In Yankee sweep of Sox, big-money buys made the difference

The series was a validation of the $423 million that the Yankee owner spent in the offseason.

Ray Stubblebine/Reuters
The New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira watches his eighth-inning home run in front of Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek Sunday night at Yankee Stadium in New York.

The New York Yankees' four-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox was far more than a humiliation of their closest and most bitter rivals. It was an emphatic statement that Steinbrenner-ball still has a place in the modern game.

Since the Yankees last won a World Series in 2000, they have been decidedly out of fashion. Baseball has watched – sometimes with smug satisfaction – as the best teams that owner George Steinbrenner's millions could buy stumbled season after season.

This weekend, the Yankees laid down a marker: no more.

In truth, the Yankees are a different team from the one that has attempted to buy the World Series for much of the past decade. For the first time since those dynasty teams of the 1990s, the Yankees have a strong core of talent that was not purchased, but grown.

This has been the lesson of the post-Yankee era. Last season, the Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series with a team that cost less than an empty Coke can. Even the Red Sox, often spendthrifts in their own right, went about things the "right way."

Who knew that Jacoby Ellsbury was a centerfielder and not a designer shoe brand before the 2007 playoffs? He emerged from anonymity in the Red Sox farm system to stardom in the World Series. Others preceded him: Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Lester, Kevin Youkilis – all All-Stars, all young and home grown.

$423 million vs. $15 million

So there was a touch of newfound superiority within Red Sox Nation when the New York Yankees went wild with Steinbrenner's credit card again this offseason, collecting two starting pitchers and a first baseman for nearly a half billion dollars.

So what if the Sox spent only $15 million on two pitchers? So what if they lost the bidding war to the Yankees for Mark Teixeira?

The Sox were spending wisely and putting their faith in the next generation of Jacoby Ellsburys.

It is notable, however, that the most damaging mistakes in this weekend's Yankee sweep were made by Red Sox rookies and "smart buys":

John Smoltz, the 40-something starting pitcher trying to restart his career in Boston, imploded in the first game.

Junichi Tazawa, who was playing in the Japanese second division last year, gave up the game-winning home run to Alex Rodriguez in Game 2.

•Another up-and-coming Sox pitcher, Clay Buchholz, was outdueled in Game 3 by C.C. Sabathia, who the Yankees signed for $161 million in the offseason.

•A third promising young Sox pitcher, Daniel Bard, gave up the game-winning home run in the series finale to Teixeira, who cost the Yankees $180 million.

There are, of course, mitigating circumstances. The Sox did not want to rely so heavily on youth – injuries to veterans have played a part. Moreover, Tazawa, Buchholz, and Bard look to have All-Star potential, even if it isn't quite harnessed yet.

Big money, big moves still matter

But what the Yankees have driven home is that big money and big moves – done wisely – still matter.

Little more than a week ago, the Red Sox had the opportunity to make a blockbuster deal for the Toronto Blue Jays' Roy Halladay, one of the top pitchers in the major leagues.

The Blue Jays wanted Buchholz and Bard, according to reports. So the Sox walked away.

It was a sign, Blue Jays general manager J.P Ricciardi said, of changing times. "Teams value the kid you have in [the minor leagues] who has never done it more than the guy who has shown something in the big leagues," he told The Boston Globe. "That's what the thinking is now,"

That was the Red Sox' thinking.

In the future, when Buchholz and Bard are cornerstones of the reborn Red Sox, it will perhaps be seen as a wise move.

This weekend, however, the Yankees claimed the present.


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