By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
The pressure is ramping up for “super agent” Scott Boras as all 30 MLB teams report for camp this week. Not one single top client of his has landed a lucrative deal with a new club this “Hot Stove” season, which is already over three months old. Ken Rosenthal reported earlier in the week that the top slugger on the market, J.D. Martinez, is “fed up” with the inflexibility of the Red Sox and their low ball $125M offer. Rosenthal later walked back those comments after Boras vehemently denied that his client was “fed up.” Whether it was true or false, it would be a terrible look, and have to be struck down one way or the other.
One of my favorite sports movies in recent years is “Draft Day.” Kevin Costner stars in the movie as the GM of the Cleveland Browns, “Sonny Weaver.” He has first overall pick in the draft, and phones over to the quarterback who is projected to be picked #1, “Bo Callaghan.” In attempt to measure the determination and resolve of the player he might draft, he asks him: “How important is winning to you?” Caught off guard by the question, Callaghan responded that “winning was everything.” Weaver was underwhelmed by the response, and ended the conversation.
Thinking back to that scene, I got thinking to myself, “is winning even important for J.D. Martinez?” Boston has had the best offer on the table for several weeks, and the former Tiger appears to be in complete denial that his market has completely run it’s course, and still refuses to sign.
I seldom blame a player for taking the most money offered. Robinson Cano took a 10 year $240M (24M annually) with the Mariners after declining a seven year $175M ($25M annually) deal to stay with the Yankees. By basically taking the larger offer, Cano guaranteed himself an extra $65M overall. In this case, however, his career consequentially has fallen on deaf ears due to the fact the Mariners do not compete perennially for a World Series, or quite frankly ever. Had Cano elected to stay in New York, it’s reasonable to expect he likely would have remained a formidable player in his late 30’s. Furthermore, he likely would have made up most of the difference on a shorter term following the seven year offer the Yankees offered him. Cano’s legacy will certainly not be quite as storied since he has essentially wasted his career in Seattle, rather than the bright lights of New York.
The worst case scenario for Red Sox fans is to have another top free agent sign a massive contract to play in Boston, only to have a chip on his shoulder, and not put forth the intense effort to win a World Series. Pablo Sandoval, Carl Crawford, and even Hanley Ramirez all landed huge contracts, but ended up showing a serious lack of effort. David Price has been a nightmare due to the fact his attitude has put him at serious odds with the entire Red Sox fan base, which could legitimately play a big factor in whether or not his tenture in Boston fails or succeeds.
For the most part, all three of Boston’s World Series triumphs were won by groups of players who simply would not take no for an answer. The 2004 team was stacked with future hall of famers, yet none of their ego’s got in the way of making history. 2007 was a balance of veteran players rallying around younger players such as Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Lester, so that they could elevate themselves to a championship level. 2013 was defined by a group of veterans on modest contracts who were savvy enough to simply rise to the occasion and overachieve, when several experts thought they were not even a playoff team before the season began.
After reminiscing about those past Red Sox championship teams, does it sound like Martinez fits that mold based on earlier reports? Why will he be different from the contracts that currently and previously have haunted us? It’s impossible to know how his tenure will play out. A five year contract would make Martinez the second highest paid player on the Red Sox. Additionally it would keep him on the team longer everyone currently on the roster aside from Rafael Devers, and any rookies who will eventually be called up. One last fun fact: A $25M contract pays him $9M more than David Ortiz made in his most lucrative season.
Bostonians and citizens all throughout New England have grown accustomed to a culture of winning. The Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, and our beloved Red Sox. We are going to make J.D. Martinez’ life hell if he does anything other than fully commit himself to winning, and justifying his contract. It must be made clear to him what it truly takes to play at Fenway Park.
ICYMI: AVIDBOSTON PODCAST EPISODE 28: THE JD MARTINEZ/ROB MANFRED EDITION!
Also available on iTunes!