December 6, 2007

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LONGSHOTS: To include or not to include Ellsbury ó that is the question
by Dave Long

I have always loved trades, especially in baseball. Thatís why I always have a sense of anticipation for the annual winter meetings ó which are going as we speak. Theyíre where big deals often get done, some of which have changed the face of a pennant race for the next season and years beyond.

However, after word leaked out the Sox were willing to put Jacoby Ellsbury into a deal for Johann Santana, I am sitting here right now with all my fingers and both of my legs crossed that it doesnít get done. And I donít care if that means the Yankees get him. Iím praying itís just a bluff to bleed the Empire of more talent than they want to give in their pursuit of arguably baseballís best pitcher.

I will fully admit Iím violating the cardinal rule to not fall in love with your players. But I DO NOT WANT Ellsbury traded under any circumstances. Not even if Sandy Koufax were on the table. Which shows Iím at least in part leading with my heart. Koufax was the most dominant player Iíve ever seen and Santana may be close to this centuryís version of him.

My old producer Jason Richardson can verify under oath Iíve been pounding the drum for Santana since early 2006 when he kept telling me Minnesota would never give him up. So I get just how good Santana is. But the price is steep, especially in light of what else is available on the market for an alternative.

This could all be moot by the time this hits the streets, since Boy George gave Minnesota a Tuesday deadline to pull the trigger or theyíre out. And after seeing Hank Steinbrennerís Yankees stick by a similar proclamation as A-Rod came crawling back after agent Scott Boras eliminated the golden goose from the market, I believe them.

But itís just not emotion. After seeing Ellsbury play in the minors and the last six weeks of 2007 Iím positive heíll bring a dimension that will make the Red Sox more exciting and dangerous than ever. Heís an Ichiro-type player whoís going to have a string of years hitting in the .320s, maybe with a couple of .350-ish years thrown in, and regularly steal around 40. Maybe youíre among the 69 percent in a Boston.com poll against trading him, but in case youíre not, here are a few other things I think about.

The Pedro Deal: No disagreement these are comparable. One difference, though: those Red Sox had a barren farm system and had underachieved two straight years. Dan Duquette needed Pedro more and deserves credit for giving up just Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr., who have done very little since. Now, theyíve just won a world title thanks to major contributions from a flourishing farm system.

Economics: Does anyone feel queasy giving a pitcher a seven-year deal ó especially at $25 million per? It worked for Pedro, but ever heard of Mike Hampton, Kevin Brown, Dwight Gooden or Bret Saberhagen? Really good pitchers who fell off the table with injuries or outside issues after getting big money long-term deals. With Manny up after this year theyíll need a booper in 2009. Will spending that much on one guy restrict what they can spend, since Mannyís $20 million per will then go to Santana?

Josh Beckett: Howís he going to feel making $12 or 13 million less than Santana?

Alternatives: Ask yourself this: would they be better with Santana and Julio Lugo or with Erik Bedard and Miguel (you say tamata, I say) Tejada at short batting fifth? Both are said to be on the block for roughly the same price as Santana. Bedard was 13-5 and struck out 221 hitters in 182 innings before being shut down in September. Tejada is a 31-year-old former MVP ó who hit .296. His power numbers were down due to the first injury of his career, but remember Lowell hit just eight homers the year before coming here. Add Ellsbury and him to the line-up and itís relentless one through nine. Plus theyíll cost what Santana does by himself and Ellsbury wonít be in the deal.

My Cardinal Rule: While I violated one CR, I have my own. Never trade your A or A+ prospects. I wonít add ďever,Ē though. After what Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell did in 2007, they might be exhibit A in countering my CR as it took A+ star Hanley Ramirez to get him. But, remember the buzz said then on sabbatical Theo was against that deal (which is why I think this is a bluff). And they did get lucky with Lowell, who turned out to be much more than the salary dump he was thought to be. And, while Ramirez might have been the deal-breaker, think just how good theyíd be now if the brass had played chicken with the financially strapped Marlins and the fish blinked first.

This rule was developed watching Atlanta win 14 division titles. Name one top prospect they gave up during that reign as important pieces to their evolving puzzle like Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, Andru Jones, Javy Lopez and Raphael Furcal came out of the farm system. When they did make a trade for a top player they gave up people like Donnie Elliott Vince Moore, or Mel Nievens as they did for new clean-up hitter Fred McGriff. And when they went for a Santana-like pitcher they did it in free agency. Why? Because Greg Maddux cost too much the other way.

Know Your Talent: Iíve heard of Andy Marte, so I know prospects donít always develop. But some do turn out very well, so you donít just give them away. For instance if you were the New York Giants and a very good pitcher away from winning it in 1951, would throw young Willie Mays into a deal for the Santana of his time? It might have thrown the Giants over the top in the series later that year ≠ó but would that have been worth giving up the great Mays? Iím not saying Ellsbury is Mays, just that youíve got to be sure what he actually is going to be before you send him.

The Kevin Garnett Factor: In seeing whatís happening on the parquet I fully acknowledge we have a case in progress of showing how it can work out when you trade promise to a team from Minnesota for a top star in return. And all of that (money aside) says, what are you crazy ó do the deal. Except the fan in me says, I donít want to see my new favorite player traded. If they do it (or have done it already) Iím going to be bummed and weíre going to miss something special.

So Iíll take my chances and say no if Ellsbury is the deal-breaker.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple

11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK ó it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat