EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 24, 2008

Sox didn't want Teixeira enough

On Pro Baseball

Rather than ill will this holiday season, give Mark Teixeira credit.

He got everything he wanted for Christmas.

He got his money ($180 million). He got his bragging rights (he got more money than CC Sabathia). He got his east coast home (he's a 30-minute flight to his native Baltimore area). He got his World Series contender (the New York Yankees are as good as anybody). And he got his dignity after it started to look like his suitors were bailing.

He also gets the newest, 21st century version of Yankees pressure, but more on that topic later.

Teixeira, it should be noted, did nothing wrong.

All of his criteria was met. He signed on the dotted line. And in this dreadful economy, which job security is all but gone, he is set for life.

Boston Red Sox fans though won't be so empathetic. They don't appreciate losing anything to the Yankees, never mind the most prized free agent in baseball. It means "boos" are coming his way on April 24 — the first time the two teams meet in 2009 — like he has never heard before.

Fans had pretty much convinced themselves, despite owner John Henry's proclamation late last Wednesday night via e-mail that the Red Sox were "not a factor" anymore in the Teixeira negotiations, that the Red Sox were simply calling Scott Boras' bluff. And it was only a matter of time.

They had penciled in those comforting, taken-for-granted, Manny Ramirez-like numbers — 35 homers and 120 RBI — for the next eight years at the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

Now what are they going to do?

Well, here's a quick plan: Nothing.

That's the beauty of the position the Red Sox are in. They did not need Mark Teixeira. He was a luxury, an expensive one. What he would have done is make life a bit it easier for general manager Theo Epstein. Power hitters in their prime don't come around often.

Now Kevin Youkilis, an All-Star first baseman, stays where he always wanted to stay. The same for Mike Lowell, who is still a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman.

While the Red Sox don't have a Hall of Famer in front of or behind Ortiz, they will still score a lot of runs with Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew and Jason Bay, all with All-Star appearances on their resume, chipping in.

And we've learned that World Series championships are won with superior pitching. Josh Beckett, it should be noted, was the real Red Sox MVP in October 2007.

Which brings us to the reason the Red Sox didn't sign Teixeira: Because they didn't have to.

Remember the Manny Ramirez signing in 2001? That was a have-to-have move. Then-GM Dan Duquette was desperate. He was not leaving the Winter Meetings without Ramirez and he didn't.

The Red Sox could have shut the Yankees out two weeks ago. They could have quickly offered $180 million, which they could have afforded, and Teixeira would have been in Boston already for a press conference.

Instead they chose the "budgetary" route. They set a number. They stuck to their guns. And the Yankees swooped in like a hawk.

Red Sox management shouldn't be surprised. You shouldn't be either.

E-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.