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Garciaparra passed up last year's offer

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Boston Red Sox owner John Henry lashed out at Nomar Garciaparra's agent on Tuesday, saying it was the "the height of hypocrisy" to accuse the team of betrayal after the star shortstop rejected the team's lucrative, long-term offer last spring.

"He says we're being disingenuous. I take great umbrage at that
statement," Henry said at the opening of the team's academy in the
Dominican Republic, according to two Boston newspapers that covered
the event. "That is the height of hypocrisy."

Garciaparra said in radio and newspaper interviews this week
that he would be hurt if the Red Sox went through with plans to
trade him and acquire Alex Rodriguez from Texas. Calling the radio
station and the Boston Herald from his Hawaii honeymoon with soccer
star Mia Hamm, Garciaparra said he wants to finish his career in
Boston, and noted his commitment to the community and the team.

Garciaparra's agent, Arn Tellem, told The Boston Globe that the
team's efforts to acquire Rodriguez -- which are less about
Garciaparra than outfielder Manny Ramirez -- are "a slap in the
face."

The Globe and Herald both quoted sources on Tuesday as saying
that the Red Sox offered Garciaparra a four-year deal last spring
worth $60 million. Garciaparra rejected it, instead seeking a
longer deal worth as much as $17 million a year.

Since then, the market has declined, and the Red Sox have
reportedly decreased their offer.

"I hope he's being more honest with his client than he is with
the media because we have made credible offers," Henry said. "The
reason we have continued in the manner in which we have, is that
his agent has given us a very clear indication that there is no
common ground. He seems to believe it is still the winter of
2000."

Tellem, reached in New York, thought Henry was out of line.

"Obviously, I strongly disagree with Henry's characterization
of my comments in regards to Nomar's current situation with Red
Sox," Tellem said. "All further communication regarding this
matter will be conducted in a private and professional manner among
myself, Nomar and appropriate representatives of the Red Sox
organization. As Nomar has stated, it has always been and still
remains his goal to stay with the Red Sox."

The Red Sox have refused to discuss -- or even confirm -- their
talks with Texas.

"We don't comment on rumors," Boston general manager Theo
Epstein said. "It would be disrespectful for Nomar and Manny to
talk about rumors surrounding them. I have great respect for Nomar
and Manny."

Also Tuesday, Epstein said he would begin negotiating a contract
extension with pitcher Pedro Martinez at the winter meetings in New
Orleans this weekend.

"We don't feel pressured with regard to Pedro's contract,"
Epstein said. "He's signed through 2004 and we'll try to reach an
agreement before spring training."

Martinez has one season and $17.5 million left on his deal. The
right-handed ace refused comment, saying, "Boston has the ball in
their hands."

Epstein and principal owner John Henry were in this Caribbean
country to inaugurate a baseball academy near the outskirts of the
Dominican capital to develop young talent.

The complex will cost $3 million to operate the first five years
and can host up to 65 players at a time. There are two baseball
diamonds, a dormitory building, gymnasium, kitchen and a study
room.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres
have built similar facilities in the Dominican Republic.

Also Tuesday, the Red Sox signed 18-year-old shortstop Luis Soto
to a minor league contract. The switch-hitting Soto who played for
the defending champion Baseball America team in the World Woodbat
Tournament in Jupiter, Fla., this fall.