Red Sox are masters of baseball's universe
DENVER -- "The Red Sox can have their Nation. The Yankees have the universe."
-- Hank Steinbrenner, New York Yankees senior vice president
Not anymore, they don't.
"I think if you look at who the stars were of this Series, it's not all about payroll," said Red Sox owner John Henry. "It's never all about payroll. But it takes 25 guys to win. The guys at the bottom of this pay scale were just as important to this team [pause for Henry getting champagne-sprayed by shortstop Julio Lugo] as the guys at the top."Ortiz made a beeline toward Henry. There were hugs, then Ortiz announced, "The best owner in baseball." Henry beamed. "I think we have a good, young team," Henry said. "I think we have a solid team that's going to be strong for some time. But the competition isn't getting any easier in the American League. It's a really tough league." Money guarantees nothing in baseball except expectations. But what happened to the Red Sox this season, as well as in 2004, isn't an accident. They spent money, lots of it, but they mostly spent it wisely. They did a lot of things wisely. This is the 103rd World Series. Only two teams have won successive championships by 4-0 sweeps: the Red Sox (2007, '04) and, before they began to self-destruct, the Yankees (1998-99). It is entirely possible, if not probable, that Boston could win it all next season too. The Red Sox are the Warren Buffetts of baseball. They invest and trade well. While the Yankees were committing $120 million to Jason Giambi in 2002, the Red Sox waited a year and took a $1.25 million flier on a DH discarded by the Minnesota Twins. Maybe you've heard of him Ortiz. When the Yankees signed starting pitcher Carl Pavano, the Red Sox would later trade for Pavano's Florida Marlins teammate, Josh Beckett. To be fair, Boston also pursued Pavano. Pavano's Yankees career is deader than a Barry Bonds-Bud Selig photo op. Meanwhile, Beckett is building a résumé that one day could include Cooperstown.
The Red Sox aren't nostalgic or sentimental. Pedro Martinez? Johnny Damon? Enjoy New York, fellas. General manager Theo Epstein and his staff designate a value to a player and rarely waver from that value. That's why Damon is in a Yankees uni and Pedro in a Mets uni. Epstein isn't afraid of selective personnel turnover. If he were, that '04 team might be intact still.Did I mention the 2005 draft? Pedro's departure meant a supplemental choice used to select Clay Buchholz, whose second career start resulted in a no-hitter last month. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who apparently hits nothing but doubles, was taken with the Orlando Cabrera pick. He hit .438 for the Series. Pitcher Craig Hansen came with the Derek Lowe pick. Depending on the situation, the Red Sox aren't afraid to ignore slotting and signability issues. They invest heavily in scouting the Caribbean and Asia. They understand baseball has no borders. They aren't perfect. (Hello, Edgar Renteria. And until recently, hello, J.D. Drew.) But if Epstein wants someone, if he's absolutely convinced that player will be the difference between a duck boat parade or losing, the Red Sox will cowboy up. They outbid and outsmarted the Yankees on Daisuke Matsuzaka. So the Yankees settled for Dice-K Really Lite, Kei Igawa. Igawa was a disaster, finishing 2-3 with a 6.25 ERA. "We just know that we're blesssed to have great resources," Epstein said. "But that in and of itself doesn't get you anywhere, as other teams have shown." Greed, as Gordon Gekko said, is good. Or it can be. The Red Sox want more. More playoff appearances (that's the starting point for Epstein) and, if possible, more moments like Sunday night, when commissioner Selig handed them another World Series trophy. A payroll of $143 million, when used the way the Red Sox use those dollars, can result in more of everything, including another championship run next season. "This team is built well," said veteran reliever Mike Timlin. "You can't predict what's going to happen, but this team is built extremely well." The outfield of Manny Being Manny, Ellsbury and Drew returns. Third baseman, Series MVP and free agent-to-be Mike Lowell will be asked back at a nice raise. If he leaves, Kevin Youkilis might take his place. Or maybe, just maybe, the Red Sox will romance Alex Rodriguez again (his ego-driven agent, Scott Boras, chose Sunday night to make the announcement of A-Rod's opt-out). It isn't as if they can't afford him, although Red Sox fans chanted "Don't sign A-Rod" as the Boston players and management mingled on the field hours after the game. Big Papi is signed through 2010, with a club option in 2011. Dustin Pedroia looks like a fixture at second. Lugo? Not sure. Catcher and captain Jason Varitek is here for at least another season. The starting rotation is a half-light-year ahead of the Yankees'. Beckett, Jon Lester, Buchholz, Dice-K, Tim Wakefield, possibly Curt Schilling (doubt it) or a free agent (don't doubt it). And the bullpen is mostly state-of-the-art (with Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen as the centerpieces). Manager Terry Francona will return, as will Epstein, who appears to have designated his gorilla suit (remember his walkout two years ago?) for assignment. "We've got a lot of young guys, we've got a lot of talent, a lot of guys in their prime," said Lester, who won the Game 4 clincher. "It should be fun for years to come, hopefully. Put some runs together and be in the playoffs every year." Henry had it right when he said Steinbrenner and the Yankees "can have Mars and Pluto. We'll take Red Sox Nation." They'll take that. And more trophies. Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com. He co-authored Jerome Bettis' autobiography, "The Bus: My Life In and Out of a Helmet," which is available now.
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- NFL mulls fine for Lynch's hat, sources say
- Lynch to media: 'You know why I'm here'
- Mayweather, Pacquiao meet again privately
- Brady has cold, says 'not worried about it'
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2007 World Series Game 4
For the second time in four years, the Boston Red Sox are World Series champions. They finished off a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies with a 4-3 victory in Game 4. Story
2007 World Series page
• Stark: Powerhouse Red Sox made their mark
• Crasnick: Lester provides true inspiration
• Bryant: Rockies must build on experience
• Caple: Unhappy ending in Colorado
• Nelson: Humble Lowell earned Series MVP
• Wojciechowski: Masters of the universe
• Third baseman Lowell wins MVP award
• Varitek giving final out ball to team
• Diamond Daily: Dynasty in the making?
• Highlights: Red Sox complete sweep of Rockies
• Lowell has been Red Sox MVP all season
• Lester overcomes Rockies in Game 4
• A dream come true for Pedroia, Ellsbury
• Another title for Francona, Lowell, Ortiz
• Rockies claim layoff hurt them
• Baseball Tonight Minute: World Series recap
• Jayson Stark's post-Game 4 video blog
• Lester talks about getting the Game 4 victory
• Kielty talks about his pinch-hit home run
• Papelbon speaks after saving Game 4
• Francona talks about Boston's team effort
• Beckett talks about winning the Series
• Ortiz says character is the reason they won
• Varitek says the Red Sox needed everyone
• Ellsbury says it's unbelievable to be on the field
• GM Epstein talks about his team's hot streak
• Playoffs in Pictures