that the little man is set to become a fixture in this town for years going forward. And whenever Jason Varitek leaves the Red Sox or retires, we all know who the next captain is.

Now that Pedroia is in the fold, you wonder if guys like Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester will follow suit with deals that will keep them in a Boston uniform for many years.

Speaking of Pedroia, could this winter get any better for him? A Gold Glove. A Silver Slugger. An MVP. And now, $40.5 million worth of security.