By Jim Caple
Page 2

With the hours ticking away to deadline, the price for pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka remains so high that to cover the potential investment the Red Sox may have to start selling tickets behind and under the Green Monster as well.

Negotiations haven't gone smoothly for the Red Sox, but any team that pays $51.1 million just for the right to negotiate with Scott Boras deserves all the agony it gets. There remain two major holdups with Thursday's deadline fast approaching. One, Boras says his client deserves a $100 million contract, which sounds like a lot of money, especially when you consider it comes on top of the posting fee. Two, it really sounds like a lot of money when you hear the conversion figure: 11.7 billion yen.

Will the Red Sox give Boras what he wants? Will Boras back down and accept Boston's offer? Will the two sides compromise in the middle? Or will the deadline pass and Matsuzaka return to Japan (or court)? Here's how the final day of negotiations look in the Off-Base crystal ball:

8 a.m. General manager Theo Epstein offers Matsuzaka a three-year, $30 million contract from the Red Sox.

9 a.m. Team president Larry Lucchino counters with a three-year, $33 million contract from Boston.

10 a.m. Epstein counters with a four-year, $42 million offer from the Red Sox.

11 a.m. Lucchino counters with a five-year, $54 million contract from Boston.

Noon. A disgusted owner John Henry points out that the two executives are simply bidding against each other, then offers Matsuzaka a seven-year, $84 million contract.

1 p.m. In a passionate speech at Fenway Park, Kyle Snyder argues the Green Monster should be extended all the way around Red Sox Nation to prevent immigrants from entering the city and taking multimillion-dollar salaries away from hard-working American starters.

2 p.m. The Red Sox offer Boras a $4 million incentive bonus if he will stop referring to Matsuzaka as D-Mat.

3 p.m. Nomar Garciaparra calls in to WEEI to complain about the Red Sox's low-ball offer as well as traffic in Los Angeles.

4 p.m. Still looking for new revenue to cover Matsuzaka's contract, Lucchino proposes an across-the-board 8.9 percent income tax on Red Sox Nation. Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy disagrees, saying the new tax should be higher.

5 p.m. The Red Sox offer Matsuzaka $110 million, but only if the Seibu Lions take Manny Ramirez as well.

6 p.m. Ben Affleck announces that he will help cover the costs of signing Matsuzaka by donating all profits from his next movie. The Red Sox thank Affleck for the offer, but they need actual money.

7 p.m. In a last-minute, creative push to show their strong desire to sign Matsuzaka, Theo has Curt Schilling and his wife, Shonda, over for turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

8 p.m. Negotiations become more complicated when, completely out of the blue, Rangers owner Tom Hicks offers Matsuzaka $252 million. After major league officials point out that the Texas owner doesn't have the right to make the pitcher a contract proposal, Hicks plays hardball by raising his offer to $280 million.

9 p.m. With the deadline just three hours away, Boras appears to blink when he says Matsuzaka will sign for $45 million over four years. The deal falls apart, however, when Boras mentions that the $45 million only covers the actual signing of the contract. For Matsuzaka to pitch as well, the contract demand is still $100 million.

10 p.m. Out of habit, Lucchino calls up Doug Mientkiewicz and demands the 2004 World Series ball again.

11 p.m. A last-minute, $100 million deal falls apart when the Red Sox insist Matsuzaka take a test for performance enhancers, saying that for $100 million, he had better be on steroids.

Midnight: The deadline passes with no deal reached, yet both sides receiving exactly what they wanted in the first place. Boras and Matsuzaka gain a legitimate legal challenge to the posting system while the Red Sox get their $51.1 million back along with the knowledge that they have successfully prevented the Yankees from signing Matsuzaka.

The Sox celebrate by raising ticket prices.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is back up at a slightly different address, jimcaple.net, with more installments of 24 College Avenue.




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