First, an update. It looks like the Boston Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka have a deal and the ace pitcher won't be returning to the Seibu Lions. Not a surprise. Matsuzaka flew to Boston Wednesday evening and took a physical, and the Red Sox set a press conference for 5 p.m. EST at Fenway.
The Associated Press reported that the six-year contract will pay the 26-year-old right-hander $52 million, with incentives that could make it $60 million. That's about half of what agent Scott Boras opened with last month.
Second, a correction. It was shortstop Julio Lugo, not outfielder and Boras client J.D. Drew, whom the Red Sox introduced Wednesday.
Third, an observation. Baseball owners are moaning about the overheated free-agent market this winter, and a lot of fans are turned off by the huge contracts going not just to stars like Alfonso Soriano or potential superstars like Matsuzaka, but to journeymen like Gary Matthews Jr. and Jamie Walker. The words "throw up" were uttered in this column's letters thread Wednesday in regard to the millions being flung around.
Isn't this boiling-over hot stove the best thing that's happened to the baseball off-season since they thought up spring training? Am I the only person who usually more or less ignores baseball during this stretch of the calendar who's obsessing over it now?
Am I the only one who's usually thinking about the NFL in December who now finds himself driving to the store and asking himself, "Is Vernon Wells worth $120 million?" or "What should the Dodgers have done instead of throwing $44 million at Juan Pierre?"
The answers, by the way, are probably and count to 10. And what do you mean you think about things other than sports sometimes?
For all their whining about operating profit or loss, owners, or at least the smart people they pay to tell them what to do, know that the real dough in owning a team is in the escalating value of the franchise. The owners are paying through the nose for non-superstar talent this off-season -- Soriano and Carlos Lee are not superstars -- but I wonder if baseball spending in the late fall and winter at or near the top of the news won't pay off on the back end.
Me being a reporter and everything, I could talk to some economists about this question, but I just thought of it about 20 minutes before deadline. Since these are the internets, I figured I'd throw it out there and we can talk amongst ourselves. We'll bring in some experts next week.
The anti-dope fraud: A report [PERMALINK]
I'm a few days late getting to this, but you really should go back and read "Presumed Guilty," Michael A. Hiltzik's two-part series in the Los Angeles Times about the world and U.S. anti-doping agencies.
It's a devastating critique of the police, prosecution, jury and hanging judge that is the World Anti-Doping Agency and its U.S. counterpart.
"The worldwide sports anti-doping program," Hiltzik's lead for Sunday's Part 1 reads, "created to fight performance-enhancing drug use in international athletics, imposes severe punishments for accidental or technical infractions, relies at times on disputed scientific evidence and resists outside scrutiny, a Times investigation has found."
Hiltzik presents a litany of athletes who have been banned from competition for infractions that were either accidental or innocent and for having drugs in their systems that could not possibly enhance performance or in such trace amounts that performance couldn't possibly be affected.
Also included, WADA chief Dick Pound's ridiculous habitual assertion that the system works just fine. Ask Romanian gymnast Andrea Raducan, stripped of a gold medal for a non-performance-enhancing allergy-medicine violation in 2000, or any of the many athletes accused and therefore convicted of similar non-crimes, how well it works.
It works just fine for what it is: a jobs program for chemists, labs and quasi-cops.
Monday's Part 2 details how the system is so stacked against athletes that appeals are futile and the panels handing down punishments are often moved to remark how the punishment is unfair but their hands are tied.
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NFL Week 15, Part 1 [PERMALINK]
First, a moment of silence for Lamar Hunt, who died Wednesday at 74. Hunt was one of the founders of the American Football League and the longtime owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, who began life as the charter AFL team the Dallas Texans.
Hunt also came up with the name "Super Bowl," legend has it after watching his kids play with a superball, and he was a co-founder of professional soccer and tennis leagues. He's in eight different Halls of Fame, and he always seemed like a guy who, if he has an enemy, it says a lot about the enemy and not much about him.
The story of the founding of the AFL is a rollicking and fascinating one. Imagine this, kids: The new league got its chance thanks to poor business decisions made by the NFL. Hard to imagine the NFL missing a trick today like it did in 1960.
The best telling of this story I've ever read or heard is "Going Long," an oral history by Jeff Miller.
San Francisco (5-8) at Seattle (8-5): Bleah. The NFL should demand flex scheduling from itself. The Seahawks, who would have to lose about a limb each not to win the NFC West, screwed the pooch by losing to the Arizona Cardinals last week, losing three fumbles and failing to touch quarterback Matt Leinart. Now, barring a collapse by New Orleans, they're going to have to play a first-round playoff game and then go on the road in the divisional round. Good luck with that.
Seattle's weak run defense will take another pounding from Frank Gore, who piled up 212 yards in the 49ers' win Nov. 19. That was when San Francisco was going well. It was their third straight win and gave them a 5-5 record and visions of stealing this weak division. Then they went out and lost three straight, two of them to the St. Louis Rams and Green Bay Packers.
The Seahawks aren't going anywhere special, but they can't be counted on to hand over a game to a division "rival" in back-to-back weeks. And for all their troubles, they've been pretty good as usual at home, winning five of six. Big rebound game for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and a relatively easy win.
Buster's pick: San Francisco (coin)
Previous column: Matsuzaka and the Red Sox
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