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Chasing A-Rod alienates Nomar



Special to ESPN.com

Dec. 10

Play devil's advocate, or as some would believe, realist. Say after days of negotiations with Alex Rodriguez and Scott Boras that Red Sox owner John Henry finds out he's been played for a cat chasing a catnip ball down the hall, a ball tied to a string being pulled by Boras, and that in the end, as much as he wants to get Manny Ramirez out of town, the Red Sox cannot take on A-Rod's entire contract.

Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar Garciaparra could be dealt even if the A-Rod deal falls through.

Guess what: Henry and the Red Sox are in big-time trouble. If they have grown weary of Nomar Garciaparra because they feel he has placed a dark cloud of suspicion and complaining above them, the Red Sox are in for a religious war. Nomar's friends say his theme song for these negotiations is Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," and if the Red Sox ownership and management thought Garciaparra distrusted them before, they'd better be prepared for one angry and unforgiving star from now on & even if they capitulate and re-introduce the four-year, $60 million offer they made in March that recently was pared to four years, $48 million.

General manager Theo Epstein, who is in the middle of this owner/player/agent scrum, says he hopes the flap between Henry and agent Arn Tellem "is a bump in the road." What he has to determine is whether or not that bump is Mount Wachusett.

Does Nomar really want to stay in Boston? Yes. He's told friends that for months. He and his wife Mia Hamm have not only built a house, but have talked about buying a place on Cape Cod. But there's a very good chance he's not going to get over this quickly.

That raises this question: if the A-Rod/Ramirez deal falls through, are the Red Sox better off trading Garciaparra to the Dodgers for a prospect and a couple of players they can spin into a left fielder and second baseman and signing Miguel Tejada? It will be discussed on Yawkey Way. Discussed.

Now, Boras believes that this deal will get done because A-Rod wants it, Manny doesn't object, Henry wants it, Rangers owner Tom Hicks wants it and commissioner Bud Selig wants it. But Boras also insists that he cannot do any serious restructuring, but that he's thrown concepts at the Red Sox in terms of addition revenues for the club from endorsements, NESN properties and other ways Rodriguez will raise revenues for the Red Sox, as Alex will, in turn, be far more nationally visible and marketable in Boston. Will Rodriguez help jack up revenues? Of course. "Some of our big corporate sponsors want to meet Nomar at functions or luncheons, or whatever, and he just won't do them," said one Boston official. "Alex is very good at these things. He'd be huge for us."

But enough to take the payroll north of $130 million? Probably not. So, stay tuned ...

Understand Nomar's side of this. Granted, in the spring, he agreed to four years on an extension after this season, but wanted $17 million a year; actually, he asked that they re-do this year's contract from $11 million to $15 million, then do the rest. It didn't work. Then came the end of the season and negotiations began, slowly. When Tellem asked the Red Sox, i.e. Larry Lucchino, about the A-Rod rumors, he was assured that they all came out of Texas. Then Tellem read that Henry had met with Rodriguez.

Somewhere in here, recently, the Sox made a four-year offer at $12 million a year, citing a change in the market. Since the market hasn't yet been fully defined, Garciaparra and Tellem took it as an offer the club knew he wouldn't accept, while they pursue Rodriguez.

Granted, both sides have made some mistakes. Garciaparra and Tellem probably should have taken the $15 million a year. The Red Sox didn't handle his negotiations with style.

And Nomar is now dug in. If they now have to negotiate and make the $12 million argument by bringing up that he had 100 more runners on base this season than any other Sox player and knocked in "only" 106 runs, or that his 2002-2003 OPS is down close to 20 percent from his 1998-99 highs, it will only set him off even further because in Nomar's eyes, all that counts is that every day he has put on a Red Sox uniform he has laid his soul on the field.

So while it seemed like a talk-show dream: trade Ramirez for Rodriguez, then trade Garciaparra for two players that could bring them a second baseman and left fielder as well as a prospect ...

It could end up a bad dream. A very bad dream.

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