By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Just say no, Theo

Over at, it’s running 82 percent to 17 percent against trading Jacoby Ellsbury as part of a package to land Johan Santana. And I didn’t even vote.

Yes, by any traditional baseball measure, the Red Sox should be willing to give up kids to get a great pitcher like Santana — even kids who thrived in the World Series spotlight, like Ellsbury and Jon Lester, or who have incredible promise, like Clay Buchholz.

But it shouldn’t be all about winning — sometimes it should be about winning a certain way. As a fan, I’m tired of seemingly every star player whose current team has decided it can’t afford ending up with either the Red Sox or the Yankees. Major League Baseball is not healthy right now. After the steroid scandal, the second-biggest problem is the economic dominance of Boston and New York.

Of course, I realize that if Santana doesn’t wind up with the Sox, the Yankees are likely to land him. Let them do it. It won’t be good for the Red Sox, and it won’t be good for baseball. But I’d rather see what the kids can do than land yet another proven star and pencil in a guaranteed (barring injury) 18 to 20 wins.

It’s supposed to be competition, not annihilation.

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  1. Tony

    I agree. It’s also about the kids. I mean, it is a game. And, while kids look up to the “stars,” they also look up to the rookies … and that is what keeps the dream of baseball alive. While I may target myself for criticism here, if the Red Sox never win another World Series, I don’t think it would matter to me. They won two and I’m pretty happy after all those years of failure. The key now is to bring some respect back to the game.

  2. mike_b1

    Dan, please (re)read Moneyball. The Yankees and Red Sox have had economic edges for 30 years. So too have the Cubs, the Mets, the Dodgers and from time to time a few others. Guess what? Smarts — not dollars — breed success. The Twins, Marlins, and Blue Jays each have more World Series wins than do the Dodgers, Cubs or Mets — and the same number as the Red Sox — in that time. What does that say?Fact is, the Yankees, Red Sox and others pay tens of millions of dollars each year to those teams that of their own choosing do not reinvest their handouts on player talent. That’s not the Yankees’ or Red Sox’s fault, and even the generous subsidies haven’t changed that. It’s not the money; it’s the management.Get a grip: Baseball, despite its omnipresence, is a relatively SMALL business. According to Forbes, the Sox had 2005 revenue of $205 million. Wal-Mart does that, what every three hours? Even the Globe is bigger. You confuse their influence (locally large) with their size (small, by almost every measure).And Internet polls like the one has are horribly unscientific and should never be used as evidence of, well, anything.A better approach would be to study the number of times the local papers run sports stories above the fold on A1. It’s getting so I can’t tell the Sunday Globe’s A section from Sports anymore.

  3. Anonymous

    There are a ton of these deals in Boston sports history. It would be instructive to look at some of them.Off the top of my head, so don’t hold me to the detais:Ted Cox, Mike Paxton, Bo Diaz for Dennis Eckersely ( Ramirez for Josh BeckettCurt Schilling and Brady Anderson for Mike BoddickerFrankie Rodriguez for Rick AguileraJeff Bagweel for Larry AndersenFreddie Sanchez for Jeff Suppan and Scott SauerbeckWho in Red Sox history most closely resembles Jacoby Ellsbury in terms of playing time and accomplishment? Dwayne Hosey?We’ve already got Coco, and won’t be able to get anything in return for him. Jacoby Ellsbury could turn out to be Brett Butler. But he could also be Dwayne Hosey.I say go for it.Bob in Peabody

  4. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    ON the baseball wisdom: “Baseball is pitching and three-run homers.”–Earl Weaver.Wakefield and Schilling are just about done. Pass on picking up a 29 year old two-time Cy Young Award winner to play small ball at your peril. As far as the good of the game is concerned, no good can comes of the blatant checkbook advantages held by Boston and New York, but seeing a small market team hold up one of the richest for its prized young talent certainly mitigates it a bit

  5. O-FISH-L

    I would love to see Youkilis included in the Santana deal. I’m sure he can throw the bat and shake his head after popping-up just as effectively in Minnesotta as he does here.It would also be hilarious to see how long McGee’s and Affleck’s-ex stays with him in a city devoid of limelight.

  6. Suldog

    Mine could be a minority opinion, but I’m against any trade for Santana because I believe the Sox already have enough pitching.(Yeah, I know the mantra: You can never have enough pitching. I still say we do.)I think it would be dumb to trade away good young position talent for another starter that we don’t really need.Unless you’re Dan, your mileage probably varies 🙂

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Amused: This may be nuts, but I think Buchholz can go out there and win 15 games this year. I also think Lester can become a valuable pitcher, and that Ellsbury will challenge for Rookie of the Year. More to the point, I think watching all three of them will be more fun than having an almost sure thing come to town. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun.

  8. Anonymous

    I knew I didn’t like o-fish-l. What a perfectly stupid thing to say.

  9. Will Seberger

    Ok, get out the nails…Send any unwanted players over to the Cubs. We need all the help we can get.After watching the Cubs and the Red Sox get embarrassed for the best part of the last century, I was happy to see Boston take two Series.Now its our turn, right?Signed,A Cubs fan in the Low Desert.

  10. Anonymous

    Dan,Having a young stud like Ellsbury means you pay him virtually nothing for the next six years. Centerfield is typically a high salary position. This would give the Sox enormous flexibility going forward. Not to mention how fun it would be to watch him play every day.As good as he is, Santana was 500 last year, and some scouts worry that he is throwing his breaking stuff less. I worry about his arm, he’s pitched a lot of innings already.Just say no

  11. Anonymous

    Waks plus hits per innings pitchedSantana 1.07 in 2007, lifetime 1.09Lester 1.46 in 2007, lifetime 1.57Tavarez 1.50 in 2007, lifetime 1.48Most similar at age 28 to Santana( Tim Hudson2. Roy Oswalt3. John Candelaria4. Juan Pizarro5. Bob Wech(note well that Pizarro compiled similar stats in the hitting-starved 1960s; similar disclaimers could be made for Candelaria and Welch in the 1970s. And both Pizarro and Candelaria were considered outstanding young pitchers)John LesterMost similar through age 231. Santo Alcala2 Larry Twitchell3. Bob Walk4. Ed Mars5. Luke Prokopec(9. is Al Leiter, to be fair, and Walk was pretty good. Again, Lester is putting up these numbers in a much more difficult era)Bob in Peabody

  12. Steve

    First 2 major league seasons:Santana (age 22) 129.7 IP, 5.89 ERA, 1.71 WHIPLester (age 23) 144.3 IP, 4.68 ERA, 1.56 WHIP

  13. Anonymous

    So if the Sox and Yankees don’t spend the money on players such as Santana, do they give those profits to the Red Sox Foundation? Or refund to season ticket holders? Nah, I didn’t think so.It’s about capital, Dan. We have money and cheap talented young players, the Twins have expensive players and opportunities for cheap talented young players. We trade our capital for their capital. They make the playoffs, we make the playoffs. They win World Series, we win World Series. What am I missing here?

  14. Steve

    Dan says: “It’s supposed to be competition, not annihilation.”You mean you’re not a Patriots fan?CRUSH, DESTROY, ANNIHILATE!!Go Pats.

  15. Don (no longer) Fluffy

    With a few notable exceptions, seasoned veterans are frequently one year away from has-beens, while up-coming young lions can have 10-15 productive years ahead of them. Notice how many teams make the Series with second and third year superstars. I have been observing that since the Tigers traded Harvey Kuenn away. I’m sorry, but free agency sucks. I liked loyalty much better.

  16. mike_b1

    Steve, Santana also pitched those first two seasons with a torn flexor tendon, which ultimately sidelined him for a time.

  17. mike_b1

    the funny thing, fluffless don, is that’s exactly what your first boss said too, when you left for more money elsewhere.

  18. Dan Kennedy

    But Mike, you make it sounds like MLB is pure capitalism. You know that it’s not — at least not from the perspective of an individual team. If Target puts Wal-Mart out of business, that’s good for Target. But professional sports leagues dependent on the health of all their teams.

  19. mike_b1

    Interesting, Dan, in light of the announcement today that the Veterans Committee voted Bowie Kuhn — perhaps the worst commissioner in our lifetime — to the Hall of Fame, while omitting Marvin Miller — the man who on countless occasions showed the flaws of your above reasoning. I agree that baseball needs healthy teams. But you oversimplify. When an owner/management decides a franchise is no longer a desired investment (for reasons economic or otherwise), they sell it — and always at a profit. In fact, it’s way easier to sell even the worst franchise at a huge profit than to do the same with a struggling retailer, say, K-Mart. K-Mart filed for bankruptcy in 2002. When was the last time a major league baseball franchise did that? (*Clue: Jim Bouton played for it.) Moreover, and this was Miller’s point — the reserve clause, which barring a trade or release restricted a player to the team that signed him in perpetuity — was a joke. The owners pushed it for decades, reasoning that the competitive balance of the game would be undone if free player movement were allowed. But, to paraphrase Jim Bouton from Ball Four, As if baseball were competitive when the Yankees were winning 21 World Series in 41 years. The last time an AL team made back-to-back WS? It was six years ago, the 2000-01 Yankees. And you have to go to 1995-96 forthe last NL squad to do that. Between 1903 and 1978, the most years the AL went between repeats was four (that happened just twice).Baseball is way more wide open today that it was then. Even if it doesn’t feel like it to some old-timers.You’re with a winner for once. Enjoy it.

  20. Anonymous

    I’m not sure how you question the notion of giving up a possible flash in the pan rookie for one of the best left handed pitchers (who is young) in the past two decades.

  21. electric carrot

    Dan, not sure I’m really buying your argument here. Are you really upset that the Red Sox signed Curt Schilling and won in 2004? Or what about Dice-K in 2007? Or what about losing Trot Nixon? How sad were you about that near the end of October. I think the statements that you make here have a shelf life of a few weeks and then fans who express these regrets figure out that they like winning and those feelings go away. On the other hand your argument about how baseball is unhealthy seems really right on target — no matter what Mike_b1 says about what Moneyball says. And for the record Mike_b1 just cause teams with an unfair money advantage have blown it through poor decisions in the past DOES NOT mean that they don’t have an unfair money advantage. This advantage, no matter the results, is real, and gives teams with a lot of money a lot more room to make mistakes and still win. This, as Dan rightly points out, IS a huge problem in baseball that is easy for those who have the unfair advantage to try to explain away.

  22. mike_b1

    If it’s such a “huge problem,” how come the Mets and Cubs and Dodgers — the three highest-salaried NL teams — don’t make the playoffs every year? The Dodgers spent $51 million more in salaries this year than the division champ DBacks did, and $54 million more than the Wild Card Rockies did. The Mets spent $21 million more than the division champ Phillies did.Maybe because it’s not such a “huge problem.”

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